Strasburg: From phenom to Tommy John

Mike Kelly, Editor-in-Chief

                 It seems every couple years there is a young pitching prospect that shines above the rest in baseball. And while some emerge into stars and aces on their staff, others won’t even be in the league after the next season. One name that comes to mind is Mark Prior. The former USC draft pick was second overall in the 2001 draft and received a then record $10.5 million signing bonus. Prior appeared to live up to the hype in 2003, his first full big league season, by going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. However, Prior developed shoulder problems, eventually needed surgery, and has since made 57 starts in seven seasons.

              There have been many stories like Prior’s over the past few decades in baseball. Young pitchers who throw really fast, have record signing bonuses and failed expectations. Most recently, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg is on pace to become this cliché. Strasburg, arguably the most hyped prospect of all time, was the number one overall draft pick in 2009, signed a now record $15.1 million signing bonus,  and before his first major league season will be over, will have Tommy John surgery. 

                Strasburg has made 12 starts so far, posting a record of 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA. He also has an impressive 92 strikeouts in 68 innings. In Strasburg’s 12th start he left with one out in the fifth due to soreness in his pitching arm. Less than a week later it was announced he would need Tommy John surgery, a procedure that every pitcher dreads hearing.

               Tommy John surgery is known in medical practice as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction; it is a surgical procedure in which a ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.  Recovery time is estimated anywhere between 12 to 18 months; however, chances of a full recovery are about 85%. There are also some reports that pitchers come back throwing faster after the procedure. If that is the case, Strasburg will likely be setting records as he has already been clocked over 100 mph.

                  Being that it is 2010 and sports science is so advanced, National fans should not be worried on whether or not Strasburg comes back, but how long it takes him to and if this injury can lead to any other arm troubles.