All posts by Ryan Sullivan

The Washington Nationals Trade Steven Souza To Tampa Bay

Wednesday afternoon the Nationals participated in one of the bigger trades in recent memory, a 3-team deal with San Diego and Tampa Bay involving 11 players, highlighted by Wil Myers going to the Padres. In this swap Washington shipped prospects OF Steven Souza Jr. and LHP Travis Ott to Tampa Bay in exchange for RHP Joe Ross and a Player To Be Named Later – expected to be SS Trea Turner.

Best known to Nationals’ fans as the man who caught the final out in Jordan Zimmermann’s No-Hitter this season, Steven Souza has diligently developed from a raw 3rd round pick into a major league player. Souza has taken many seasons to turn his outstanding athleticism and baseball tools into production on the field, finally breaking out in 2013 at Harrisburg. With above-average speed and a plus arm, Souza can play both outfield corner positions well and could handle center field in a pinch. However, he profiles best in right field.

Offensively Souza has excellent bat speed and a short, compact swing for a large man, which translates to plus raw power to all fields. He shows a knack for working the count, which allows him to draw his share of walks but conversely causes him to strikeout a healthy amount as well. I foresee Souza to be a below-average hitter in the .250-.270 range, but his ability to make hard contact should produce above-average on-base and slugging numbers. Souza will turn 26 next April, but this late-blooming slugger should carve out a quality career as a league-average corner outfielder beginning in 2015.

Travis Ott was the Nationals 25th round pick in the 2013 draft from a somewhat nearby Shippensburg, PA high school. Ott is a lanky 6-4 170lbs left-handed pitcher who flashes a high-80s fastball and the potential for an average curveball and changeup. Ott is raw but possesses a loose arm and projects as a possible back-end starter at the major league level. He was a tremendous value as a late Day 3 selection and the Nationals scouting and development staff should be commended for finding this gem.

In return for these two players, Washington receives right-handed starting pitching prospect Joe Ross and shortstop Trea Turner. Ross, San Diego’s 1st round pick in 2011, is a well-built 6-4 210lbs right-hander with an ideal pitchers frame. The brother of San Diego pitcher Tyson Ross, 21-year-old Joe features a quality three pitch mix including a fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball is his best current pitch, sitting 91-95mph with some arm-side wiggle and can reach 97mph. The slider also shows above-average potential at 84-86mph with sharp tilt and his mid-80s changeup is presently an average pitch thrown with good arm speed and deception.

Ross received a brief cameo at Double-A late in 2014 after an impressive effort early in the year in the California League, a notorious hitters’ league. He should spend the majority of his age-22 season at Double-A and could reach the major leagues late in 2016. If he can improve his slider and refine his overall game, Ross has a ceiling as a #3 starting pitcher.

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Currently the Player To Be Named Later in this trade, Trea Turner was the Padres 1st round pick last summer, 13th overall, after a distinguished three year career at North Carolina State. I scouted Turner last spring when he played a weekend series at the University of Maryland and here were my notes last March:

“An obviously toolsy athlete with elite speed, Turner physically looks the part of a top draft prospect, with a solid frame with some projection remaining. Offensively Turner shows a good eye at the plate, with a plan and approach during his at-bats. His swing shows healthy bat speed and he has good balance at the plate, getting his front foot down quickly and quietly. Although not known for his power, he even hit a home run this weekend, though he will not hit for much power as a professional. His game will be based upon gap power and utilizing his speed at the top of the lineup.

Defensively Turner has a surprisingly quiet weekend, but did make an athletic play to his right deep in the hole which caught my eye. He is clearly athletic enough to play shortstop in the majors, but does not flash the monster throwing arm expected from that position.”

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The 21-year-old Turner will find himself in an awkward position to begin 2015, as he will be playing for San Diego awaiting his arrival in Washington next summer when the trade can become official. Turner will likely start at High-A Potomac once he is a member of the Nationals and could arrive in the majors late in 2016. With potential to be an above-average defensive shortstop with a league average bat, Turner has the ceiling of a league-average or slightly better major league player.

Trea Turner

This trade from Washington’s perspective is intriguing on a number of levels, as it is extremely rare to see a “prospects for prospects” trade in baseball, along with a Player To Be Named Later who will not arrive for six months. It is also uncommon to see a major league ready right-handed hitting power hitter with six years of control traded in this environment, as they seem more coveted than turkeys at Thanksgiving.

