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Notes on the Prospects Traded on 40-Man Crunch Day

Here are brief notes on the prospects who were traded ahead of the 40-man roster deadline. The Padres had several prospects who needed to be added to the 40-man — including Chris Paddack and Anderson Espinoza — and were the most active team.

Cleveland gets:
Walker Lockett, RHP

San Diego gets:
Ignacio Feliz, RHP

Lockett will provide immediate rotation depth for a contending Cleveland team as a 5th/6th starter and will probably be on the 25-man bubble in the spring. His fastball, 91-94, is very average. He can also make it sink in the 87-90 range. Each of his off-speed pitches — a changeup and curveball — will flash above-average. His changeup has a tendency to sail a bit, but it moves.

I think Feliz, who turned 19 in October, was the best prospect traded today. He’s a very athletic conversion arm who can spin a good breaking ball. He was 88-92 with natural cut during the summer and should grow into more velocity. He’ll probably begin 2019 in extended spring training.

Boston gets:
Colten Brewer, RHP

San Diego gets:
Esteban Quiroz, 2B

Brewer was a minor league free agent signee after the 2017 season. He was up and down between San Diego and El Paso a few times in 2018, and was 92-94 with cut, up to 96. At times he’d take a little off and throw more of a slider around 87-88 mph. Brewer also has plus-plus breaking ball spin rates on an 82-85 mph curveball he doesn’t locate very well. If that improves, Brewer will be a good 40-50 inning relief option.

Quiroz is the most interesting prospect traded today. He was Team Mexico’s leadoff hitter in the 2017 WBC (he hit two homers and a double in 6 at-bats) and spent 2015-2017 crushing the Mexican League. He signed with Boston in November 2017 and had a hot April in 2018 at Double-A, but then missed three and a half months with an abdominal strain. He only played in 24 games at Double-A, then had 62 extra plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League.

Here in Arizona, Quiroz looked pretty good. He’s a stocky and strong 5-foot-6, and he has average, all-fields power. He hit two full-extension, opposite field shots this fall, including one that got out just left of center field at Sloan Park in Mesa. He’s patient and makes good decisions at the plate. He’s also fine at second base (below-average arm, below-average runner, above-average athlete, average hands) and played a lot of other positions while in Mexico. He’ll either need to be viable at other positions or just hit enough to play second base every day. It appears he has a chance to do the latter.

Cubs get:
Rowan Wick, RHP

San Diego gets:
Jason Vosler, 3B

Wick is a capable, generic middle reliever. He works 93-96, has an above-average slider, and a change-of-pace curveball.

Vosler is a an extreme fly ball hitter (over 50%) with huge platoon splits. He might be just a 30 bat, but Vosler can play third and first and he crushes lefties; I think he’s a corner bench bat or platoon player.

Colorado gets:
Jordan Foley, RHP

Yankees get:
Jefry Valdez, RHP

Foley was 91-93 this fall; his changeup and slider were average, and he struggled to throw strikes. He’s 25 and coming off a good year at Double-A.

Valdez didn’t sign a pro contract until he was 20, and Colorado didn’t push him to an age-appropriate level despite his success, so he’s a 23-year-old who hasn’t set foot in full-season ball. But he’s a really loose, wiry 6-foot-1 with a good arm action. He has been 92-94 with an above-average curveball in my looks. I like him as a late-blooming relief candidate.

Oakland gets:
Tanner Anderson, RHP

Pirates get:

Anderson is an average sinker, above-average slider righty reliever, who sits 92-95.

Cleveland Swaps Teenage Athlete for Pitching Depth in Hu

The Cleveland Indians have once again traded away a malleable, athletic member of their talented group of AZL players in exchange for a player who can help them in 2019.

Cleveland gets:

RHP Chih-Wei Hu

Tampa Bay gets:

INF Gionti Turner

Turner was a 27th rounder in the 2018 draft and has already been flipped for a big leaguer. He wasn’t a Division-I commit, and was instead headed from Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri (different tree, still lyin’). But Cleveland signed him and he came to Arizona instead, where he managed to stand out amid many talented Cleveland teenagers. He hit .296/.348/.396 as a 17-year-old in the AZL while playing second base, shortstop, and center field.

Indeed, a multi-positional utility role is the most likely positive outcome for Turner. Lean and long-limbed, he struggles to swing the bat with any authority right now and may never have an offensive profile that fits in a lineup every day. Like many Cleveland high school draftees, Turner is extremely young for his graduating class; he didn’t turn 18 until mid-August. It’s possible that he’ll grow into relevant strength, but he’s already quite behind in that regard.

But Turner has plus speed, and a gritty, max-effort style of play, and he’s a plus-plus athlete. A lack of arm strength may limit him to the outfield and second base, but this is exactly the kind of athlete who can become an above-average defender all over the field.

