Yesterday, the Rays traded C/INF Ford Proctor to the Giants for Triple-A reliever Jeremy Walker. The Rays appear to have been trying to clear 40-man space. The Rays have several players on the 60-day IL who don’t currently occupy a 40-man spot but will need to once they return, including Wander Franco, Manuel Margot, and Harold Ramírez, all of whom are likely to come off of the IL between now and the end of the season. Tampa could also potentially add more big leaguers before the deadline who would require 40-man space. The move was an opportunistic pounce by the Giants, who get a player I happen to like quite a bit.
Proctor was occupying a 40-man spot while hitting .213/.329/.306 at Triple-A Durham, and his strikeout rate has climbed significantly for the second straight year. He was a contact-oriented infielder at Rice and in the lower minors who the Rays moved behind the plate during the early stages of the pandemic. While he’s made huge strides on defense, he still has moments of ineptitude, whiffing on the occasional easy-to-receive pitch, or letting a blockable ball in the dirt get past him. For a convert who has just shy of two years experience wearing the tools of ignorance, Proctor looks pretty good even though he’s 25.
As Proctor has moved behind the plate and climbed into the upper levels of the minor leagues, his strikeout rates have unexpectedly ballooned. While he still has great feel for the strike zone, stiffness in his lower half seems to be preventing him from getting to breaking stuff at the bottom of the zone, which he’s consistently swinging over the top of. Proctor could still become a unique role player who can catch and play a few infield positions, but the Rays couldn’t wait for that to happen anymore, mostly due to forces beyond their control. He is an avocado ripening at a slower rate than your lunch consumption needs it to.
The Giants seem to have interest in catchers who can play other positions (Brett Auerbach has been pushed in the minors, Michael Papierski was a marginal acquisition earlier in the year who is now with Cincinnati), and now have an opportunity to tease more out of Proctor in exchange for a pitcher who didn’t seem to be part of their long-term plans.
Walker isn’t on the 40-man, so he joins the Rays as the upper-level pitching depth they tend to need without occupying a spot. His fastball sits 92-94 mph and he has a nasty, big-breaking, low-80s slurve, though he doesn’t command either pitch. He was running an ERA near 7.00 at Triple-A Sacramento prior to the trade. Unless the Rays can find a way to get him to throw more strikes, Walker is probably an injury ripcord they’ll pull if four or more of their other pitchers go down with injury down the stretch.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.
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