Monday, June 04, 2012

2012 Draft: Giants Select RHP Chris Stratton with 20th pick

For information about Chris Stratton's career with the Mississippi State University Bulldogs, go to his webpage there. It has not been updated with his 2012 stats though.  This is Will "the Thrill" Clark's alma mater and Stratton is one of the 30 finalists for the Golden Spike award (won by Will Clark, Tim Lincecum, and Buster Posey previously).

His stats are located here, and he started out as a reliever then because he did well, was made a starter.  in 109.2 IP, he had a 2.38 ERA and gave up 84 hits and only 25 walks (2.05 BB/9) while striking out 127 (10.4 K/9), for a sterling 5.1 K/BB ratio, and he had a very good 0.57 HR/9, with a .211 BAA.   For just SEC conference games, he had a 2.05 ERA in 10 starts, 74.2 IP, with 60 hits and 11 BB (1.3 BB/9), while striking out 88 (10.6 K/9), for an even better 8.0 K/BB ratio, and great 0.24 HR/9, with .216 BAA.  2012 was his first good season, he wasn't that good in 2011.

Mayo in his mock had Stratton #15.  So did BP's Goldstein and BA's Callis.  Strangely, no real comments among them.  Minor League Ball's Garrioch had him #25 (also no comment), while Sickel's had him #13, noting he "has a great balance of upside and refinement."  The only reason he reached us is because a number of teams thought that they needed to draft position players, drafting ones lower in rank (per BA) and passing over better players/pitchers like Stratton.

Sickels ranked him 15th overall, noting "Throws hard, throws strikes, diverse arsenal, and you can make a case to rank him above Wacha and maybe even Stroman."  Sickels ranked Stroman 10th, Wacha 11th.

BA ranked him 18th on their Top 500 draft list (Stroman was ranked 10th; Wacha 8th).  In their Updated Top 50 Draft Prospects list, he was ranked 14th, up four spots.  Giolito was ranked 9th, Heaney 10th, Wacha 11th, Stroman 12th, and McCullers Jr. 13th.  He appears to have been the best ranked college pitcher still available when the Giants had to pick (only McCullers, a high school player, was higher and still available).

Andrew Baggarly tweeted:  "Stratton is a late bloomer who wasn't drafted out of high school but had a 17-K start against LSU. He throws 91-93 and touches 95."  "The Giants must believe that Statton can develop quickly. He was 22 years old as a college junior."

John Manuel tweeted:  "Chris STratton makes too much sense. Somewhat polished, somewhat raw, big stuff. New clay for the Ninja to mold #Giants"

Baseball America in their draft blog:
The Giants have a strong reputation for drafting pitchers in the first round and getting them to the big leagues. Now they hope Mississippi State righthander Chris Stratton can join a recent lineage that includes current San Francisco starters Matt Cain (2002), Tim Lincecum (2006) and Madison Bumgarner (2007). 
Stratton excelled this spring for the Bulldogs and edged out LSU's Kevin Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick tonight, as Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year. His stuff isn't quite as firm, with a fastball that usually sits 92-93 mph but touches the mid-90s. His breaking stuff sets him apart; he throws both a slider and a curveball, and both can be above-average, with the slider getting higher grades. 
While he doesn't have a 70 pitch, Stratton has lots of 55s and 60s as well as a fairly fresh arm. He fits right in for vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow, who has overseen the Giants' pitcher development for 16 years.
Here is the report by Mayo from the coverage of the draft, where Mayo ranked the Top 100:
Starting the year as a reliever, Stratton eventually took over Friday starting duties for Mississippi State. 
His success there has seen him shoot up boards as the Draft approached. Stratton has the chance to have an exciting four-pitch mix, all coming from the kind of ideal pitching frame scouts love. He throws a sneaky fastball, up to 94 mph with ease and with good movement. His slider is the better of his two breaking balls, a strikeout pitch with good rotation and bite. His curve is a notch behind, but it has the chance to be Major League average with a slurvy break to it. His changeup, also a future average offering, has some sink. He has above-average control, throwing all four pitches for strikes and showing an understanding of how to use his stuff well. 
Stratton has been a very consistent performer since moving into the rotation and his combination of size, stuff and pitchability have him moving into first night of the Draft conversations.
This lists him as 6' 3", 190 pounds.  And there is a video of him there, he was ranked 20th in that list.

