Monday’s six-player swap between San Diego and Kansas City only saw one prospect moved, AZL infielder Esteury Ruiz, but left-hander Matt Strahm had only just exhausted his rookie eligibility before succumbing to a knee injury and is divisive enough in the scouting community to merit some discussion here. A reminder of the players involved:
Let’s first touch on Strahm, who ranked 72nd overall on my top-100 list entering the season. A misdiagnosis of an injury that ultimately required Tommy John caused Strahm, who was drafted out of a junior college and wielding relatively newfound velocity at the time, to miss two years of pitching. That background caused some (including me) to forgive some of Strahm’s issues — chiefly his inconsistent command — in anticipation of late-coming progress due to a previous lack of reps. Strahm turns 26 in November and has continued to have issues throwing strikes, largely because his mechanics are very inconsistent. Additionally, Strahm’s stuff hasn’t always been crisp this year. At times he’ll touch 96 with his fastball and sit 93-94; he’s been 89-92, touching 94 at others, though. He works with multiple breaking balls — a mid-80s slider and a more vertically oriented curveball that sits 77-81 — generating in excess of 3000 rpms at times, and they’re both lethal when Strahm is locating them.
Strahm also has a below-average changeup (one source has a 30 on it) that he throws with zero conviction and a noticeably different arm slot. If he can command both of his breaking balls, the lack of changeup won’t matter, but he isn’t commanding anything right now. San Diego GM A.J. Preller said on Monday’s big-league broadcast that the club will discuss continuing to develop Strahm as a starter. I remain hopeful but not optimistic. If Strahm’s fastball plays at the top of his velocity range in relief he could be a dominant reliever.
Now on to Ruiz, an 18-year-old Dominican second baseman who signed for $100,000 back in 2015. Ruiz hit .313 in the DSL last year and was off to a raucous start here in Arizona this summer, slashing .419/.440/.779 in a largely meaningless 21 games. Scouts here like his baseball IQ and think he’s succeeding mostly because of an abnormally mature feel to hit. He’s physically projectable and scouts are hoping he grows into more power as he ages because he’s a 40 runner right now and inconsistently with the glove at second base. He’s performing at such a high level that he merits continuous evaluation throughout the rest of the summer and during instructional league, but for now he’s a nice low-level flier.
Here are my current tool grades on the two players involved:
Again, not technically a prospect any more, but that’s how the pitches grade out for Strahm based on this year’s information. He’d be a 45 FV for me at this point.
Ruiz is the type of prospect I’ve typically sneaked onto the honorable-mention section of prospect lists. He’s of interest to teams and scouts (clearly), but general consensus projects him in a utility role, he’s a great distance from the majors, and lacks such prodigious physical attributes to merit inclusion on the main section of lists. Continued success throughout the remainder of the 2017 evaluation period could alter that come offseason list time.
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.
i think it’s worth noting that in addition to his precocious feel to hit, esteury provides an important habitat for many waterfowl and amphibians
Well noted, but remember, he should always play along side Lake Bachar and we’d have even more covered.