Scouting Baltimore’s Return for Zach Britton

Baltimore’s deadline purge of big-league mainstays continued Tuesday night as they sent LHP Zach Britton to the division rival Yankees for a trio of pitching prospects: RHPs Dillon Tate and Cody Carroll, as well as LHP Josh Rogers.

Barring something unforeseen, all three of the new Orioles have a probability of contributing at some level in the majors, as all three are upper-level arms with at least playable big-league stuff. As seemed to also be the case in the Manny Machado deal, Baltimore has (consciously or not) prioritized quantity and probability over potential impact as they begin their rebuild in earnest. Other than a fully realized Tate, none of the pitchers acquired for Britton is likely to be more than a role-playing big leaguer.

So let’s tart with Tate, as he’s not only the player with the best draft pedigree but also the deal’s most volatile piece. He entered his junior year at UC Santa Barbara having thrown just 46 collegiate total innings as an underclassman — this due to having worked out of the bullpen as a sophomore and having barely worked at all as a freshman. But he had the best stuff on a staff that also included Cleveland rookie Shane Bieber and enough strike-throwing ability to start, so he was moved into UCSB’s rotation and asked to throw more than twice as many innings in one season than he had in his entire career to that point.

He was 93-96 with a plus slider throughout the spring and his shortcomings (most significantly fastball command) could be explained away by citing Tate’s lack of reps up to that point, with teams logically hopeful things like fastball command and a third pitch would develop with time and pro development. The Rangers selected him fourth overall in the 2015 draft.

It’s quite possible that the evaluations of Tate at the time were accurate. Since becoming a professional, however, he has endured two trades (he was New York’s primary return from Texas for Carlos Beltran in 2016), multiple injuries (trap injury suffered lifting weights in college, shoulder and hamstring issues with Texas, quad injury this year), and velocity fluctuations. As a result, he remains largely the same pitcher who went No. 4 overall, for better and worse. His fastball now sits in the 91-95 range and has relatively little movement. Both of Tate’s secondary offerings — a slider and changeup — have bat-missing action but play down because Tate’s fastball command doesn’t allow him to set them up in sequence and he throws too many non-competitive changeups.

He has mid-rotation stuff but relief-only fastball command, and Tate’s range of potential outcomes spans that continuum, assuming good health. We evaluate players independent of their parent org’s player-development prowess, but it’s worth noting that Tate, who clearly needs to develop to fulfill his potential, is headed from the org that is arguably best in baseball at developing pitchers, to the Orioles.

Carroll and Rogers are much more stable prospects but lack Tate’s upside if he actualizes his stuff. Rogers is a 24-year-old Triple-A lefty whose plus command enables a 40 fastball (it has enough tail to be considered a 45, if you like) to play against upper-level minor-league hitting. He also has an above-average slider and average change. It’s a near-ready, fifth-starter package.

Carroll is a hard-throwing reliever who typically sits 94-98. He has a slider and splitter, both about average in aggregate but of inconsistent quality. He looks like a solid middle reliever with a chance to be a tad more if a true plus secondary pitch can be developed.

From a Future Value standpoint, Carroll is a 40 (near-ready middle relief) as is Rogers (fifth starter), while Tate is a 40+ (likely reliever with chance to be more). That feels light if we’re talking about it as a return for peak Zach Britton but pretty solid when narrowing one’s scope to the current version of that pitcher.

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 Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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5 years ago

“…[I]t’s worth noting that Tate, who clearly needs to develop to fulfill his potential, is headed from the org that is arguably best in baseball at developing pitchers, to the Orioles.”

Brutally hilarious way of putting this…

5 years ago
Reply to  besgueToDiffer

FG on fire today – to borrow Dan Szymborski’s words: “In the case of developing Gausman, the O’s have been like a mediocre Rumpelstiltskin, spinning gold into less gold.”

5 years ago
Reply to  besgueToDiffer

It stings, but it’s not wrong.