By Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints Media Relations Director
The Toronto Blue Jays were busy at the end of the 2016 season signing not one, but two pitchers from the St. Paul Saints. They kept an eye on one of those arms and clearly liked what they’ve seen during the 2017 season. Starting pitcher John Straka had his contract purchased by the Blue Jays for the second time in two years and will head to Double-A New Hampshire.
The 27-year-old Straka was 3-4 with a 6.02 ERA in 10 starts this season. In 55.1 innings pitched he walked 21 and struck out 37 while opponents hit .319 against him. Straka gave up three earned runs or less in six of 10 starts.
With about three weeks left in the 2016 season the Blue Jays purchased Straka’s contract and he spent the remainder of the season at New Hampshire. While with the Fisher Cats he pitched well going 4-1 with a 4.68 ERA in five games (four starts). In 25.0 innings pitched he walked just eight, struck out 22 and opponents hit .258 against him. Over his final three appearances he allowed just two runs in 17.1 innings pitched including 5.1 shutout innings in a start on August 26 at Reading and 6.0 shutout innings of relief on September 5 vs. Portland.
With the Saints in 2016 Straka was 10-3 with a 4.48 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). In 94.1 innings pitched he has walked just 22 and struck out 77 while opponents hit .281 against him. Over his last four appearances he allowed just one run in 18.0 innings of work.
Straka finished with the third best winning percentage in the American Association, .769. In his last start with the Saints, on August 8, he hurled 7.0 innings allowing one run against the Gary SouthShore Railcats. His finest outing of the season came on July 31 at Lincoln when he tossed 7.0 shutout innings allowing just two hits while striking out seven. On July 17 at CHS Field against Fargo-Moorhead Straka struck out a season high 11. He went at least six innings nine times and allowed three or fewer earned runs eight times.
Straka came over in a trade with the Sioux City Explorers on May 16 and was 11-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 20 starts in 2015 for the league runner-up Explorers. In 129.1 innings pitched he walked just 36, struck out 110 while opponents hit .247 against him. He finished fifth in the league in strikeouts and fanned at least six in 10 of his 20 starts including double digits twice. He struck out 11 on July 4 vs. Sioux Falls and in his last start of the season he tossed 7.0 innings allowing two unearned runs on one hit while striking out 12 Grand Prairie AirHogs. He went at least 6.0 innings in 14 of 20 starts and at least 7.0 innings in 11 of 20 starts. He threw 15 quality starts, defined as throwing at least 6.0 innings and giving up three runs or fewer. One of his best starts came on July 29 at Lincoln when he tossed 8.0 shutout innings allowing three hits while walking two and striking out nine.
Straka was a 32nd round draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2013 out of North Dakota State University. He pitched one season for the Rangers organization spending 2013 with the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League. As a reliever he went 2-2 with a 4.88 ERA and two saves in 19 relief appearances. He finished fourth in the league in fewest walks per nine innings, walking only six in 31.1 innings pitched.
After being released by the Rangers he was signed by the Explorers for the 2014 season where he went 9-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 21 starts including two complete games. In 130.1 innings pitched he walked 38 and struck out 90 while opponents hit .304 against him.
Straka went to Chaska High School where he was a three-year All-Conference pitcher and catcher. He was an All-State selection his senior season when he struck out 71 in 65.0 innings and had a miniscule 1.29 ERA. He was also a two-year starting quarterback and passed for 1,592 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 679 yards and eight touchdowns in an All-Conference senior season.
Straka becomes the 126th contract sold by the Saints in their 25-year history and second this season. Closer Seth Rosin was purchased by the San Francisco Giants earlier this season.