FILE - Mississippi State Chris Stratton (pictured here winning the 2012 Ferris Trophy) was named 2012 Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year. Jonathan Holder (below) was named to the All-SEC freshman team. Photo by: MSU athletics
May 30, 2012 6:11:33 PM
STARKVILLE -- MSU junior right-hander Chris Stratton was named the SEC's pitcher of the year Tuesday by the league's coaches.
"I guess hard work pays off," Stratton said. "It's finally coming to a close here."
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs (39-22) carry a league-best 2.58 ERA into its NCAA Tallahassee Regional this weekend hosted by No. 3 national seed Florida State University. However, it is the 6-foot-3 first round draft prospect that leads the rotation into every series while ranking fourth nationally with 11 wins, fifth with 123 strikeouts and leads the SEC with a 2.21 earned run average.
"Nobody wants to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs right now and that's just obvious," ESPN college baseball analyst Ben McDonald said Monday on the NCAA selection show on ESPNU. "They've got one of the best pitchers in the country in Chris Stratton and with that pitching depth is one of the most dangerous teams in all of college baseball."
All of these numbers and accolades are from an MSU pitcher that was removed from the rotation due to inconsistency in his delivery and a complete lack of confidence in his stuff on the mound.
"We weren't even going to let him on the mound at this time last year," MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson said. "And he's one of the best in the country now."
Scouts, who have flocked to Dudy Noble Field to see the likely first round pick, have certainly noticed a difference in Stratton's
mechanics and attitude on the mound since the middle of last year when he struggled so badly.
"The work that Chris and Butch have done is incredible because I remember talking with Butch last year about how screwed up Chris was," Colorado Rockies area scout Damon Iannelli said. "His mechanics were so badly mismanaged with his head going every which direction and now he's on plane and straight as an arrow in his delivery. It's amazing the work they've put in."
MSU coach John Cohen definitely has seen a much different human being taking the baseball every Friday night in an SEC series this season than the scared and worried sophomore that carrying an ERA above 5.20 in his first two seasons. In 2011, Stratton pitched a total of 1 2/3 innings in the NCAA Tournament.
"When Chris went to the Cape Cod League, I went up there to see him pitch once this summer and I had scout after scout walk up to me and ask 'why wasn't this kid in your rotation down the stretch and are you nuts?'," Cohen said. "I told every one of them 'that kid didn't pitch for us last year' because that Chris Stratton is a different and much more mature person in every way."
Stratton also became one step closer Tuesday to becoming the second MSU player to win the prestigious Golden Spikes Award. Stratton, right-hander from Tupelo, was also named one of 30 semifinalists for the award that is recognized as the Heisman Trophy for college baseball that former MSU and Major League Baseball player Will Clark won in 1985.
"He's flat out unbelievable and the fact is I get to catch the best starting pitcher in college baseball right now," MSU junior catcher
Mitch Slauter said. "I think it's awesome that I'll get to tell my kids one day that I caught Chris Stratton in college because there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be a big leaguer real soon."
The Bulldog ace is among six semifinalists from the Southeastern Conference. Earlier this year Stratton received the C Spire/Ferriss Trophy, given annually to the top collegiate player in Mississippi.
For the first time this year, fans will have a voice in the selection of the 35th Golden Spikes Award winner through online balloting at www.GoldenSpikesAward.com. The player that leads in the online fan voting will receive a vote that will be added to the final tally compiled by a national selection panel of more than 215 voters. Voting by fans closes at 4 p.m. CDT on June 1.
The list of Golden Spikes Award candidates will be narrowed to three finalists on June 5, with the winner announced July 6 in nationally-televised awards presentation on MLB.com. Stratton was part of a trio of MSU pitchers on the All-SEC teams Tuesday, which were selected by the league's coaches.
Junior right-hander Kendall Graveman, MSU's best ground-ball pitcher, was named to the all-defensive team. Freshman closer Jonathan Holder, who sits at 27 1/3 scoreless innings and counting, was an all-freshman selection.
Holder led a Bulldogs bullpen that is a major reason the pitching staff has ateam ERA of an amazing 1.58 in their last 24 games.
"We held everybody to a limited amount of runs and that really boosted our confidence," Holder said after the SEC Tournament final Sunday.
"It gives us a ton of confidence. It lets us know we can beat the best of the best and compete with everybody. If we just keep the same mentality we'll be good to go."