Souza is a quality prospect and terrific testament to the Nats’ development staff and Ott has some interesting potential, but the opportunity to acquire Ross and Turner for these two individuals is a swap the Nationals have to make. Parting with Souza, Washington’s minor league hitter of the year, is difficult, but his opportunity for playing time was blocked due to the presence of Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth for the next three seasons. Add in the fact that Michael Taylor appears to be the future in center field starting in 2016, Souza was an obvious trade candidate.

Therefore considering the position the front office was in, Washington did well to receive a possible #3/4 starting pitcher who has already reached Double-A, along with the top collegiate middle infield prospect in this past draft. Ross represents an outstanding trade piece if Mike Rizzo wishes to trade for a second baseman or provides a solid backup plan if Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister depart next winter. Furthermore, Turner gives the Nationals their shortstop of the future if they are unable to re-sign Ian Desmond and gives the front office excellent minor league middle infield depth along with Wilmer Difo and the newly-acquired Chris Bostick.

This swap attempts to provide answers to some long-term question marks throughout the organization while giving the front office additional options. In this deal Washington traded from two areas of organizational depth, corner outfielders and low level pitching, to acquire prospects in greater places of need, middle infield and upper level starting pitching. Tampa Bay will be rightfully questioned for this trade, as on the surface Washington received significantly more talent and potential than they gave up.

NatsGM Overall Grade -> A-

Quoting The Experts on Nationals Prospects Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos

Last Friday the Washington Nationals made their first significant transaction of the offseason, sending LHP Ross Detwiler to the Texas Rangers for prospects Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos. Since these players are not household names yet, I reached out to some industry heavyweights to share their thoughts on Bostick and De Los Santos. Thankfully a few responded with some exclusive scouting reports for both players to help introduce them to Washington.

Chris Bostick

“Both of the guys the Nationals got back for Ross Detwiler are decent prospects. I didn’t have either on the Rangers Top 20 list I wrote for MLBPipeline.com, though Chris Bostick was on there earlier during the season. For me, he’s the better of the two guys. Bostick is an offensive-minded second baseman with good pop for a middle infielder. He draws some walks and has the speed to steal a few bases, though he’s going to need to make more contact as he moves up the ladder. The worry with Bostick is that his hands and arm are below average, so he might be adequate at best at second base and can’t really be a utilityman.” –> Jim Callis, MLBPipeline.com

“Average across the board, plays a decent second base and a little pop in the bat. Intriguing player with average bat speed and plays an average defense at second base. Likely not an impact guy, but could potentially provide some 2nd division ability if he can cut down on some of the strikeouts. He’s not athletic enough to provide Utility options, although he could certainly play the OF some.” -> Tucker Blair, Baseball Prospectus

“Bostick is a really athletic kid who has role 5; MLB regular upside. After seeing a few games of Bostick, I really liked his approach and plan at the plate and contact skills. He projects to hit in average to solid average range and has sneaky gap-to-gap power. At 2B, his glove and arm work well enough to where he could play average defense there at the big league level. I think this is a really nice trade for the Nationals, getting potentially two big league caliber players.” -> C.J. Wittmann Jr., Baseball Prospectus

Abel De Los Santos

“Abel de los Santos put up nice numbers this year as a reliever in Class A, but he doesn’t really have a plus pitch to hang his hat on. He throws strikes with his fastball and slider and keeps the ball down in the strike zone but I don’t see him becoming more than a middle reliever.” -> Jim Callis, MLBPipeline.com

“De Los Santos is an average sized right-hander with a loose arm and he can generate mid-90s velocity. The looseness of the arm causes him to get offline and the command varies. If he straightens out the command issues then we could looking at a MLB reliever profile.” -> C.J. Wittmann Jr., Baseball Prospectus

Winners and Losers from the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings

Nationals Park Opening Day 2014

What a week baseball fans! The 2014 MLB Winter Meetings was probably the most active in recent memory, with stars such as Matt Kemp, Jimmy Rollins, and Jeff Samardzija being traded and Jon Lester and David Robertson signing impressive free agent contracts. There was a flurry of activity this week and amongst this frenzy a few teams separated themselves as “Winners and Losers”.

In consideration for this list, I only placed teams based on signings and trades done Monday through Thursday, and did not penalize teams for a lack of activity. Opening Day is 14 weeks away, so there is plenty of time to alter rosters. In the name of instant gratification and satisfaction, these are my choices for “Winner and Losers” from this week.

