Fantasy Baseball: Why You Should Be Targeting Stephen Strasburg

Could this finally be the year the right-hander has his breakthrough season?

Stand back everybody. Stephen Strasburg is about to explode. It would be a shame to ruin those new shoes of yours.

This is the year. This is the year Strasburg, the former number-one overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, has the season that everyone has been waiting for. This is the year he puts it all together, stays healthy, and competes for the NL Cy Young Award.

This is the year. Mark it down.

Sure, he was pretty good in 2014, when he led the National League with 242 strikeouts in 215 innings, going 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA. He finished ninth in the Cy Young voting that year, the only time in his career he's finished in the top 10. He's made one All-Star team, in 2012 when he went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and struck out 197 in 159 1/3 innings, but missed some time due to injury that year as well.

Last year was another injury-shortened season for Strasburg, pitching only 127 1/3 innings. He was mostly effective in his 23 starts, with a 3.46 ERA, a 2.81 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and 155 strikeouts.

Effective, but not dominant. His velocity was down early in the season, and he really struggled to pitch from the stretch.

Situational IP AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Bases Empty 84.1 .210 .247 .358 .263
Men on Base 43.0 .277 .337 .409 .327
Men In Scoring 23.0 .303 .340 .474 .350

Compare those numbers to the league average last year.

Situational AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Bases Empty .248 .306 .398 .308
Men On Base .255 .332 .414 .320
Men In Scoring .246 .336 .405 .315

Strasburg was much better than the league average when pitching from the windup, and he was about league average with men on base.  But his numbers with men in scoring position in particular, were not good.

But here's why you should very much like Strasburg's chances to be dominant in 2016.

He still averaged 95.4 mph on his fastball last year, his highest average since 2012, his first year back after Tommy John surgery. His 10.96 strikeouts per nine were better than his career average (10.44) and his 1.84 walks per nine were lower than his career mark (2.22). 

In addition, for the last two years, Strasburg has been unlucky on balls in play, giving up a .311 BABIP last season. The league average last year was .299, and his number last season came on the heels of a .315 BABIP in 2014. 

Perhaps most importantly, take a look at what he did when he came off the disabled list last year.


In his four September starts, Strasburg struck out 13, 14, 10 and 13 batters, walking one batter in each of those four games. He went at least seven innings in each game and gave up four earned runs in 30 1/3 innings for a 1.48 ERA.

Are these arbitrary start and end points? Sure they are. But they tell us that a healthy Stephen Strasburg still has the stuff to be one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. And if his current average draft position is accurate (Strasburg is currently the 14th pitcher slated to go off the board), he could be a steal at that stage in the draft.

This is the year it happens. This is the year Stephen Strasburg puts a full season together.