For all those who have second-guessed 5-foot-9 righthander Marcus Stroman because of his diminutive stature, he offers his high-90s fastball, his knee-buckling slider, his poise on the mound, his results. This month, the Patchogue-Medford grad, now a star at Duke University, will be selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, most likely on June 4, day one of three, when the country’s elite high school and college players are anointed the next big thing. He’ll make life-changing money, and appropriately so.

“I feel very blessed to be in this position and to have had the opportunities that I’ve had,” said Stroman. “I’m just focused on my team and hope everything takes care of itself.”

It’s been a big year for Stroman, his first as a starting pitcher at Duke. He hasn’t just been good; he’s been outstanding. Through his April 6 start against Clemson, Stroman was just 3-3 but boasted a 2.17 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 58 innings. He fanned 17 of 23 hitters he faced in a win over George Washington on March 2, and he had 13 punchouts in the Blue Devils’ win over perennial power Miami on March 16.

“I’m in the best shape of my life, and my arm feels stronger than it’s ever been,” Stroman said.

Since he was a teenager, scouts have followed his every move, from his summer in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League in 2010 to his stint with Team USA last summer. At Pat-Med, Stroman was twice named first team All-State and was honored as New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, after finishing 9-1 with a 0.25 ERA. The Washington Nationals selected him in the 18th round of the 2009 draft, but Stroman opted to attend Duke.

In 2012, his draft-eligible year, he’s prepared to make that next step.

If he’s taken in the first 31 picks this June, he’ll become the first Blue Devil ever to be drafted in the first round. The last first-rounder from Long Island was Glen Cove’s Craig Hansen, who was taken 29th by the Boston Red Sox in 2005, after a standout career at St. John’s.

Stroman insists his future isn’t foremost on his mind.

“It’s in the back of my mind,” Stroman said of the draft. “It would be in the back of anyone’s mind, but my focus is on helping out Duke.”

Golden arm and outstanding character aside, his skeptics do have a point. There simply aren’t a lot of 5-foot-9 major league pitchers, never mind superstars. And don’t be mistaken—if he’s drafted in June, critics won’t stop offering their opinions. It will just be a new crowd in a new city who need to be convinced that Stroman’s ability overshadows any conclusions about how his frame, his health and his performance are linked.

Doubt is something on which he thrives.

“I’ve been told my whole life that I was too short, and it’s something that drives me,” Stroman said. “I don’t wish I was any taller than I am. I am who I am. This is what I was given.”

brett mauser

Brett Mauser has been a monthly contributor for Long Island Pulse since June 2006. In addition to freelancing for a variety of regional and national publications, he is the executive director of Hamptons Collegiate Baseball.