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.