I realize what I'm about to write will most likely be considered heresy in the fantasy baseball world, but I'm going to type it anyway. What the heck.
It wouldn't be a bad time to trade Stephen Strasburg… Huh?!?!? Yeah, I said it. If you're in a keeper league, that may be a different story. I'm mainly talking redraft leagues.
Something just hasn't looked right about him through his six starts this year. Whether it be his strange-looking pitching lines, his record (1-4), only three K's against the Miami Marlins in his first outing, his 8.68 strikeouts per nine innings (down from 11.13 last year) or his forearm tightness in his most recent start against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, something is amiss with Strasburg.
Obviously, I'm not the only one with these concerns.
An anonymous National League scout said Strasburg's delivery looked off during his showdown with Matt Harvey and the New York Mets April 19: "He was coming out of his delivery way too quick. His body was getting away from his arm. Several of us saw it in New York vs. Harvey."
Now, there is a possibility that some poor mechanics were the cause of his "forearm tightness" Monday, which led to a lack of control on the mound. What is unclear at this point is if the faulty mechanics led to his tightness, if the injury was the direct result of his poor command or if these two issues are completely independent of each other.
Regardless, I thought he looked very un-Strasburg-like, and so did skipper Davey Johnson. One scout in attendance of Strasburg's start against the Mets reported: "If you didn't know who was who, you'd have thought Harvey was Strasburg and Strasburg was Harvey. You know, I've always loved Strasburg, and I've given him the highest grade you could give a player. But if you were to ask me which guy was the better bet to be great for the next five years, I'd say Harvey. His stuff's just as good. And he has a better delivery."
The Washington Nationals are saying Stras' forearm tightness was possibly related to overuse of a muscle-stimulation machine prior to his start Monday and that the issue is not related to the ligament in his right elbow that was repaired during Tommy John surgery in 2010. Good news for Strasburg owners, for sure. He will be making his next start versus the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow night.
The Nats have been extremely cautious with Strasburg since drafting the pitching phenom No. 1 overall in 2009, and they gingerly limited his innings last season to limit the wear and tear on his arm. Is that because they believe that kind of approach is necessary to keep this talented commodity healthy over the long run? Maybe.
Rival evaluators and many scouts agree that Strasburg is a rare prospect that doesn't come around too often, but he's also been compared to Mark Prior often because of a delivery that is highly susceptible to injury.
His recent injury scare might or might not be mechanically related. We don't know that yet. However, it makes you wonder if this is something that will continue to plague him, and if Washington's attempts to keep him healthy will limit his effectiveness.
The good news is that we haven't seen any velocity dips this year, and he hasn't ditched a specific pitch in his arsenal. However, opponents are making slightly more contact against him at 78.8 percent compared to 74.3 percent in 2012. The most alarming number is 67.4 percent contact rates on balls outside the zone compared to 55.9 percent last year, per FanGraphs. He hasn't been able to put hitters away on his pitches like we would expect.
That brings me to my initial point: Trade Stephen Strasburg. Still seems insane to most, probably. Even with a 1-4 record, a 3.13 ERA and an 8.68 K/9 rate, Strasburg is an above-average pitcher and a No. 1 or 2 fantasy starter right now. There are a bunch of red flags popping up that suggest he may never become the Nolan Ryan of our era, though. Will he realistically ever live up to his full potential?
You'll be able to get a ton in return for him, especially since most of your league mates likely still believe that Strasburg is a pitching God. If the rest of your pitching staff is in good shape, there's even more incentive to at least consider dealing him.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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