ESPN.com's Keith Law was at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona, PA this past Sunday to witness the Double-A debut of the Washington Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, and Mr. Law appeared on ESPN News on Monday afternoon to share his thoughts on what he'd seen from the 21-year-old right-hander, who gave up 4 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned, and 2 walks in 5.0 IP over which he struck out 5 and collected his first RBI, helping the Harrisburg Senators to a 6-4 win. Here's one final scouting report before Strasburg's second start of the year Friday night against the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN)...
• Overall Impressions of Strasburg?
Keith Law: "Very impressed by the velocity, he hit 99 three times on my gun, including the first pitch of the game, so obviously he was hot when he came out. Had an outstanding curveball yesterday, very sharp, hard late break, good angle to it, and really commanded the pitch, actually had better command of the curve ball than he did of his fastball. Almost to the point that you feel like, developmentally, the curve ball's ready for the big leagues right now, you could almost tell him to just put that in his back pocket for the time being. But one of the things he would have to work on then is just improving the fastball command. But did like at least what I saw in those two pitches. A couple of potential areas for improvement, but he's certainly not far off from being able to contribute to the big league club."
• Strasburg's Change?
Keith Law: "It was inconsistent and that's not a shock, cause it's a pitch he did not throw very frequently as an amateur. He threw a couple yesterday that were plus, they were the appropriate speed, good arm speed, had good late tailing action, but he overthrew a number of them, almost, they ended up sort of like bad 4-seam fastballs, around 92 or so. His changeup is at its best when it's around 88, hard for a changeup, but when your fastball's 97 to 99, you need that kind of separation. I think that what we're seeing here though, again, is just lack of feel for the pitch. He has not thrown it very often, he did not need it much in college, or even pitching in the summer in the New England collegiate league, for example. He is going to need that to be at least an effective third pitch, if not an actual out pitch for him, to be able to turn a big league lineup over multiple times, otherwise you'll just see opposing managers load up their lineups with left-handed hitters every time Strasburg is on the mound."
• How Does Strasburg Compare To Past Prospects?
Keith Law: "The name that really came to my mind yesterday was Justin Verlander. Now Strasburg isn't yet at Verlander's level, but just thinking of where Verlander was as an amateur, he was largely an arm strength guy, just had the big velocity, but didn't have the knockout secondary pitches that you see now, didn't have the good fastball command that you see now, but Strasburg, it's the same physical package, it's the same ability to hold that velocity deeper into games...The biggest difference right now, between Verlander today, who I saw last year hit 100(mph) on his 126th pitch of a game, the biggest difference between Verlander and Strasburg is that Verlander is extremely confident, very aggressive, and commands his fastball. Strasburg yesterday, did not have that same aggresiveness, when he gave up a hit on a 97 mph fastball in the first inning, his immediate response was to work away with the fastball, almost to shy away from contact a little bit. The Nationals' player development people need to get in Strasburg's ear and say, 'Hey, you throw 97 mph, go right after guys,' if he makes that adjustment, I think Justin Verlander is essentially your ceiling for Stephen Strasburg, which is a no.1 starter."
Is it June yet? Strasburg's second start will be a home start in Harrisburg, PA's Metro Bank Park, as of now there are no plans to broadcast his second Double-A outing, but you can listen to all of the Senators' games online via their radio feed, or follow the Senators on Twitter for update (@hbgsenators).