Jan 27, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 25
How acquired: 1st round pick, 2009 draft
2014 salary: $3.975 million
2013 stats: 30 GS, 183 IP, 136 H, 71 R, 61 ER, 16 HR, 56 BB, 191 K, 1.049 WHIP, 8-9, 3.00 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.2 WAR
2014 storyline: Stephen Strasburg took some significant steps forward last season. He set new career highs in starts and innings pitched. He reached the eighth inning for the first time as a professional, then tossed his first complete game later in the summer. He put fewer men on base than in any previous season except for his 5-start return from Tommy John surgery in 2011.
But the prevailing sentiment remains that Strasburg has only touched the surface of his full potential, and many will expect him to climb closer to those heights this year. The right-hander is returning from minor October surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. He said Saturday he’s fully recovered and will be full-go from the first day of spring training, but he’ll bear close watching as always.
What will be expected of Strasburg in 2014? More innings. More dominant starts. Better composure when something doesn’t go his way. The hope would be that more wins would be a byproduct of all that.
Best-case scenario: Fully healthy and far removed from his Tommy John surgery, Strasburg puts it all together this season and becomes the elite ace everyone has expected him to be all along. He wins 20 games, posts an ERA under 2.50, crosses the 200-inning plateau and wins his first Cy Young Award.
Worst-case scenario: Obviously, the true worst-case scenario would involve a major arm injury, but we’re going to stay away from that possibility here. Assuming decent health, Strasburg’s worst would probably include several abbreviated starts, the occasional meltdown (perhaps as a reaction to an error made behind him) and plain old bad luck. He wins only seven games, sees his ERA balloon to 4.00 and takes a step back instead of a step forward in his career.
Most-likely scenario: Maybe Strasburg won’t be the best pitcher in the majors in 2014, but he probably won’t be too far out of the discussion. He may experience one or two minor injury scares but should be durable enough to make 32 starts, hit the magic 200-inning number and win at least 15 games with an ERA just under 3.00.
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