What to do with Strasburg

The ink has just dried from his record breaking deal and fans are already clamoring for Strasburg’s arrival in Washington.

The Nationals’ assistant general manager, Mike Rizzo, has already stated that Strasburg likely will not pitch the remainder of the 2009 season and instead will begin his conditioning and strength regimen.

This is a very smart move as Strasburg has not pitched since May 29. Washington has a significant amount of money invested in Strasburg (over $15 million) so the Nats must be very cautious in his development. Strasburg threw 109 innings at San Diego State this season and 97.1 the year before that. His college head coach, Tony Gwynn, limited his pitch counts to prevent future harm.

The closest pitching prospect we have seen to Strasburg recently was Mark Prior. Prior is the poster boy for how to not handle young pitchers. Prior threw 138 and 129 innings during his final two seasons at USC. He began his career in Double-A and quickly moved up to Triple-A, throwing a combined 51 innings before getting called up to the major leagues and inserted into the rotation. As a 21-year old rookie, Prior started 19 games for Chicago and threw 116.2 innings in the major leagues (167.2 innings overall). In seven of his 19 starts he threw 110 or more pitches.

The following season Prior endured even more abuse. He tossed 211.1 innings and averaged over 113 pitchers in 30 starts. It was soon after this that he began having shoulder and arm problems that would plague him the rest of his career.

It would be wise for Washington to start Strasburg in the minors next season while closely monitoring his pitch counts. If he is deemed ready a couple months into the season he should be called up, but once again, his pitch counts and innings should be limited. There have been numerous studies linking high work totals to injuries in young pitchers, and the Nationals should be wary of the face of their franchise

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