25-year-old Taiwanese righty Chih-Wei Hu was a 2016 Futures Game participant and his stuff that day was as nasty as any pitcher at the event, as he sat 94-97 with a plus-plus, mid-80s changeup that seemed to disappear entirely as it approached the plate.

Hu’s five-pitch repertoire hasn’t truly been on display in his limited big league appearances, all of which have come out of the bullpen. His stuff has ticked down a bit; his fastball now sits in the 91-94 range and will touch 95, and his goofy, upper-80s palmball changeup has screwball action and is his best shot at missing big league bats. Hu also has an upper-80s slider/cutter and a low-80s knuckle curve, both of which he needs to locate in order to be effective because they’re very hittable if left in the strike zone.

Essentially, Hu has backend starter stuff but it’s possible a full-time move to the bullpen will enable his fastball to play up. If armed with a plus fastball and that weirdo changeup, Hu could be a high-leverage reliever. He still has an option year left and will likely open 2019 as a starter at Triple-A.

Astros and Jays Both Win Diaz/Thornton Deal

Tuesday is the deadline to add Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster, and teams with an excess of candidates for addition often find trade partners, especially if doing so enables them to fill holes on other parts of their own roster.

The Toronto Blue Jays have scavenged the overflow of talented rosters several times over the last few years. Billy McKinney, Brandon Drury, David Paulino and Teoscar Hernandez were all upper-level performers who were blocked by more dynamic talents. Toronto also has to contend a potential infield surplus of their own, especially with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hoping to return to the field in 2019. Saturday’s trade with Houston helped both clubs inch closer to 40-man equilibrium.

Astros get:

INF Aledmys Diaz

Blue Jays get:

RHP Trent Thornton

The 28-year-old Diaz is coming off a 1.6 WAR season during which he slashed .260/.303/.453 and hit 18 homers. He instantly becomes the most versatile bench infielder on a roster that’s heavy on big-bodied 1B/3B/DH types, a fact which likely puts him first in line for reps should Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve continue to have injury problems.

Though he’s a below-average defender at short, Diaz’s lackluster lateral quickness can be hidden somewhat by modern defensive positioning. On days when he is at short, his relative inability to get to balls in the hole to his right should be more manageable if he’s playing next to Alex Bregman. With Marwin Gonzalez leaving via free agency, Diaz is also probably second in line for reps behind Altuve at second base even though he has barely played there (five games in 2017, six in the 2015 Fall League) because he’s likely better than Tony Kemp and Yuli Gurriel.

Source: FanGraphs

Diaz’s 2.7 WAR rookie season seems to have been a caricature of his skills, drawn by some BABIP luck and a walk rate that was twice what he has averaged during the last two combined seasons. His flat bat path made it difficult for him to lift the baseball early in his career despite his ability to hit the ball hard. This improved slightly in 2018 when his groundball and dribbler rates combined to make up 40% of his balls in play, down from 49% in 2017, according to xStats. Steamer is expecting him to SLG .438 next year, but that’s probably based on some regression instead of extrapolating improvement, and Houston is good at fixing swings. Because Diaz is so aggressive in the box, he’ll probably always be a low-OBP hitter, but he’s a versatile infielder with some pop and is under team control for another four years. He’ll play a valuable role for the Astros.

Trent Thornton is also likely to make a big league splash in 2019. The 25-year-old righty spent 2018 at Triple-A Fresno and just wrapped up an eye-opening stint in the Arizona Fall League. He has bat-missing big league stuff, sitting 92-95 and touching 96 in my multi-inning looks at him this fall, and sitting comfortably in the 95-96 range when he was asked to air it out for a single inning.

Thornton also has elite breaking ball spin rates. His 12-6 curveball spins in excess of 3,000 rpm and his firm, upper-80s slider often approaches that mark, which is rare for a breaking ball that hard. He also has a unique delivery that disorients hitters. His arm action is ugly but, short of a 7-day DL stint this year after he was hit with a comebacker, Thornton hasn’t been hurt as a pro. His usage has been atypical, however. Thornton’s starts were often spaced out by seven or eight days in 2018, and it’s unrealistic to expect him to have that kind of recovery time between turns on a big league pitching staff. If asked to throw every fifth day, his stuff may not be as nasty as it was this year. I have Thornton projected as a 120-130 inning starter with a FIP near 4.00, which puts him in the 1.5 to 2.0 WAR range annually, assuming his stuff holds on a normal schedule. He needs to be added to the Jays 40-man to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. I expect he will be, and that we’ll see him in the Majors next year.

