Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Smokin' Steve Strasburg

Hey, we mentioned in passing a coupla posts ago that Scott Boras was hinting to the Washington Nats, holder of the top spot in this year's player draft, that he was looking for $50M for his hoss, stud righty Stephen Strasburg.

Boras posturing? Yes and no.

Strasburg is the real deal. He can hit 100 pretty regularly with his heater, and has been clocked at 103, making him the second fastest pitcher (with Matt Anderson and Mark Wohlers, who hit 103 in the nineties) of the radar gun era, behind only the Tigers' Joel Zumaya, who registered almost 105 in 2006.

Ah, you say, he probably can't hit the broad side of a barn, right? Um, no. Strasburg has 74 strikeouts in 34-1/3 innings as of Friday. He's walked seven, and has a 1.57 ERA. Strasburg has given up 21 hits, so if you do the math, only 50 at-bats out of 131 have resulted in a ball being put into play this season.

He fanned 23 batters in one game last year, and in seven outings with Team USA last summer, he struck out 62 hitters in 41 innings. In fact, in 210 frames of college and international ball played during the past three seasons, he’s walked 45 batters while striking out 316. That's a sweet track record.

Well, hey, he'll never get by on one pitch, no matter how good it is, you think. That may be so in most cases, although Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, and Nolan Ryan may disagree. But the truth is the junior from San Diego State has an 86 MPH breaking ball, a sharp, hard curve that's almost a slider. It's his out pitch.

So the big question is how rich will this kid be when he finally signs? We know the Boras schtick pretty well - drag negotiations to the deadline with the veiled threat of returning to college or going indy.

Now $50M is a little outlandish, and even Boras knows that. Power pitchers are notorious for being a pitch away from the DL or TJ surgery; it's the nature of the beast.

But most reports that GW has read indicate the talks will start at $15M, with Boras probably looking for $25M for his hard-throwing client. Hey, Cory Humes of the Pirate Revolution writes that the Bucco suits should tamper a bit and float an offer of $100M over 10 years. Holy CC Sabathia!

We don't think that'll fly, although Boras would jump through hoops for that deal. The largest guaranteed contract for a draft pick was the $10.5M, five-year deal the Chicago Cubs gave to Mark Prior in 2001. Tampa Bay's David Price, the first pick in 2007 out of Vanderbilt, signed a six-year, $11.5M contract that included an $8.5M guarantee.

And remember, Washington has to deal with its fan base, as it is, after mishandling the Aaron Crow inking last year. So rest assured that Boras will beat the record; he has the talent and the ego. Seattle picks second; bet the ranch that if the Nats won't pony up, the Mariners will.

Geez, to be 20 years old and ready to bring the heat, both with a baseball and a contract. Welcome to the show.


Joby said...

So what do you think the odds are of him signing, and immediately jumping into the rotation? So making an appearance by the end of this season?

Ron Ieraci said...

Joby, if the Nats pick him first, there's actually a pretty good chance, not only for the PR value of getting him on the hill, but also because their rotation is so lousy. That could be hold if they let him slide to the Padres, too.

I don't know if he'd jump straight into the fire, but he has a pretty good chance of pitching this season, especially if he gets a sweet contract. Heck, if you're already paying him MLB money, you might as well make him earn it.

Joby said...

I just hope they don't pull a David Price on him and keep him in the minors to keep his salary down.

That is something that needs to be fixed. Let rookies who can make an impact, make an impact.

Ron Ieraci said...

There is something to be said for keeping a guy around for an extra year if you can, Joby.

Price will be pitching for the Rays soon enough. He only lasted 4 innings in his last minor league start, and they're working on an off-speed pitch for him.

But as a general rule of thumb, I do agree with you - if a kid's ready to play, play him.

Charles said...

I wonder if he can be as good as Walter Johnson?

I've had Strasburg in my keeper league since last year.

Why didn't Team USA use him in the WBC? School commitments?

Ron Ieraci said...

He did play for Team USA in the Olympics last year, Charles, but we assume the WBC's US squad was picked from MLB rosters, not the minors or college.

The next Big Train? That's a pretty tall order, even for Strasburg. 417 wins and 3,509 strikeouts is a fair career, we think.