Chris Stratton made his big league debut in 2016, totaling ten innings in seven appearances out of the bullpen for the San Francisco Giants. This fall he is in Arizona as part of the Arizona Fall League, which operates as a proving ground for Double and Triple-A players after the season is over. Generally teams will send prospects that have either missed time due to injury, or to get a little extra work in as they continue to develop. There is another group of players that are sent as an audition for other clubs, as the time to trim down the 4-man rosters is fast approaching ahead of the December Rule 5 Draft. Then there is Tim Tebow, but that's a different story altogether. Stratton more than likely fits into the development category, but this could be a way to audition him for other teams in a potential trade this winter as well.
During the 2016 regular season, Stratton spent the majority of his time in Triple-A Sacramento, totaling 125 2/3 innings across 21 games (20 starts) with an ERA of 3.87 and a FIP of 3.73. He joined the Giants in a pinch from the end of May to the end of June, and his peripherals looked to have trended in the wrong direction in his limited exposure in the big leagues. With Sacramento, Stratton had a K/9 rate of 7.38, a BB/9 rate of 2.79 and a HR/9 rate of 0.43. In his brief stint in San Francisco, his K/9 dropped to 5.40, while his walk rate jumped to 4.50 and his home run rate nearly doubled to 0.90. Obviously it would be a gross overstatement to say that these numbers represent a trend in the wrong direction following the promotion, as the home run that is responsible for his higher rate came on nine day's rest against divisional rival Los Angeles. Any slight blemish to his major league resume skews the numbers when the sample size is so small, which is likely a reason that Stratton has ended up in Arizona, where he has been excelling through two starts.
The former first rounder has totaled nine innings, allowing just one earned on eight hits while striking out nine. This includes last night's five scoreless frames where he allowed just three hits and struck out six. After the game, Stratton told Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline, "I only went with two changeups and three curveballs tonight. I mainly went with my fastball and slider and tried to move them around the zone a bit."
According to both Pipeline and Baseball America, Stratton's fastball sits in the low 90s, topping out at 94, while his slider has lost some of its luster since he was drafted, resulting in an average offering these days. Callis also noted that Stratton has been trying a new slider grip in the Arizona Fall League and "was pleased with the initial results."
With two pitches to work with at the moment, it appears as though Stratton could be headed for a bullpen role down the line, but as of right now that does not look to be the plan. The plan is still to develop him as a starter, and the hope for Stratton is to compete for a spot in the starting rotation in spring training. He'll be in competition with Matt Cain and Ty Blach for the fifth spot in the Giants' rotation in 2017.