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Roster review: Stephen Strasburg

Oct 23, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

Age on Opening Day 2016: 27

How acquired: 1st round pick, 2009 draft

MLB service time: 5 years, 118 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $7.4 million

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2017

2015 stats: 23 GS, 127.1 IP, 115 H, 56 R, 49 ER, 14 HR, 26 BB, 155 K, 1.107 WHIP, 11-7, 3.46 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 2.1 WAR

Quotable: “I think I learned to be more aware of my thoughts out there. There are times in the game when you can kind of let your focus slip just for a split second. And I made it a point to not let that happen, to just focus on each pitch and just let everything I’ve got go on that individual pitch and turn the page.” — Stephen Strasburg

2015 analysis: To say this was an unusual season for Strasburg is an understatement. On Memorial Day, he owned a 3-5 record and 6.55 ERA that ranked 109th out of 110 qualifying major-league starters. How the right-hander managed to then go 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA after that to completely salvage his season was nothing short of remarkable.

The biggest key to Strasburg’s turnaround was health. He suffered a minor ankle sprain in spring training, but that had a domino effect on him, leading to poor mechanics and recurring neck and back pain. He finally seemed headed on the right path in midsummer, but then a strained oblique suffered on Independence Day knocked him out another month.

Thanks to a dominant final stretch, Strasburg finished his season on a true high note. In spite of those early struggles, he still wound up posting a lower WHIP, opponents’ batting average, on-base percentage and OPS and a higher strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2015 than he did in 2014.

2016 outlook: The Nationals went to great lengths to protect Strasburg early in his professional career, hoping to get the most possible out of him before he would be eligible for free agency. Well, he’s about to enter his final season of club control, so if ever there was a time to get everything they can out of him, this is it.

For that to happen, Strasburg will have to avoid the early season struggles he endured through in both 2014 and 2015. He should head to spring training 100 percent healthy and now has a better understanding what ailments he should or should not attempt to pitch through. If that all goes well, the Nationals hope to get a complete, full season of Strasburg at his best, seeing where that takes them.

There could be a scenario, however, in which Strasburg doesn’t spend 2016 in Washington. As was the case last winter with Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals could field trade offers for Strasburg, recognizing the likelihood of signing him to a long-term deal is slim at this point. That said, general manager Mike Rizzo will be reluctant to part ways with Strasburg a year before he has to, needing to be blown away by a trade offer. With Zimmermann and Doug Fister gone, the Nationals probably need Strasburg to help anchor their rotation alongside Max Scherzer.

  1. unkyd59 - Oct 23, 2015 at 8:10 AM

    I’ve done an about-face on Stras, and suddenly, I’m hoping that Rizzo makes a serious attempt to extend him, this offseason.

  2. chaz11963 - Oct 23, 2015 at 8:22 AM

    SS has always been very unappreciated. I think his reserved and detached demeanor has contributed to that. Statistically, he has been one of the best SPs in baseball over the last 4 years. I would think this being his walk year and if he can stay healthy, we should finally get to see a complete season of dominating pitching from him. With Max, that would be one of the best 1-2 SP combinations in baseball.

  3. natsguy - Oct 23, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    When you see who is probably leaving in the next two years it is hard to believe that the window isn’t almost closed. You can hope for some miracle from the minors until you look at what isn’t there. They had better do it this year if they ever are from this regime.

    • ArVAFan - Oct 23, 2015 at 9:46 AM

      That Giolito kid looks promising.

      And Joe Ross wasn’t even on our radar at this time last year, and he looks like a solid starter for 2016. Whatever else we think about Rizzo, he generally does pretty well in evaluating talent to trade for.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 23, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      2017 is certainly more of a question mark, but they certainly have a good amount of talent still under control- including BRYCE! Bring on one more young big bat to go with him and they are still solid offensively (if they can stay healthy).

      • bowdenball - Oct 23, 2015 at 1:27 PM

        They also have money and a deep farm system.

