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Thursday, March 29, 2012
Updated: April 3, 9:54 AM ET
High expectations for Strasburg

ESPN.com

With its unveiling of the top 500 players in baseball, ESPN.com is launching Triple Play, a weekday feature that will run throughout the season and include three ESPN contributors answering three topical questions. For now, the feature will focus on the top 500 rankings, but Triple Play's concentration will shift to the daily MLB buzz once the season begins.

Today we'll look at Part 7 of our ESPN 500 series, which focuses on players who rank from 51 to 100. Feel free to chime in on Twitter with the hashtag #ESPN500.


1. Are we getting ahead of ourselves with Stephen Strasburg (No. 51)?


Jorge Arangure (@jorgearangure), ESPN The Magazine
I'd argue we aren't getting excited enough. Strasburg is now a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, and in a 24-inning stint last year he struck out a batter per inning. Sure, there will be some hiccups, and he'll likely have a strict innings limit, so he won't lead the league in strikeouts this season. But by the end of the season, we'll look silly for ranking him so low.

Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl), ESPN SweetSpot
It's definitely a bit of a wishcast, because as obvious as his talent is and how effective he will be if he delivers 25 big league starts or more, he has to do it first. Health is sometimes an underrated skill, but if Strasburg has it in 2012, we'll be talking about him in the top 50, not the second 50.

Nick Faleris (@NickJFaleris), Camden Depot
No. We saw Tim Lincecum win back-to-back Cy Young Awards in his second and third seasons. Strasburg's stuff is better, and his arsenal is more complete. Even if he is limited to 150-170 innings, he can be one of the most valuable arms in the game this season.


Elvis Andrus
Andrus' slick glove is reason enough to keep him this high on the ESPN 500.

2. Elvis Andrus (No. 63) has a career .683 OPS. Are we overrating defense?


Arangure: Last year, shortstops had the lowest OPS of any position. What does that tell us? That good ones are rare. Yeah, Andrus doesn't get a ton of extra-base hits, but his OBP is good enough (.347 last year) to be important in that Texas lineup. Then, of course, there's his superb defense. There aren't many shortstops better than Andrus. No. 63 sounds just about right.

Kahrl: That might have been a factor for some voters, but additional reasons he belongs this high are his track record for getting on base -- north of .340 the past two years, 20 points above the AL average -- his value as one of the best baserunners in baseball and his age, because he won't turn 23 years old until the end of August. And the kid's already been critical to two pennant winners. He's legit where he is.

Faleris: At the most valuable position on the field, Andrus possesses one of the best defensive packages in the game. He had the sixth-best OBP last year among regular shortstops and is also an excellent baserunner. As the youngest regular shortstop outside of Starlin Castro, he'll only get better. No. 63 may be too low.


3. The player you are most surprised to see here is ___________?


Arangure: Matt Moore (No. 55). Listen, I understand the hype. He may be the best young lefty in the game. But don't we have to see him produce in the majors for at least more than 10 innings before we pick him so high? Next year perhaps he'll be in the top 25. But this year he should be closer to 100 than 50.

Kahrl: David Robertson (No. 82). This isn't to bash Robertson -- he's really good at what he does as a setup man, and if you made him your closer, he'd be good at that, too. But is he really one of the 100 most valuable commodities in Major League Baseball in this or any season? Relievers are getting a bit too much credit here.

Faleris: Just one? Too high: I think it is tough to argue that there are only 60-some players you'd take over Chase Utley (No. 67) for 2012, considering no one knows when he'll be playing meaningful ball this year. Too low: There aren't 50 players I'd rather have than Matt Wieters, who's No. 69 (takes a sip of orange Kool-Aid).