22 year old Chris Stratton is a 6’3” 186lb RHP, currently assigned to the Augusta GreenJackets of the low Class A South Atlantic League. Stratton was the San Francisco Giants 1st round pick (20th overall) in 2012 out of Mississippi State University and is currently ranked as the Giants #4 overall prospect by MLB.com.
Giants fans might remember another ball player out of Mississippi State, the 2nd overall pick in the 1985 draft — a guy named Will Clark.
October 31, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants former first baseman and special assistant Will Clark waves to the crowd while riding in a car during the World Series victory parade at Market Street. The Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers in a four-game sweep to win the 2012 World Series. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
In his senior season at Mississippi State, Stratton posted a 2.38 ERA with 127 K’s in 109 2/3 innings, prompting the Giants to select the pitcher early. Other recent 1st round picks by the Giants? The likes of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Kyle Crick and – cringe – Zack Wheeler.
Stratton mixes a fastball that runs up to 94mph with a slider, curveball, and change. The slider projects as his go-to out pitch, but both the curve and change project as Major League quality pitches. Commanding those pitches is essential to any player development, and Stratton has done fairly well keeping the walks down thus far. Although as with any young player, the key word is development, and Stratton has been working to improve control in his first full minor league season this year.
June 1, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs pitcher Chris Stratton (28) prepares to throw a pitch during the first inning in game one of the Tallahassee regional at Dick Howser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
In Stratton’s first professional experience in 2012 he was assigned to the short season A Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and in 8 appearances (5 starts) posted the following numbers: 2.76 ERA, 16.1 IP, 14 hits, 16K, and 10BB.
His season took a turn towards the scary on August 22nd when Stratton sustained a season-ending concussion after he was struck by a line drive during batting practice. Salem-Keizer’s season ended September 1st – so Stratton didn’t miss too much time, and luckily ended up being alright.
In 2013 (his first full pro season), the development part of the game has really come in to play for Stratton, and can be illustrated by checking out his stats from month to month:
April – 2.38 ERA, 22.2 IP, 28K, 8BB, .163 BAA
May – 3.66 ERA, 32 IP, 29K, 12BB, .248 BAA
Then notice the jump in June…
June – 5.40 ERA, 23.1 IP, 25K, 6BB, .337 BAA
In an interview with the Augusta Chronicle on June 27th, Stratton explained what he thought was the cause of his recent struggles, “The slider feels good, and the changeup feels good,” Stratton said. “I just need to work on fastball command and everything will be a lot easier.”
And finally that command came…
July – 2.21 ERA, 20.1 IP, 20K, 11BB, .274 BAA
August – 0.61 ERA, 14.2 IP, 12K, 4BB, .222 BAA
Overall — 8-3, 3.22 ERA, 113 IP, 114K, 41BB, .254 BAA
Stratton got command of the fastball during the rough stretch in May and June and it paid off. With fastball control comes the more effective use of off-speed and breaking stuff, as it becomes easier to keep hitters off-balance — and Stratton found that.
After a recent start on August 2nd in which Stratton went 8 shutout innings, Jake Steiner of MiLB.com asked Stratton about the changes he made throughout the season and how he came about his recent success:
“They didn’t necessarily tell me, ‘Hey, go throw all fastballs today.’ I took it upon myself to work on that. I could’ve been in a situation to throw a slider and get the punchout, but I went with the fastball. It was something I wanted to work on. If you can locate that fastball, that’s big. You can’t keep moving up without it.”
“It was something where I maybe threw too many fastballs two months ago, but it’s really paying off now. I’m actually getting to work in my other pitches, and I think it’s helped me develop those other pitches.”
It is paying off indeed – over his last 4 starts Stratton has gone 26 innings and given up only 2ER.
June 1, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs pitcher Chris Stratton (28) throws a pitch during the first inning in game one of the Tallahassee regional at Dick Howser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
So will Chris Stratton follow in the footsteps of other Giants 1st round picks Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Crick (hopefully), etc.? It is far too early to tell, but it is nice to see the progression the young talented righty is making this early in his career, and encouraging to see him make the adjustments it will take to succeed at the next levels.
Augusta pitching coach Steve Kline explains what kind of prospect and player he sees in Stratton:
“He’s a competitor. He’s a smart pitcher, he understands the game very well and he’s a solid, all-around good person. Nothing real flashy, he just does his job and is learning how to pitch like a young kid is. .”
“He reads hitters very well,” Kline said. “That’s one good thing he’s remarkable at is reading hitters. He’s got two good fastballs that he can locate, but he reads hitters and what they’re trying to do, and he understands the game.”
Keep an eye out for Chris Stratton – if he takes the path of other Giants 1st round picks, he could be in San Francisco before you know it.