        This notion of teams having windows to compete isn’t really a thing any more. What team in recent years had a window that closed because they ultimately took on too much salary and couldn’t replenish their talent? The Phillies are one. Maybe the Tigers? That’s it as far as I can tell. And those teams revolved around players who were already near or over 30 when the team was at its best, and had weakened farm systems thanks to ill-advised trades during competitive years. The Nats’ best player is 22. Their second-best offensive player is 25. The only players under non-rookie contracts beyond 2017 are Max Scherzer and his innovative 15 year deal and Ryan Zimmerman at $14 million. They have a strong farm system led by the best pitching prospect in the game. None of these things were true of the Tigers and Phillies.

        The Nats’ window may close soon. But it won’t be something that had to happen. If/when it happens it will be because the front office chose the wrong players in the future, not because they’re tied down by albatross contracts and a farm system left barren by trades for immediate help.

  4. Susanfaulkner - Oct 23, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Stras looked awesome when healthy.. Hoping they resign and not trade him.

  5. jfmii - Oct 23, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    Murphy, 6 straight games going deep? Are you kidding? Anybody who says the playoffs aren’t a complete in-the-moment crapshoot is delusional.

    • adcwonk - Oct 23, 2015 at 10:05 AM

      +6

      I’m guessing that a bunch of folks in St. Louis (you know, the city that is home to some team that won 100 games this season and didn’t make it past the first round) agree 😉

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 23, 2015 at 2:15 PM

        That’s proof that it’s all about getting hot at the right time. Last year the Angels had the best record in baseball didn’t make a difference when it came crunch time.

    • Dave - Oct 23, 2015 at 12:41 PM

      I just keep thinking to myself: “Murphy…is NOT…that good.”

      • adcwonk - Oct 23, 2015 at 1:15 PM

        This season, he hit the most HRs he’d ever hit in the regular season: 14

  6. tcostant - Oct 23, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    Expect a monster year in 2016, with close to a pitching triple crown (W, SO, ERA). Then a $175M-$200M in 2017, I won’t rule it out here, but I think he goes west.

    • npb99 - Oct 23, 2015 at 5:33 PM

      Every year there’s predictions of how this is the year he finally becomes that monster pitcher.

  7. senators5 - Oct 23, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    My hope still is (and I know that is just what it is,,a hope) that the Nats lock up Stras for years to come and resign JZ for the long haul as well. Not only are those two quality pitchers, they are first class citizens both on and off the field.

  8. senators5 - Oct 23, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    and while I am at it, I have a totally unrelated question for the Nats experts out there. Who is, er..was the guy in uniform often seen directly behind Williams stocky, black hair and mid to upper thirties? He was not in the recent photo of the Nats’ coaching staff. Thanks

  9. Nats Fan Zee - Oct 23, 2015 at 2:06 PM

    I think that if they are intent upon retaining his services, they should extend early. If they can’t or if he won’t, they should trade him early while his value (one year at least) is high. DO NOT keep him for a QO draft pick … another Zimmermann situation would not be a great way to finish next year.

    • TimDz - Oct 23, 2015 at 2:17 PM

      NO WAY Boras has him sign early. Unless the Nats come up with some ungodly figure (which I don’t see them doing).
      My thought is to retool the bullpen, get a big bench bat and go for it in 2016. I think that Max, SS, Joe Cool, Gio and Tanner (keeping him in the starting rotation from day one) will be a formidable rotation. If they can stay healthy (I think Rendon staying healthy is a key for this team), I like their chances. It’s all about getting to the playoffs and seeing what happens.

    • therealjohnc - Oct 23, 2015 at 2:51 PM

      They aren’t keeping him for the comp pick; they’re keeping him because they want to win in 2016, and without Strasburg that gets a lot tougher. You always listen, sure – but I doubt they get an offer that makes it worth moving him.

      • infideljack - Oct 24, 2015 at 11:09 PM

        I would like to see him extended along with Harper.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 23, 2015 at 7:43 PM

      I’m not so down on comp picks. If Rizzo trusts his scouts, and he’d better, they should do OK. They will still have a team in 2022, one assumes, and it’s going to need players, too.

      Besides, Jordan himself was a comp pick, you know. (I know you do.)

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