Since making his Major League debut in 2010, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg-- arguably the most hyped draft pick in baseball history-- has been as good as advertised. His composite stats are mind-boggling: 251.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and a 313:67 K:BB ratio. He’s averaged 11.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and held opponents to a .613 OPS. His average velocity of 97 mph on the four-seam fastball is the highest of any starter in the PITCH/fx era, and a swing-and-miss rate of 54.5% on his changeup is also number one. On a per-inning basis, he has undoubtedly been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball from day one.
Due to Tommy John surgery near the end of the 2010 season, Strasburg had to deal with a controversial innings cap that limited him to 159.1 frames last year. We’ll never truly know if the Nationals front office made the right call, but he did fade a bit down the stretch with a 3.73 ERA after the All-Star break, while also surrendering five earned runs in two of his last three starts. Handicapping his usage in 2013, it makes sense to look at his rotation-mate Jordan Zimmermann, who underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2009 season. In 2011, his first full season back, the Nationals limited Zimmermann to 161.1 IP; last season the right-hander started 32 games and logged 195.2 IP, thus providing a very reasonable expectation for Strasburg in 2013.
A 200-inning campaign from Strasburg projects to be one of the best from any starting pitcher in fantasy. The Nationals have one of the top teams in baseball, and their strong bullpen looms very large, especially considering that so far Strasburg has pitched past the sixth inning just eight times in 45 career starts. The Nationals’ ace is a lockdown #1 fantasy starter, someone you can draft with confidence in the first three rounds regardless of scoring format. Possessing a two-seam and four-seam fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, a low-80s slurve and the aforementioned swing-and-miss changeup, he’s a strong bet to lead the Majors in strikeouts and should be a front-runner for the NL Cy Young award.
RotoBaller.com 2013 Projection: 200 IP, 17 W, 2.75 ERA, 1.1 WHIP, 250 K
Target Round: 2-3
For more on Strasburg check out RotoBaller.com's Starting Pitcher Rankings with ADP Comparison as well as Digging Deeper into Starting Pitchers - 2013 Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings (Part I)