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Stephen Strasburg and the Signing Deadline

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With the MLB Draft Signing Deadline fast approaching, I thought it was worth sharing a few viewpoints on the Nats and Stephen Strasburg. Obviously, Washington is in an unenviable situation, especially considering that they were unable to sign their first round selection last season, Aaron Crow.

Jason Stark writes that there are numerous factors weighing on super-agent Scott Boras' mind as the deadline approaches. Chief among them:

  • the Nats have stayed firm in their initial $9.5 million offer to Strasburg. This is nowhere near the amount that Boras has apparently asked for: $20-$30 million
  • Washington is uh, not very good. As a result, they have no fan base
  • Strasburg's hometown team, the San Diego Padres, have a good shot at drafting second in the 2010 amateur draft. With Washington all but a lock to draft first, it's likely that the Pads would select Strasburg after phenom Bryce Harper went #1

At first blush, the money that Scott Boras is asking for seems outlandish. It is an unprecedented sum for a heretofore amateur player, but the talent level of Strasburg outpaces that of any other college or high school player drafted as well. Is he good enough to skip the minors completely and land a spot in the Nationals' starting rotation? Based on the analysis of scouts, I would have to think that not only is he already good enough to start in the majors, but he would be able to slot in as a number 1 or 2 starter on most any major league club.

I'm no scout, and have no experience as such, but when someone in the knows says he has two "plus-plus" pitches, then that is more than enough to merit his being on a major league pitching staff. Scouts rate pitchers and hitters using a 20-80 scale, with 80 being outstanding. The fact that he his plus-plus pitches are his fastball and curveball make his an especially lethal combination.

As with any prospect, there are risks associated with Stephen Strasburg. Some take issue with his mechanics, arguing that down the line his velocity will decrease and his chance of injury will rise. Drawing comparisons to Mark Prior is definitely a double edged sword for Strasburg as well.

Ultimately, the man has struck out 23 batters in a D1 college baseball game. Physically and repertoire-wise he appears ready to be a major league pitcher. With the crazy dollar amounts spent on middling major league arms in the past few seasons (Carlos Silva, I'm looking at you), $30 million for Stephen Strasburg for four years or so appears to be a relative bargain. While Scott Boras is holding the Nationals franchise hostage, the team must weigh financial considerations with potentially losing a great many of their supporters.