Note: I'm pulling this one from my drafts folder of last September 26, 2009. Not sure why I didn't publish it, opting instead to include a brief Strasburg comment in this Hit Parade from last fall. Perhaps it's because I wanted to make the post quite a bit longer and just didn't get around to it. In any case, I might as well post it now before the big debut.
My Strasburg thoughts from September, 26, 2009:
So how good will Stephen Strasburg's MLB career be?
I've been wanting to post about this since June, but I kept quiet because I thought I might have a chance to pick him up on waivers. But since I don't think that will happen now, I figure it's safe to just let it fly and say what I think about him.
There seem to be two schools of thought with Strasburg. One school believes the hype, saying this guy is one of the most talented baseball prospects "ever," a near lock to become a staff ace and put up All-Star numbers year in and year out (barring injury). Another school of thought points to history and warns about previous pitchers who were hyped as "can't miss" prospects who never even became reliable MLB starters, let alone All-Stars. The first school essentially says "We've seen enough," and the latter says, "Wait and see." Obviously, depending upon which school you belong to greatly affects how you value him.
To be fair, I think both schools of thought acknowledge that there has to be some level of "wait and see," and both schools of thought acknowledge that this guy is a prospect who you want in your MLB team's farm system. But where it really gets interesting for me is answering the question: How likely is Stephen Strasburg going to develop into a consistent All-Star at the major league level?
The first thing I take into consideration with Strasburg is his age and the type of competition he has faced. Based purely on the percentages, one of the dumbest things an MLB team can do is to draft a high school pitcher in the first round. Most will be busts, although every now and then you get a Cole Hamels. (But reading through Cole Hamels' history shows even he barely made it.)
Strasburg played three years of college, and he totally dominated years 2 and 3. So I look at that as a big plus. He's had three more years to mature, and he has excelled at a level much more respectable than high school hitters.
People like to compare Strasburg to Mark Prior, and I agree that it's a fair comparison. Like Strasburg, Prior played three years of college and dominated. Both were hyped by the media, hailed as can't miss prospects with special talents rarely available in the draft. And before Strasburg signed for a record $15.1 million coming out of this year's amateur draft, Prior held the previous record of $10.5 million in 2001.
Some people point to Mark Prior as evidence that Strasburg is a risky proposition. But that's where I take a different view. I look at Prior as evidence that Strasburg is, as far as pitching prospects go, a good bet. Prior did develop into a pitcher who dominated at the MLB level. It was injuries that derailed his career, and honestly, that's a risk that's hard to predict.
Post script: Since the time of my above thoughts, Strasburg has gone on to dominate Double-A and Triple-A. I've also had a chance to observe him as an in-studio guest on ESPN's Baseball Tonight. Strasburg's stats and demeanor are very impressive. I have upgraded my views of him since last fall.