Scouting Mets' Prospect #35: Kole Strayhorn

Strayhorn Is Developing His Secondary Pitches

The New York Mets acquired Kole Strayhorn, along with Victor Diaz with Joselo Diaz, from the Dodgers in 2003 as part of the Jeromy Burnitz trade. Strayhorn has a fastball that tops off in the high 90's and projects to be a very good setup man. Ranking #35 among the Top 50 Mets' prospects, here is a scouting report on Kole Strayhorn.

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Vital Statistics:
Name: Kole Strayhorn
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: October 1, 1982
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

For Kole Strayhorn, a bus ride across the state to Tampa wound up being the turning point of the reliever's 2005 season.

After getting knocked around Legends Field by the Yankees' Class-A farm team in two consecutive appearances, allowing four runs in 2-2/3 innings, something just seemed to click for the right-hander, coming back from labrum surgery on his pitching shoulder.

"I didn't know how to get anybody out," Strayhorn said. "It was almost like I couldn't do without my fastball. Getting embarrassed will make you learn."

Strayhorn returned to St. Lucie and, emphasizing his off-speed pitches and stressing location, the season slowly began to turn around. A string of five scoreless outings soon became 10 out of 11, and by the time June and July had passed, Strayhorn had compiled a 4-0 record with a 1.65 ERA over the eight-week span.

"I felt great," Strayhorn said. "I don't remember ever pitching like that. I was really hitting my spots and throwing my breaking ball where I wanted it. But in August I just kind of hit a wall. I felt physically weak."

That would be an August in which Strayhorn's season at St. Lucie came skidding to a close, allowing 13 runs (10 earned) in nine appearances – one more run than Strayhorn had allowed in May, June and July combined.

Though Strayhorn said that St. Lucie pitching coach Randy Niemann insisted the location of the pitches was just as good in August as previous months, Strayhorn admits his stamina wasn't up to snuff.

With less than six months under his belt following surgery, the late-season decline was to be expected, especially with Strayhorn unable to perform some of his usual upper-body weight lifting (he said he lost 12 to 15 pounds during the year).

Coming into the season, Strayhorn spent all of April 'orange-shirted' at extended spring training , and although he declared himself 90 percent ready to pitch, team officials advised Strayhorn to show patience. He'd need it for the lessons to come; namely, operating sans a fastball that has registered as high as 100 MPH.

"It was a learning experience for me," said Strayhorn, who finished the year 5-3 with a 4.46 ERA and made it to Double-A Binghamton for one game.

"This is one of the first years I've ever had where I couldn't blow it by guys, and I really had to learn how to pitch. I had to learn how to think a little."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2005

Binghamton

0-0

0

2.0

0

0

1

0.00

2005

St. Lucie

5-3

2

38.1

44

22

31

4.46

2004

Binghamton

5-4

8

50.0

49

27

43

5.22

2003

St. Lucie

1-1

10

15.1

7

9

16

1.17

2003

Vero Beach

5-2

7

46.0

42

13

44

2.93

2002

South Georgia

1-7

4

93.1

99

38

50

4.24

2001

Great Falls

0-0

0

2.0

4

1

1

18.00

2001

Gulf Coast

5-3

0

53.0

41

17

47

2.21



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup, Splitter, Curveball.

Fastball. When healthy, Strayhorn is a power pitcher whose fastball sits 92-95 MPH and can top out in the high 90's at times. His fastball has a heavy sinking action that allows him to keep the ball in the ballpark and helps him get more groundball outs. His fastball tails away from lefties and in on righties, a big reason why he has dominated right-handed batters over the course of his career.

Other Pitches. Strayhorn, who has an extensive repertoire for a relief pitcher because he came up through the Dodgers' farm system as a starting pitcher, was able to work on his secondary pitches in 2005 because of his injury. He has an overpowering slider which serves as hit out pitch at times. He also throws a good changeup and has been working on developing a splitter. His curveball and splitter are average at this point, but his hard slider is an excellent complimentary pitch to his overpowering fastball.

Pitching. As odd as it may sound, Strayhorn's labrum surgery could benefit him in the long run. He already had set up his fastball very well with a good slider and changeup, but with his power fastball not always there for him as he works his way back, he has learned to trust his secondary pitches more. After seeing his breaking stuff, hitters have a hard time fighting off his dominating fastball when it is working for him. Strayhorn has a maximum effort delivery which gives big concern for reoccurring arm injuries. He possesses an excellent combination of stuff and command. Strayhorn is very athletic and a good fielding pitcher after spending his high school days as a part-time infielder, an aspect of pitching that always gets overlooked.

Projection. Strayhorn projects to be a possible closer down the road or a very good setup man at minimum. With Billy Wagner signed for four years, Strayhorn would have to break in with the Mets as a setup man, but with his stuff, could close some games in emergency situations. The key to his success is to remain healthy as he's had a few injuries in his short minor league career thus far. As dominating as he has been against right-handed batters, Strayhorn projects to be a solid reliever.

ETA. 2007. Despite missing significant development time the past two seasons with the injured labrum, Strayhorn is still just 23 years old with a fair amount of Double-A experience. He should find his way back to Binghamton in 2006 and if he can rediscover his velocity and continue to develop his secondary pitches, he won't be too far away from Shea Stadium. If he can remain healthy, Strayhorn should find his way to the Mets by 2007.

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