SBNation has a profile of Stratton which was quoted from ESPN:
Stratton flashes three above-average to plus pitches with a chance for solid-average command and a near ideal, projectable frame. He will work with a 91-94 mph fastball that can get up to 96 and will show occasional life with good command to both sides of the plate.
Found a prospect site that gave a profile of Stratton:
Stratton is a likely first round talent that has thrived at Mississippi State this year as the Friday night starter. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s and a Baseball America report had it sitting 94-95 in the first inning against Florida this year. 
He complements the fastball with a slider in the 82-84 range that, while inconsistent, shows flashes of late life and good break. He also throws a curveball with a similar plane and a change-up, both of which don't grade out as anything more than average. 
Initially used out of the bullpen, Stratton made the move to the rotation early in the year and has thrived. He's sporting a 10-1 record so far this year for the Bulldogs and he has put up great all-around statistics. Stratton has shown great command of his pitches and sports a 115/19 K:BB ratio in 95.2 innings this year. His overall ERA of 2.16 is stellar and opponents are hitting a minuscule .210 off of him. 
While Stratton isn't considered to be in the same tier as fellow college righties Kevin Gausman, Mark Appel and Kyle Zimmer, he is certainly one of the leaders of the second tier of college starters and should hear his name called near the back end of the 1st round. 
MLB Comparison: Zack Greinke 
Projected Draft Position: Late 1st Round
Don't know how good the site is though.

