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Giants take MSU's Stratton in first round

 

Matthew Stevens

 

The San Francisco Giants used the 20th pick to select Mississippi State University right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton in the first round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft. 

 

"I got to speak to (Giants area scout) Hugh Walker after they picked me. Awesome guy," Stratton said. "Anybody that would consider me in the first round is a blessing." 

 

Stratton becomes the first MSU player to be drafted in the first round since 2003 when the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Paul Maholm eighth. In school history, Stratton is the 10th first-round pick, joining former MLB All-Star players like Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro. 

 

"I gave him a first-round grade," a MLB scout told The Dispatch. "Our concern about him is does he have the overall resume of a first-round draft pick? No. However, what he's done in less than a year to get his mechanics back and the work he's put into his craft at MSU is really impressive." 

 

Stratton was the ninth pitcher to be selected (sixth college pitcher). 

 

"I think they were just thrilled he was still around (at No. 20)," MLB.com draft analyst Jonathan Mayo said on MLB Network after Stratton was selected. "This guy is going to be a big league starter in the not-so-distant future." 

 

Stratton (11-2, 2.38 ERA) was one of 11 college pitchers with 11 wins this season. On Tuesday, Southeastern Conference coaches named him SEC Pitcher of the Year. Stratton is tied for third in the nation with 127 strikeouts and is near the top of the SEC in ERA. 

 

"I remember telling an area scout a long time ago I thought a kid was a first-round pick and he said immediately, 'John, there's only 30 of those every year now,' " MSU coach John Cohen said. "You begin to appreciate the accomplishment when you think there's only 30 first-rounders every year in this country." 

 

Also last week, Stratton took another step to becoming the second MSU player to win the prestigious Golden Spikes Award. Stratton, who is from Tupelo, was named one of 30 semifinalists for the award that is recognized as the Heisman Trophy for college 

 

baseball. Clark, who went on to a long career in the majors, won the award in 1985. 

 

 "He's flat out unbelievable, and the fact is I get to catch the best starting pitcher in college baseball," 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." 

 

Giants scouting director John Barr declined to set a timetable for Stratton's ascent to the majors. 

 

"They all move at their own pace," Barr said Monday, minutes after San Francisco selected Stratton. 

 

Barr said that the Giants' scouting reports reflected Stratton's diversity of skills. 

 

"There were days our guys were saying that his curveball was working," Barr said. "The next (report) was, well, the slider was working." 

 

Multiple scouts for professional franchises who have seen Stratton pitch this season have told The 

 

Dispatch they're "nearly 100 percent confident" in the willingness of Stratton to sign a professional contract. 

 

"(Chris) and everybody in his camp have all told us he can't wait to sign to play professional baseball, and I've spoken to him a lot," said a MLB scout, who requested to not be named. 

 

According to the MLB slot values, Stratton could get a signing bonus in the area of $1,850,000. The Giants have a bonus pool of $4,076,400. 

 

Stratton will have until July 13 to make that decision, which is a change from previous years where the deadline had been in mid-August. 

 

"We still haven't negotiated anything, but I'm looking forward to the negotiations," Stratton said. 

 

The draft is the first under the new collective bargaining agreement that gives teams an aggregate bonus pool for the first 10 rounds of the draft, based on all of its picks. All of the picks is assigned a value. While clubs aren't required to stick to the value of each pick, they will be expected to come in under the overall budget number. 

 

Each team also will allotted a pool of money for signing bonuses. The pool is determined by the sum of the slot values of that team's picks. Every signing bonus in rounds 1-10 will deduct money from 

 

the pool. Any signing bonus of more than $100,000 in rounds 11 or higher also will deduct money from the pool. 

 

If a team spends more than its allotted amount, it will incur penalties of the following: 0-5 percent over pool means a 75-percent tax on overage, 5 to 10 percent over pool and 75 percent tax on overage 

 

and loss of first-round pick, 10-15 percent over pool involves a 100-percent tax on overage and a 

 

loss of first- and second-round pick, and 15 percent over the pool involves a 100-percent tax on overage and a loss of two first-round picks. 

 

Earlier this year, Stratton received the C Spire/Ferriss Trophy given annually to the top collegiate player in Mississippi. 

 

"Stratton commands four average or better pitches and would be the best value on the board in this scenario," Baseball America draft analyst Jim Callis stated in his mock draft. 

 

Before the 2012 season, Stratton attracted the attention scouts with his performance in the prestigious Cape Cod League. The Massachusetts league typically features some of the best college prospects every summer. 

 

"It was kind of like minor league ball," Stratton said. "It really taught me how to be by myself and also to just be me even away from home. Like coach (Butch) Thompson (MSU pitching coach) says you're always you're own best coach." 

 

Stratton shot up boards as the draft approached because he has a four-pitch mix and a physical makeup scouts love. He also impressed scouts during the season, especially with a 17-strikeout performance against LSU and ace Kevin Gausman to open SEC play. The Baltimore Orioles used the fourth pick to take Gausman. 

 

"I think it was huge," Stratton said of that game. "The (scout from San Francisco) that called me said he saw me there. I said, 'that was a good one to be at.' " 

 

Stratton throws two fastballs that have been clocked as high as 94 mph with ease and with movement. His slider is the better of his two breaking balls, a strikeout pitch with good rotation and bite. His curve is a notch behind, but it has the chance to be Major League average with a slurvy 12-6 break. His changeup, which he developed in the Cape Cod League, has sink and shows promise with continued work. 

 

"I just think there's not a lot of revamping you need to do with Chris," Thompson said. "I give coach Cohen all the credit in the world for coming in and telling Chris we want you to run your own show. I go back to our meeting in November when he was told that because I don't know how many college juniors can handle that, but Chris certainly can." 

 

If or when Stratton reaches San Francisco, he won't have any trouble finding a good meal. 

 

Stratton's uncle, Gaines Dobbins, is a chef in the city. 

 

"He bikes to the games, so he can't be too far away (from AT&T Park)," Stratton said. 

 

According to professional scouts, Stratton has above-average control while throwing all four pitches for strikes and understands how to use his stuff. 

 

"The work 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. "Now he's on plane and straight as an arrow in his delivery. It's amazing the work they've put in." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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