Sticking to the draft week, we take a look back at a draft 10 years ago and at one of the biggest prospect busts.
My parents, after yet another washed away summer vacation in The Netherlands because of all the rain, decided from 1988 and forward to spend every summer in France. Most of the times we went to Normandy and Brittany, that was still doable in a day. When I read that today’s random D-Back hails from Lafayette, I had to think immediately of those summers. As I recall, Lafayette was a department store in France and after looking it up, my memories were indeed correct. I was a bit surprised to find out that there is a town in the USA called Lafayette, although placed in Louisiana it doesn’t surprise that much, because there is obviously some French link.
Lafayette was named after the Marquis de Lafayette. Not being that familiar with the American independence war and with certain disdain for the French, I had never heard of him. After reading his very extensive biography on Wikipedia I understand his importance to you, Americans, so I hope you accept my apologies for that.
Lafayette was born an aristocrat in a family with military tradition, so it was pretty obvious that as a young French officer he was pretty hyped up to fight the British overseas in the States. Maybe he also hoped to restore something of the French power in the new States. But during his time in the British colonies he got infected with some ideas that would go rather well with today’s constitutional monarchies in Europe. For details you can read whatever history book you prefer, but it is obvious that he was an important figure in the American war against the Brits and was acknowledged for that in France, at least in the early years after his return to Europe.
In Paris he would be honoured with a Rue de Lafayette, not that long after his death. And after a new store would open in that street, its founders baptised their department store with that same name. In America, meanwhile, cities were renamed to celebrate the accomplishments of their foreign hero. One of them was Vermilionville, a city of French origin, that would adopt the name of Lafayette in 1884. Two more years are important in the history of the city of Lafayette: In 2014 it was named “Happiest City of America”, and in 2012 it hit national headlines when the Diamondbacks took Stryker Trahan in the draft from Acadiana High School in Lafayette, Louisiana.
First round pick in 2012.
“Knowing how tough it’s going to be to nail down the Dbacks’ top pick, I’ll manage a guess and say their first pick will come from one of the names below, most of whom were mentioned above, with Stryker Trahan being my top guess.” – Sonicuda predicting the Diamondbacks’ first round pick on AZSnakePit.com
Looking back at the 2012 MLB draft, lots of players were picked who would end up playing in the major leagues. The Astros surprised many by picking Carlos Correa with their 1st pick, but obviously already knew what many did not. Once the Diamondbacks were up to pick at #26, most impact talents were already off the board, and Arizona ended up taking Stryker Trahan, a catcher. Stryker Trahan signed for a nice bonus of $1,700,000.
In 2012 Trahan was seen as the second best catcher available in the entire class (Carson Kelly was available as well, but was drafted as a 3B and went to the Cardinals in the 2nd round), behind Mike Zunino, who would be taken at #3 by the Mariners. Draft reports seemed to speak of an above-average hitter with power, good footwork and speed and a strong arm. He came of a somewhat disappointing senior season and lost quite the momentum going into the draft. There were concerns about the hitting capabilities, but one of the biggest question marks was actually his capabilities behind the plate. However, as minorleagueball.com would mention: “Even if he can’t catch, he has enough bat to be a regular outfielder.” That was probably what the D-Backs had in mind as well when they took him in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft.
The brick wall in Class A.
After the draft Trahan gets a look in the Arizona Rookie League and his debut is hopeful. He finishes that first season as a professional baseball player with an .895 OPS in 167 at bats. Coming into the 2013 season, Sonicuda on the AZSnakePit ranks Trahan as a top 10 prospect, giving him his rating of 85, which drops him into the category of “Very good prospect. Potential feature player with above-average production.” In 2013 he is assigned to the Missoula Osprey. The Diamondbacks continue to work on his catching skills, but the struggles continue and the offensive results aren’t what one would have hoped for him.
“He’s from a small town in Louisiana, and I can guarantee you he wasn’t seeing the types of arms that he did [in the Arizona League]. For a guy who hadn’t done much catching, he was pretty raw when we got him.” – Mike Bell on Stryker Trahan in 2012, short interview on milbprospectslive
Although the stats are far from impressive, a .790 OPS is enough for promotion to Class A in 2014. Fangraphs still gives him a shot at making it into the major leagues, but expresses concern about his hitting abilities. That proves to be right. Just like in the previous season, the 20+% SO rate is a concern. The Diamondbacks decide to move him to the outfield in order for the bat to flourish, but the experiment goes terribly wrong. The bat craters with a 35.87 SO rate in South Bend and the D-Backs move Trahan back to Hillsboro to play short-season…and back behind the plate.
In 2015 he repeats at Class A, but now with the newly contracted Kane County Cougars. Hopes aren’t high.
“Regardless, the 26th overall pick of the 2012 draft is now a bust, and is now at the point where he needs to make the grade and then some each season or risk being out of baseball.” – Sonicuda on the AZSnakePit.com in an article on the state of the farm and addressing Stryker Trahan’s struggles in the organisation
Back behind the plate, the Louisiana native still strikes out in almost a third of his at bats, but earns a somewhat make or break promotion to Visalia. That turns out to be a complete disaster. A triple slash of .138/.210/.285 and a 43% strike out rate has him back in Class A in no time.
“The ability to maneuver behind the dish is an important element of receiving and framing pitches. His lack of mobility places him in poor positions, forcing him to stab at the ball instead of frame it. He won’t need to slim down much — he’s an exceptional athlete for his build — but monitoring his size and mobility will be crucial as he ages.” – David Laurila on fangraphs.com in a 2013 article on a conversation with Stryker Trahan
In 2016 he starts in Visalia. The Diamondbacks have given up hope on him performing as a catcher and he is assigned to the outfield. But the bat has fallen off a cliff and Stryker Trahan gets a mid-season demotion to Kane County. On both levels he strikes out close to 30% in his at bats, hitting for a .200 average.
In March 2017 the Diamondbacks decide there is no future for Stryker Trahan in the organisation and he is released, becoming officially a bust.
A Strong Arm.
Trahan is from Lafayette. Lafayette is Louisiana. Louisiana is water, rivers and sea. In such an environment lots of jobs are related to the water and so is Trahan’s current job. Stryker Trahan must have returned to the Acadian area not long after being released from the D-Backs.
He finds a new home in Lake Charles and gets a job with Devall Towing, a company that moves up and down the rivers with all kinds of raw materials, as a deckhand on a tow boat. That isn’t the easiest job, but his physical presence probably has helped him adapting to a new professional life.
And has brought him some kind of success too! In 2018 he is named as the winner of the C-Hero life ring toss, reaching a distance of 54 feet, 9 inches.
That arm might not have been put on display in baseball, but can still bring success in other categories.