Perfect Games, however, is a well respected site and this is their profile information:
4/19/12: Stratton stamped himself as a legitimate first-round candidate for this year’s draft when he went head-to-head with Louisiana State righthander Kevin Gausman in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference schedule, and actually outpitched one of the three leading candidates to go No. 1 overall. Both pitchers worked 8-2/3 innings in what may have been one of the best pitching duels of the 2012 college season, with Stratton striking out 17 and Gausman countering with 11. Each allowed four hits, with Stratton walking two and Gausman four. Neither pitcher was ultimately involved in the decision as they both exited the game in the ninth with the score deadlocked at 1-1. Mississippi State looked like it might win the tightly-played contest by scoring a run in the top of the 10th on a home run by catcher Mitch Slauter, but LSU rallied with two in the bottom half of the inning against Bulldogs reliever Caleb Reed for a 3-2 victory. The 17 strikeouts recorded by Stratton were the most by a Mississippi State pitcher in 20 years—or since lefthander B.J. Wallace, the third overall pick in the 1992 draft, fanned 19 in an NCAA regional encounter. A large contingent of high-level scouts took in the Stratton-Gausman showdown, in what was Stratton’s first start of the season after four relief appearances, and many came away talking him up as a legitimate first-rounder. 
His fastball was a steady 92-94 mph, peaking at 95, but the difference-maker in his dominant showing was a nasty swing-and-miss slider that Stratton has added to his repertoire and was his primary strikeout pitch. He threw the pitch consistently from 85-87 mph. Stratton has also resorted this spring more to a two-seam fastball vs. a four-seamer, and has responded by going 7-0, 2.98 with 78 strikeouts in 57 innings. He has walked 16 while allowing 45 hits. 
His performance to date has been a significant upgrade from his first two seasons at Mississippi State, when he served as a weekend starter but went only a combined 10-10, 5.25 with 152 strikeouts in 154 innings. As a sophomore, he was an unimpressive 5-7, 5.21—hardly a tipoff that he might become an elite-level prospect for the 2012 draft. Even last summer in the Cape Cod League, pitching for champion Harwich, Stratton was regarded as no better than 10th-best prospect on a very deep Mariners staff after going 1-1, 2.18 with two walks and 16 strikeouts in 21 innings, but he may have provided a sign of things to come in his final outing of the summer when he shut down Cotuit for eight innings on just 85 pitches. His fastball was mostly in the 88-93 range on the summer. 
Stratton has always had a good feel for pitching and adapted well in the fall to changes in his style and approach to his craft. Not only did he add a deadly slider to his mix and resort to getting more movement on his fastball by emphasizing a two-seamer, but he also changed his delivery when working from the stretch. The payoff has been quite dramatic, and has already elevated Stratton from a potential third- to fourth-rounder at the start of the 2012 season to a potential first-rounder. The addition of a slider not only provides him a second dominant pitch, but essentially has solidified his case to be a starter down the road as he now has four solid pitches for the role, including a curve and changeup as his No. 3 and 4 pitches. He uses his changeup, an 83-mph offering, mainly to counteract lefthanded hitters. 
At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Stratton has an ideal pitcher’s frame. He also has a quick arm and a very easy, clean delivery that he repeats consistently. If anything, he just needs to work on the command of his fastball.
Hank Schulman filed this blog post on the new draft pick:
Stratton, 21 and a native of Tupelo, Miss., was 11-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 17 games for the Bulldogs, including 12 starts. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder struck out 127 batters in 109 2/3 innings to win Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year. 
“He has a four-pitch mix,” Barr said. “He can throw breaking balls for strikes. His fastball goes anywhere from 90 to 95. He really competes on the mound.” 
Stratton is a late bloomer who was not drafted out of high school but developed phsyically and on the mound at Mississippi St. He now has a chance to join a rotation stocked with first-rounders Madison Bumgarner, Tim Linceucm and Matt Cain. 
“Those guys are outstanding pitchers,” Stratton said in a conference call. “Just to be on the same team with them is a blessing. This is the kind of organization I want to be a part of, which puts an emphasis on pitching. I hope I’ll be able to learn from those guys.” 
Stratton also looks forward to celebrating with his aunt and uncle, Sharon and Gaines Dobbins, who live in San Francisco. Gaines is a chef who bikes to Giants games. 
Though draft-watchers assumed the Giants would select a college pitcher to replenish the system with another fast-track arm, Barr said that as usual the team drafted the best player available. 
“Our board was mixed,” he said. “We had both high school and college pitchers and position players. Depending on how it went, if (Stratton) had not been there, whether we would have taken a pitcher or not, I’m not so sure.” 
Stratton first caught the Giants’ attention at the Cape Cod summer league last year. How quickly he reaches majors depends on many factors, starting with how quickly the Giants can sign him and how many innings the organization wants him to throw this summer.
Giants seem to like players who do well in the Cape Cod league.  The main reason for that is that this league uses wooden bats, while college players use aluminum (and other composite) bats.  This basically repeats what I heard Barr say on KNBR during his interview.

I would also add that one detail that is missing but important is that Barr noted that one reason the Giants really liked Stratton was because he knew how to pitch with his other pitches when his fastball wasn't working, emphasizing his four-pitch mix as another key, as he could turn to his breaking pitches.  It was also noted that he pitches aggressively against hitters and is athletic.  One of the KNBR hosts (Ray Woodson) also noted that Stratton was born in Elvis' hometown.

Matt Garrioch provided a PDF of his book on-line and he rated Chris a 40 for floor and 60 for ceiling, using scouting grading.  He could be good, though not great, by that grading (80 is best).

Giants Thoughts

From the above research, I like the pick.  Seems like he was the highest ranked player on the board, other than McCullers, but Stratton is a college pitcher and McCullers a high school pitcher, and thus closer to contributing to the major league club.  If he can make the climb to the majors in 3-4 years, that would be great, he would be around 25-26.  Though Baggerly noted that the Giants might be aggressive in moving him upward, since he's already 22 YO, so perhaps as early as 2 years, age 24, though that would be very aggressive.  I think 3-4 years is more realistic, only the best pitchers can climb within 2 years of their draft.  But who knows?

