Oakland A's MLN: Straily's Big Step Forward

Coming into this season, Dan Straily's name was familiar only to the most ardent followers of the Oakland A's minor league system. However, after a stellar first 11 weeks of the season, Straily is quickly becoming a household name amongst prospect watchers.

Since turning pro in 2009, Dan Straily has always had a knack for striking out batters. Coming into the 2012 season, he had struck-out 369 batters in 367.2 innings. However, this season the right-hander from Oregon has been even better. Through Sunday, Straily was leading all of the minor leagues in strike-outs with 108 in 85.1 innings pitched.

Straily hasn't been all about the strike-outs this season, however. The leap from High-A to Double-A is often considered the most difficult in baseball, especially for pitchers. Straily has handled the jump with ease. In 14 starts for the Midland Rockhounds this season, he has a 3.38 ERA and he has held Texas League batters to a .224 average. Straily has also walked only 23 and has allowed just six homeruns.

In his last start, which came at Midland on Friday night, Straily carried a perfect game into the seventh inning and allowed only one hit and one run in eight innings. He struck-out nine and walked none. It was his second straight start with nine strike-outs and no walks. Over his last three starts, he struck-out 29 and walked only one in 21 innings.

Straily has always featured a good fastball that ranges from 90-94 MPH with sink and a solid slider. According to A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, a move to the third base side of the rubber has aided Straily's effectiveness. Patterson also said that Straily's work ethic has helped him dramatically improve that all-important third pitch to his arsenal.

"He has a great approach to the game and wants to learn all the time," Patterson told OaklandClubhouse.com via email.

"He learned from Lefty [Stockton pitching coach Craig Lefferts], now [Midland pitching coach] Don Schultz. He has a great down hill angle and the change-up is off the charts better."

At his current pace, if Straily reaches the 160 innings that he threw in 2011, he will eclipse the 200 strike-out plateau, an achievement rarely reached in the minor leagues. Matt Moore, the top prospect in all of baseball coming into this season, made headlines in 2010 when he struck-out 208 batters, becoming the first minor leaguer to strike-out at least 200 since Francisco Lirano did it in 2005. Moore struck-out 210 last season to lead the minor leagues again.

Starting later this week, Straily will be looking to continue his torrid strike-out pace against the most advanced competition in the minor leagues. The A's announced on Sunday that Straily was being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento, where he will join a talented rotation that has already received a boost from another member of the Midland Opening Day roster - right-hander A.J. Griffin. Griffin has a 2.78 ERA in 45.1 innings for the River Cats over seven starts. If Straily is able to make a similarly smooth transition to Triple-A, both he and Griffin could become factors for the A's at the big league level later this year.

Other News and Notes

- The Vermont Lake Monsters, the A's short-season A affiliate, will begin their New York-Penn League schedule on Monday. For their complete Opening Day roster, please click here.

- The A's Arizona Rookie League club will begin play on Wednesday. The A's haven't officially released their AZL A's Opening Day roster, but it is expected to feature the A's 2012 top pick Addison Russell among others.

- Brandon Hicks reached base three times via a homerun and two walks and he scored three runs, but the Sacramento River Cats dropped a wild one - 12-10 - to Tacoma on Sunday. Hicks has 10 homers on the season and is now slugging at a .513 clip. Known mostly for his glove with the Atlanta Braves organization, the shortstop is having a career-year at the plate with Sacramento. He has an 875 OPS, which includes a .362 OBP. Prior to this season, Hicks hadn't posted an OBP better than .335 since his first professional season in 2007. Hicks was claimed off of waivers from the Braves during spring training.

- Tyler Ladendorf is another slick-fielding shortstop who is angling for a promotion with his play thus far this season. The Midland Rockhounds' infielder homered for the fourth time this season and drove-in four in Midland's final game of the first half. Ladendorf, who can play everywhere on the diamond except first base and catcher, is batting .302/.386/.453 at the break. His 839 OPS is a career-high and is more than 200 points better than the OPS he posted with Midland last season. Ladendorf has struck-out only 28 times in 40 games. He has also walked 20 times.

- Despite Ladendorf's big game, the Rockhounds dropped their first-half finale by a score of 9-6. Luke Hughes had a homer and two RBIs, but it wasn't enough to overcome a big early deficit. Murphy Smith had a rare bad outing, allowing eight runs in only 3.2 innings of work. Arnold Leon lowered his Midland ERA to 1.88 with a scoreless inning of work. In 29.2 innings with Midland and Stockton this season, Leon has 42 strike-outs and only seven walks. He missed most of the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.

- The A's are expected to promote Stockton Ports' infielder Miles Head to Double-A at the conclusion of the California League All-Star break. Head is the Ports' representative at the Cal League-Carolina League All-Star game this week. Head, who was acquired by the A's from the Boston Red Sox this past off-season, has a .382/.433/.715 line with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 67 games with the Ports. His 1149 OPS is best in the Cal League by 129 points and his .382 BA is nearly 30 points higher than the next highest average (.357). Head is tied for the league-lead in homers and is second in RBIs.

- Sandber Pimentel, who signed a six-figure deal as an international amateur free agent with the A's this past off-season, is off to a good start to his professional career with the A's DSL club. In his first 13 games, he has a .293/.442/.415 line with a homer and five RBIs. He has walked (10) more than he has struck-out (9) and he is currently working on a four-game hitting streak.

- The Ports and Bees are all on break for their respective leagues' All-Star games. Neither team earned first-half division titles or wild card berths, so both will be looking to re-group and earn a trip to the post-season during the second half of the year.

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