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 Stephen Strasburg, #1 draft pick

He’s that good.  Really, he is.  He’s that good.

He’s been described by ESPN’s Buster Olney as: “the best I’ve ever seen.  And, it’s not even close.”

A bigger prospect than Mark Prior, Cubs fans.  A bigger prospect than Brien Taylor (sorry Yankee fans).

Last fall, we profiled Stephen Strasburg–the San Diego State pitcher who is simply the most dominant pitcher, perhaps ever, in college baseball.

Last year as a sophomore playing for manager Tony  Gwynn’s Aztecs, Strasburg was 8-3 with a 1.57 ERA.  He had 133 strikeouts in 97 innings pitched.  In a game on April 11, 2008 against Utah, Strasburg struckout 23 batters!

Stephen Strasburg, fantasy baseball pitcherHe followed that up by becoming the first amateur to make the Team USA Olympic squad.  In the Olympics, he had a 1.64 ERA and was selected by manager Davey Johnson to pitch against the best team in the world, Team Cuba, in the semifinals.

Compared to what he’s done this year, however, last season was an off-year for the 6′ 4″ right-hander.  Strasburg’s 2009 stats are: 34 1/3 innings; 4-0; with a 1.57 ERA.  He has a phenomenal 74 strikeouts versus 7 walks!

Strasburg was clocked at 102 in the seventh inning of his March 20 start against Brigham Young.  And not only was his best pitch blazingly fast, but it apparently also moves — unheard of for a pitcher with 100+mph speed.

Olney spoke with a scout attending the game last night and said the scout was in awe.  “Whenever you see a fastball at 100 mph, it’s always straight. No movement. But his fastball has a lot of movement, which really doesn’t make that much sense, because it’s on the hitter so quickly. His fastball cuts.”

Stephen Strasburg, sleeper 2009To go with Strasburg’s fastball, he also has a “plus” slider that the observing scout recorded in the 92-94 mph range and a “plus” change-up to offset his speed pitches. A junior in college sporting a 100 mph fastball with movement and two other “plus” pitches? Again, this is literally unheard of, especially at the collegiate level.

Not surprisinly, super-agent Scott Boras is already “advising” Strasburg.  It is said that Boras will demand a minimum of $50 million over six years for Strasburg to be signed.  Those signing rights belong to the first pick in the draft for the Washington Nationals.  If the Nationals don’t pony up with $50 mil, Boras has suggested that Strasburg might be better off to play in Japan for a year.

If the Nationals don’t get any of the Washington stimulus plan money, the next suitors for Strasburg are the Seattle Mariners with the second pick and the San Diego Padres with the third pick in the June 9-10 draft.  According to Olney’s report on ESPN, a source with the Mariners has already said that they will “trade all of their picks in the draft” for the right to move ahead of the Nationals.

Olney’s praise is without hyperbole given Strasburg’s magical right arm.  “He’s better than A. J. Burnett right now,” said Olney.  “He could be a #2 starter on any MLB team immediately.”

We at Fantasy Baseball Dugout usually try to recommend that you stick with the proven veterans.  Sure, it’s fun to pick up a fantasy baseball sleeper who ends up having a big year, but more often than not, you should stay with the stabilty of the proven veterans.  It may not be sexy, but it wins fantasy baseball championships.

A pitcher like Stephen Strasburg, however, does not come along every year.  This guy is special.  Very special.  He may not even play this year, but if the Nationals are able to sign him quickly, he could skip past any minor league stints and jump right into the Nationals’ rotation in June.  More likely, however, Boras will verbally agree to deals, then pull the rug out from under the Nationals’ management and change his mind.  Knowing Boras, the negotiation will likely drag on until August 15.

Even if he doesn’t sign until August, however, it is our recommendation that you use your last round pick in the 2009 fantasy baseball draft on collegian Stephen Strasburg.  Unless your opponents are reading Fantasy Baseball Dugout too, they will not have Strasburg on their radar.  If you play in a fantasy baseball keeper league, there’s even more incentive to draft him– significantly earlier.

Stephen Strasburg is a fantasy baseball manager’s ultimate fantasy.

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