I normally don't do this because prospects and their abilities are generally covered to death by the time they're promoted, but Dan Straily came out of nowhere this year to lead the minors in strikeouts. I included him on my Mid-Season Rankings of the top 50 SP in the minors, and noted his pop-up status. He hasn't slowed down since then and has earned his call up, though he does enter a very crowded Oakland rotation, that should see Brandon McCarthy return soon as well. For now they've moved Travis Blackely to the bullpen to accommodate Straily, but there will need to be other moves made once McCarthy returns.
A 24th round pick, you could say that Straily wasn't even a forgotten man, considering no one knew who he was to begin with. He's posted solid numbers throughout his time in the minors, but never really the stuff to make anyone think it was real. That all changed this year.
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In 2012 bumped his K/9 from a good 8.63 to an astonishing 11.39 (over two levels he's posted nearly identical K/9's). He did that while maintaining a walk rate of 2.4/9 IP, creating a K/BB of 4.73! He also keeps the ball in the park at a clip of .6/9 IP. To improve one's strikeout rate by almost 3 per 9 innings while moving up a level (two if you count his time in Triple-A, which you should) and maintaining a stellar BB/9 is an absolutely remarkable feat, and it has taken Straily from complete unknown to deserving callup in a mere 4 months. As mentioned before, Straily was leading the minors in strikeouts at the time of his call up, whiffing 175 batters in 138.1 IP, all while only walking 37. His ERA is nice to look at, but it's the peripheral stats that are more important in this situation. Case in point, Straily has a sparkling 1.36 ERA in 53 innings, but that is supported by an unsustainable 89.7% strand rate at the level. However, this is not a case of someone like Jose Quintana who was a need based call up and has been surprisingly good despite a low K% where you would expect regression based on the stuff involved. Straily has improved his velocity and stuff compared with previous years, making the improvements we've seen statistically far more real.
Straily attacks hitters with a three pitch mix, using advanced command of an above-average fastball to establish himself, working in an above-average slider (has been called a curve too, we'll find out if it's one or the other, or both soon) and then polishing them off with a plus change up. The change up has been a real improvement for Straily, developing into a plus pitch with good fade. There is deception in his motion that allows his fastball to get on hitters a bit, as well as adding to the difficulty in picking up his change. He dropped some weight in the offseason and while that might not be the cause for his improvement, it's a testament to his work ethic and drive.
Given the great pitching environment of his new digs, you'd have to like Straily's chances of posting good numbers immediately in the majors, if not quite replicating his production in the minors. He has shown impressive command throughout his time in the minors, so hopefully he will trust his stuff and avoid the walks that often come from a rookie pitcher nibbling at the plate. I'm definitely on board the Straily bandwagon and see him as a viable #3 type pitcher long term, and I don't think it will take him too long to reach that ceiling. For fantasy he's probably also a #3 type, but if he can continue the crazy strikeout rate, there's room to grow. The only negatives are the returns of Brandon McCarthy and potentially Brett Anderson as well. Straily has the edge in talent on guys like AJ Griffin, so he could well keep his spot in the rotation, but beware that if you pick him up, he could be optioned later on this season.
Kevin Goldstein/Baseball Prospectus