Get to Know Giants’ Prospect Chris Stratton


Earlier this month, Baseball America released their list of the San Francisco Giants‘ top-10 prospects. One notable name that was left off the list was pitcher Chris Stratton, who was the team’s third-ranked youngster for two years running.

Stratton was drafted in the first-round by the Giants in the 2012 amateur draft. He was 21 years old, and a month away from being 22, and the team was looking to put him on the fast track to the big leagues.

The six-foot-three, 190-pounder right-hander spent three seasons at Mississippi State. The Tupelo-native broke out in 2012, his junior year, when he dominated everyone he faced. Stratton racked up an 11-2 record, complete with a 2.38 ERA with 127 strikeouts. For his efforts, he was named a Consensus All-American, and awarded the SEC Pitcher of the Year.

When he was drafted, the Giants pushed him straight to Low-A Salem-Keizer, allowing him to skip the Arizona Rookie League completely. He started well, as he pitched in eight games, including five starts, to a 2.76 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 16.1 innings. His walk total was high, as he issued 10 free passes, which in turn, spiked his WHIP to 1.469.

His first professional season was cut short when he struck in the head by a line drive during batting practice. Stratton was standing near second base, and didn’t see the ball coming. He suffered a minor concussion, but luckily, there were no long-lasting issues, and he was ready to pitch again in 2013.

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Stratton spent 2013, his first full season, with the Single-A Augusta Green Jackets, where he pitched well again. In 22 starts, he won nine times, compared to just three losses, and posted a 3.27 ERA and 1.326 WHIP. He also struck out 123 batters in 132 innings, while walking just 47.

2014 was a different story for Stratton, however. He started the season in Advanced-A with the San Jose Giants, and he struggled. In 18 starts and one relief appearance, he threw 99 innings. His record was 7-8, but his ERA inflated all the way to 5.09, with his WHIP settling at 1.404. His strikeouts went up to 102, including a career-best 9.3 K/9, with 36 walks. The biggest issue was the longball, as Stratton surrendered 13 home runs, or 1.2 every nine innings.

Later in the year, Stratton was promoted to Double-A Richmond with the Flying Squirrels, where his struggles continued. In five starts, his ERA dropped to 3.52, but his WHIP continued its dramatic rise, up to 1.783. He issued 12 walks in just 23 innings.

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In 2014, Stratton’s pitches seemed to take a step backwards. He gave up 9.7 hits per nine innings, which rose from 8.7 in 2013, and 7.7 in 2012. He also surrendered more than twice as many home runs in 2014 (15) than in his first two years combined (6).

Stratton’s fastball is his best pitch, but his velocity took a dip last season. In his first few years, his fastball was routinely between 92 and 94, but in 2014, he sat around 89 to 91. The dip is alarming, and is a contributing factor to his rising hit and home run rates. A great thing about Stratton, though, is the movement and control of the pitch. He can spot the fastball to both sides of the plate, and the pitch has good movement running in to right-handed hitters. He does lose focus once in a while, and leaves the pitch in the middle of the plate.

The slider is his best secondary pitch, and has good horizontal movement, like a Sergio Romo-slider. The pitch moves away from righties, and works in to lefties. His control over the pitch isn’t great yet, but with a little extra work, it could become a legitimate strikeout pitch.

Besides those two pitches, Stratton also features a changeup and a curveball. The changeup’s deception comes from Stratton’s arm action, which is identical to the fastball. It does have some downward action, and it offers a good difference in velocity from the fastball, usually around 8-10 miles per hour. Like the slider, the command on the changeup is a little shady, but it is still a usable pitch.

The curveball has a nearly-straight downward break, with very slight left-to-right movement. Stratton loses feel for the pitch too often, and will just put the pitch away. If he wants to use this pitch at the major league level, it needs serious work.

Stratton uses a high three-quarters delivery, and has a short, compact arm motion. The arm action looks a little like Russ Ortiz, though Stratton doesn’t short-arm the ball nearly as much. Stratton is deliberate in his delivery. Not “Juan Gutierrez, slow as dirt-deliberate,” but more like a “Matt Cain, doesn’t rush his delivery-deliberate.” Stratton doesn’t put a lot of stress on his arm in the delivery, and is a mechanically-sound pitcher. He’s got the look of a third or fourth starter at his peak.

He is also very durable, as he takes the ball every time his name is called in the rotation.

Despite being 24 years old, Stratton has been under the average age at every level in which he has pitched. At Double-A, he was a year and a half younger than the average pitcher at the same level. He’s progressing the way a younger pitcher would, even though he spent three years in college. The fast track hasn’t worked yet for Stratton, but there’s still time. He received his first invite to a big league camp this year, so working with the other big leaguers could help speed his progression along.

Stratton is moving forward, though not as fast as was first hoped. Some players take longer to develop, and Stratton seems to be falling in that category. Don’t give up hope just yet.

Next: Get to Know Giants' Prospect Ray Black