OAKLAND—Almost from the time Dan Straily stepped on a high school baseball field, people have been telling him to go away.
He never listened.
"I've been told too many times that I didn't have what it took to be a baseball player," Straily said. The 22-year-old righthander has made the long, difficult transition from an overweight, soft-tossing teenager to a successful professional pitcher.
Pitching every fifth day for high Class A Stockton, Straily was 10-8, 3.66 with 144 strikeouts in 150 innings and an impressive 1.22 WHIP. His name litters the California League leaderboards—he ranked sixth in ERA, third in whiffs and fourth in WHIP.
Straily did not make his Springfield, Ore., high school team as a freshman, but he refused to give up and eventually became the team's top pitcher. He spent a year at Western Oregon after being spurned by Oregon State, but he sought a better fit.
He found that fit at Marshall after playing with a couple of Thundering Herd players in a summer league. "I really wanted to play Division I baseball," Straily said, "and nobody else would open their doors. So I got my release from Western Oregon.
"When I left, they told me I'd never be able to play at a high level. That motivated me."
Straily flew across the nation to Huntington, W.Va., where he walked on with the Marshall baseball team. "I'd never been east of Idaho before," he said. "I'd never even been on an airplane."
He went 9-7, 4.28 in two years in the rotation to draw the attention of the Athletics, who called Straily's name in the 24th round of the 2009 draft.
He always has struggled with his weight, but at Marshall he packed up to 250 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame and pitched at 240 as a junior.
"I realized it was unhealthy to be that young and that overweight," Straily said. So he embarked on intense physical training program and dropped to 214 pounds. With his new physique came improved velocity.
According to farm director Keith Lieppman, Straily is pitching this year in the low 90s with a plus breaking ball and a decent changeup. "He's had a great year," Lieppman said. "He's been one of the most consistent pitchers at that level."
• The A's hope righthander Michael Ynoa will be ready to pitch during the Dominican League, at which time he'll be 20 years old. He was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
• This year's instructional league will feature the U.S. debuts of two impressive international signees: Korean catcher Seongmin Kim and Aruban outfielder Shawn Duinkurk.