Winners:

1) Chicago White Sox – Acquired Jeff Samardzija from Oakland for Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Rangel Ravelo, and Josh Phegley; Signed David Robertson for 4-years $46million; Acquired Dan Jennings from Miami for Andre Rienzo

Bravo my new favorite general manager crush Rick Hahn, who has transformed a 73 win team in 2014 into a legitimate wild card contender next season. Samardzija is a strong #2 starter who will slot in well behind Chris Sale in the White Sox rotation, and to acquire him, they parted with quality, but excess pieces. The Robertson signing feels a little pricey, but he was clearly the best closer on the market this winter and fills a major need for the White Sox. Finally, the subtle trade late Thursday getting Jennings from Miami now gives Chicago two quality lefties in their bullpen (Zach Duke and Jennings) and transforms their relief corps from a weakness in 2014 to now a projected team strength.

2) Anaheim Angels – Traded Howie Kendrick to Los Angeles for Andrew Heaney; Traded Jairo Diaz to Colorado for Josh Rutledge

Many would automatically place the Dodgers or Cubs in this spot, but the Angels made two shrewd trades this week, turning one year of Howie Kendrick into six years of Andrew Heaney. Heaney was the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball six months ago, and although he has lost some prospect luster, he projects as a strong #4 starter for many seasons – a terrific return for one year of Kendrick.

Then to replace Kendrick, the Angels bought low on Josh Rutledge, a personal favorite who is only 25-years-old. With four years of player control left, the Angels did a solid job of replacing Kendrick in the lineup with Rutledge. Although these were two smaller trades, Anaheim filled a major need in adding a young controllable starting pitcher and did not significantly weaken their 2015 roster in the process.

3) Philadelphia Phillies – Traded Jimmy Rollins to Los Angeles for Zach Eflin and Tom Windle; Traded Antonio Bastardo to Pittsburgh for Joely Rodriguez

Many might question Philadelphia’s inclusion, but they find a spot on this list due to the sheer nature that these two trades might finally signal that the Phillies realize they need the major rebuild they have been delaying for 3 years. The Phillies now find themselves as sellers in a very aggressive buyers’ market, and they still have assets Cole Hamels, Marlon Byrd, and Chase Utley to deal. In addition, the two trades they did make this week produced three intriguing young arms to add to their dreary farm system, a strong first-step in this organizational transition.

Losers:

1) Minnesota Twins – Signed Ervin Santana 4-years $55 million

Giving a 32-year-old non-elite starting pitcher a 4-year contract is nearly automatic grounds for a spot on this list, but when the signing STILL makes you the 5th best team in your division, it is inexcusable. The Twins should have used this money on 3-4 players with some youth and potential, as they could either be useful trade bait or a part of the next winning team in Minnesota. Especially considering where the team is in the win cycle, this is my early leader for worst signing of the offseason.

2) Kansas City Royals – Signed Kendrys Morales 2-years $17 million

For a small market team coming off a wildly successful season, the Royals have been relatively quiet, allowing Billy Butler to sign with Oakland and replacing him with a lesser version in Kendrys Morales. Morales was dreadful last season and is now 31-years-old. Morales might have been an intriguing bounce-back signing at 1-year and less than $5 million, but to guarantee two years and $17mm leaves little possible value in this deal. Kansas City would have been wiser to allocate these resources differently to improve the overall roster.

3) San Diego Padres – Acquired Matt Kemp, Tim Federowicz, and Cash from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland, and Zach Eflin

I understand the Padres felt pressure to make a major splash at the Winter Meetings due to the new front office in San Diego and the meetings occurring in their backyard. However, I am not quite sure how much better Kemp makes the Padres compared to Grandal and I have a terrible feeling they helped a division rival get out from a bloated contract. San Diego needed to add an impact player to help sell tickets and optimism to their fan base, but this does not feel like the right bold move to make in terms of wins and losses.

The Washington Nationals Send Ross Detwiler to Texas

Nationals Park

After keeping fans hitting refresh on their keyboards for the entire Winter Meetings, Thursday afternoon the Washington Nationals traded LHP Ross Detwiler to the Texas Rangers for prospects Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos. This trade represents the first significant move of the offseason for Washington, as they attempt to reshape their bullpen, save some payroll, and improve their minor league depth.

