Is Stephen Strasburg ready for the majors right now?

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Strasburg debut.jpgIt’s the obvious question following Stephen Strasburg’s debut on Tuesday. And, for now, manager Jim Riggleman is sticking pretty close to a “never say never” approach:

“The consensus of this organization, top to bottom, is that the plan is
to start him in the minor leagues,” said his manager, Jim Riggleman.
“But I’m not saying that — because we might eat those words. So we’re
leaving that open, in case something unforeseen changes our mind.”

The Nationals have been conservative about Strasburg’s ETA, but even Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider has picked up on Riggleman’s change of tone:

So the question had to be asked again this afternoon: Is Strasburg
competing for a spot in the Opening Day rotation. Jim Riggleman’s answer
was slightly tweaked from previous ones.

“We’ll make a decision
about whether he’s on the ballclub or not,” the manager said. “But I
think in his mind, he’s doing the right thing. He’s just competing to
get hitters out, and if that puts him on the ballclub, that would be his
wish I’m sure. I guess indirectly, he is competing for a spot on the
club in his mind. We’ll make that call as an organization. But as far as
he knows, he’s like everybody else trying to make the club.”

No
talk of “respecting the process.” No “unlikely” qualifiers. No firm
answer one way or the other.

Maybe it’s the increased focus on youth in this game, but with Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman and Jason Heyward, I can’t remember a time where we had three more promising young players in spring training with legitimate chances to contribute in the major leagues right away. It’s a great time to be a baseball fan, regardless of your rooting interest.
 

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.