Two days before Opening Day, the Los Angeles Angels traded Williams Jerez to the San Francisco Giants for former first-rounder Chris Stratton. Despite not solidifying a spot in the Giants rotation, Stratton can offer the Angels plenty they’re missing in their rotation.
When looking at the Angels rotation, you have to admit there are worries about health and experience. Tyler Skaggs, the opening day starter, has started more than 20 games once and missed 2015 with Tommy John surgery. Matt Harvey has had similar injury concerns. Felix Pena has one season of being a full-time starter, and Trevor Cahill, after being moved to the bullpen, has been a starter only 38 times since 2015. With Andrew Heaney also out with an injury, the rotation is not the most reliable it’s been.
Matt Harvey continues to get better as he slowly recovers from his rare Thoracic Outlet Syndrome injury. pic.twitter.com/5fZkyiNwuS— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) August 26, 2018
With that in mind, other than a concussion in 2012, Stratton has been relatively healthy his entire career. He also has 37 games as a starting pitcher out of his 49 career appearances. While his overall numbers have not been amazing, being able to eat innings for the Angels will bring value.
The front office knows a good bullpen is vital to success, but the Angels ranked second-to-last in innings pitched per game started, better only than the Tampa Bay Rays who used an opener for most of the season. While it’s important to have quality pitchers, being able to work past the fifth inning will be vital to an Angels team always weak on starting pitching.
While Stratton has not set the MLB world on fire, he still has a lot of potential. Through the two full seasons Stratton has, his first is what Angels fans hope we see more of. Across 58 and 2/3 innings and 10 starts, Stratton had a 3.68 ERA and 51 strikeouts. While he never had a dominant performance during that year, he had two games with 10 strikeouts.
Despite having a statistically worse 2018, Stratton put up some dominant games. In 16 of his starts, he was able to pitch at least five innings while allowing three or less runs. In those games, he had a 2.31 ERA across 101 and 1/3 innings. This shows that when Stratton is on, he can truly look elite. The problem comes in the short outings in which he allows four or more runs. Last season he had six outings of less than five innings and more than four runs given up, resulting in a 16.00 ERA across 18 innings.
Chris Stratton was dealing in last night’s win! 7 K’s! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/pEyf2PfYtW— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) September 30, 2017
The rocky performances from last year are worrisome, but the Angels seem to like Stratton’s biggest asset more than his mistakes. With all his faults, Stratton has one of the best spin rates on his fastball and curveball in baseball. Spin rate has quickly become a favorite measurement to judge how “nasty” a starting pitcher’s pitches are. It’s been used to formulate the dominant starting rotation in Houston and it’s production is trying to be duplicated with Stratton in Anaheim.
In terms of his fastball spin rate, Stratton has better movement than pitchers like J.A. Happ, Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino. These are pitchers who rely heavily on their fastball to get swings and misses, not just to set guys up. While spin rate isn’t the only thing that determines a successful pitcher, look at Mike Minor and Tyson Ross. It seems like Stratton has more to give in terms of his production.
The Angels took a flier on spin rate with their late-nite trade for Chris Stratton.— David Adler (@_dadler) March 26, 2019
Stratton's 4-seam spin: 2,448 rpm
MLB avg.: 2,263 rpm
Stratton's curveball spin: 3,109 rpm
MLB avg.: 2,491 rpm
The rest of his numbers? Not so good. It feels like there should be more there. pic.twitter.com/0QMdCQyyWs
With the intense spin rate, Stratton also is not prone to walks like some of the less productive pitchers with great spin rate. Out of pitchers in the top ten of fastball spin rate, Stratton is alone, outside of both the elite pitchers and the underperforming ones. The elite walk rate seems to be below six percent, while pitchers with a walk rate around ten percent seem to struggle. With Stratton sitting around 8.5 percent, he could easily improve his walk rate to become more consistent.
While the Angels would certainly enjoy Stratton solidifying the rotation, there’s no pressure for Stratton to have to stay in the rotation. Despite being mostly a starter the past two seasons, Stratton has the ability to be a good bullpen arm. In fact, he made his MLB debut as a reliever against the Atlanta Braves in 2016. As a reliever, Stratton has an 8.47 ERA over 20 and 2/3 innings in his career.
Despite the rough numbers, Stratton’s 3.60 ERA across 10 innings in his first season is far more promising. His struggles as a reliever came more so when he was splitting time between starting and relieving. Many scouts believed Stratton would be better suited as a two-pitch reliever, where the spin rate on his fastball and curveball could be devastating.
The Angels currently have no set multi-inning reliever in their bullpen. If Heaney were to return and bump Stratton out of the rotation, he could be utilized in a similar way that Mike Montgomery of the Chicago Cubs is used. He could be an ultimate multi-inning reliever or swing starter.
Whether he ends up returning to form as a starter or reliever, Stratton certainly is worth the risk for the Angels. His potential and versatility make him a dangerous piece if he can put it all together. With nasty stuff like below, Stratton could be an Angel on the rise. His next scheduled start is Sunday against the Texas Rangers in Anaheim.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.