Detwiler, the Nationals 1st round pick in the 2007 draft, has struggled through an up-and-down career while in Washington, suffering through injuries and a difficult demotion to the bullpen while providing the Nationals with an outstanding 2012 season and gutsy performance in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS. Detwiler took the mound down 2 games to 1 and pitched six innings, allowing only 1 unearned run before giving way to the bullpen.

Last season Detwiler struggled with the adjustment to the bullpen, posting a 4.00 ERA and 1.413 WHIP in 63 innings pitched. For his 7-year major league career, Detwiler possesses a 3.82 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 1.374 WHIP, 5.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 ratio across 471 innings pitched. The Rangers have been seeking pitching depth all offseason and at a projected salary of $3.25 million in his final year of arbitration, he provides a versatile arm for the Rangers’ staff in 2015.  Detwiler will turn 29 just prior to opening day and with fewer than 500 career major league innings, offers the Rangers some upside potential with the change of scenery.

Bostick, 21-years-old, was drafted originally by the Oakland Athletics in the 44th round of the 2011 MLB Draft and traded him last winter, along with Michael Choice, to Texas for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom. Bostick spent 2014 at High-A Myrtle Beach, batting .251/.322/.412 with 50 extra base hits and 24 stolen bases. For his minor league career, Bostick is a .270/.341/.427 hitter with 29 home runs, 78 doubles, and 65 stolen bases in 343 games played.

I was fortunate to watch Bostick this season and I came away extremely impressed with his right-handed bat, above-average speed, and absurd level of want. Bostick is a well-built, near physically maxed 5-11 185lbs with a short, compact swing, quick loose wrists, and average or better bat speed. He suffers from a high number of strikeouts, 116 in 495 at-bats in 2014, but counteracts these whiffs with legitimate power as evidence by those 31 doubles and 11 home runs this season as a 21-years-old.

Defensively Bostick was drafted as a shortstop but quickly shifted to the keystone due to his lack of elite athleticism or a cannon-like arm. Although he has above-average speed, it does not translate to the agility typically associated with major league shortstops. That said Bostick has more than enough athleticism and arm strength to play a solid-average second base, though he will never be confused with a gold glove defender.

In addition the Nationals receive De Los Santos, a 22-year-old right-handed relief pitcher who posted a notable 1.92 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched this season between Low- and High-A. Signed as an international free agent by Texas in May 2010, De Los Santos has a career 3.38 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 7.6 H/9, 9.15 K/9, and 2.64 BB/9 ratio.  Furthermore, he has flourished since his move to the bullpen in 2013 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 6.36 H/9, 2.86 BB/9 and 10.41 K/9 numbers.

As many times as I watched Myrtle Beach this season, I do not have scouting notes on De Los Santos, so I called upon my friend and Baseball Prospectus prospect expert C.J. Wittmann to provide NatsGM with an exclusive scouting report: “De Los Santos is an average sized right-hander with a loose arm and he can generate mid-90s velocity. The looseness of the arm causes him to get offline and the command varies. If he straightens out the command issues then we could looking at a MLB reliever profile.”

Additionally, C.J. provided some thoughts on Bostick: “Bostick is a really athletic kid who has role 5; MLB regular upside. After seeing a few games of Bostick, I really liked his approach and plan at the plate and contact skills. He projects to hit in the average to solid average range and has sneaky gap-to-gap power. At 2B, his glove and arm work well enough to where he could play average defense there at the big league level. I think this is a really nice trade for the Nationals, getting potentially two big league caliber players.”

This trade is difficult from a fan perspective, as Detwiler will forever hold a unique place in Nationals’ team history. However his opportunity was limited in Washington and with one season remaining before free agency, Detwiler deserves the opportunity to maximize his value, which is as a starting pitcher. The Nationals did right by Detwiler in this deal and simultaneously made a shrewd baseball trade.

Bostick possesses the ceiling of a league average, offensive-minded second baseman, with his likeliest outcome being he develops into a valuable reserve capable of playing multiple positions. He could potentially reach the major leagues sometime late in 2016. Additionally De Los Santos stands a reasonable chance of carving out a major league career as a reliever, also perhaps in 2016. In a baseball sense, this is a rather equitable return for one season of Ross Detwiler. Texas and Washington both did well in this swap, receiving something more valuable to them than the spare parts they gave away.

NatsGM Overall Grade -> B to B+