His description is almost too unrealistic to believe, even for a movie. A 6’4″, 220-pound junior in college with a fastball regularly clocked at over 100 mph, multiple major leauge-caliber pitches, and pinpoint control. No, this is not Roy Hobbs, pre-bullet wound. And the only stage this character performs on is a true to life, substantive baseball diamond. His name is Stephen Strasburg and he’s being called by many scouts, the greatest prospect OF ALL TIME.
The greatest prospect of all time? When one reminisces on all of the heralded prospects that have come and gone through baseball over the years — some that made it and more that didn’t — the idea of anointing someone the greatest of all time seems overwhelming to say the least. Yankee fans remember the Brien Taylor disaster and obviously every Cubs fan is well acquainted with Mark Prior’s laurels coming out of college. So is Strasburg really the greatest prospect to ever play the game of baseball? If you listen to the scouts and analyze the statistics the answer is a resounding yes.
First the stat lines: As a sophomore pitcher for Tony Gwynn’s San Diego State Aztecs, Strasburg was absolutely dominant, posting an 8-3 record, a minuscule 1.57 ERA, and striking out a ridiculous 133 batters in 97 innings. In a single game against the University of Utah he notched an unheard of 23 strikeouts, baffling hitters with his loaded arsenal, for nine innings.
So far, 20.1 innings into his junior year, the pre-season All American has maintained his quotient of dominance, striking out 45 batters and walking only 4 men in that span, compiling a 3-0 record to go with his 1.77 ERA.
Strasburg was no less unhittable in his time with the U.S. National Team. In seven appearances for Team USA, Stephen was 4-0 with an astounding 0.88 ERA. In the 41 innings in which he worked to accumulate those totals, Strasburg struck out 62 batters while walking only 7, demonstrating that he possesses the command to go with his excessive power, as he helped his teammates on to a 24-0 record through various tournaments in 2008.
Because of his dominance on the collegiate level — and also with the U.S. National Baseball Team — Strasburg was selected as the lone collegiate athlete on the 2008 Olympic baseball roster by manager Davy Johnson. Helping the U.S. to a bronze medal, Strasburg was again outstanding, posting a 1-1 record with a 1.64 ERA. Although he was the losing pitcher in the marquee semi-finals battle against Cuba, Strasburg was still solid while pitching out of his rotational turn, giving up only two earned runs in four innings. In Stephen’s best performance of the Olympics, he overwhelmed the team from the Netherlands in his first start of the Games, allowing one hit over seven innings and striking out five of the first six batters he faced.
At every level he has pitched, Stephen Strasburg has performed exceptionally and the scouts have definitely taken notice. As reported by Buster Olney on ESPN.com, a “long time” scout quoted to Buster that Strasburg is, “The best I’ve ever seen,” and also said, “And it’s not even close.”
That same scout went on to explain that the day he watched Strasburg pitch, his fastball was consistently clocked between 100 and 102 mph on the radar gun over the course of the entire game. And not only was his best pitch blazingly fast, but it apparently also moves — unheard of for a pitcher with 100+mph speed — with the scout observing, “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.”
To 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.
In fact, the scout Olney consulted was so confident in Strasburg’s major league readiness he predicted that Stephen could be placed into a big league rotation immediately and perform as a very good number 2 or 3 starter, exclaiming “Right now, he’s better than A.J. Burnett.”
So to recap, we are talking about a 21-year-old kid who throws over 100 mph consistently, has three major league ready pitches that he hurls with deadly control, and has absolutely obliterated all comers, whether in college or during international competition. It’s quite a leap to call a pitcher who has yet to throw a single pitch in the Major Leagues the greatest prospect ever, but with Strasburg’s extreme skills and staggering statistics, it is hard not use that exact phrase when describing him.