Projecting the Prospects in the Shelby Miller Trade

As you’ve certainly heard by now, the Diamondbacks swung a deal for Shelby Miller (and Gabe Speier) on Wednesday night. The trade gives the D-Backs another bona-fide starter to slot behind the recently signed Zack Greinke. The more controversial story, though, is the size of the package given up by Arizona in the deal: Aaron Blair, Ender Inciarte, and oh yeah, Dansby Swanson. In what follows, I provide a stats-driven look at the prospects involved in the trade using my KATOH projection system.

Dansby Swanson (Profile)

As last year’s first overall pick, Swanson is easily the centerpiece of the trio headed to Atlanta. Unfortunately, he logged just 99 plate appearances after signing, which isn’t enough data for me to formulate a meaningful KATOH projection. I will note, though, that Swanson hit the snot out of the ball in those 99 plate appearances. He posted equal strikeout and walk numbers with good power, which yielded a .289/.394/.483 slash line. KATOH will likely pick up on these strong suits next year, once Swanson gives me a bit more data with to work. As a shortstop, Swanson’s level of offensive ability is exciting, and there’s no reason to think he won’t develop into an excellent player. As a point of reference, consider that Andrew Benintendi put up numbers not unlike Swanson’s in his pro debut this year, and is projected for 7.0 WAR through age-28. These two players have their differences, of course, but this should give you a loose benchmark of how Swanson may grade out once he has more playing time under his belt.

*****

Aaron Blair (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age-28 (2015 stats): 2.3 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age-28 (2014 stats): 2.9 WAR

Blair pitched to an excellent 2.92 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last year, but his peripherals — namely, his 4.01 FIP — suggest he got pretty lucky. His strikeout and walk numbers were both roughly in line with league average. Even so, for a 23-year-old, a middle-of-the-road performance in the high minors is nothing to sneeze at. Blair’s numbers don’t suggest a ton of upside, but he’s nearly big league ready, which gives him a relatively high floor. Here are some comps that were generated using a series of Mahalanobis distance calculations. Many of them had stretches of success in the big leagues.

Aaron Blair’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 Steve Kline 0.02 351 3.0
2 Mike Kusiewicz 0.03 0 0.0
3 John Gast* 0.07 12 0.1
4 Juan Pena 0.08 13 0.7
5 Shane Komine 0.12 17 0.0
6 Mitch Talbot 0.12 233 0.7
7 Tommy Harrison 0.13 0 0.0
8 Vinnie Chulk 0.13 233 1.5
9 Chris Seddon 0.13 74 0.3
10 Mark Kiefer 0.13 79 0.0
11 Chad Jenkins* 0.13 101 0.1
12 Julio Valera 0.16 317 3.3
13 Phil Leftwich 0.16 202 2.5
14 Mike Gosling 0.17 117 0.0
15 Nate Bump 0.17 148 0.0
16 Rod Bolton 0.18 0 0.0
17 Gavin Floyd 0.18 959 13.2
18 Jason Standridge 0.19 127 0.0
19 Julio Cesar Pimentel 0.19 0 0.0
20 Nick Tepesch* 0.19 219 1.0
*Yet to Play Age-28 Season

*****

Gabe Speier (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age-28 (2015 stats): 0.2 WAR

This is the third time Speier’s been traded in the last 12 months, making the D-backs his fourth organization over that span. Speier pitched in Low-A last year, where he posted a 2.65 FIP over 44 innings in relief. That’s not bad, per se, but very good low-minors relievers don’t turn into productive big leaguers very often. Speier’s about as fringy as they come, so it’s a but curious that he’s been involved in so many trades.

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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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Micah
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Blair seems to be one of those guys who might consistently beat FIP. He seems to have learned how to use his sink to pitch to weak contact, and those type of pitchers have better odds of outperforming stats. Not saying he will, but I am saying his “type” is the type that often does.