I’ll try to complete the FanGraphs analysis of the Josh Donaldson deal, with Dave covering the A’s perspective of the deal and Drew Fairservice covering it from the Jays perspective while I’ll jump in with the prospect end of things. Those two prior pieces do a good job analyzing the various angles of this deal, with the main question being what the next few moves are for Oakland, since they seem far from done shuffling their roster.
Dave’s piece made the points that the gap between Donaldson and Brett Lawrie may be smaller than 2013-2014 would lead you to believe, so if one of the prospects end up as a star or a piece that can be used in another deal, it could swing the balance of the deal toward Oakland. There’s an expectation that Lawrie won’t match Donaldson’s production, hence the three minor leaguers included. While Lawrie will be the player watched most closely in 2015 from this deal, one exec I talked to last night said Franklin Barreto is the key to the deal, so let’s start with him.
Franklin Barreto, 2B, Oakland A’s
Hit: 20/55, Raw Power: 45/45, Game Power: 20/45, Speed: 60/60, Fielding: 45/50+, Throwing: 55/55, FV: 50
Barreto was known to international scouts for years before he signed for $1.45 million on July 2nd, 2012 from Venezuela. There’s something to be said for smaller kids reaching their potential sooner than the more projectable, higher upside prospects, but don’t mistake Barreto for a low upside prospect just due to his size. He’s a plus runner that very well could end up sticking at shortstop, where he plays now and has made improvements, though most scouts see his actions and size and assume he slides over to second base or out to center field. At the least, he’ll offer the ability to play all three positions in the big leagues if needed. The above video is from when I scouted Barreto in instructs last year.
Barreto is well-built for 5’9/175 and his swing does a good job staying balanced for contact while also transferring his weight and giving him a chance to hit 10-15 homers per year at maturity. That said, the carrying tool here is the bat and more than a few scouts told me they have a 60 on it, even though Barreto is still 18 and hasn’t played in a full-season league yet. He has an innate feel for the bat head, above average bat speed and the speed to play small ball if he chooses and run out ground balls in the infield.
Barreto is about as polished as a kid his age can be, with his position the only question, so if Oakland wants to move him quickly, moving him to second base could mean getting him to High-A later in his age-19 season and being a possible call-up to the big leagues late in his age-20 season if everything continues at this rate: think Rougned Odor.
It’s also worth noting that Barreto is one of the most universally praised and known players to clubs among those that hasn’t made a full-season debut yet. He also hasn’t failed yet in pro ball, so his trade value is consistent team-to-team, which helps Oakland if they have another big trade in mind because their system isn’t overflowing with premium prospects.
Video Credit to MLBProspectPortal
Sean Nolin, LHP, Oakland A’s
Fastball: 45/50, Curveball, 45/50, Slider: 40/45+, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/50+, FV: 45
Nolin was a lower-profile amateur, signing for $175,000 in the 6th round in 2010 out of San Jacinto JC in Texas. He’s a sturdy 6’4/230 but doesn’t have the power repertoire you might expect; while his stuff grades out around average, most scouts call it fringy in terms of what’s expected from a starting pitching prospect. Nolin got a cup of coffee in 2013, then a groin injury hindered him this year; he spent most of the year in Triple-A, got another cup of coffee at the end of the season, then headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more innings.
Nolin sits 89-91 and will touch as high at 95 mph, particularly to elevate late in the count for strikeouts, with an average curveball that’s more consistent than his slider and an above average changeup to go with advanced feel to pitch. Nolin gets good plane and deception from his delivery, but his fastball is pretty straight and when his mechanics get out of whack, he can elevate. This has made him more of a fly ball pitcher with less margin for error the higher up the ladder he goes, as he lacks a true out-pitch and that extra tick of velocity is important in the big leagues, which means Nolin can overthrow at times, leaving the ball up.
He projects as a back-end starter, as there’s enough stuff and feel to stick in the rotation and he could be a #4 starter if it all goes right and his command plays up, but he’s more likely a #5 starter with some shot to be more of a long reliever if he can’t address these concerns. Nolin should be able to contribute in the big leagues in 2015 to some degree, but he could spend a good bit of time in Triple-A making adjustments.
Kendall Graveman, RHP, Oakland A’s
Fastball: 45/50, Cutter, 45/50, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/45+, FV: 40
Graveman was the lowest profile of these three as an amateur, signing for $5,000 in the 8th round in 2013 out of Mississippi State. He was a sinker/slider specialist in college that worked in the high-80’s and touched the low-90’s, but his stuff picked up in 2014. This video is from when I scouted him this season for Dunedin in High-A. In this game, Graveman worked 88-92 and hit 93 mph, flashing above average to plus run, sink and cut on the pitch, depending on where in the zone that he threw it.
He also threw an 84-87 mph cutter that was average but inconsistent and an 81-85 mph changeup that flashed above average, though he didn’t throw it enough and at times he would telegraph the pitch by slowing his arm. He worked 91-95 mph in the big leagues later in the year over 5 relief outings, so we know there are a couple more ticks of velo with adrenaline in short stints.
Graveman’s fringy stuff with some command as an amateur has turned into solid average stuff at times, with enough feel to fit in a rotation if he keeps progressing. He shot form Low-A to the big leagues this year, but was never a guy that missed bats; he struck out 6.2 per 9 IP in 172 innings this year over all five full-season levels. If he can tighten his cutter or breaking ball (he threw a slider and curve in college) to consistently average and use his changeup more often, there’s a #5 starter here.
However, he’ll be 24 next season, and he’s an ordinary 6’2/195 righty with a long arm action and little track record of success. There’s some sort of big league value here and with the added velo in relief, I think it may be as a multi-inning middle reliever/spot starter/long man.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.