Peter Gammons’ brief ESPN.com item last Saturday, buried deep into a column about Matt Holliday, sent shock waves through MLB — or at least through those of us who follow MLB closely.
Gammons wrote: …”Some club officials think that if Washington takes San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick, (Scott) Boras will ask for Daisuke Matsuzaka money (six years, approximately $50 million) or take him to Japan for a year, a threat that may scare Stan Kasten into selecting a lesser prospect.”
My feeling is that this is just posturing on Boras’s part. As we know, no one postures quite like Boras. Of course, no one plays hardball like Boras, either. I can hardly imagine that Strasburg really wants to start his professional career playing in Japan, but you never know. I’m sure J.D. Drew didn’t want to start his professional career playing for the St. Paul Saints, and Luke Hochevar didn’t envision playing for the Fort Worth Cats, but that’s where Boras led them in his everlasting pursuit of bargaining power.
However, I remain convinced, at least for now, that Strasburg will not be available to the Mariners at No. 2. The Nationals, who have stumbled badly in their brief existence, have too much of a public-relations stake in taking the player viewed as a can’t-miss, once-in-a-generation superstar. The fan backlash against them if they pass on Strasburg would be immense, especially after the Nats failed to sign their No. 1 pick last year.
In today’s Washington Post, veteran scribe Thomas Boswell offers the opposite opinion. Boswell points out that once-in-a-generation pitching prospects — at least those taken at the top of the draft — never pan out. It’s an interesting read, on a topic I’ve touched upon myself in the past. It’s amazing how many can’t-miss pitching prospects — from Jaret Wright to Rick Ankiel to Mark Prior to Brien Taylor, on and on and on — have missed superstardom, for a variety of reasons.
Of course, this decision isn’t about those guys; it’s about Stephen Strasburg. Just because the others missed, that doesn’t mean that Strasburg isn’t a singular talent who will live up to his billing and transform the franchise that selects him.
This is an an endlessly fascinating topic that will only get more pertinent as the June draft nears.
P.S. Strasburg’s current stats at San Diego State: 5 starts, 4-0, 1.57 ERA, 34.1 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 74 K, .172 opponents average. Yeah, that 74-7 strikeouts/walk ratio will work.
UPDATE: Here’s Keith Law of ESPN weighing in today with his own Strasburg raves, plus video. Law writes, “He is bar none the best college pitching prospect in at least 10 years, and there’s nobody close to him — college or high school, pitcher or position player — in this draft.”