Saint Stephen with a Closer

Not surprising to all but the biggest of naysayers, the Nats picked Stephen Strasburg, Saint Stephen, the Savior of the Franchise, the Anchorman, and all the other nicknames you can think of to add pressure. If you don’t know about him, welcome back from your journey to a time where there is no internet. To fill you in, he was the overwhelming consensus number 1 pick, considered the best draft prospect in 20 years, if not ever. This season, as a pitcher with San Diego State, he went 13-0, with a 1.24 ERA,  180 K and 19 BB in 152 IP.  He’s 6’5″ and weighs in at 220 lbs. Now all they have to do is sign him.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see some more commentary from lots of people on Strasburg. But first, let’s look at the other first round pick for the Nats.

Drew Storen

With the 10th pick, the Washington Nationals select… Drew Storen! Wow, that must have been great for some people, like the Storens, but it just didn’t have the gravity of the Strasburg pick. He wasn’t ranked nearly as high as Saint Stephen by Keith Law (#28) or Baseball America (#36), but that isn’t surprising. The Nats wanted to take someone they could sign easily, both because a struggle might hurt their conversations with Strasburg, and because if they lose this pick, they don’t get compensation next year.

Storen is a right handed reliever at Stanford and while that sometimes scares people away, he actually is quite a strong prospect. He has multiple plus pitches. His fastball touches the mid-90s and his slider is also very strong. He’s got a third pitch, a changeup or a soft curve depending on who you ask, that is also good. He doesn’t use it as much, so whether it ends up being a plus pitch in the majors is yet to be seen.

There is some talk that he should be a starter, including rumors that some within the Nats organization feel that way. His fastball has sink to it, and possibly having 3 plus pitches makes him a viable starter candidate. Of course, he’d have to be stretched out over the next season or two, but it’s possible. However, last night in his press conference, Mike Rizzo said “we are going to keep him in the bullpen” and “we believe he has the ability and the repertoire and the pitches to compete in the ninth inning”. Rizzo also mentioned that “he’s a much quicker prospect to the major leagues” as a potential closer than a potential starter.

What I like about this pick is that, as a reliever, he may actually be up this year. I am not sure the Nats are going to rush him anywhere, but he’ll be signed quickly and pitching in the farm system shortly after that. He could be up as soon as the fall, but Rizzo suggested that there will be no rush with any of the signees. If you think about the Nats trading away Nick Johnson, there is potential to get Manny Delcarmen or Bobby Parnell, they’ll have a good shot at having two potential GOOD closers ready to go in 2010. That means less of the bullpen embarrassments for which 2009 will undoubtably remembered.

Strasburg Superlatives

So you’ve heard he’s good, right? Here’s a collection of some lines from articles over the last few months:

Keith Law (3/24/09):

“What you have heard on Stephen Strasburg is true. He is bar none the best college pitching prospect in at least 10 years, and there’s nobody close to him… The stuff is legit. The San Diego State right-hander hit 99 twice on my gun Friday, sat 97-99 through the third inning against Brigham Young and was still touching 98 in the seventh while never dropping below 94. His fastball has hard riding life to his glove side. His slider was a wipeout pitch, 81-84 mph with tilt and depth and a high degree of toxicity to opposing hitters”

Buster Olney (4/22/09):

“I’ve never seen as large a gap between the best player and the others in the draft,” one talent evaluator said. “There are some good players, but there’s nobody close [to Strasburg]”

Keith Law (5/5/09):

“He is certainly the best college or high school pitcher that I’ve ever seen… The current big leaguer who he gets the most comparison to is AJ Burnett… he was 94-98 on my gun, touched 99 twice, which is the hardest I’ve ever seen a starter throw”

Baseball America (Draft Scouting Report):

“His combination of stuff, pitching savvy and command make him a once-in-a-generation phenomenon… His 2009 statistics defy belief for a player competing at the major college level… In his first start of the season, his first six pitches registered 98-99 mph, and he touched 100 and 101 later in the season. Of course, raw velocity is no guarantee of major league success, but Strasburg has much more than that. His hard, slurvy curveball is an 81-82 mph hitter’s nightmare. Not since Tim Lincecum has one hurler had both the best fastball and the best curve in the same draft… Strasburg is the closest to a sure thing that scouts have ever seen. Major league organizations may not see a prospect like Strasburg for another 20 or 30 years”

And my personal favorite:

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus Future Shock (6/5/09):

The Good: He’s arguably the best pitching prospect in draft history, with a perfect frame and solid mechanics to go with an 80 fastball, 70 command, and a 60-65 breaking pitch.
The Bad: There’s no definitive proof that he’s not an android from a faraway planet bent on world destruction.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: The best pitcher in baseball. It’s almost impossible to see him becoming anything less than an All-Star.”

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