One of the big questions facing fantasy owners in keeper leagues this week is what to do about Stephen Strasburg.
Should I hold or divest?
Chances are that most of his owners are going to ride out the storm and hope for the best. Other than the year-plus lost, Tommy John patients can come back even stronger than before due to better training.
While I have seen Strasburg pitch in person twice, first in the Arizona Fall League last year and in spring training this March, I was hoping to watch him up close facing the Cardinals again as I cover the four-game series in Washington this weekend. Alas, that is not to be.
It reminds me of a very difficult decision I faced in the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League, prior to the 2009 season. I had the first pick in the reserve draft and my primary alternatives were Strasburg or the Atlanta Braves’ Tommy Hanson.
I had seen Hanson the previous fall, again in the AFL, where he was Most Valuable Player. Needless to say, I had been impressed. Though Hanson appeared ready for the bigs, I knew he would be kept in Triple-A long enough to save a year of arbitration eligibility, likely for most of the first half of the 2009 season.
On the other hand, Strasburg still had a partial season of college ball remaining. Despite all the hype, his distance away from the majors was considerably greater, with more potential pitfalls ahead.
What shifted the balance was the fact that I thought I had a good chance of competing for the championship in 2009. Hanson could contribute in the second half while Strasburg would not.
When I announced my selection, if there was anyone among the other 14 owners who agreed with it, they didn’t speak up. There were plenty of critics.
Though I fell 3 1/2 points short of the league-winning 122 point total last season, Hanson did everything expected and more. The team of Strasburg’s owner finished 15th of 15. His roster obviously had other more severe problems.
Almost two seasons after I selected him, Hanson has contributed 19 major league wins, a 3.24 ERA and 257 strikeouts in 280 innings. For all the ink that has spilled about him, Strasburg has just five wins in his brief MLB career, not to mention an uncertain future.
In 2010, Strasburg’s owner has closed the gap between us, improving to seventh place, one spot and a dozen points behind me.
The jury is still out on the long-term ramifications of my early 2009 decision. The two pitchers’ keeper prices in this league will remain just three years apart for however many years into the future they are kept. In a +$3 league like the AFL, that should be a very long time.
I hope for the game of baseball that Strasburg recovers and enjoys a long and successful career. I really do.
At this point, however, I am glad I took the sure thing.
Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.