The problem, as it turns out, is that the kid was inadequately hyped.
Washington's Stephen Strasburg(notes) struck out 14 Pirates in his major league debut on Tuesday night, earning the win and exceeding all reasonable expectations (and most of the unreasonable expectations). The right-hander threw 94 pitches over seven innings, allowing just four hits and two runs while walking no one. He reached triple-digits on the radar gun multiple times, per his usual.
It was an astonishing performance, no matter what you thought might happen. Pittsburgh's two runs scored on a fourth inning Delwyn Young(notes) homer, and that was simply a nice piece of hitting, not a serious mistake by Strasburg. Young managed to golf an off-speed pitch — a 90 mph changeup — over the wall in right-center.
But after that, Strasburg was perfect. He struck out two batters in the fifth, then fanned the side in the sixth and seventh. As Jim Kaat pointed out during the MLB Network broadcast, the 21-year-old phenom has at least three elite finishing pitches. (And as Bob Costas pointed out repeatedly and unnecessarily, Walter Johnson used to be really good, too).
If you'd like to watch every Strasburg strikeout, click here. Enjoy. He tied Detroit's Max Scherzer(notes) for the most Ks in any game this season, and he fell one short of the record for most strikeouts in a debut.
The question now confronting his fantasy owners is this: What's next?
Under normal circumstances, we like to recommend that you deal from a position of hype. Prospects make the best trade chips, especially when the early returns are encouraging. If Washington sticks to the original 150-160 innings limit with Strasburg, then he has less than 100 remaining. (He pitched 55.1 in the minors before the call-up). He'll actually have a tough time exceeding Tyler Clippard's(notes) full-season fantasy value, since the Nats' reliever already has eight wins to his credit, a 1.62 ERA, and he's on-pace to throw 107 innings.
But these aren't exactly normal circumstances. Here's how Strasburg's upcoming starts line up prior to the All-Star break: at Cleveland, vs. the White Sox, at Baltimore, at Atlanta, vs. San Diego, vs. San Francisco.
Every team on that list except the Braves is in the bottom-third of the league in runs-scored. Strasburg's short-term setup is spectacular and his stuff is clearly of the highest quality. Crazy as it seems, his value may not have peaked. No sale.
Photo via AP Images