Giants draft seven arms

            It seems unthinkable that the pitching depth of their farm system is very much depleted, but that’s precisely where the Giants are at.

            Three trades within the past year have seen the Giants ship off Jonathan Sanchez, Ramon Ramirez, Ryan Verdugo, and Zack Wheeler. Eric Surkamp and Dan Runzler have yet to pitch this season due to arm injuries. Now with the loss of Brian Wilson, a once pitching-rich organization is awfully depleted.

            The Giants took aim to remedy the problem in this week’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, and very well may have knocked it out of the park. With their first eight picks, the Giants selected seven college pitchers. First-round pick Chris Stratton out of Mississippi State stands out as the most projectable starter, though second-rounder Martin Agosta, fifth-rounder Ty Blach, and eighth-rounder Joe Kurrasch serve to round out an intriguing potential rotation.

            Fans concerned with the recent lack of big-league bullpen depth should take note of the exceptional crop of relief talent in fourth-rounder Steve Okert, sixth-rounder Stephen Johnson, and seventh-rounder E.J. Encinosa. The three totalled 31 saves this year. And, it will be interesting to see how rapidly the trio advances – and if any can help the major league rotation as early as this season.

            Here is a quick rundown of the seven pitchers the Giants have selected in the first two days of the draft:  

 Rd. 1: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State – Ace of the SEC’s best pitching staff at Mississippi State, he’s very developed and could reach the majors quickly. Stratton was 11-2 as a Friday night starter this season, but also earned one save in five relief appearances. The 6-foot-3 righty owns an impressive athletic frame and repeats a classic, fluid delivery.   

Rd. 2: Martin Agosta, RHP, St. Mary’s – Local product from St. Mary’s, he led the West Coast Conference with a 9-2 record this year. Last summer he was lights out in the Cal Ripken League, going 4-0 for the Bethesda Big Train – arguably the nation’s best wood-bat summer team not in the Cape Cod League. Leaner than Stratton, Agosta is just as athletic.

Rd. 4: Steven Okert, LHP, Oklahoma – Power lefty took over as Sooners’ closer this year, and emerged as the top lefty in the Big 12 after Oklahoma State ace Andrew Heaney. Okert touts a sweeping ¾ arm whip, a style which the Giants have had success developing in recent years with Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner.   

Rd. 5: Ty Blach, LHP, Creighton – Not nearly as funky as Jonas Dufek, who was drafted out of Creighton by Houston last year. Blach is a sinker-slider guy not unlike Eric Surkamp. He won 19 games in three years as a weekend starter.

Rd. 6: Stephen Johnson, RHP, St. Edwards University – Helped Division-II St. Edwards of Austin, Texas to the second regional playoff appearance in program history. Johnson was a prolific closer, leading the Heartland Conference with 18 saves. He is originally from the Denver, Colorado area.

Rd. 7: E.J. Encinosa, RHP, Miami – Personality makeup is allegedly a wild card, but Encinosa could be a steal in the seventh round. A stern 6-foot-5 righty with a low ¾ arm angle a la Sergio Romo, he excelled in his first season as a closer, notching eight saves for the Hurricanes this year.

Rd. 8: Joe Kurrasch, LHP, Penn State – As a reporter, I’m looking forward to Kurrasch’s account of the environment of the Penn State athletics department over the past school year. He paced all Big Ten starters this season with a 2.05 ERA.


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