Capping off the rotation section of our fantasy previews, we have Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg. In his first full major league season, Strasburg threw 159.1 stellar innings as a part of an incredibly controversial club-imposed 160-inning limit. To his credit, Strasburg handled the increased attention well and pitched strongly, with a 3.16 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and a 1.16 WHIP. In 2013, finally unshackled from any limitations, our projections indicate he has nowhere to go but up:
ZiPS: 137.1 IP*, 164 K, 35 BB, 1.07 WHIP, 2.69 ERA
MLB.com: 201 IP, 244 K, 57 BB, 1.04 WHIP, 2.69 ERA
CBSSports: 200 IP, 240 K, 56 BB, 1.09 WHIP, 2.92 ERA
ESPN Fantasy: 193 IP, 234K, 53 BB, 1.13 WHIP, 3.14 ERA
Averages: 182.2 IP, 221 K, 50 BB, 1.08 WHIP, 2.86 ERA
*ZiPS is a program that simulates a pitcher’s performance based on prior seasons. It has no way of knowing that Strasburg was healthy last season and limited by the team to 160 innings. It believes he was injured, and thus expects him to be injured again. Since it makes this inaccurate assumption, we can consider this stat to be a bit of an outlier.
Obviously, the sky’s the limit for Strasburg this season. A 1.04 WHIP or 2.69 ERA would have been good for second in the NL last year, and every projection that has Strasburg pitching a full season foresees him exceeding the 2012 NL-leading strikeout total of 230. All four projections expect Strasburg to pass Gio Gonzalez‘s 2012 NL-leading K/9 of 9.35 by at least 1.35. To put that in perspective, 1.35 K/9 is the difference between Gonzalez and 16th place AJ Burnett. Even the most conservative of projections have him in the top ten of nearly every major statistical category. Suffice it to say, Strasburg will be one of the most dominant starters in baseball in 2013. With his ridiculous strikeout totals, Strasburg has a legitimate case to be fantasy’s #1 starter next year, but will likely fall behind pitchers like Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, simply because they will throw more innings. In any event, he is a top-five guy, and will likely have quite a few 12-strikeout, 40-point, matchup-destroying starts that will leave opponents red-faced and gaping. In actual baseball, Strasburg will be a leading contender for the NL Cy Young and continue to dominate atop the Nationals’ rotation.
With the rotation complete, tomorrow the fantasy previews will continue with the bullpen.