Oct 23, 2015, 6:00 AM EST
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.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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