The 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft got underway Tuesday night, something casual baseball fans may be unaware of. However, even the most casual of fans should by now know the name Stephen Strasburg, the man who went first overall to the Washington Nationals.
The 6’5” 220 lbs right-hander out of San Diego State University went 13-1 this season for the Aztecs, posting an impressive 1.32 ERA. Even more impressive was his sheer dominance over hitters consistently during the course of the year. With 195 strikeouts in only 109 innings pitched and an opponent’s batting average of .172, there’s no denying the raw talent displayed by this kid.
Strasburg has an incredible fastball that explodes on hitters. Despite the fact that it sits in the high 90’s on a regular basis (sometimes touching 100+ mph), he still generates a lot of movement with it allowing him to use it as an out pitch and in turn keep hitters guessing. He also features a slightly above average slurve-type breaking ball which sits in the mid 80’s, and an average changeup that is generally clocked in around 80-82 mph (a good speed differential in relative to his fastball).
Strasburg has received an unprecedented amount of coverage leading up to Tuesday night’s festivities, and has generated arguably the most hype ever for a pitching prospect. The hype is certainly not unwarranted as this guy possesses a future ace-type arsenal of pitches, however I think the label of a “sure thing” that so many have bestowed upon him is a little premature. There are a few things to consider before we induct him into Cooperstown.
Secondary Pitches: Strasburg’s secondary pitches are undeveloped and cannot truly be relied on as “put-away” pitches at this point in his career. This is mainly attributed to a lack of command.
There is a difference between control and command in regards to a pitcher’s ability to locate, and Strasburg’s slurve and changeup are a good representation of this. He has little trouble finding the strike-zone with these two pitches, but for the most part lacks the ability to spot them where he wants in that zone. This is something that he can, and most likely will, develop as he continues to grow.
However if he fails to do this, his fastball will be rendered useless at the next level. Just getting those pitches over the plate might be enough to find success in the Mountain West Conference, but it will surely be a different story when facing major league talent day in and day out.