March 26, 2009


Stephen Strasburg Is Ready To Bring It: Out-of-shape and overlooked coming out of high school, the San Diego State righthander now throws triple-digit heat to go with pinpoint control, making him the likely first pick in June (Lee Jenkins, 3/26/09, Sports Illustrated)

Erik Castro has a Wilson A2000 catcher's mitt, black with tan webbing, made of steerhide so supple it can absorb a 102-mph fastball and barely make a sound. Castro is a catcher for San Diego State, and on the night of March 13, as the Aztecs hosted UNLV, he dropped into his crouch and extended his A2000 into the light fog at Tony Gwynn Stadium. San Diego State junior righthander Stephen Strasburg, he of the 102-mph heater, aimed for the leather. As horsehide met steerhide, a string on the glove snapped. The webbing came unhinged. Castro, oblivious to the tattered piece of equipment dangling from his left hand, threw the ball back to Strasburg. The Aztecs ace fired again, and by the grace of God, the pitch was fouled away. "If not," Castro says, "I think I would have died." Chances are, his chest protector would have saved him, but his point is well-taken: Stephen Strasburg has killer stuff.

Over a 40-year career a major league scout of amateur talent will raise his radar gun perhaps a million times at high school and college games. And almost every time only two digits will pop up on his screen. So in the rare instance when he sees a third digit, it is like witnessing the elusive green flash that follows a perfect sunset. After Strasburg touched 101 in the first inning against UNLV, scouts behind home plate reacted with a torrent of hyperbole. Or was it hyperbole? "I've never seen anyone like him," said one. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent." "He doesn't need the minor leagues," added another. "He's ready for the majors right now." "The only pitcher I could even compare him to is Roger Clemens in his heyday," offered a third. "This is something you have to see to believe."

Unless MLB wants to end up like the NFL, with bad teams getting screwed because they have to spend so much to sign top draft choices, they need to figure out a way to make sure whoever drafts him gets him.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at March 26, 2009 2:18 PM
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