If you’re tracking long-term transaction outcomes, you’ll likely already consider this deal a win for both clubs. The Astros took a 5th round college arm who was throwing 89-92 and touching 93 or 94, helped him turn into a guy sitting 92-96, then flipped him for four years of a power-hitting infielder who fills an immediate need. The Jays traded J.B. Woodman, who turns 24 in three weeks and struck out in 41% of his PA’s at Hi-A this year, to St. Louis for Diaz (himself a roster overflow guy who was expendable after Paul DeJong’s breakout) and then flipped him a year later to fill an immediate need.

Eric Longenhagen Chat – 11/15/18

Eric A Longenhagen: Good afternoon from Tempe. here are some links to things:

Eric A Longenhagen: I wrote up the Luplow/EGon trade here:…

Eric A Longenhagen: There’s been a ton of prospect stuff on the site this week. Short of linking all of it, I’ll just point you to the prospect land page where you can find all of it.

KW: What’s currently keeping you from hanging a 50 FV on Nico Hoerner? Would you need to see more power out of his bat to justify him inevitably moving to 2B?

Eric A Longenhagen: He might move up when we do the Cubs list

Eric A Longenhagen: The power he’s shown here in AZ has been surprising

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Cleveland and Pittsburgh Swap Surplus Big Leaguers

On Wednesday, Cleveland and Pittsburgh swapped a combination of big league role players and prospects in a five-player deal that looked like this:

Cleveland gets

OF Jordan Luplow
INF Max Moroff

Pittsburgh gets

INF Erik Gonzalez
RHP Tahnaj Thomas
RHP Dante Mendoza

Over the last two seasons, Luplow owns a .194/.274/.371 line across 190 sporadic career big league plate appearances, but he’s been a .300/.378/.479 hitter at Triple-A Indianapolis during that time. His inconsistent usage while in the majors is at least partly to blame for his small-sample struggles. Of all the players in this deal, the 26-year-old outfielder is the one most likely to have an immediate big league impact as Cleveland looks to fill gaps left by departing free agents. He’s a pull-only hitter with plus power who has also exhibited slightly above-average strikeout and walk rate throughout his minor league career. He quite comfortably projects as a corner outfield platoon bat in a Cleveland outfield that is very left-handed.

The 25-year-old Moroff’s departure from Pittsburgh clears a 40-man spot for the Pirates and presents Cleveland with upper-level depth. A patient switch-hitter capable of playing several infield positions, Moroff became a KATOH sleeper as he reached base at an above-average clip for several consecutive years in the minors. He suddenly started hitting for power in 2017 at Triple-A but regressed significantly in 2018. He could play a bench role in 2019 based on his approach and versatility.

For Pittsburgh, this deal adds arm talent to a farm system in which it is largely lacking. Aside from Mitch Keller, most of the Pirates’ upper-level pitching prospects have a backend starter/relief profile while several of the lower level arms have dealt with injury and been slow to develop. 19-year-old Bahamian shortstop convert Tahnaj Thomas immediately becomes one of Pittsburgh’s best pitching prospects. Ultra smooth and athletic, Thomas has a gorgeous delivery that generates mid-80s velocity (92-95 in my looks at him this year) that plays well in the upper part of the strike zone. He can also spin a good breaking ball and has some nascent changeup feel that, for someone so new to pitching, is very promising. This is a prototypical teenage arm and, though that demographic of prospect has concerning attrition rates, Thomas has a good chance to be the best player in this deal one day.

The Pirates also acquired a big league piece in shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who has been blocked by two of the best players in baseball for the last several years. Gonzalez’s prodigious physical abilities have long been undermined by his lack of patience (3% walk rate) and complete inability to hit the ball in the air. He saw time at all four infield positions in 2018 and is capable at all of them (plus hands, plus arm, average range), which means Gonzalez could play any number of roles for the Pirates in 2019. He could compete for the starting shortstop role with Kevin Newman or platoon at third base with Colin Moran or at second base with Kevin Kramer.

There’s enough raw thump here that Gonzalez could have a breakout if Pittsburgh can tweak his swing. The change of scenery makes this more likely to occur than it would have been in Cleveland, where they’ve struggled to get Gonzalez and Yandy Diaz to lift the ball. But at age 27, it’s probably not happening.

For Pittsburgh, this deal also clears the runway for 2B/3B/OF Pablo Reyes, whose strong September — .293/.349/.483 — is supported by his underlying batted ball data. Both Reyes (Licey) and Gonzalez (Escogido) are playing in the Dominican Winter League right now.

The final piece of the deal is 19-year-old righty Dante Mendoza, a 12th round high school draftee in 2017 who spent 2018 in the AZL. At 6-foot-5, Mendoza joins a system full of huge-framed pitching prospects. He has been up to 93 but sits 87-90 with the fastball and has an advanced changeup and breaking ball. There’s a strong possibility that Mendoza’s stuff ticks up as his body matures and he turns into a good big league pitcher of some kind.

