Draft or Pass: Can You Trust Stephen Strasburg After A Career-Best Season?

Stephen Strasburg has flirted with great success but inconsistency has plagued his career. 2019 was a banner year for the Nationals ace statistically and SI Fantasy expert Ben Heisler wonders whether you can trust him at his current ADP.
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The still-to-be-determined start of the 2020 MLB season has added an interesting wrinkle to fantasy baseball draft prep. We at SI Fantasy want to provide you with the best possible information heading into your drafts in these unprecedented times.

Our "Draft or Pass" video series takes a closer look at a fantasy player that will be debated often leading up to fantasy drafts, in many cases, because of the delayed start to the season. Are our hosts targeting this player specifically? Are they avoiding him entirely?

Today's feature focuses on Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

Draft or Pass at current ADP: 23 (SP6)

Earlier this week for SI's Daily Cover, Stephanie Apstein reflected on the 10th anniversary of Stephen Strasburg's Major League debut.

It was a day less than a full year after drafting him first overall. With over 40,000 screaming fans packed inside Nationals Park, the phenom went up to the mound and not just lived up to the hype, but exceeded it beyond anyone's wildest imagination: 7 innings, no walks, 14 strikeouts.

The next several years were marked with the highest of peaks and the lowest of valleys, noted by the team's decision to hold him out of the 2012 postseason due to an innings limit. But that narrative all changed last year when Strasburg helped catapult the Nats over the Astros to win the 2019 World Series, putting Strasburg in elite company for his career postseason ERA (1.46), rivaling Madison Bumgarner and Curt Schilling.

Let's not forget about his strong 2019 season as well. Strasburg led the National League in both wins and innings pitched while also accumulating a career-high 251 strikeouts. He was dominant down the season's stretch, with a 1.89 ERA and 50 strikeouts through his final 38 innings.

Strasburg, at age 31, is at a fantasy crossroads. After his terrific 2019 campaign, can fantasy owners trust that he has now completely come into his own and should remain a top-10 starting pitching option? Or will we see yet another dropoff; similar to after a career-high 215 IP and 34 starts in 2014, Strasburg averaged 145 IP and 24.25 starts per season.

SI Fantasy analyst and high-stakes legend Shawn Childs previewed his expectations for Strasburg back in Spring Training:

Even with a career-low in his fly-ball rate (28.6 – 32.9 in his career), Strasburg had underlying disaster simmering in his HR/FB rate (16.2 – 15.7 in 2017 and 12.0 in his career). He'll come off the board as the ninth pitcher in 2020 with an ADP of 29.

With a history of missing time in many seasons due to various injuries, I would not chase him down in drafts after pitching 245.1 innings in 2019. I do respect his arm, but he can't match the elite aces in the game without a more dominating fastball in either location or velocity. When on the field, Strasburg is a winning pitcher with the foundation skill set to post a 3.00 ERA and 250 strikeouts.

I echo Childs' concerns regarding Strasburg's health. History has told us far too many times that he will miss time during the regular season. At the price of SP6 and ADP of 23, making him a bottom second-round pick, I'd instead take my chances on someone like Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals or even Shane Bieber of the Indians.

READ MORE: 2020 Washington Nationals Fantasy Team Preview

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