Giants pick up versatile pitcher in Draft

Giants pick up versatile pitcher in Draft

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's tempting to assume that Chris Stratton someday will pitch alongside Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, the pair of Giants starters who are signed to multiyear contracts well into the decade.

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

"They all move at their own pace," Barr said Monday, minutes after San Francisco selected Stratton with its first-round selection (20th overall) in the First-Year Player Draft.

2012 Draft Central

But the Mississippi State right-hander's profile indicates that he's equipped to join San Francisco's starting rotation and sustain the pitching excellence that has become a club trademark.

"That's the kind of organization I want to be a part of, one that puts an emphasis on pitching," Stratton said.

Barr said that Stratton can adeptly employ a combination of four pitches -- a fastball that ranges between 90-95 mph, along with a curveball, slider and changeup. That array helped Stratton compile an 11-2 record with a 2.38 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings for the Bulldogs. Those numbers ranked Stratton at or near the top of the Southeastern Conference leaders in each category. He was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year.

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

"There were days that our guys were saying that his curveball was working," Barr said. "And then the next [report] was, well, the slider was working."

Stratton, 21, has improved steadily. He wasn't drafted out of Tupelo (Miss.) High School. He finished 5-3 with a 5.29 ERA as a freshman at Mississippi State in 2010, then went 5-7, 5.21 as a sophomore last year.

Stratton attracted the Giants' attention last summer when he pitched for Harwich in the Cape Cod League, an incubator for Major League talent. There, he posted a 1-1 record with a 2.18 ERA, two walks and 12 strikeouts in six appearances. Stratton, a kinesiology major who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 195 pounds, credited weightlifting with helping him develop.

The Bulldogs moved Stratton from the bullpen to the rotation early this season, enabling him to blossom. Throughout that process, Giants area scout Hugh Walker followed Stratton closely and, said Barr, continued to recommend him.

Barr said that the Giants were "really excited" to have Stratton available when their turn arrived in the first round. Barr denied that the loss of right-hander Zack Wheeler, San Francisco's No. 1 pick in 2009, and a perceived lack of power arms prompted Stratton's selection.

"I think we're mindful of trying to add value to the organization," Barr said, insisting that Stratton was the Draft's best available player in the Giants' estimation when they chose him.

The last college pitcher the Giants drafted in the first round was right-hander Tim Lincecum, whom they selected 10th overall from the University of Washington in 2006. Lincecum reached the Major Leagues the following season and captured the National League Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009.

Stratton's Mississippi State bloodlines bode well for him. The previous Bulldogs standout whom San Francisco drafted in the first round was All-Star first baseman Will Clark in 1985. Stratton said that he met Clark and also knew of right-hander Jeff Brantley, another Mississippi State product who pitched for the Giants from 1988-93.

"Just to be mentioned with those guys is unreal to me," Stratton said.

Signing Stratton, who's represented by agent Bo McKinnis, conceivably should be a simple process. Under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, the Giants have $4,076,400 in their pool for bonuses to pay draftees, of which $1.85 million is recommended for the first pick. But this doesn't guarantee that signings will occur automatically. The Giants and other teams are free to ignore these constraints, but any club exceeding its suggested bonus pool payout will be taxed. The signing deadline is July 13.

If or when Stratton reaches San Francisco, he won't go hungry. He said that his uncle, Gaines Dobbins, is a local chef.

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

Four of the Giants' last five first-round picks have been collegians. The previous two were outfielder Gary Brown from Cal State-Fullerton in 2010 and infielder Joe Panik from St. John's University last year. The Giants selected catcher Buster Posey fifth overall from Florida State University in 2008.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.