Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Will Stephen Strasburg be the next Bryan Bullington?

Stephen Strasburg, the first pick in yesterday's MLB Draft, and Bryan Bullington have four things in common:

1. They are No. 1 overall picks
2. They are pitchers
3. They played collegiate ball for non-powerhouse schools (San Diego State and Ball State, respectively)
4. They have bad baseball names. Stephen Strasburg sounds like an investment banker, Bryan Bullington is in pharmaceutical sales.

Other than that, Strasburg hopes his career in no way parallels that of Bullington's, the top pick in the 2002 Draft, by Pittsburgh. In parts of four major league seasons with three teams, Bullington has not recorded a win and has appeared in just 13 games. This season, with Toronto, has been his best. He's logged six innings, allowing two runs.

The Pirates picked Bullington in part because of his signability. Other players in the Draft -- B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder -- would have commanded more money.

True, maybe, but it's impossible to look past the other pitchers the Pirates passed up, all of whom have gone on to far more successful careers: Adam Loewen (No. 4), Zack Greinke (No. 6), Jeff Francis (No. 9), Joe Saunders (No. 12), Scott Kazmir (No. 15), Cole Hamels (No. 17), Jeremy Guthrie (No. 22), Joe Blanton (No. 24), Matt Cain (No. 25).

Quick aside: Holy fucking shit was the 2002 Draft stacked with pitchers! Now back to the rest of the column.

This, of course, is not to slight Bullington or the Pirates, it's just another case study in how unpredictable the MLB Draft can be.

Which brings us to Strasburg. The flame-throwing righty is being billed as a "sure thing," a "can't-miss" prospect. We can't be so sure. How the power pitcher's game will translate to the big leagues is hard to tell. He'll spend a couple years in the minors, facing hitters far better than he did with the Aztecs. And he's with the Nationals. The weight that organization will put on him could prove damning.

So, yeah, will Strasburg be the next Bullington? Maybe. And Matt Hobgood (pick No. 6) will be the next Cole Hamels.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Disgruntled Pirate fan here, but I don't think Bullington is a good comparison for any first overall pick. In the press conference after the pick, then Pirate GM Dave Littlefield said that they projected Bullington to someday be a solid number 3 starter in the Majors.
Yup, they have their choice of every draft eligible player that year and the best one could, maybe, someday, be a number 3 starter.
It's fun being a Pirate fan.