After a few years without dedicated complex-level coverage, the Pirates had multiple scouts scouring backfields in Florida and Arizona again this year. This deal is the first farm-system fruit from that labor. It also marks the second time in five months that Cleveland has traded away one of their very promising group of teenage prospects who began their pro careers in Arizona this year. In both cases, the outfielders are likely to play a big league role fairly soon (they traded teenage outfielder Jhon Torres for upper-level outfielder Oscar Mercado at the deadline) in anticipation of this offseason’s departures.

Eric Longenhagen Chat: 11/8/18

Eric A Longenhagen: Howdy howdy howdy, let’s do the thing…

RIP McCovey: What is your take on the Farhan Zaidi hire for the Giants and the sentiment that he could move Bumgarner?

Eric A Longenhagen: I dig the hire, Zaidi seems capable of helming a club. I’m skeptical that about Bum being good when the Giants are good again, so I think it makes sense to explore the idea of moving him.

Junction Jack: What’s the buzz around JB Bukauskas in Arizona? The stuff has looked very sharp from what I have seen.

Eric A Longenhagen: He looks good. 94-96, t98, four pitch mix, everything has flashed plus. Changeup hasn’t been as good nor used as heavily of late. Don’t think the fastball plays like 95+ because this is a small guy who also has a short stride and I tend to think of him as a nasty multi-inning relief piece more than a true 170+ inning starter, but he is good.

Jim Leyland Palmer: Have you gotten to see much of Daz Cameron in the fall league? What do you think the Tigers have in him?

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Eric Longenhagen Chat: 11/1/18

Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning from Tempe. Let’s begin our final pre-prospect list chat.

mark: Do you know if Anderson Espinoza has started throwing, and if so how he looks?

Eric A Longenhagen: He did not throw during Padres instructs. He may be throwing off a mound but, if he is, it’s private, so I don’t know how he looks.

Josh Nelson: Hey Eric. How do Luis Basabe and Luis Robert look so far?

Eric A Longenhagen: LouBob has been fine, Basabe has not been great.

mark: Do you guys have any planned draft coverage coming up?

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Eric Longenhagen Chat: 10/25/18

Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning from Tempe where we’re approaching the Fall League halfway point. Let’s chat for a bit.

NotGraphs Revivalist: What kind of prospect package would ATL or SD need to put together for Syndergaard?

Eric A Longenhagen: I’d be surprised if the the Mets move a big fish this winter. The new regime is going to be operating with incomplete information, there’s real risk of making a bad deal.

Tommy N.: Padres ownership seems to want to make a splash this offseason. It would be unwise to start trading top prospects with where the Padres are at in the rebuild process, right?

Eric A Longenhagen: They have to start consolidating talent at some point and I do think we’ll see some action this offseason, even if it’s just on the fringe of the 40-man.

Ace: When evaluating pitching prospects, what mechanical aspects of a pitcher’s delivery point to SP vs RP? Is it a certain arm slot, arm path, stride length, violent delivery, etc. Thanks

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Eric Longenhagen Chat: 10/18/18

Eric A Longenhagen: Hey there, everyone. Time to chat.

RS: Giants catcher in the AFL, Matt Winn, profile good enough to be a major league backup?

Eric A Longenhagen: Several caveats when evaluating AFL catchers: they’re probably tired, they’re catching a whole new staff of guys, they’re catching once or twice a week. So the error bar around evals of catchers here is greater. Having said that, I’d answer your question with a ‘no’

Jay: Should the A’s let Lowrie walk and give Barreto a shot at 2B, or trade Barreto for pitching?

Eric A Longenhagen: I’d hold onto Barreto

Pip: Who’s the better prospect moving forward, the National’s, or the Phillies’ Luis Garcia?

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Eric Longenhagen Chat: 10/11/2018

Eric A Longenhagen: Oh, hi there. Welcome to today’s chat. I’ll get right to it.

Tumbler, Whiskey: Hi Eric, thanks for the time today. Are Kristian Robinson and Geraldo Perdomo the two best prospects in the Diamondbacks’ system?

Eric A Longenhagen: I woudn’t have Perdomo all the way up there, he’s still behind guys like  Jazz, Varsho, Dup, Thomas…but he is a good prospect. Kristian, you already know.

JJ: Just seen Santiago Espinal has been sent to the AFL – thoughts on him as a prospect?

Eric A Longenhagen: Fall League disclaimer: It’s early and I might change my mind on these guys over the next six weeks. Think Espinal is probably an org guy.

Daniel: Were there any exciting names in Cubs extended or AZL? Reivaj looks interesting (and not just b/c the of the name)

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