Not that he's on par with Lincecum, but he sort of reminds me of Timmy.  Of course, he's much larger than Tim will ever be.  But like Timmy, he was really searching for the key to pitching until his last college season, when he added a devastating slider as his strikeout pitch, and did so well that he was nominated for the Golden Spike Award.  In both cases, they both learned a pitch that allowed them to dominate college hitters to a great degree.  He did so well that he was named SEC Pitcher of the Year.

While Stratton does not throw with the velocity of Lincecum, he has four pitches that he can throw for a strike.  Two are above average already and the other two look like they will be solid average pitches in the pros.  He has very good command of his pitches, as illustrated by his 5.1 K/BB overall, but especially his 8.0 K/BB when facing SEC competition, particularly as the Friday starter.  He has a good feel of the game, and is able to adjust when one of his pitches, like his fastball, is not working, allowing him to continue to be effective.  So while he can throw in the mid-90's, he sounds like he is already a pitcher already, instead of a thrower.  On top of that, it sounds like he has good stuff, that helps pitchers strike out batters.

His body is considered one of those ideal pitching bodies, you know, the kind that Dick Tidrow loves to drool over.  As many of the Giants prospects seem to be described as, John Barr described him as athletic.  He's old for the league though, so some of his dominance has to be taken with a grain of salt, as he's already 22 YO, though only a college junior.  Still, an 8.0 K/BB against the best competition is still superlative.

Hard to say what he'll be, but I like that he has such strong command of his pitches, that will bodes him well in the pros.  Sounds like he should be at least a middle rotation starter and potentially a #2 starter if he can develop to his potential.  And that will be good enough and timely, as Vogelsong and whoever takes over for Zito after the contract (Surkamp?  Hacker?) might need replacing by then.  And given Lincecum's predilection for short contracts, potentially replacing him too if he decides he wants to leave, but only after another contract into his free agent years.  At minimum, I think that he can be on par with how good Zack Wheeler could be in the majors, and perhaps even arrive not too long after Wheeler, making him a good replacement for Wheeler in the farm system.


  1. Baggarly's article:

    Baseball America ranked Stratton as the 18th best player in the draft.’s Keith Law had Stratton going to the Cincinnati Reds with the 14th overall pick.

    Barr credited area scout Hugh Walker with providing reports on Stratton all year long. He said he was encouraged that one report would highlight a plus curveball, while the next would provide positive marks on his slider. His fastball has late, tailing movement that he should be able to use to jam hitters and induce ground balls.

    “And he really competes on the mound,” Barr said.

    ogc: I would note that this article lists him as 6' 2"

  2. Here is the MLB article by Haft:

    Giants scouting director John Barr declined to set a timetable for Stratton's ascent, however.

    "They all move at their own pace," Barr said Monday, minutes after San Francisco selected Stratton with its first-round selection (20th overall) in the First-Year Player Draft.

    Stratton attracted the Giants' attention last summer when he pitched for Harwich in the Cape Cod League, an incubator for Major League talent. There, he posted a 1-1 record with a 2.18 ERA, two walks and 12 strikeouts in six appearances. Stratton, a kinesiology major who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 195 pounds, credited weightlifting with helping him develop.

    The Bulldogs moved Stratton from the bullpen to the rotation early this season, enabling him to blossom. Throughout that process, Giants area scout Hugh Walker followed Stratton closely and, said Barr, continued to recommend him.

    Barr said that the Giants were "really excited" to have Stratton available when their turn arrived in the first round. Barr denied that the loss of right-hander Zack Wheeler, San Francisco's No. 1 pick in 2009, and a perceived lack of power arms prompted Stratton's selection.

    Signing Stratton, who's represented by agent Bo McKinnis, conceivably should be a simple process. Under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, the Giants have $4,076,400 in their pool for bonuses to pay draftees, of which $1.85 million is recommended for the first pick. But this doesn't guarantee that signings will occur automatically. The Giants and other teams are free to ignore these constraints, but any club exceeding its suggested bonus pool payout will be taxed. The signing deadline is July 13.

    If or when Stratton reaches San Francisco, he won't go hungry. He said that his uncle, Gaines Dobbins, is a local chef.

    "He bikes to the games, so he can't be too far away [from AT&T Park]," Stratton said.

    ogc: apparently his uncle is a Giants fan who bikes to games, he must be stoked!

