All locked up, Strasburg sets sights on Nats rotation


The time for talking is over.


After a long and windy road, the Stephen Strasburg negotiations finally came to an end minutes before the 12 am ET deadline Monday. The San Diego State product came to terms with the Nationals on a record-setting deal reportedly worth more than $15 million over four years.


Strasburg’s advisor, mega-agent Scott Boras, seemed to be holding out for even more, but the Nationals stuck to their guns and got their guy in the end.


For fantasy owners, the biggest question is one of timing: When will the uber-prospect be ready to make a Major League impact, and just what might his role be when he does crack the bigs?


Strasburg hasn’t seen game action since pitching in a College World Series regional game May 30, so he’ll need some fine tuning before being given a shot to compete with the big boys. Finding a suitable venue for his seasoning could prove challenging, though, as the Minor League campaign is nearly complete. 


“We have to figure out where he is at and how in shape his arm is,” said acting Nationals GM Mike Rizzo. “How much we have to ramp him up before he can start pitching competitively?”


While that’s not exactly a statement of intent, it leaves open the possibility that the 20-year-old fireballer could get his feet wet in Washington sometime before the 2009 season is through.


True, a non-contending Nationals squad has no need to risk the health of its most prized possession by hastening Strasburg’s development, but bear in mind that the righty was commended as much for as upside as for his readiness.


Reports suggest Strasburg needs little seasoning, as he already features a four-pitch arsenal with devastating breaking stuff and command beyond his years.


We’re talking about a guy who waltzed through his junior year at San Diego State, going 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts take home the Golden Spikes Award. His 195/19 K/BB ratio over 109 innings in that span is the mark of a man among boys.


Still, a dazzling track record and impressive stuff do not a fantasy ace make, particularly in terms of the immediate future. If Strasburg were to be called up for a few September starts, could he really be trusted to make an impact? 


The top overall pick will no doubt be fun to watch, and it’s quite possible we could see glimpses of the future Cy Young Award winner that everyone’s hoping for, meaning his name will be tough to ignore if it pops up on the waiver wire.


That said, the more relevant question is how Strasburg will fare next year, assuming he’s given the chance to join the big club’s rotation from the get-go. A quick glance at some of this season’s big-name young arms — David Price, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Clay Buchholz and Vin Mazzaro, to name a few — reveals less-than-dominant early returns. True, hurlers like Tommy Hanson and Mat Latos represent solid counterexamples, but both spent considerable time on the farm and have a ways to go before attaining Tim Lincecum status.


Then there are guys like Joba Chamberlain and Max Scherzer, highly-touted youngsters with indisputable skill sets whose progress at this point is measured in years, not months. It’s more than possible they could still one day headline their respective staffs, but extensive coddling has softened their immediate impacts.   


Of course, that begs yet another question: Will we be complaining about the Strasburg Rules at this time next year? What about at this time in 2011?   


The point is that things remain challenging with a player of this ilk, that the upside and the ambiguity are equally undeniable. Are you willing to invest an early-to-mid-round pick on “the most coveted amateur player in the history of the Draft,” albeit with the knowledge that he could take some time to come into his own?


That one I can’t answer for you. 



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