Last week, SI raised
the question of whether Bryce Harper was the Lebron James of baseball.
The same comparison
has been made to Stephen Strasburg.
Is Strasburg truly
the Next Big Thing?
“save” the Nationals franchise?
Is it worth stashing
him away in fantasy?
to the Stephen Strasburg Show, a true story about a San Diego State
right-hander who became the most hyped Draft pick in modern baseball history.
series got underway Tuesday, when Washington did the inevitable by selecting
Strasburg first overall in the 2009 Draft.
the drama begins.
Boras, his "adviser" (non-legal term for agent), is demanding a contract in the
neighborhood of six years and $50 million, unprecedented for an amateur player.
The sooner both parties shake hands, the sooner we'll see Strasburg in a
if negotiations go down to the Aug 17. deadline, there's still a chance he
reaches D.C. by September.
who knows? Maybe even sooner. Maybe Strasburg bypasses the Minors entirely and
goes right into the Nationals rotation.
draft picks have advanced directly to the Major Leagues without playing in the
Minors. A good chunk of them came in the '70s. The most recent example was
Xavier Nady in 2000.
Nady spent the next three years in the Padres farm system working his way back.
The Nationals may ultimately decide that the risk of rushing their franchise
face just to pitch a few meaningless games (and satisfy a few fantasy geeks)
isn't worth the reward.
means that unless some agreement gets squared away before August -- an unlikely
event, given the typical pace of Boras negotiations -- it's probably best to
leave Strasburg on the waiver wire in standard, one-year mixed leagues.
leagues are a whole 'nother ballgame, though. Strasburg is clearly a giant name
when it comes to future fantasy planning, but it's worth taking history into
consideration before assigning him any long-term value.
track record for pitchers drafted first overall doesn't exactly bode well for
Strasburg's Hall of Fame aspirations. The No. 1 pitcher club includes:
Price Tampa Bay
Hochevar Kansas City
2002 Bryan Bullington
Wilson New York (N)
Taylor New York (A)
Benes San Diego
safe to say Bullington, Anderson, Wilson, Benson, Taylor and Clyde all wound up
being major disappointments. And since Price and Hochevar are just now getting
their feet wet, it's also safe to say that not a single No. 1 pitcher in the
last 20 years has come close to expectations. Not one.
that mean Strasburg, by virtue of his membership, is destined to fall short of
expectations? No. Each pitcher handles pressure differently, as they do on the
it's not a great sign.
The best Strasburg comparison might very
well be a No. 2 pick overall -- namely, right-hander Mark Prior. Were it not
for Minnesota's pursuit of hometown hero Joe Mauer, the former Cubs hurler
surely would have been taken first. Prior starred at USC, and his arrival was
highly anticipated at Wrigley Field, just as Strasburg's debut will undoubtedly
stir up all sorts of excitement in the nation's capital. Strasburg soon turns
21, the same age Prior was upon making his big league debut. Both share roughly
the same height and weight.
importantly, both were believed to have flawless mechanics entering Draft day.
as Cubs fans and one-time Cubs skipper Dusty Baker learned later, there is no
such thing as flawless mechanics. Injuries would wind up transforming Prior
from one of the game's promising young starters into a shell of his former
Prior's downfall and the history of No. 1 picks serve as cautionary tales.
While nobody will dispute Strasburg's poise and immense potential, the fact is
that he's a pitcher.
passes, shoots, blocks and rebounds for a living.
If he violently threw a ball at
full speed several dozen times each week, he wouldn’t be Lebron James.