  3. Should have included these in my original post, but I was just scrambling to get it out last night.

  4. Heard an interview with Stratton's college coach on KNBR. Said that he will be a "beast" at 25, as his velocity will sit in the mid-90's by then, with power stuff and capable of logging a lot of innings. He says Stratton has an easy, effortless motion and that his slider is "devastating." He uses the two-seamer to get lefties, slider to get righties, and has a great fastball. He also has a nice overhead curve, much like Roy Oswalt. He had struggled with lefties previous to figuring these things out.

    Sounds like he is a nice guy, good student, well rounded person, from an athletic family. He is a model citizen that anyone would want their daughter to marry.

  5. Here is the report logged by Merc's Pavlovic:

    “We’re really excited about him being there at 20,” scouting director John Barr said. “He has a four-pitch mix. He really competes on the mound.”

    According to ESPN draft analyst Keith Law, Stratton has a chance to be a No. 2 starter and has three above-average pitches, including a fastball that sits at 91-94 mph and touches 96. The Giants scouts who saw Stratton said his slider stood out on some days, his curveball on others.

    The Giants first saw Stratton in the Cape Cod League and followed as he made the move from reliever to starter early this season. The Giants view him as a starter.

    Stratton was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and played for a summer league team called the Tupelo 49ers, appropriately.

    Stratton said he got in the weight room after high school and added to a repertoire that only included two pitches at the time. He called going to Mississippi State the best decision he ever made.

    1. Wanted to point out that Keith Law notes that Stratton can be a #2 starter and has three above-average pitches (many say only two).

      Hopefully that becomes the SECOND best decision he ever made after he signs with the Giants. :^)


    Pavlovic reports that Keith Law would rate Stratton the Giants #1 prospect once/if he signs. Alex notes that could be because of the struggles of our top prospects this season.

    But as I noted above, Law says that he thinks that Stratton could be a #2 starter. As much as I like Brown, a #2 pitcher is almost worth his weight in gold baseballs. I would say it is probably more a little of both, but would note that Brown is in the EL, a notorious pitchers league.

    Brown was hitting better for a while in May, but appears to be regressing right now. His strikeout rate isn't that bad right now, so that's a good sign that he not being fooled that much, just need to learn to do more with the ball when connecting. He has a history of struggling initially at a new level and then figuring things out in a while.

  7. Wanted to add this, from Sickels talking with scout:

    John: What about the pitchers? Which one was your favorite and why?
    Scout: Mississippi State's Chris Stratton was by far the best pitcher I have seen this year. He is about 6'3/200lbs but looks like he could really fill out more and nicely. Had plus arm speed, consistent mechanics, and throws all his pitches from the same slot. Here are the verbatim scouting notes I took about him:

    Pitch Breakdown/Notes:

    Fastball-(has both 4 and 2 seam) sat 92-94 with the 4-seam and had natural arm side run. His 2-seam was 88-90 which had plus arm side run and downward life. Did a very good job of working both in/out and lived at the knees against both LH and RH hitters.

    Slider- is his go to pitch. Sitting at 82-85, his slider has plus two-plane break and he can throw it with command as well as a strikeout pitch. He also does a very nice job of setting up this pitch, especially with his fastball.

    Curveball- which he throws mainly as a show me pitch I believe has a chance to play up in the pro ranks if he can improve his command on the pitch. The curve has an 11-5 break and is sharp but used it mainly to keep guys honest and off balance.

    Change- Another pitch that he really sets up well. Has a ton of late drop, and has good arm speed when he throws it. Mostly used it as an out pitch to left handed hitters but didn't hesitate to throw it against right handed hitters.

    John: How do you see those two guys fitting into the draft? First rounders?

    Scout: Stratton is a for sure a 1st round guy for me. The projections I have seen from both your site as well as others he is projected to be a late first rounder, but I would pop him in the top 15 based on the one game that I saw him. Add in the crazy numbers he is putting up in the SEC, I think someone is going to get a huge steal if he drops to the late 1st round.



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