#26: Chris Stratton, RHP, Age 25: The former SEC ace has plugged along through the organization since 2012, but the results just haven’t matched the potential for a top 20 draft pick. Stratton’s a taller guy (6-3) with a track record of taking the ball (topping 120 IP in each of his 3 full seasons), and the Giants still think highly of him. He’s also a man of tremendous character, and someone who it’s nearly impossible to root against. He made 17 starts in AAA last year, and I have little doubt he’ll be a big leaguer at some point down the road.
At this point, however, there are many reasons why I can’t rank Stratton higher on the list. For one, his velocity as a professional hasn’t approached what it was during his junior year at Mississippi State. It’s certainly worth bringing up the concussion he suffered on the field just weeks after his pro debut, but for whatever reason, he’s mostly been a 2-seam guy topping out around 92 since draft day. Stratton does still have one of the better sliders in the system, but one of the knocks on him is that he’s had trouble establishing the inside part of the plate. Right now, it’s hard to determine whether he ultimately lands in the back of a MLB rotation, the middle of a bullpen (I envision him a bit in the George Kontos mold), or whether he spends most of his career in AAA. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you I’m sure rooting for him to outperform the expectations.
#27: Joan Gregorio, RHP, Age 24: For someone who closely monitors box scores at every level of the system, I have to admit I kind of fell asleep on Gregorio last year. I was well aware of his profile (6-ft-7 string bean with a 92-96 fastball), but I lost track of him a bit when the Giants sent him to pitch in the Richmond bullpen one season after failing to establish himself in San Jose. The move was almost certainly the product of Gregorio being placed on the 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection last winter, as the organization likely wanted to see if he could compete at the upper levels.
It turns out he can, and his overall numbers in the Eastern League really weren’t bad (78.2 IP, 3.09, 3.7 bb/9, 8.2 k/9). He was actually placed into the Squirrels’ rotation toward the end of the year, and logged a 2.34 ERA in 42.1 IP (9 starts). What’s holding Gregorio back at this point is his durability, and it’s been a trend throughout his career. He’s been in the organization for 6 years, yet he’s pitched only 439 innings. He’s almost 24, and though it’s hard to see him becoming a front-line pitcher at this point, you have to believe Gregorio could still provide value as a back-end starter or hard-throwing reliever, especially if he can manage to finally put some weight on his frame.
#28: Derek Law, RHP, Age 25: Law came out of nowhere to dominate the Cal League in 2013, and was so close to making the Giants 25-man roster out of spring training in 2014. Instead he was assigned to close games in Richmond, where he did until forearm stiffness and Tommy John surgery ultimately cost him the next calendar year.
Law returned to the AA closer’s role last summer, and despite a few inconsistent outings he still maintained an solid 4.0 k/bb mark. The 6-ft-2 righty and former 9th round pick attacks hitters with a jerky rotation that features a Johnny Cueto-like upper body rotation and an over the top release. Before his surgery, his fastball was reported in the low-90’s and reaching 96, but his biggest weapon was arguably his biting curveball. It’s a thing of beauty when he locates it. The lost season definitely hurt his stock some, but I think Law still has late-inning MLB potential in his arm, and I think we’ll be hearing from him again in 2016.
#29: C.J. Hinojosa, SS, Age 21: The Giants drafted Univ. of Texas SS Hinojosa with their 11th round pick in what some analysts are calling THE sleeper pick of the 2015 draft. The shorter (some sites list him at 5-9, others 5-11) middle infielder has been on the professional radar since his high school days, when he was regarded as one of the better defensive SS in the class. His hard commitment to Texas slid him to the 26th round, where the Astros took a flier on the local kid.
Hinojosa locked down the Longhorns’ shortstop gig from the minute he stepped on campus, starting 172 games at the position during his 3 year career. He hit .309 as a freshman, and looked to be headed for college stardom. He couldn’t keep it up over the next two seasons, though, as his average fell slightly in 2014, then took a major dip last summer (.242). He did hit 7 HR as a junior though, after hitting only 4 combined the previous two years.
Once signed, the Giants sent Hinojosa straight to Salem-Keizer. He hit well there, flirting with .300 while knocking 5 HR in only 200 PA. He didn’t walk or strike out much, but also committed 14 errors before an injury cut his season short. Overall, he reminds me some of Brandon Crawford… a guy with major draft hype who didn’t quite perform up to it in college. He doesn’t have Crawford’s size, and I don’t know much about his defense, but he’s definitely one of the more intriguing names to follow from the 2015 class.