By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Chris Stratton’s timing couldn’t have been any better.
On a Friday night in March, in Baton Rouge, pro scouts filled Alex Box Stadium to watch Stratton pitch for Mississippi State against LSU’s Kevin Gausman. Stratton struck out 17 batters in 82/3 innings, and one of the scouts in attendance was San Francisco’s Hugh Walker.
On Monday, the Giants selected the Tupelo native with the 20th overall pick in the Major League Draft.
MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson said that for Stratton, the LSU game “was a defining moment that put him on the map.”
Said Stratton, “In all essence I think it was huge. The guy that called me said he saw me there. I said, ‘Well, that was a good one to be at.’”
Stratton, the SEC pitcher of the year, went 11-2 with a 2.38 ERA as a junior. He struck out 127 and walked 25 in 1092/3 innings, and the LSU was a sign of things to come.
Against rival Ole Miss on April 27, Stratton tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing five hits with seven strikeouts. He won his first nine decisions of the season as MSU finished strong and won the SEC Tournament.
Stratton’s final outing of 2012 was against Samford in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional, when he took the loss after allowing three home runs.
Stratton is represented by agent Bo McKinnis. Stratton did not say definitively on Monday whether he would sign or return for his senior year.
“We still haven’t negotiated anything, but I’m looking forward to the negotiations,” he said.
His time arrives
For his career, Stratton had a 21-12 record with a 4.06 ERA, 279 strikeouts and 94 walks in 264 innings. He was a weekend starter as a freshman and sophomore but lost that role toward the end of last season due to ineffectiveness.
Thompson said he never saw a pitcher take the leap Stratton took from last year to this year.
“People mature at different ages and at different times,” Thompson said. “It was Chris’ time, and that’s pretty good timing for your junior year for everything to come into focus.”
Stratton is the 10th Bulldog to be drafted in the first round, and the first since 2003, when pitcher Paul Maholm was taken eighth overall by Pittsburgh.