On June 9th, 2009 Stephen Strasburg had reached the zenith for any non-professional baseball player: “With the first selection in the 2009 First Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals select Stephen Strasburg, the right handed pitcher from San Diego State University.” Selected first overall, the Nationals had extraordinary expectations when they choose Strasburg. During his sophomore year in college, Strasburg stuck out 23 batters in a game. Prior to the draft, scouts had recorded Strasburg’s live fastball topping out a 99 mph and sitting in the 95-97 mph range. Clearly, Strasburg had a powerful right arm and seemed invincible on the mound during his amateur career. The Nationals believed that they had drafted a workhorse ace that would contribute to their organization for numerous years to come. On August 17, 2009, Strasburg signed a four-year, 15.1 million dollar contract. Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras, definitely had a vital impact on the record-breaking negotiation.
After the MLB Draft, prospect scout Lincoln Hamilton published a report regarding Strasburg’s long term potential. In his article he stated, “At foot plant, Strasburg's pitching forearm is nearly horizontal with the ball and his elbow both at shoulder height…At this point Strasburg also brings both elbows well behind his back in a rather extreme example of scapular loading. This places a lot of stress on smaller, weaker muscles in the upper back and shoulder. As his hips and shoulders fully open, Strasburg's pitching arm goes through severe reverse forearm bounce… Reverse forearm bounce is a major risk factor for elbow injuries including UCL tears, which require Tommy John surgery to fix.” Hamilton’s report is spot on: Strasburg’s flawed mechanics were manifest on draft day. Strasburg’s delayed/low arm spot while he is at his power position (where his foot first contacts the ground) causes a tremendous concern to the Nationals organization. Over the course of his career, pitching coaches certainly have been afraid to alter his mechanics. Working with a pitcher throwing 100 mph, the coaches did not want to tamper with his delivery and negatively affect his velocity. Moreover, Strasburg’s flaw has still not been addressed and changed throughout his MLB career.
Resulting from his poor mechanics, substantial injuries have hindered Strasburg’s success. In August of 2010, the Nationals announced that Strasburg had a torn UCL and required Tommy John surgery. After a lengthy recovery process, Strasburg returned to the diamond. Consequently, the Nationals cautiously treated their star pitcher by placing an innings limit on him. In 2012, Strasburg was capped to 160, but he earned an all-star selection and a stellar 15-6 record. Although Strasburg has posted around a 3.00 ERA his whole career, his 22-20 record during the last two seasons has been an extreme let down. While he records countless strikeouts, he has not yet proven that he can be relied upon as the ace for a competitive Nationals rotation.
Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister and the newly acquired Max Scherzer, serve as the other starters for a talented Nationals staff. Who will emerge as the ace? Last season, Zimmerman demonstrated that he was the ace with his efficacious performance; however, the blockbuster acquisition of Scherzer stirs up a controversial debate about who lead this elite rotation. As of now, Strasburg, Zimmerman, or Scherzer could settle into that role. Nonetheless, will Strasburg be traded soon? After not enhancing his mechanics to augment his longevity, Strasburg’s vulnerability to another injury might entice the Nationals to trade their former first overall draft pick. According to John Perrotto of USA Today, “Hearing #Nats RHP Stephen Strasburg is very much available and both sides believe it is time to move on.” I believe that the Nationals should ship away Strasburg and receive a considerable amount of value in return. Rather than wait for another injury to occur, the Nationals should trade away their disappointing and injury prone pitcher.
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Jake Wesley is now the only writer for MLB_NL_AL.com all of these articles are ether based on facts and pieces of his opinion.