Yankees Land Sonny Gray; A’s Get Serious Upside

The Yankees needed a starting pitcher, even after acquiring Jaime Garcia. They particularly could use some long-term rotation depth, and had prioritized landing a guy who wasn’t just a rental. After missing out on Jose Quintana, there was only one real option left, and that was Sonny Gray.

The A’s, in full rebuild mode, couldn’t really afford to take the risk of Gray getting hurt again. They already saw him lose value with last year’s arm problems, and moving him now while he’s pitching well was the right thing to do, even in a buyer’s market. Their asking price seemingly scared away every team but the Yankees, which left both buyer and seller with just one option; send Sonny Gray to New York.

And now, after endless rumors of stalls and traction, it appears like it’s finally happening.

Below, a quick overview of the trade details. We’ll do a more thorough write-up on what Gray means for the Yankees and what this return does for the A’s in a little bit.

New York Receives
Player Position Age 2017 WAR Rest of Season WAR Contract
Sonny Gray SP 27 2.2 1.1 Arbitration through 2019

And here’s what Eric wrote about the three guys going to Oakland in his pre-season Yankees write-up. Both Fowler and Kaprielian have sustained season-ending injuries this year, with Kaprielian underoing Tommy John surgery that will knock him out for a good chunk of next year as well. But there’s a lot of upside here for the A’s, and this package looks far better than the rumored packages this morning.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from UCLA
Age 23 Height 6’4 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 45/50 55/60 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Missed most of season with injury.

Scouting Report
At UCLA, Kaprielian sat 89-94 with a four-pitch mix that consisted of an average curveball, cutter-like slider, and an above-average changeup that Kaprielian could run back on the outer half of the plate against righties. The Yankees selected him in the middle of the 2015 draft’s first round.

Kaprielian’s first full pro season got off to a roaring start. His fastball was sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s all of a sudden and he blew away High-A hitters for three starts following a promotion to that level. Then he was shut down for the remainder of the season with a flexor-tendon strain. He picked up some innings in the Arizona Fall League, though, where was 94-97 in his first start, then back down in the 92-93 range in a later start before his velo resurged in Novemeber and he was touching 99. Over multiple looks throughout the course of the AFL, his fastball averaged 95 mph for me, a 70 on the scouting scale if you assume Kaprielian would be able to maintain that velocity over an entire season. I’m skeptical.

All of Kaprielian’s secondaries play up because of his deceptive delivery and because they all look the same as they approach the plate before darting in subtly different directions. His slider sits 85-87 and will touch 90 with short, cutter-like action. It’s oft used. The curveball is mostly 82-85 with a bit more downward depth, and he has the same above-average changeup he had in college and that he cuts at times.

Conservatively, there’s a chance for three plus pitches, a viable fourth weapon in the curveball and average control/command. That’s approaching a top-of-the-rotation arm. If the fastball velocity we saw throughout the Fall League is sustainable, and I’m light on the fastball grade, then we’re there. Kaprielian’s being babied along this spring but has a chance to crack New York’s rotation this year provided, of course, he can stay healthy.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republic
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 188 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 45/50 30/40 80/80 40/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .254/.306/.379 at High-A.

Scouting Report
Mateo was a relatively unheralded signing from January of 2012, inking a $250,000 bonus. By 2014, he had grown an inch, added 20 pounds and started dominating the lowest levels of the minors. His skills have more or less tracked as expected since then. He remains an 80 runner, one of the fastest prospects in baseball, routinely reaching first in 4 seconds or less. While neither Mateo’s first step nor lateral range at shortstop are as superlative as his straight-line speed, he’s fine there and has the requisite arm strength, athleticism, footwork and actions to be an average defender at shortstop.

Of course, Gleyber Torres’ presence in the organization complicates Mateo’s defensive future, and he began playing second base last year. Scouts have varying opinions on who fits best at short. Mateo’s actions aren’t as flashy and sexy as Torres’s, but he’s twitchier and has a better first step. Others prefer Torres’s bigger, stronger body at short, which carries a heavier physical burden than second base does. And others just want to see Mateo run around in center field, where he played a bit during the fall, simply because they speculatively believe he could be an elite defender there with reps. Of all the recent speedy shortstop/center-field prospects (Roman Quinn and Billy Hamilton to name two), Mateo has the most viable combination of arm strength and infield actions. I have him graded out at shortstop as a future 50 for now (just because projecting him at either second or center right now is comparatively abstract, and Dustin Fowler is a factor in this conversation, as well) but obviously where he ends up on the defensive spectrum will be a significant determining variable for his ultimate value. Big-league shortstops and center fielders hit about .260/.320/.407 last year, second baseman hit .270/.330/.425. One of those is within reasonable reach for Mateo and the other might be a bit much.

Mateo’s stride-less swing is simple, and he avoids excessive strikeouts despite a lengthy bat path and aggressive, expansive approach. He has decent bat control and hand-eye coordination and projects as an average hitter whose average and on-base percentage might be inflated by his blazing speed. He still has some physical projection remaining and should have average raw power at peak, though the current iteration of his swing is unlikely to yield better than 40 power in games. That’s a potential above-average player at shortstop but closer to the fringes at second base. In center field, well, it depends on the quality of his defense there. There are several possible outcomes here, and they generally point to Mateo being a good everyday player.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.8 WAR

Drafted: 18th Round, 2013 from West Laurens HS (GA)
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 50/50 35/40 60/60 50/55 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .281/.311/.458 at Double-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
Fowler developed a bit of a tweener reputation in 2015 (as he was breaking out) because he didn’t hit for power in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, his first full, healthy season as a pro. In 2016, Fowler got out of Tampa and mashed at Trenton, tallying 56 extra-base hits and 25 steals during an injury-free year. He’s a plus runner and already average in center field, though he could be above with reps.

While he’ll occasionally pepper the opposite-field gap, Fowler is largely an up-the-middle and pull hitter and indeed much of the extra-base damage he does is to his pull side, down the line. He has average raw power but projects to run into around 12-15 homers annually with lots of doubles. He tracks pitches well, has good bat speed and projects as a plus hitter. Even with an aggressive approach that might hinder his ability to reach base, a 60 bat with 40 power plays in center field, where any kind of power is at a premium. I consider him a high-probability average everyday big leaguer.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 5.1 WAR

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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6 years ago

I think this is a great trade for NY. Very good controllable arm for good yet not elite prospects. They still have a very good farm, so the future looks bright.

6 years ago
Reply to  noconstant

I like Oakland’s side a lot as well. They are taking on quite a bit of risk, as it’s not a given that any particular pitcher will recover from Tommy John while Fowler’s patellar tendon is much scarier historically among athletes than an ACL, but given the nature of the organization I think the A’s are correct to go for upside. Mateo also has a clearer path, whether he sticks at short or moves to center.