2012 Projection: How Should We Value Stephen Strasburg?

We all know the Stephen Strasburg story.  The first overall pick in 2009, he made quick work of the minor leagues and ultimately joined the Nationals for 12 dominant starts in 2010 (2.91 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 12.18 K/9).  Unfortunately, for as good as he looked, Tommy John surgery was ultimately in his future.

Strasburg, though, did not let the injury deter him.  He rehabbed and actually made it back to Washington before the 2011 season came to a close.  He didn’t make many starts, but he was around long enough to get owners giddy with excitement once again about what he is
capable of:

1 Wins
24.0 Innings
1.50 ERA
0.71 WHIP
24 Strikeouts (9.00 K/9)
2 Walks (0.75 BB/9)
.242 BABIP

Obviously, you don’t want to draw any conclusions off of such a small sample size.  However, there are a lot of things that you have to like.  The first was his ability to maintain a high strikeout rate, though there is still room for improvement.  It’s possible that he was not yet able to throw the ball free and easy, as evidenced by a drop in velocity from his rookie year:

  • 2010 – 97.3 mph
  • 2011 – 95.8 mph

Is anyone going to sneeze at a near 96 mph average fastball?  Of course not, though it was down about 1.5 mph from his rookie season.  Let’s not assume that he is not going to get his fastball back up to where it was, however.  While he should be an elite strikeout pitcher, he easily could improve significantly.  A year removed from the surgery, if his fastball fully returns and he lets loose, he could easily contend to lead the league in K/9.

The other number to note is his BB/9.  Generally, coming off of Tommy John surgery pitchers struggle with their control but that clearly wasn’t the case.  Only two walks in 24.0 innings?!  He posted a 2.25 BB/9 in his first taste of Major League Baseball and should continue to have pinpoint control.

So, what exactly is there not to like about Strasburg heading into 2012?  An innings limit is the one thing that you can point to, and it is a major obstacle.  According to Adam Kilgore  of the Washington Post (click here for the article):

“General Manager Mike Rizzo gave a clear answer today. The Nationals will not manipulate Strasburg’s pitching schedule in order to extend his season, letting him pitch every fifth game from the start of the regular season until he hits roughly 160 innings, and then ending his season.”

For those in head-to-head leagues, that’s a killer because it means that he likely won’t be available to you in September when your fantasy season is on the line.  In rotisserie formats, it means that you have to be prepared with a suitable replacement otherwise all the help he gives you early on could be quickly lost.

It also means that it limits the numbers he is going to be able to accumulate.  With a full slate of innings you would think he would be a lock for 200+ strikeouts, and potentially to lead the league.  That’s just not the case for this season.  While he’s going to be among the elite, here’s what I am projecting for him for 2012:

160.0 IP, 12 W, 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 181 K (10.18 K/9), 43 BB (2.42 BB/9)

So, the question is exactly how do we value him?  Obviously, if he was capable of pitching the entire 2012 campaign he would be a virtual lock as a Top 5 starting pitcher.  While that’s not the case, he’s still going to be a great draft day selection if you plan  appropriately.  With the ability to be the best pitcher for nearly five months of the year, just make sure you have the required depth to carry the load for the final month.

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Make sure to check out our 2012 projections:

7 comments

  1. TY says:

    In My H2H leagues I wouldn’t touch this guy. Like you already mentioned they’re going to shut him down. They’ve handled this guy with kid gloves and with a tommy john surgery already under his belt… it’s not going to change in 2012. Even in roto with the limited innings, not worth taking him where he’s going ADP wise.

    Only thing I can see doing with Strasburg is draft him (probably a h2h league) and trade him after about a month or two. Get some great starts outta him and SELL HIGH.

    Now if he has some unspectacular starts, then you’re plan is really screwed. Plus i never draft a guy based on the idea of dealing him, that plan can be foiled to easily.

    Stay away is my advice. Let some other schmoe take him.

  2. Jamie says:

    Assuming he averages 6 IP per start over 160 IP that would give him 27 starts. Given 27 starts with the above projected ERA/WHIP/SO and the strong WAS bullpen he should win more than 12. I’d say 14. Maybe not a big difference, but if you use those projected #’s and swap in 14W’s I say he’s a top 20 SP.

    I’d have no trouble drafting him as my 2nd SP in a roto league.

  3. big o says:

    one man’s trash …
    last year , i took over a team in a 12 team , 9 man keeper that in 2010 finished with 20 roto points (5×5) .
    even though i knew he would be sitting on my bench all season , i was happy to draft stras
    with the 12th pick of the 11th round .

    this year , in a newly formed 14 team dynasty league , i expect to reach for him much earlier … maybe the 7th or 8th round .

    what are your thoughts about where i should draft him , in this situation , Eric ?

    • Nick Tenaglia says:

      In Dynasty, Strasburg is a top 10 pitcher in my book…

      Here is my list (in no particular order):
      Verlander
      King Felix
      Kershaw
      Lester
      Lincecum
      Greinke
      Price
      Cole Hamels
      Latos
      Strasburg

      Halladay, Lee, CC, Haren all missed the cut because they are older than 28. Meaning that their window of opportunity is diminishing. Also, Jered Weaver missed the cut because of this quick analysis that I put together…..

      I took those top 11 SPs above (including Weaver) and looked at both K/9 and GB% over the last 2 seasons. Weaver was ranked 11th in both categories. Granted, he is a great pitcher who has put together 2 great seasons, but he is just more of a risk than the other 10 guys

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I have him ranked in the 50s as is it, so in a dynasty league he’s even higher than that. I’d draft him in a heartbeat in the 7th or 8th round, but I don’t think he’ll be there. I think if you want him in that deep of a league you would probably have to draft him as an ace, meaning 2nd or 3rd round.

      In that case, it depends on your approach to drafting a SP early and what else is on the board when your pick comes up. I can see justifying it (I took Verlander in the 2nd round of my dynasty), but that all depends on your draft strategy.

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