August 2, 2012
The situation: The A's could wait no longer. Despite having the best team ERA in the American League and an already-adept rotation, the team called up the breakout prospect of the year in Dan Straily, who leads the minor leagues in strikeouts (175). He's expected to make his big league debut Friday, starting against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Background: A 24th-round pick in 2009 out of Marshall University, Straily entered the year seen as little more than a solid organizational pitcher. He put together solid yet unspectacular showings with a 4.32 ERA at low Class A Kane County in 2010, and a 3.87 ERA last year at high Class A Stockton, with 154 strikeouts in 160⅔ innings. He struck out seven batters in 4⅔ shutout innings in his season debut for Double-A Midland in April, and the dominance simply never stopped. The right-handed hurler recorded four double-digit-strikeout games for Midland, including a 15-K performance against Corpus Christi, and actually got better following a promotion to the offense-oriented Pacific Coast League, putting up a 1.38 ERA in eight starts. He struck out 67 batters over 53 innings at Triple-A, allowing just 27 hits for an opponents' batting average of .149.
What he can do: Straily's stuff has improved steadily throughout his development, and he now has an arsenal of three plus pitches that play up due to above-average command and control. He sets up hitters with a 92-94 mph fastball that can touch 95, then gets his strikeouts with an above-average slider and/or a changeup that is at least plus, and seen by many scouts as his best offering. He's also a physical pitcher who works efficiently and can maintain his stuff deep into games, and there are no mechanical red flags in his delivery.
Immediate big league future: Straily was simply pitching too well to keep in the minors, but just how much of an opportunity he'll get this season is difficult to determine. The A's moved Travis Blackley to the bullpen to accommodate Straily, but the questions about their rotation are about to become more difficult with the impending returns of Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson from rehabilitation assignments. Straily has the ability to force Oakland to keep him in the big leagues, but he'll have to do more than simply hold his own to do so. He's a nice play for a fantasy team that needs strikeouts, but he's hardly a sure thing due to outside influences.
Long-term: Straily has gone from "organizational arm" to one of the better starting pitcher prospects in the game. He'll likely open the 2013 season in the A's rotation, and thanks to his talent and ballpark, he's an outstanding pickup for keeper-league owners