Who was picked early in the 2009 MLB draft?
As the 2009 Major League Baseball draft began Tuesday night, the air was thick with speculation. There was no clear choice for the first pick, and the question on everyone’s mind was “Who will be number one?”
Yeah, sorry, just kidding. Every analyst and sports writer had the Washington Nationals pegged to pick San Diego State phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg. That’s just what they did. With the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the Nationals set in motion a string of events for young Strasburg, most of which involves journalists twiddling their thumbs and wondering “Will he sign with agent Scott Boras?” This pick was a no brainer.
Born in 1988, Strasburg is what is known as a “power pitcher”, with a fastball in the high 90s (he’s been clocked as high as 98 mph) and a slider that regularly clocks 94 or 95. As of the end of May, Strasburg is murdering his competition at the collegiate level. His record is a pristine 13 and 1, with an ERA well under the Mendoza line at 1.32. Strasburg’s most impressive stat might be the 195 strikeouts he’s racked up in just 109 innings pitched. Strasburg was a shoe in for first pick — not just because of his stellar numbers playing for San Diego State, but because he was the only collegeiate baseball players to play for the US Olympic team in Beijing. That kind of invitation is akin to handing you a key to the big boy’s club.
How did Strasburg do in Beijing? He wound up with an ERA of 1.67, playing against some of the best in the world, and earned a win against a tough Netherlands team. During the game against the Netherlands, Strasburg gave up one hit over the course of his seven innings pitched, and eventually lead the US to a bronze medal. Strasburg did earn a loss, against Cuba, but his competitive spirit impressed coaches and players alike.
Strasburg’s advisor (and likely future manager) Scott Boras talks about Strasburg in such glowing terms, it is difficult to imagine him as anything but the next Roger Clemens.
“Brien Taylor was the best high school pitcher I’ve ever seen, and Darren Dreifort was the best college pitcher as far as stuff that I’ve ever seen,” Boras said. “But Stephen Strasburg has better stuff, a better breaking ball and better command. This guy throws 101 mph at times, and 98 was the optimum in the past.”
According to officials with the MLB, Strasburg’s skill has surprised everyone. Even baseball franchises with no prayer of drafting him are watching him pitch just for the beauty of it.
Forget about Kris Benson and other college pitchers who arrived under dark clouds of hype. There’s simply no precedent for the media and managerial frenzy surrounding Strasburg, whose powerful fastball helped him to that 13-1 record this season for the Aztecs. Strasburg’s college coach, Tony Gwynn, has been quoted as saying that Strasburg is “good enough to be the Washington Nationals’ best starter”, or that Strasburg could “slide in immediately behind” Jake Peavy and Chris Young as the No. 3 in San Diego. Regardless of the negative scouting reports promising a return to reality for the young pitcher, dozens of scouts with no stake in Strasburg’s future confirm that he’s the real deal.
Although it’s a given among baseball fans that Strasburg’s contract will surpass one time pitching phenom Mark Prior’s record setting $10.5 million guarantee with the Chicago Cubs in 2001, the exact impact of the Strasburg story has yet to be determined. Should Strasburg break out and have a miraculous rookie season, wherever it may be, we may see a huge boost in the amount of new pitcher contracts.
There has been a little talk about the fact that official scouting reports vary on Strasburg. Many scouts argue that Strasburg is injury prone. Still other analysts like to mention that big name hyped up pitchers tend to fare poorly at the MLB level — think of Ben McDonald, who was a standout at the prep and collegiate levels but couldn’t turn that buzz into a big time career. While nobody can deny Strasburg’s talent — the kid has struck out about half of the batters he’s faced this season, many were considering the selection of Strasburg a “risk”. While the risk of overhyping a player or taking on a guy that is considered injury prone is obvious, most agree that Strasburg was a pick the Nationals simply had to make.
The number two spot, owned by the Seattle Mariners, went to a position player — much to the chagrin of the sports media, who expected the first ten or fifteen spots in the draft to be a pitcher fiesta. Dustin Ackley, an outfielder from the University of North Caroline, is a finalist for the 2009 Golden Spikes award. According to his scouting reports, Ackley is a “natural outfielder”. According to Mariner’s insiders, Ackley might be best suited for a corner outfield position if he makes it to the major leagues.
One of the biggest surprises in the first round of the 2009 MLB draft, according to analysts at ESPN and scouts from the MLB, is the Pittsburgh Pirates selection of Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez with their number four pick. Sanchez was predicted to go much later in the first round, as late as the 28th pick according to some reports, and you’ll hear Pirates fan’s denouncing this selection as just another Pirates mistake. However, to hear analysts talk about this pick, it might be a stroke of genius.
The Pirates are rumored to be going after a young phenom from the Dominican Republic — 15-year old shortstop prospect Miguel Angel Sano. If the bidding war for Sano gets up high enough, the Pirates will need extra cash to put a stamp on the young shortstop. It is like that they took Sanchez, who required a far less expensive stack of cash, to free up the money needed for the bidding war over Sano.