Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Strasburg under the microscope now

San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg has enjoyed a swift rise on the way to becoming the top prospect in the nation.

And deservedly so.

From his 23-strike performance last year against Utah, to being the only collegian on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing, to the 102 mph fastball he's been clocked throwing while dominating college hitters this year, Strasburg has done everything he can do to become the first pick in the 2009 draft.

Intense scrutiny and critical examination were bound to come as the June draft approached.

It's now official. It's here.

Last week, it was Sports Illustrated and the Wall Street Journal watching Strasburg pitch against UNLV. On Friday, it was an ESPN film crew and writer looking in on Strasburg against BYU. They were among those following him around the field at Tony Gwynn Stadium during and after SDSU's 4-2 loss to the Cougars. Strasburg didn't look too eager to answer questions about his brilliance when the bottom line was the Aztecs lost.

Questions about the draft have begun to seep into the conversation, although Strasburg is trying to keep his focus on the field with the Aztecs. He would not answer draft questions on Friday. Nor should he. No good can come for him right now by getting into all that publicly. Of course, maintaining his focus will become more and more of a chore as the season progresses, especially in light of other national media attention in recent days.

ESPN's Peter Gammons reported recently that Strasburg's advisor, Scott Boras, is going to look for a six-year, $50 million contract for his client.

Today there was an interesting piece by Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post examining the success of pitchers selected at the top of the draft over the past 44 years.

There also was a piece today by Rob Neyer of ESPN.com that also examined the history of "can't-miss" pitchers missing in the draft.

Needless to say, the success rate for position players is much higher than the success rate for pitchers.

Boswell isn't telling the Nationals not to pick Strasburg. What he's telling them is don't break the bank if you do it.

He makes some goods point.

Still, how can any team pass up a player who appears to be the best pitching prospect to come along in a generation?

The legend keeps growing about Strasburg's velocity, with it reported that he has hit 103 MPH according to a story by Yahoo's Steve Henson, who has a good chart on players who have touched 102 mph or higher. But velocity is no guarantee of success. Most of those on the list have flamed out. Randy Johnson is the only Hall of Fame-caliber player. Justin Verlander is the only other starting pitcher.

Of course, history and charts have no direct bearing on Strasburg's future.

All I know is Strasburg is under the microscope now and I have a sense this is going to be more of a challenge to deal with than any hitter he faces this season.

1 comment:

JG said...

Great insight Kirk. Sorry not to see your great articles in SDUT but happy to be able to find your work here. Your passion for college baseball is unchallenged, as well as your support for the San Diego teams..look forward to many more...