Everyone knows how great the MLB.tv product is, but the minor league version is incredible valuable to prospect folks. Sure the video quality varies wildly, and sure the majority of games are at the upper levels, but when the game of the night is in the northwest corner of the country, one is awfully happy it is there. It was the pitching matchup of the night, and it did not disappoint.
For Hultzen, it was his best Triple-A start in five outings. He effectively spotted his fastball to all four quadrants of the zone and his slider was his out pitch as he whiffed eight over six innings while allowing just three hits. If there was any knock against him, he's starting to earn a reputation of going downhill once things go poorly. He was absolutely cruising until the sixth inning when he missed with a fastball to lead off hitter Jermaine Mitchell who hit a line drive homer to right. While it's certainly possible that Hultzen was tiring, he wasn't the same afterwards, walking back-to-back hitters after a Nick Franklin error and only escaping the inning with no more damage when Colin Cowgill was thrown out at home trying to score on a wild pitch. There's no conclusion here, and it shouldn't take away from a very promising outing, but it's a concerning trend.
For Straily, the minor league strikeout leader with 162 in just 126.1 innings, it was further validation that he's the real deal, as he needed just 104 pitches to get through eight innings while allowing just two hits and striking out eight. His fastball features above-average velocity and command, and his slider is solid, but it's his changeup that has developed into an absolute weapon; an easy plus pitch with good deception in his delivery and plenty of late break. If the Athletics go with the plan of being both buyers and sellers in the next 12 days, a Bartolo Colon deal could create an opening for Straily, and he sure looked ready last night.