Prospect Throwdown: Stephen Strasburg vs. The World

You can find more from Rob Steingall at CSNWashington.com

Let’s be honest, nobody is even in the same universe as Stephen Strasburg(notes) when it comes to prospects. He’s being touted as the best college pitching prospect ever, and certainly has the stuff and numbers to back that claim up. Today, I’d like to shed some light on a few warts, in an attempt to at least prove the guy is human and not some cyborg who was dropped off in the middle of the desert one summer night. We’ll then take a look at his main competition from around the world, and see how they stack up against “The Chosen One.”

Slaying Goliath

I’m not a pitching mechanics expert, but what I’ve read about Strasburg is not all that positive. According to Baseball America, some within the Nationals’ organization are concerned “he eventually could break down because he locks out his elbow on his follow through, putting torque on his shoulder.” Further breakdowns of Strasburg are found at DrivelineMechanics.com and ChrisOleary.com. Both fear serious elbow and shoulder issues. Please note that these breakdowns were done in November 2008 and March 2009 respectively. Again, I’m trying to make a case against Strasburg, which is extremely hard to do.

Let’s meet David

Aroldis Chapman(notes), Cincinnati Reds (Cuba): All the hype seemed justified earlier this week, when Chapman hit 100 MPH on the gun in his spring debut. Chapman also flashed the makings of a plus slider and displayed control that was better than previously advertised. I’ve continue to believe that he needs a half season in the minors to refine his mechanics and control, but that time table could be moved up significantly if he proves consistent this spring.

Neftali Feliz(notes), Texas Rangers (Dominican Republic): The most well known of this group, at least in terms of major league exposure, Feliz dominated upon his call-up last year (1.74 ERA, 30 IP, 39/8 K/BB). What I love about Feliz is his effortless delivery and ability to dial it up to the upper 90s late in games as a starter. His hard slider showed improved control once he reached the majors, and if he continues to refine his potential plus change-up, he’ll be scary. He has ace written all over him. I expect him to be in the rotation to start the season, possibly even returning more value than Strasburg in 2010.

Yu Darvish, Nippon Ham Fighters (Japan): The most mysterious of the bunch, but possibly the one who comes closest to challenging the upside of Strasburg. Darvish’s story was well documented by Yahoo! baseball columnist Jeff Passan last March. One NL scout described him simply as a “stud” in his shortened report. Darvish features a low-90s fastball and plus slider, as well as a plethora of other off-speed pitches, common for Japanese pitchers. The verdict is still out as to when he could come to the states, but what we do know is that he’ll become eligible for free agency following the 2014 season.

My rankings behind Strasburg are as follows:

1. Darvish
2. Feliz
3. Chapman

As far as the guy who I feel will have the best major league career, I’d have to say Feliz. I’m basing this decision on his age, quality of stuff and the fact that he’s already in the majors. Strasburg trumps all though, and could be the winner of multiple Cy Young awards before his 27th birthday – right around the time he becomes eligible for free agency.

Let the bidding war begin.

Have a prospect question? A player you want to see covered? Send it to MinorDevelopments@yahoo.com.

Rob Steingall is a nationally syndicated fantasy analyst whose work has appeared in newspapers including The Providence Journal.

Updated Friday, Mar 12, 2010