Tag Archives: prospects

Looking for Relief

Veteran or former closers were in the headlines as Brad Boxberger was dealt to Arizona and Jim Johnson moved to the Los Angeles Angels, both in exchange for minor league arms.

The Rays closer in 2015, Boxberger spent much of 2016 either ineffective or on the disabled list or both and then missed most of 2 017 due to a back injury. Though only a small 29.1 inning sample, once healthy, the righty re-established his dominance with a 12.3 K/9 and improved his control to a 3.4 BB/9 mark. Long-balls continue to be a problem for him, however, his career home runs on fly balls rate standing at 14%. As an arbitration candidate, a not insignificant pay raise is coming his way which may have been expedited the move. Archie Bradley has been penciled in to close for the Diamondbacks despite just a single career save and Boxberger will give them another option to consider this spring. Worst case he is poised to be the number one closer insurance policy.

He still works with a plus fastball, nasty slider, and changeup combination and his layoff have not resulted in any decline in velocity. However, he has shown to be somewhat injury prone and volatile in terms of control and as mentioned, home run allowance. Even if he wins the closer job outright, an aggressive investment is not recommended.

Jim Johnson, meanwhile returns to his AL roots after two years with the Braves and at this point in time may be utilized more in a setup or middle relief role with the emergence of Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian, but as a pitcher with 176 career saves, he could easily end up back in the role if others falter. Earlier in his career, Johnson was known as a pitch to contact, extreme groundball pitcher type with above average command a mid-nineties fastball. In recent seasons, however, his curveball has become a more effective weapon and his strikeout rates have climbed to more than a batter per inning even though he does not throw quite as hard as he did at his peak. This season his command crumbled from a 2.8 to a 4.0 BB/9 awhile his groundball rates dropped to under 50% for the first time in his career. The result, despite a career-high 9.7 K/9, was terrible across the board. The 34-year old has been written off before, only to rise from the dead. It would be unwise to write him off a second time, but still should only be considered as an endgame option or not all on draft day if he doesn’t claim the closer’s role.

Moving on to the minor leagues, the Rays acquired Curtis Taylor from the Diamondbacks. Taylor is a projectable, 6’6” right-hander who pitched in A-ball last year, posting a 9.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. He was being used as a starter, but his upper nineties fastball and slider may lend themselves better to a relief role in the long run. He’ll move up to A+ ball next year, but a change in roles could move him through the system at a much faster rate.

Justin Kelly was acquired along with pool money from the Angels for Johnson. The 24-year old started in rookie ball and proceeded to then pitch at 4 subsequent levels, ultimately ending up in AAA before the season ended. Just because he moved that many levels do not mean he is any good. A former 33rd round pick, drafted just four shy of being drafted 1000th overall, tops out in the eighties and works with average at best pitches. Expect him to spend almost the entirety of 2018, if not his career, in AAA.

It’s All About the Glove: Breaking Down the Adeiny Hechavarria Deal

Trade Background: It’s all about the glove, at least from the Rays’ point of view. The Rays dealt minor leaguers Braxton Lee and Ethan Clark for Adeiny Hechavarria. From the Marlins, it was about getting rid of the remainder of Hechavarria’s $4.4 M dollar salary. Long term that makes him a non-tender candidate as he’ll head to arbitration once again this Fall, but that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

Roster Ramifications: Hechavarria was on the DL with the Marlins and will be activated later this week, so a corresponding move has yet to be made. He’ll take over as the primary shortstop with Tim Beckham and Daniel Robertson splitting time at second base. Taylor Featherston could end up the roster casualty though it could possibly be Robertson being sent down too since he has options remaining. The returns of Brad Miller and Matt Duffy, both not until the second half for Duffy for certain and possibly for Miller, will shuffle up this whole middle infield situation again in time.

For the Marlins, since Hechavarria was already on the DL, the deal does not result in any MLB-level roster changes. What it does is lock in J.T. Riddle as their primary shortstop. The Marlins do not have any other shortstop prospects close to MLB ready and so it is sink or swim time for Riddle. They do, however, have an array of journeyman/veterans with plenty of MLB experience in Triple-A to fill in should the need arise.

As for the minors, Braxton Lee will head to Double-A Jacksonville and Ethan Clark is moving to Low-A Greensboro.

Player Analysis: Without his plus glove Hechavarria would not have much of an MLB career. The 28-year old makes a reasonable amount of contact but lacks power, patience, and though he runs well, is not much of a stolen base threat. At best, the righty may provide a .270s to .280s batting average and single digit HR and SB totals.

Braxton Lee, 23, was a 2014 12th round draft pick by the Rays. A 5’10” centerfielder with well above average speed, Lee brings a decent approach to the plate, combining moderate selectivity and some contact making skills in an effort to put the ball on the ground and leg it out as much as possible. Not surprisingly the result is an almost complete lack of a power-hitting game. In fact, his first two professional home runs came this year in his fourth season of pro ball. He was having a nice season with a .318/.387/.391 slash along with 12 steals, but still barely surfaces on the prospect radar. Expect him to be on the journeyman/fifth outfielder career path.

