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October 25, 2012

Prospect Profile

Dan Straily

by Hudson Belinsky

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Raise your hand if you not only knew who Dan Straily was this time a year ago, but also knew that he’d become a top prospect and reach the majors in 2012. Keep your hand raised if you’re a liar. During the 2011 season, Straily was seen as a solid org guy with a non-zero chance of making it. He was still young, but most people saw him as a guy with underwhelming stuff who could have an outside chance at making it to the big leagues because of his above-average command and 80 makeup.

The A’s liked Straily all along. He was always athletic and could always repeat his delivery, which enabled him to control the ball effectively. His stuff wasn’t bad, but he was barely distinguishing himself from the rest of the pack. Low 90s velocity is nice, but it isn’t enough to build a major league career on.

Things started to click for Straily late in 2011 when he was with High-A Stockton. His slider tightened up and he started to use the pitch more confidently. The makings of a changeup were there, but his timing and deception improved as the season came to a close. Not many people had seen him display his three-pitch arsenal at the same time, and so he evaded most prognosticators before 2012.

When pitchers and catchers reported to camp in February, Straily was a prospect. His fastball was touching 95 with life. His slider was sharp and earning plus grades. His changeup, according to many opinions, is his best pitch; it has tremendous fade and leaves Straily’s hand looking like a fastball, but does so with about 10 fewer MPH. In a vacuum, it’s a filthy arsenal: three plus pitches, with some scouts even calling the changeup a 65. Add in the fact Straily has excellent command and control of every pitch and you’re looking at a monster.

“He’s just dipping his feet in the water. This is just the beginning for him,” one of Straily’s biggest supporters said. The development of the 23-year-old’s curveball could dictate his ceiling. Right now, in this humble writer’s opinion, he’s on track to becoming a legitimate #2 starter, regardless of what happens with his curveball. Having a curveball in general will be a huge advantage for him, and the better that pitch gets, the scarier Straily gets.

Doug Thorburn broke down the mechanics of Straily and a few other Oakland starters back in August, and the right-hander earns above-average grades across the board. Pitching is dangerous, but Straily seems to be doing everything right.

While it’s possible that Straily will continue to improve, it’s also possible that he’ll fail to harness the stuff he showed this season over the long haul. I wouldn’t bet on it, but we’re going off a very small sample of actual success right now. The physical gifts are there, but it’s going to take a continuous effort to bring out the best in them. Fortunately for the A’s, Straily has off-the-charts makeup. Teammates and coaches both really like him, and one team official said, “Heck, you wouldn’t mind if he married your daughter.”

Prognosticators tend to block out prospects as soon as they exhaust their rookie eligibility. Straily has enjoyed a small amount of success in the big leagues, but the developmental process is far from over. Oakland’s deep rotation could mean that Straily finds himself in Sacramento for parts of 2013. He isn’t yet a finished product, and I for one am very excited to follow him and watch him try to take the next step. 

Related Content:  Major League Baseball,  Prospects,  Scouting

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Excellent writup. I'm looking forward tio seeing how he develops too.

Oct 25, 2012 07:56 AM
rating: 2

Agreed, well done.

Oct 25, 2012 08:53 AM
rating: 0
Peter Hood

I'm curious as to how he found an extra 3-4 miles/hour on his fastball going from 90-91 to touching 95 seems like a big jump over the winter doesn't it?

Oct 25, 2012 12:08 PM
rating: 1
BP staff member Hudson Belinsky
BP staff

He's got a significantly stronger core, which allows for more balance in the delivery, which allows him to put a bit more muscle into the hip twist. There's no easy answer for how he was able to make all of that happen, though.

Oct 25, 2012 16:38 PM
Matt Commins

I don't understand why the A's did not have Straily off the playoff roster while they had fringey guys in AJ Griffin and Tommy Milone on the roster. Maybe the A's feel he's not as good as Griffin and/or Milone? If Straily continues to improve I'll be upset if he's in AAA because the 2nd best rookie pitcher after Parker.

Oct 25, 2012 21:28 PM
rating: 0

I have no insight in particular into the A's front office, but I was okay with Griffin and Milone being on instead of Straily because while he had performed okay in actual run prevention (3.89 ERA in MLB), his peripherals were not so hot (6.43 FIP, 5.82 FRA), and 11 HR in less than 40 IP had me concerned about his performance in the post-season. Don't get me wrong, I like Straily and think he can be a quality pitcher for the A's, but I don't think he was quite ready for prime time this year. [All numbers pulled from his BP player card]

Oct 27, 2012 09:42 AM
rating: 0

AJ Griffin and Tommy Milone, as the regular season had shown, are far from fringe guys. Milone had a good playoff start too no?

Oct 30, 2012 17:39 PM
rating: 0

When you say things like "off-the-charts" makeup, it makes me wonder. From what I heard from Jason/Kevin, the important thing about makeup is work ethic. Is that really graded? I would guess scouts have more of a binary reaction. Either the player has a noticeably strong work ethic, a noticeably weak work ethic, or you just don't notice. Do you think that's right? Or would a scout really examine every player and say, yep that's an average work ethic.

Do other personality traits figure into makeup? If so, I can't see how that would be relevant to whether they would make a good player.

Oct 26, 2012 12:15 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Hudson Belinsky
BP staff

Makeup, in my opinion, is a thing that isn't defined agreed upon. I view makeup on two basic levels. The first is what you describe, the work ethic aspect. Things that I consider in this department:

1. Does the player want to get better? How badly?
2. Does the player make every effort to understand and apply things that coaches tell him?
3. What does the player do when he isn't playing that could help him improve (watching other players, carefully dissecting previous performances, etc.)?

The other part (for me, mind you) is the personality. I don't care who the player is as a person (unless he's Ann Coulter), so long as he's able to contribute to the team's chemistry with his personality. Other players should like playing on the same team as him. This is especially important for pitchers and catchers, who are constantly interacting with one another.

I doubt that anyone's actually going in and grading makeup, because it's almost impossible to distinguish 50 makeup from 55 makeup. Also, it doesn't need to be graded; 99 times out of 100, you're looking at a case of good, bad, or average makeup.

Makeup matters, and I factor it slightly into my OFPs, although not by much. It's an unquantifiable part of the game that definitely has value.

Oct 26, 2012 13:36 PM
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