Pittsburgh Pirates: Gauging Chris Stratton’s Trade Value

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 28: Chris Stratton #46 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at PNC Park on April 28, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 28: Chris Stratton #46 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at PNC Park on April 28, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Chris Stratton has been an underrated arm for the team the past three seasons, but what could he get back in a trade?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have two very talked-about trade pieces. Relief pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Adam Frazier have been brought up many times in the past. But one reliever that hasn’t been talked about much is relief pitcher Chris Stratton.

Stratton has pitched 43.2 innings this season, putting up a 2.68 ERA, 3.53 FIP and 1.14 WHIP. Like his fellow reliever Richard Rodriguez, he hasn’t gotten nearly as many strikeouts as compared to 2020. He only has a 22% strikeout rate so far in 2021 compared to a 29.8% rate in 2020. But he’s kept walks down with a career-best 7.9% rate, and a solid 0.82 HR/9 rate.

Stratton has induced ground balls at a near career-best 46.7% rate. This has paired well with an above-average hard-hit rate (36.3%, top 668h percentile) and average exit velocity (88.5 MPH, top 56th percentile). His ERA predictors aren’t as pretty as his bottom line numbers, but he’s still seen as a very solid pitcher. He has a 3.60 xERA, 3.96 xFIP, 3.88 SIERA and 4.27 DRA. All of which is still above average.

While Stratton hasn’t been primarily a high-leverage reliever, he has been outstanding when he’s been put in those moments. He has kept opposing batters to a .130 batting average and .511 OPS when it matters the most. With runners in scoring position, he has kept hitters to a .162/.209/.216 line.

Stratton has ridden his high-spin fastball and curveball to success. His four-seam fastball has averaged 2611 RPM, which is in the top 97th percentile. His curve is in the top 98th percentile of spin with 3107 RPM. Plus his slider averages around 2900 RPM. There’s also not much supporting the possible claim he is using a foreign substance on the mound. None of his offerings have seen a massive downturn in spin rate, or over enough time to give a large enough sample size to prove he is using something.

Stratton is also on an affordable contract. He’s controllable through arbitration the next two seasons. Given his solid production, good numbers when he is in high leverage situations, and control remaining, the right-hander could be a solid under-the-radar trade piece for the Pirates. But what could he get back?

The fact that Stratton has been a pretty solid reliever since joining the Pittsburgh Pirates definitely helps. Since being claimed by the Bucs in 2019, he has a 3.37 ERA, 3.67 FIP and 1.28 WHIP in 120.1 innings of work. It also helps that he isn’t a rental and is going to be high-priced in arbitration either.

But while he is good when he has been put in them, Stratton hasn’t had a whole lot of time as just a high-leverage reliever. He’s mainly been used as a 7th inning arm by the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. That’s where 11 of his appearances have come from, which is a third. Though he’s increasingly seen time in 0-2 run games this year compared to 2019 and 2020.

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Still, Stratton could at least bring back something worth noting. He might not bring back a 50 FV prospect or anything, but a young prospect in the 35-40 FV range is pretty reasonable. If the Pirates do end up trading Stratton, it would likely be for a high-upside prospect 20 or younger.

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