Ethan Clark is not a high-pedigree prospect either. The 22-year old was a 2015 15th round draft pick and has worked in both starting and relief since signing with the Rays. Despite standing about 6’6”, Clark is not a power pitcher per se, but he has good command and his primary pitch is a heavy sinker that he mixes with a changeup and curve. In 55 innings Clark has posted an 8.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. At best, he projects as a back-end of the rotation starter or middle reliever. The development of a secondary pitch as a true swing and miss offering is the key here.

Conclusions: The Rays were determined to upgrade their defense and they accomplished that goal though it is uncertain whether or not Hechevarria will eventually fade into a defensive replacement role once Duffy and Miller both return to the scene. The Marlins meanwhile managed to shed some salary and acquire two prospects, though neither has a high ceiling, both have their utility and could contribute at the MLB level in time.

Matt Chapman Takes Over at the Hot Corner

So, the A’s have decided to cut bait on off-season signee Trevor Plouffe as he struggled to produce and are ready to hand off the job to Matt Chapman. The move, from the beginning, was intended to serve as a stop-gap move, but the A’s perhaps didn’t expect it to the end this early and perhaps hoped Plouffe would at least play well enough to draw trade interest in mid-season. That didn’t happen so they jettisoned his remaining salary as a sunk cost.

So, Chapman will be a primary FAAB or waiver target in most league formats as soon as he becomes available depending on whether you play in weekly or daily play. The first thing you need to know is “yes, he is going to hurt your batting average” if you play in a standard 5×5 or other batting average related leagues. The righty has struggled to his keep his strikeout rate under 30% at the Double-A and Triple-A levels and is already an established .250s hitter in the minors. To expect improvement in that area, barring a change in approach is unlikely and it is entirely possible that he could struggle as much as his predecessor.

On the upside, Chapman at least has power upside, slugging over .500 with isolated power’s over .200 for much of his minor league career. His patience and all or nothing approach at least also serve to keep his OBP respectable and somewhat valuable even if he hits in the .210s to .220s in OBP based leagues. Owners of Oakland pitchers will be happy as well as he should represent an improvement in defense over Plouffe. Chapman has been long well regarded for his throwing arm, agility, and range. Like most all or nothing power hitters, however, Chapman is not a significant threat on the base paths.

If available in most AL-only leagues, starters do not come along every day so you will likely need to open your FAAB budget a bit to acquire him, despite the risk of potential failure he carries. He is unlikely to be available in AL-only keeper or dynasty leagues with minor league drafts, but mixed leaguers may be afforded the luxury of waiting and seeing depending upon the depth of the corner infield market and free agent pool of your league.

Diamond Exchange: Straily to the Marlins for Prospects

The Reds moved Dan Straily to the Marlins for Luis Castillo, Austin Brice, and Isaiah White. Straily made 31 starts and threw over 190 innings for Cincinnati last year and manage a sub-4.00 ERA. With Robert Stephenson pushing for a regular turn in the rotation, Straily became excess baggage that they could leverage for prospects

Despite a solid 7+ K/9 and 3.4 BB/9, a slew of metrics indicate that Straily was pitching well over his head and getting out of town might help him to avoid an ERA over 5.00 in 2017 given how homerun friendly the Great American Ballpark is. The former A’s outwardly good ERA was suppressed by both a .239 batting average balls in play as well as a left-on-base rate of over 80%. Straily also continued to struggle with the long ball, allowing a 1.4 HR/9 and 12% HR/FB rate. It does not help that he is predominately a fly-ball pitcher (48%). A move to Miami and its cozier confines could keep his ERA in the mid 4’s, but still in end game or reserve round territory for most NL-only leagues.

As for the Red’s hall, Luis Castillo is the best of the lot. The 24-year old righty already is throwing in the upper nineties and spins the ball well with a solid slider/curve combo and a developing changeup, but so far he has not missed as many bats as one would expect since moving into a full-time starting role, barely registering a 7.0 K/9 A+ ball this year. Given his age, he’ll begin 2017 in at least Double-A, if not Triple-A and could see some time in the majors as well.

Another 24-year old, Austin Brice is another right-hander who could help the Reds out as earlier as this season. A reliever, Brice showed much-improved control in Double-A with a 2.8 BB/9. He saw brief action at  Triple-A and the majors as well. The former starter features a solid fastball/slider combination and profiles as a middle reliever.

Finally, we come to Isaiah White. The 20-year old is the project of the trade having only seen action in short-season ball. There is a lot to like in the tools, particularly the speed, department, but he has struggled mightily to make contact, striking out 30% of the time while batting just .214. At this time, he is a name to note, not draft for fantasy baseball purposes.