It was during the 2012 season that a couple little known starting pitchers rose through the ranks of the Oakland Athletics organization, going from anonymous minor leaguers to important pieces of the starting rotation. Those pitchers of course were A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily. Straily in particular opened many eyes within the organization by carving up the upper minor leagues. He pitched for both the Midland Rockhounds in Double A, and the Sacramento River Cats in Triple A. He threw a total of 152 innings in the minors, and struck out a staggering 190 batters en route to posting a 2.78 ERA.
It appeared as if the A’s had found a diamond in the rough, and while many rumors at the trade deadline included his name, the A’s opted to hold onto Straily and see what he could contribute. Upon his call up to Oakland, met with much fanfare, Straily showed signs of the talent that had established him among the A’s top prospects, but he also showed major signs of inconsistency. He threw 39.1 innings for the A’s, and posted a 3.89 ERA, and struck out 32 batters. His strikeout rate dropped dramatically as the competition he faced improved, and his walk rate went up from 2.5/9 innings to 3.7/9 innings. So perhaps he was just a little tentative in his first big league action.
Fast forward to 2013, Straily makes his first start of the season against the hapless Houston Astros and had a dominant outing, striking out 11 in the process. Was Straily figuring it out? He would have to wait to find out as Bartolo Colon would take his spot in the rotation after completing his suspension. Upon his return after Brett Anderson‘s injury, Straily looked like he had completely lost his way. His ERA ballooned to 7.27 after 5 starts, and he went into his sixth outing to take on Rangers ace Yu Darvish in Arlington. Everyone thought the result was a foregone conclusion, nobody expected Straily to outduel Darvish in a 1-0 affair.
Straily would suffer a few more bumps in the road, where he reverted to his inconsistent ways, but overall that start kicked his season into gear. He would toss 152.1 innings, post an ERA of 3.91, and struck out 124 in the process. His walk rate went down, from 3.7 to 3.4/9 innings, and his HR rate plummeted from 2.5 to 0.9/9 innings. His first start in the postseason took place in Game 4 of the ALDS, and he was cruising through the potent Detroit Tigers lineup until the wheels came off in the fifth inning, one bad pitch to Jhonny Peralta later and the A’s 3-0 lead had evaporated into the Comerica Park night. It was a tough blow, but should serve as a harsh lesson for Straily. He hasn’t reached his potential, but he’s showing signs of progress, and 2014 will be a pivotal season in Straily’s career.
Straily reminds me of Gio Gonzalez. Ultra talented, wicked stuff, more than capable of making opposing hitters swing and miss; he just needs to get out of his own way. Much like Gonzalez, Straily can look absolutely dominant in the first inning of games, then completely lose it in the second inning as the walks begin to pile up. He may be able to work his way out of a jam, but the extra pitches derail what could have been a stellar outing. Gonzalez began to figure it all out in his final season with the A’s, and truly blossomed in his first season with the Washington Nationals. Straily could be in for the same career progression, though perhaps his tenure in Oakland will last longer with the team in the middle of a window of contention.
Gio Gonzalez began to look like a potential ace in the making, and the A’s saw fit to sell him off to bolster their rebuilding project that was about to get underway. Little did they know of course the rapid recovery this team would make. Straily has the chance to play a crucial role in this Athletics rotation behind Jarrod Parker and Sonny Gray in 2014. Brett Anderson simply cannot be trusted to stay healthy, and Bartolo Colon may or may not return, and A.J. Griffin and Tommy Milone are back end of the rotation guys. Straily could slot in as the third starter in 2014, and that might not be a bad thing.