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Should We Temper Those Strasburg Expectations?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IMay 6, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA- APRIL 3:  Starting Pitcher Stephen Strasburg #37 of the San Diego State Aztecs throws from the mound against the UC Davis Aggies during their game on April 3, 2009 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

I’m not about to tell you that Stephen Strasburg is not as good as the hype or anything like that.

The guy has all the talent in the world, and by 2010 he could quickly emerge as one of the top pitchers in the game. There are very few talents that have the ability to step off a college campus and directly into the major leagues, but every report I’ve read puts him in that class.

He’s a special talent—no doubt about it.

The amount of innings he’s thrown this season, however, could put a damper on some of those plans. Edward Lewis of The Daily Aztec (click here for the article), while speaking to San Diego State manager Tony Gwynn (yes, that Tony Gwynn), broke down his innings as follows:

“SDSU’s ace has thrown 78.1 innings this season for the Aztecs, and Gwynn figures Strasburg will end the season somewhere around 100 innings. This past summer with Team USA, Strasburg threw 41 innings and followed that up with an 11-inning performance as a member of the Olympic baseball team in Beijing. By the time the June 9 Major League Baseball Draft rolls around, Strasburg will already have pitched somewhere near 150 innings this year.”

Gwynn, himself, was quoted as saying, “I don’t think I would even pitch anymore this year”.  He also said things to the effect of, “I  would be really cautious,” “I wouldn’t want to rush it,” and “I would invest the money and I would be very cautious.”

Obviously, Gwynn’s opinion has no real bearing on what the team who drafts him (aka The Nationals) will end up doing, but he does have a very fair point.

In this day and age, teams tend to be very cautious with their investments, especially when reports are it could cost upwards of $50 million. They don’t want to risk injury.

Even if the Nationals do opt to give him a taste of the major leagues, just how many innings can you expect? Are they going to have him pitch 20 innings (three-to-four starts), bringing him up to 170 innings? Are they going to let him just go out and take the ball every five days, getting maybe 14-15 starts? I don’t see it.

Maybe that would have been the case 30 or 40 years ago, but not in 2009.

Could they use him out of the bullpen? That doesn’t really make sense either. You are talking about changing a pitcher who is used to pitching every five days and asking him to take the ball every day?

The Rays did it last season with David Price, but the Nationals will not be in any type of pennant race. Is it really worth the risk?

Those who are expecting him to break onto the scene and make a major impact may be sorely disappointed in the end. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how things play out.

What does everyone else think? How big of an opportunity in the major leagues will Strasburg get this season?

To read a previous write-up done by Wes Granger, click here.

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