The Angels traded 31-year-old glove-first catcher Martin Maldonado to Houston yesterday in exchange for Astros 21-year-old LHP Patrick Sandoval. The Astros signed Sandoval away from a USC commitment with a $900,000 signing bonus in 2015. He was their 11th-round pick. He has tracked through the minors at an even pace, amassing 97 strikeouts in 88 innings split between Low- and High-A this season while also reducing his walk rate to half (4.3%) of what it was last year (8.5%).
Sandoval’s fastball sits 88-92 and will top out around 94. He can really spin a 12-6 curveball, one that’s above average when Sandoval is getting on top of it. Effectively, Sandoval has an almost perfectly vertical arm slot, but the way he gets there is somewhat odd and there’s some skepticism among scouts as to the sustainability of this year’s uptick in strike-throwing. There’s enough of a changeup here for continued development in a rotation and, if everything clicks, Sandoval will be a No. 4 or 5 starter. If not, he’s a lefty with a good breaking ball and a fine bullpen candidate. It’s a fair return for a backup catching rental.
Had Sandoval gone to USC, he’d have been draft eligible this year. Comparable college lefties in this year’s draft would have been Nationals second-rounder Tim Cate from UConn, and White Sox third-rounder, Mississippi State lefty Konnor Pilkington. Cate is a better athlete than Sandoval and the breaking ball is a little better. He signed for slot a 65th overall, $986,200. Pilkington’s stuff is closer to average across the board. I’d have him behind Sandoval just on stuff. He signed for $650,000, slightly below slot at pick No. 81. I think Sandoval would have fit somewhere in that range on draft day, which means the Astros properly valued him three years ago and used an 11th-round pick to acquire a future second- or third-round talent for second- or third-round money. It also means Sandoval probably got an equal or better bonus than he would have this year, and he’s further along the developmental path than most his age-appropriate peers from the 2018 collegiate draft class.
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.