See You Soon: Stephen Strasburg

| by Hardball Times

The quick Posey promotion has prompted me to place a rush order on this series. Some people have expressed interest in seeing certain guys profiled. I currently plan on checking in on Carlos Santana, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Stanton, Chris Carter, Tyler Flowers, and Jeremy Hellickson. If there is a particular player you're interested in seeing profiled, let me know. Keep in mind, the purpose of this mini series is to take a sneak peak at major league ready prospects.

Stephen Strasburg: AA Harrisburg 22 IP, 13 H, 0 HR, 6 BB, 27 K; AAA Syracuse 28.1 IP, 15H, 1HR, 6 BB, 33 K - Like Posey, I have no unique take on the situation. Unlike Posey, there isn't any controversy over what's happening here. Strasburg did have some minor development to do, unfortunately it seems that AA/AAA hitters aren't good enough to help with that. He'll have to learn at the major league level. Jeff Euston at BPro summarized the particular excuses involved as such:

-Strasburg needs to adjust to starting every fifth day, not once a week, as he did at San Diego State.
-He needs work pitching with men on base, though his 0.706 WHIP is not allowing him much experience in that area.
-More generally, Strasburg simply needs development time as a professional. Or, like the Dos Equis guy, maybe he will experience an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.

In addition to the tiny developmental things, the real issue is obviously his service clock. The Nationals didn't figure to be a playoff team, which made avoiding Super 2 status all the more palatable. Don't look now, but the Nats aren't completely dead. They're 25-26, their bullpen has suddenly turned into a solid unit (funny how quickly that can happen), their offense is slightly above average, but the rotation remains a desecration. The revived Livan Hernandez has anchored the unit though Scott Olsen (currently on the DL) has been the best by FIP. John Lannan has not been a major league pitcher and Luis Atilano has been replacement level. Craig Stammen has been decent against non-Phillies lineups but is replaceable. Now the Nationals are in on Roy Oswalt which would give them what they were probably hoping Jason Marquis would be, a solid companion to Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

The Nationals are currently trying to squeeze innings out of J.D. Martin and/or Matt Chico as the number five starter, so Strasburg takes that spot when he's activated on June 4th or June 8th or whenever. For the purpose of analysis I'll say that Martin/Chico are replacement level players. THT Forecasts indicates that Strasburg's current Major League Equivalent line is 40 IP with a 1.27 ERA, 19 hits, 8.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 1.9 WAR. The one hit every two innings part seems unlikely so I'm going to make some mental adjustments and call that 30 hits with a 1.5 WAR. So the Nats have lost out on 1.5 WAR for the privilege of delaying arbitration. Oliver's preseason projection called for 90 IP, a 2.81 ERA, 72 hits, 10.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 2.6 WAR. That seems a little optimistic to me, but it's probably a decent barometer of what we can expect. Let's call it the sunny projection. The frowny face projection would probably be about 1 WAR over those 90 innings.

From what I can gather, Strasburg is expected to throw about 150-160 IP on the season so he'll have about 90-100 IP at the major league level this year. With the projections in hand, a range of 1 to 2.5 WAR seems reasonable. Those could be important wins for the Nationals franchise. With Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, Scott Olsen, and Chien Ming Wang on the DL, the Nationals have an entire rotation on reserve. A couple wins this year out of Strasburg on the way to a respectable rotation next year could mean big things for the Nationals revenue streams and fan expectations.

The good news is that the time for guessing how he'll adjust to the majors is almost over. Soon everyone will get to see just how special Strasburg really is.

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