Tonight, the Washington Nationals will select Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft. In case you aren’t aware, Strasburg is a right-handed pitcher for the San Diego State Aztecs and he has ridiculous stuff. We’re talking the kind of pitching talent only seen in video games when players mess with attribute levels.
His fastball has hit 103 mph on some radar guns and normally sits between 98 and 101 with movement. His slider tips the guns at 92 mph and some scouts claim his curveball is even more devastating than his fastball. He’s often referred to as the best pitching prospect ever. He finished the season with a 13-1 record, a 1.32 ERA and in 109 innings he racked up 195 strikeouts while walking just 19. He allowed just 65 hits and 17 runs (16 earned). So yeah, guy was as dominant as any pitcher has ever been at any level this past season.
He also pitched exceptionally well for Team USA at the Beijing Olympics.
Strasburg was so good that super agent Scott Boras is rumored to be looking for something in the neighborhood of $50 million for the kid. And people are actually considering this as a real and acceptable possibility.
Here’s the problem: Since the MLB draft began in 1965, 101 pitchers have been selected in the top five picks. Only 12 have won 100 games (Josh Beckett is close with 94). Of those 12, five have finished with losing records.
Here are some more facts about taking pitchers at the top of the draft and how Strasburg will be bucking a major trend if he is successful.
Those 101 pitchers have combined to win two Cy Young Awards (Dwight Gooden and Jack McDowell each won one).
Since 1965 none of those pitchers have had Hall of Fame careers. In the meantime, of the 118 hitters drafted in the top five four have become Hall of Famers (Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor).
Thirteen pitchers have been selected with the No. 1 overall pick, their combined record is 823-860.
The following are all the pitchers selected No. 1 and some notes about their careers:
David Price (Tampa Bay, 2007) - On May 30, 2009 he picked up his first regular season win.
Luke Hochevar (Kansas City, 2006) – Selected 6th overall by the Dodgers in 2005, he never signed and re-entered the draft the following year. He currently has a career record of 7-15 with a 5.51 ERA. This season he’s 1-2 with a 7.86 ERA.
Bryan Bullington (Pittsburgh, 2002) – Through 2008 the oft-injured hurler had only pitched 18.1 innings in the majors.
Matt Anderson (Detroit, 1997) – The only player in Major League history to injure himself in an octopus throwing contest.
Kris Benson (Pittsburgh, 1996) – Married a former stripper.
Paul Wilson (New York Mets, 1994) - Got his ass kicked by Kyle Farnsworth. Sadly, that was the high point of his career.
Brien Taylor (New York Yankees, 1991) – Signed for a then-record $1.55 million before becoming only the second No. 1 overall pick to not reach the Major Leauges.
Ben McDonald (Baltimore, 1989) – Had a Strasburg-level of hype surrounding him out of college. Finished his career with a 78-70 record.
Andy Benes (San Diego, 1988) – Finished his career with exactly 2,000 strikeouts. Currently a spokesperson for Honey Dew Donuts.
Tim Belcher (Minnesota, 1983) – Pitched 13 years in the Majors for seven different teams.
Mike Moore (Seattle, 1981) – Made one All-Star game and won a World Series (both in 1989). Finished with a career record of 161-176.
Floyd Bannister (Houston, 1976) – Pitched for six different Major League franchises and the Yakult Swallows in Tokyo.
David Clyde (Texas, 1973) – Made his Major League debut shortly after signing at the age of 18. Developed arm trouble the next season and ended up having to retire by the time he was 26 with a career record of 18-33 and a 4.63 ERA.
So good luck Stephen, I’d say you have a lot to live up to but that would clearly be a lie. But who knows, the kid could get lucky. The right combination of luck and skill can make great things happen on the baseball diamond, in online poker rooms, and pretty much anywhere else in the world.