Age on Opening Day 2016: 27
How acquired: Drafted in 1st round, 2009
2016 salary: $10.4 million
2015 stats: 23 GS, 3.46 ERA, 117 ERA+, 127.1 IP, 115 H, 56 R, 49 ER, 14 HR, 26 BB, 155 SO, 11-7, 2.81 FIP, 1.107 WHIP, 11.0 SO/9, 5.96 K/BB
2016 storyline: Like his longtime teammate Jordan Zimmermann the year before, Stephen Strasburg enters the final season of his contract with the Nationals in 2016. The former first overall pick could be playing his final season in Washington, as free agency awaits him. It just so happens to be a very weak free agent class for starting pitching, which probably adds to the likelihood this could be his last year with the Nats.
Whether Strasburg stays with Washington beyond 2016 is unclear, but there's no question he will be relied on heavily in this upcoming season. Zimmermann is now gone and so is Doug Fister. It is now Max Scherzer and Strasburg at the top of the Nats' rotation as the clear No. 1 and 2.
Strasburg will hope for better health in 2016 and that his dominant run to finish last season will carry over. Strasburg finally got healthy in August and pushed to the finish line with a 1.90 ERA over his last 10 starts.
Best-case scenario: Given how good Strasburg was to finish 2015, it seems likely he will return to form this season as a top shelf starter. He is usually good for around 30 starts and an ERA in the low 3.00s.
But what if Strasburg gets even better? Was his final stretch in 2015 an indication of improvement, that he is ready to take another step?
There is definitely another level Strasburg can reach, as his talent is off the charts. An even better Strasburg would probably see his ERA drop below 3.00 across a full, injury-free season. If that happens, he will be paid quite handsomely by somebody next offseason.
Worst-case scenario: Strasburg had a procedure this offseason to remove a benign growth in his back, which made what he did late last year even more impressive. But what if he still has persisting injury issues that linger through 2016?
What made his 2015 season so confounding was the drawn-out saga of multiple minor injuries he suffered. It started with his ankle and ended up affecting his back, oblique and trap muscle. They were all tied into his pitching mechanics and his back was particularly difficult to diagnose.
Strasburg still had a solid year overall, but the injuries caused him to be uncharacteristically inconsistent. If he has similar troubles in 2016, the Nationals' rotation will be significantly affected, given how important he will be for their chances.
Most-likely scenario: From 2012-14, Strasburg was a rock in the Nats' rotation with a low ERA and the durability to take the ball every fifth day. It's likely he will return to being that guy and it would not be surprising at all to see Strasburg have a career year.
Strasburg's last 10 starts in 2015 were as well as he's pitched since he returned from Tommy John surgery. That bodes well for 2016, and perhaps so does the fact he's entering a contract year.
FanGraphs projects Strasburg to have his best season yet with a 2.94 ERA in 31 starts. He is certainly capable of those numbers and the Nats would have quite the 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Scherzer and that version of Strasburg anchoring their staff.