Stephen Strasburg is the most hyped player before playing a game in the history of Major League Baseball. Hype never goes unnoticed in fantasy baseball and chances are Strasburg was taken in the first fifteen rounds of any draft this year despite his owners knowing full-well that he might not start the season in Washington.
The Nationals probably did the right thing playing it safe and letting Strasburg develop at AA and AAA even though it has appeared he has only added to his legend in the process. The risk of having him come to the majors and fail right away was too great psychologically for a franchise that needs a Stephen Strasburg type of talent and ticket seller. Now it’s time though. The Washington Post speculates that Strasburg’s last start in the minors will be Saturday which means leagues that use weekly changes can get Strasburg active at this time next week. Even if it means sitting a starter making two starts, waiting any longer on Strasburg would be worse than telling a child to finish their oatmeal first on Christmas morning.
So what exactly should head to head leagues expect from Strasburg this year? Well for one thing don’t count on Curt Schilling’s radical prediction that Strasburg could be the best pitcher in the game in year one. MLB Network showed Carlos Guillen’s at-bats against Strasberg in his most recent start. Guillen flew out on the first pitch he saw from Strasburg and in his next at-bat took two pitches before lining a heater to right field for a hit. Guillen is an average hitter at this point in his career, but Strasburg hasn’t had an opportunity to face even below average MLB hitters to date.
Fantasy players should also consider Strasburg’s extremely low win potential. The Nationals will certainly exhibit extreme caution with their most valuable asset. Pitch counts and innings counts will carry the utmost importance especially if the Nationals fall out of the race in the NL East. Given how good that division is with every team within one game of being a .500 team wins aren’t easy to come by regardless of the stuff a pitcher possesses. Tommy Hanson had 11 wins last year with Atlanta and he was called up at around the same time Strasburg will be brought up. Hanson ended up throwing 127 big league innings and had 193 innings between his time in the bigs and minors combined. Hanson of course was in the Braves minor league system for two full years before getting called up, but Strasburg won’t have that same luxury. Since he only threw at college, the Naitonals should keep him under 127 innings and Strasburg himself will go under 11 wins.
The strikeouts will be there though don’t worry about that. As Charlie pointed out in the past, pitchers who were high strikeout guys in college and come to the show and continue that trend. Tim Lincecum struck out better than 14 per inning at Washington and then struck out better than one batter per inning with the Giants his rookie year. Mark Prior struck out more than 13 per inning at USC and had over 11 per 9 innings right away with the Cubs.
Strasburg also can be trusted to be a reliable pitcher for ERA and WHIP. Again the comparison to look for is Tommy Hanson. Strasburg was striking out 5.4 hitters for every walk he allowed in the minors which is essentially the same rate (5.29 K:BB) as Hanson before his call up to the Braves. Hanson kept his ERA under 3 and and had a WHIP of 1.18 for the Braves.
Is Strasburg worth the hype in head to head leagues? Probably not. There is a good deal of uncertainty if he will be any more useful the last two weeks of the year as he was the first eight. At the same time, as a Strasburg owner in a head to head league, I don’t know how to pull the trigger. Who has ever even heard of a 92 MPH pick off move? I’m holding on – unless Bryce Harper becomes available of course.
Mark Schruender is a part-time contributor to Fantasy Baseball 365. To read more of Mark’s content go to Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove. <–>