An Education Of Stratton
In my four seasons of covering minor league prospects, it’s a rarity for two potential top 100 pitchers to oppose each other on the pitching rubber. So when the opportunity to see Giants prospect Chris Stratton face off against Braves prospect Mauricio Cabrera presented itself, it was easy to ignore the blistering Georgia heat, the 10:30 AM Education Day start time and the two thousand plus screaming kids to take in this matchup. Today, we’ll take a look at Giants prospect Chris Stratton.
When Giants minor league camp broke in Scottsdale, Arizona, I fully expected Chris Stratton to report to San Jose, the Giants High-A affiliate in the California League. To my surprise, Stratton was instead assigned to Class-A Augusta, affording an opportunity for me to see him pitch against Rome.
Stratton featured three pitches against the Rome Braves. His fastball, a two seamer, was his primary offering. Stratton hit spots well through the first two frames with this 92 to 95 MPH offering, even toughing 96 on occasion, but struggled in the latter innings to command the pitch consistently. His fastball featured noticeable arm side run, especially when he allowed the ball to tail back to the outside corner against right handed hitters. He also showed the ability to change eye levels with his fastball, showing no fear of working up in the zone when the need presented itself. While I can’t currently call this offering a plus pitch, the potential is there for his fastball to become such in relatively short time.
His best pitch is his slider. A hard slider, it combines average horizontal movement with sickening downward bite. He shows an excellent feel for the pitch. The slider drops off the table late, causing hitters to either weakly pound the ball into the ground or miss entirely. It will likely be the best slider I scout all season in any level. His slider is a plus pitch, with an outside chance of becoming plus-plus if this pitch can truly become an out offering.
Stratton’s third pitch was a change up with a 7 MPH drop off from his fastball. It’s hard to dissimulate between the fastball and the change up out of his delivery. As the pitch travels towards home plate, the ball is flat and is left on a trajectory that is very easy to track. While I’ve heard reports of a better changeup from other sources, I saw a below average offering with potential to become an average offering long term.
Stratton struggled with his command and control in his start against Rome. Despite the struggles, the 22-year-old looked like a pitcher who should be working through his struggles against talent better suited for his skill and finish, which is High-A San Jose. In hindsight, his initial assignment to Augusta was warranted, since he started his 2012 college campaign pitching out of Mississippi State’s bullpen. No pitcher’s draft position increased more than Stratton’s last year due to his ascension from the Bulldog’s pen to becoming the Bulldog’s Friday starter.
His floor is extremely high, likely bottoming out as a high leverage reliever. His fastball and slider alone makes the projected floor realistic. An improved changeup increases his projection. I am excited to see if his slider can maturate into a consistent swing and miss offering. His ceiling is a number two or three starter, with the three starter projection being a safe outcome. While he is a borderline top 75 prospect going into midseason, it is very likely we’ll see Stratton appear in the bottom half of many preseason top 100 lists for 2014.