A Look at the Prospects in the Craig Kimbrel Trade

Just when you thought A.J. Preller was done making moves, he goes and swings yet another blockbuster trade. Once more, the Padres traded away minor league talent in an effort to help the Padres win in 2015. In exchange for Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton, the Padres sent big league outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin to the Braves, along with prospects Matt Wisler and Jordan Paroubeck.

Of the pieces headed to Atlanta, Wisler is easily the centerpiece. Kiley McDaniel ranked the 22-year-old righty 41st in his top 200 list last winter, and second in the Padres system, right behind Hunter Renfroe. Kiley gave Wisler a FV of 55, which equates to a #3/#4 starter or a closer.

Wisler’s been one of the game’s more intriguing pitching prospects for a couple of years now. A 7th round pick out of high school in 2011, Wisler wasted no time putting his name on the prospect map. In his first full season as a pro, he posted a 2.36 FIP as a 19-year-old in full-season ball. Wisler followed up his excellent debut with an equally strong 2013 campaign. Split between High-A and Double-A (but mostly Double-A), he struck out an impressive 24% of opposing batters, while walking just 7%.

Unfortunately for Wisler, 2014 didn’t go quite as smoothly. After six dominant starts in Double-A, the Padres promoted him to Triple-A El Paso. This new assignment proved to be something of a challenge for the 21-year-old. For the first time in his young career, Wisler struggled.

In 22 Triple-A starts, Wisler pitched to a 5.01 ERA and 5.14 FIP. To be fair, Wisler made those 22 starts in the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for its favorable hitting environments. But still, hitter’s league or not, a FIP north if 5.00 is never good.

Despite these struggles, KATOH –my prospect projection system — anticipates good things for Wisler in the long-run. Based on his 2014 showing, it projects him for 5.2 WAR through age-28. That forecast may not sound like much, but it was good enough for 57th in KATOH’s prospect list, and 12th among pitchers. Here’s Wisler’s full breakdown according to KATOH.

MLB > 4 WAR > 6 WAR > 8 WAR > 10 WAR > 12 WAR > 16 WAR War thru 28
92% 36% 29% 25% 13% 8% 7% 5.2

Wisler’s surface numbers from last year look pretty terrible, but the stats that stabilize most quickly tell a different story. His strikeout rate (22%) and walk rate (7%) were both quite decent, especially after you adjust for his spending most of the year in a tough league.

Wisler’s biggest detractor in 2014 was his propensity for giving up the long ball. He allowed 21 dingers in 147 innings last year, including 19 in 117 innings at the Triple-A level. Even in the homer-happy PCL, his 1.47 HR/9 was fourth highest among qualified pitchers.

Obviously, it would be better if Wisler didn’t give up a ton of homers. But if a prospect’s going to have am ERA over 5.00, you’d much rather he do it via the long ball than by allowing a lot of contact or issuing a ton of walks. His home run numbers are bound to regress down towards average, especially since he’s never been particularly homer-prone in the past.

It’s also worth pointing out that Wisler performed noticeably better later in the season last year. In his final eight starts, he turned in a 3.38 ERA and a 4.01 FIP. Wisler may not have been great overall last year, but his most recent performance was quite good.


If Wisler’s not MLB ready yet, he’s very close. He put up respectable strikeout and walk numbers as a 21-year-old in Triple-A, and pitched exceptionally well in the final weeks of the 2014 season. This, along with his fastball-slider combination, suggests he has a solid career ahead of him.

The other prospect in the deal was 20-year-old outfielder Jordan Paroubeck, who the Padres took in the 2nd round out of high school in 2013. Although he’s been with the Padres for almost two years now, shoulder problems have limited Paroubeck to just 157 professional plate appearances over that span. All of them came last year with the Padres Rookie league affiliate.

Paroubeck is a very fringy prospect. He didn’t even crack the 40 FV group in Kiley’s organizational ranking (although he came close). His tools put him on the prospect radar, but he’s very far away, and has yet to really prove himself at any level above high school. In the Arizona League last year, he put together a .286/.346/.457 campaign as a 19-year-old.

Stats from the Rookie leagues don’t tell us a heck of a lot about a hitter’s major league potential. The competition at that level only faintly resembles big league pitching, and lots of development can happen (or not happen) between Rookie ball and the majors. This is especially true of players who only have a small number of plate appearances to their names, like Paroubeck does.

With these caveats in mind, here’s what KATOH thinks about Paroubeck based on his limited professional experience.

MLB > 4 WAR > 6 WAR > 8 WAR > 10 WAR > 12 WAR > 16 WAR War thru 28
30% 9% 7% 6% 4% 3% 1% 1.5

That’s not very encouraging. KATOH gives Paroubeck less than a one-in-three chance of even making the major leagues. KATOH’s biggest qualm with Paroubeck’s profile is his 27% strikeout rate. That’s higher than you’d like to see, especially coming from a hitter who’s not particularly young for his league.

It’s best not to get too caught up in the numbers when evaluating players as raw as Paroubeck. But KATOH generally agrees with the scouting consensus on this toolsy outfielder. It doesn’t expect him to amount to much, but thinks there’s a non-negligible chance that something clicks, and he turns into a useful big leaguer.

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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8 years ago

Paroubeck got a bunch of hype in his draft year for working with Barry Bonds, who is a family friend of some sort (I forget the exact connection). Of course, just because somebody takes batting practice with Barry Bonds doesn’t mean he will become Bonds. His setup swing path at the time reminded me of Justin Upton.