Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NL East Full of Phenoms

When Washington called up Stephen Strasburg and Florida promoted Mike Stanton Tuesday, the pair joined Atlanta's Jason Heyward to form a electric trio in the NL East.


All the 76th pick in the 2007 draft did in his first full minor league season was hit 39 home runs with a .993 OPS. He did strike out 153 times, but as the saying goes, chicks don't give a shit about strikeouts as long as you're a ridiculous power hitter. Last season, Stanton split time between Jupiter and Jacksonville and in about the same number of at bats, dipped to just 28 combined home runs and a .341 OBP. But Stanton wasn't fooling around when the Jacksonville season began this spring. He hit 21 home runs, the OBP shot back up to .441 (OPS: 1.167) and the Marlins couldn't wait any longer, calling him up for his big league debut Tuesday.


Also a member of the '07 draft class, Heyward went from the No. 14 overall pick out of Henry County High School (McDonough, GA) to the starting right fielder on opening day in two years. He was a sandlot legend during his youth baseball days and the Braves always scout heavy in their own state. So it was no surprise when Atlanta chose the 6-5, 240-pounder with its first pick. In his first full year of pro ball with the Rome Braves, Heyward tore up the Sally League, collecting 217 total bases, a .323 batting average and a .388 OBP in 120 games. His promotion to Myrtle Beach was brief, and uneventful (22 at bats), but in 2009 Heyward split time between Myrtle Beach, Mississippi and Gwinnett and hit a combined .323 with a .408 OBP. The Braves thought he was ready, he broke camp with the big league club this spring and is the current favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year.


Unless this guy wins it. Strasburg has been hyped so much that after his big league debut, someone said Strasburg and Walter Johnson in the same sentence and didn't include the words "has always been a fan of". That debut was sparkling-7 IP, 14 K, 0 BB-and while its only one start, it's clear Strasburg has stuff, mainly a blazing fast ball and a filthy curve ball, that's there with the best in baseball. I would have a detailed account of Strasburg's journey to the big leagues, but there's not much to say. He was drafted No. 1 overall in 2009, made 11 starts combined at Harrisburg and Syracuse this spring, allowing eight earned runs in 55 1/3 innings (1.30 ERA), and the Nats called him up faster than you can say we need to try and save Jim Riggleman's job!

That's three potential superstars in a division that already includes Hanley Ramirez and will soon include Bryce Harper.

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