Washington Nationals top prospect Stephen Strasburg successfully completed his first Triple-A start Friday night in front of a sold-out Syracuse Chiefs crowd. The 21-year-old simply dominated the Gwinnett Braves on the mound, and even drove in two runs at the plate. Dave Shenin wrote in Nationals Journal:
“Props to the Syracuse crowd. With two outs in the sixth, and a 3-2 count on Gregor Blanco, most of the fans at the stadium were on their feet, recognizing this would be Strasburg’s final batter. After Blanco fouled off a 95-mph heater, Strasburg froze him with an 81-mph curve, then bounded off the mound as the crowd roared. This was a simply dominant performance by the phenom:This was a simply dominant performance by the phenom: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K. His ground-out to fly-out ratio was 12-to-0. He threw 65 pitches, 45 for strikes. And to reiterate: the only ball to leave the infield was the weak grounder up the middle by Blanco in the fourth.”
Analysis: So much for that “rocky” final Double-A start for the future ace. Strasburg asserted himself again as the hands down best talent in the minor leagues as he made the Gwinnett Braves look like an overmatched little-league team for six innings Friday night.
What’s getting scary is that as the competition he faces gets more difficult, he seems to get better and better. His numbers in the Arizona Fall League were very good but not spectacular. In Double-A he was blowing past batters at amazing rates, and tonight he didn’t let any balls leave the infield in the air.
Strasburg is improving because he is implementing and mastering new pitches. Often forced to stick to his fastball and curve/slider while at San Diego State, Strasburg has unveiled a nasty changeup and a two-seem fastball that seems to be inducing ground balls better than even the top ground ball pitchers in the majors. While the Nationals certainly wish they could have the future star in their rotation now to help them compete, Nats fans will be thanking Mike Rizzo a few years down the road when the club has one more year of control over the potential superstar.