Straily leads MU products in pro ball
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University's baseball program has one player already succeeding in the big leagues and more might well be on their way.
Oakland pitcher Dan Straily, a former Marshall standout, is a key member of the Athletics' pitching staff.
Straily, whom Oakland stole in the 24th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, features an unsightly 5.14 earned run average, but his peripherals suggest he has pitched far better than his ERA indicates. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-hander from Redlands, Calif., has a 1-1 record and in 28 innings has allowed 26 hits with 28 strikeouts and just eight walks.
Last season, Straily went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts with the A's playoff team.
Former Marshall catcher turned relief pitcher Kevin Shackelford nearly made the Milwaukee Brewers opening day 25-man roster out of spring training and is on the team's 40-man roster. Shackelford opened the season at Class AA Huntsville (Ala.). Shackelford might not be long for the Southern League, as the 6-5, 210-pound right-hander from Charlotte has been solid.
A 21st-round pick in 2010, Shackelford is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA. In 10 games and 14 innings, Shackelford has allowed 15 hits, struck out four and walked three.
Shackelford throws a heavy, sinking fastball that touches 95 mph. His slider also has turned into a putaway pitch, giving him an arsenal strong enough that the Brewers added him to the big league roster in December 2013 after seeing him succeed in the Arizona Fall League, where teams often send some of their better prospects.
"I always thought I had the stuff to do it," said Shackelford, who converted to pitching in his final season at Marshall. "I finally figured out a consistent delivery."
Marshall's highest-drafted baseball player ever, Aaron Blair, is off to a strong start in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Blair was a supplemental round pick and 36th overall selection in 2013. The 6-5, 230-pound righthander from Las Vegas is 1-1 with a 2.56 ERA in five starts with Low A South Bend (Ind.). In 31 innings, Blair has given up just 17 hits, struck out 43 and walked 10.
"I've gotten smarter on the mound," Blair told Baseball America. "I've learned to locate better and I'm just physically stronger."
Baseball America ranked Blair as Arizona's No. 5 prospect and he lived up to that billing last week when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a game in which he struck out 12 batters. Blair's 43 strikeouts lead the minors.
Thundering Herd fans might be able to catch outfielder Isaac Ballou in action in Charleston when the Hagerstown Suns, the Low A affiliate for the Washington Nationals, play at the West Virginia Power. Ballou, a 15th-round pick in 2013, has played in 21 games for the Suns, garnering 89 at bats and hitting .278 to go with two home runs and 12 runs batted in.
The speedy Ballou has struck out 18 times and walked 12, smacked five doubles and three triples, stolen four bases and been caught stealing three times. Ballou's on base percentage is a lofty .379 and he is slugging .398.
Former Hurricane High School and Marshall pitcher Arik Sikula, a 36th-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, is relieving for High A Dunedin (Fla.) of the Florida State League. The 6-1, 195-pound right-hander is 0-1 with a 0.93 ERA and a minor league-leading eight saves in 10 games. In 92/3 innings, Sikula has struck out 15, walked three and allowed five hits.
Three other former Marshall pitchers -- Joe Church with San Diego, Mike Mason with Colorado and Greg Williams of Texas -- are in pro ball. Church and Williams are on their respective teams' Active lists but have not pitched this season. Mason is on the Restricted List, which means he no longer is playing but the Rockies still control his rights if he returns.
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