#2. Chris Stratton – RHP, 22 yo, Lo-A: Stratton, an All-American and the SEC Pitcher of the Year at Mississippi State, was the Giants’ 1st round pick in 2012. Prior to his junior season, Stratton was what I’d call a mediocre pitcher with the potential for so much more, starting games to the tune of a 5+ ERA. He began 2012 in the bullpen, however, and would make his first start of the year in March against powerhouse LSU. Stratton’s counterpart that day was Kevin Gausman, the future 4th overall pick in the draft. If there were ever a time to break out, it would be this day for Stratton… and break out, he did. Both starters battled for 8.2 innings, allowing an identical 1 run on 4 hits. Gausman fanned 11 batters. Stratton,17. By the end of the year, the once underachieving Bulldog pitcher had established himself as one of the top college pitchers in the country, finishing 11-2 with a 2.38 ERA and 127k/25bb in 109 IP.
Stratton’s big junior year, combined with his 6’3”, 190 lb frame and 95 mph fastball, made him a pretty safe bet for a 1st round pick in the draft. The Giants reported afterward they weren’t expecting him to drop to 20th, and were ecstatic to snag him when he did. Stratton was assigned to Salem-Keizer for the remainder of the season, where he made 8 appearances before a line drive struck him in the head in batting practice, effectively ending his season. The incident left him hospitalized with a concussion, but all reports were that he was healthy for spring training.
Entering this season, it was believed that Stratton would partner with Kyle Crick and a slew of Giants’ top prospects in the San Jose rotation, but the front office didn’t see it that way. Stratton and 2012 2nd round pick Martin Agosta were assigned to Lo-A Augusta, where they would anchor the rotation. Through their first 14 starts this season, Agosta’s performance has far outmatched that of Stratton (although Agosta is currently on the DL). Stratton’s season to date: 7-3, 3.66 ERA, 91 IP, 88 H, 92 K and 32 BB. At times, he’s been dominant; On May 27, he threw 7 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out 8. But in general, his performance has been pretty mediocre for a top SEC pitcher in Lo-A.
I really think we need to consider that Stratton was a late bloomer in college. He’s still got a couple of months to see if he can’t whittle his ERA and 8.9 H/9 down. If he can even things out, maybe the Giants get aggressive with him and send him to Richmond next year. He’s a 1st round talent who can dominate with his fastball/slider combination, and I think he just needs a little more patience. Eventually, I see him passing up guys like Agosta and Clayton Blackburn. That’s why he’s still number two on this list.