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New Prospects for Nats, Jays, O’s

Jumping right into the rest of yesterday’s moves…

The Nationals acquire Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa.

A couple of interesting points to bring up here. First, I think it’s clear that a blocked prospect is worth less on an open market. As Jack pointed out yesterday, the Twins were left trading Ramos (and another player) just to add a half-win to an already successful bullpen this season, as well as Capps’ potential 2011 contributions. The other 29 teams certainly know that Wilson Ramos didn’t have a future in Minnesota, and his trade value was effected by it. He’ll be an important anecdote for the next blocked prospect on the trade block.

Ramos is a guy that has never caught more than 80 games in a single season, with a long injury history that has hampered his development some. Patience wasn’t a skill he was able to acquire over just 375 games in five years, and it certainly stands in the way of his offensive potential. Defensively, the skills are already there, and they are excellent. Don’t be surprised if Ramos becomes one of the top defensive signal callers in the National League very soon. His offensive game will be very tied to his strikeout rate — I don’t think he’ll be a positive with the bat, but he’s just trying to fight off being a negative. Still, a league-average bat (+0) and +3 defense in two-thirds of a season is about two and a half wins. Ramos should be able to get there, and is a two-win guy even is his wOBA doesn’t pass .320.

However, he also heads to a team that has signed a Hall of Fame catcher to a two-year contract. The Nationals need to be clear with Pudge Rodriguez that when they deem Ramos ready, Pudge becomes a $3 million back-up. And, hopefully, a mentor to a player whose defensive abilities could only be helped by a select few. Where this leaves Jesus Flores is a question I don’t have an answer to.

Interestingly enough, the Nationals made this trade with another catching prospect of their own. One of the reasons some believed Bryce Harper was instantly perceived as an outfielder by the Nationals is because of their faith in Derek Norris. While I don’t think that’s true, Norris is a really nice prospect. In just a couple years, his catching skills have improved remarkably: just four passed balls and a 55% caught stealing rate this year. Combine that with 234 career walks in 1253 plate appearances, and an inkling of power that has hid this year, and he profiles better than Ramos in the long run. However, this does allow the Nationals to develop Norris at a very conservative pace, perhaps sending him back to Potomac next year for a half-season or so. These things tend to figure themselves out.

The Nationals also bring in left-handed reliever Joe Testa in the deal, but he’s nothing more than a throw-in. He’s death on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .179 batting average with just 18 walks and five extra-base hits over about 185 plate appearances in the last year and a half. He’s a good bet to reach the Major Leagues as a LOOGY.

The Blue Jays acquire Anthony Gose.

So, if reports are to be believed, this is the guy the Blue Jays wanted since the Roy Halladay trade. The Phillies wouldn’t budge, and sent Michael Taylor instead, who Toronto immediately flipped for Brett Wallace. When Gose was pushed into the Roy Oswalt trade, Toronto saw their chance. I don’t think these series of moves bode particularly well for Taylor or Wallace; in Taylor’s case, clearly the Phillies and Blue Jays value Gose over him, and in Wallace’s case, it’s never good when a guy plays for four organizations before reaching the Major Leagues. Jason Bay is the only success story with that resume I can think of.

As for Gose, he’s certainly a guy that looks the part. Gose has a good center fielder body, and absolutely blazing speed, with now 115 steals in 245 career games. He does make an insane amount of outs on the bases, too, though. His defense in center field — while it didn’t get good reviews from TotalZone last year — has been praised by scouts. His first-step instincts might need some work, but his range and his cannon arm are certainly Major League caliber.

But, like you probably guessed, the question is the bat. An optimist would point to the minor steps forward taken in both the walk and power columns this year, though the pessimist would be quick to point out that neither is to an acceptable level. I wouldn’t write off the patience of a 19-year-old, but I don’t think you’ll find many that think this 60% groundball rate hitter will have much power to speak of at higher levels. And, of course, he’s now striking out more than ever, profiling to whiff 150 times per season. It’s hard to think he’ll ever get out of the negative range with the bat.

There is a path to success for Gose, but the sheer amount of refinement that will take makes it extremely unlikely. You have to think this kind of a guy becomes a fifth outfielder in the Majors at least, but his ceiling is about where Brett Wallace‘s meager median outcomes lie.

The Orioles acquire Wynn Pelzer.

There is no downside to this move by the Orioles, who open up a spot for a red-hot Josh Bell by trading Miguel Tejada. The pickings were going to be slim, but Pelzer at least offers a live arm with a lot of potential. Pelzer was a ninth-round pick in 2007, but got above-slot money despite an enigmatic career at South Carolina. The Padres returned Pelzer to the rotation, a role he could never hold onto with the Gamecocks.

Entering the 2010 season, the decision couldn’t have appeared better. Pelzer was commanding the zone better than he’d ever before, and in 2009, even the Cal League’s tough environment couldn’t hold him back. Pelzer allowed just six home runs in 150 innings, posting a groundout-to-flyout ratio of 2.00. While he was pretty limited to two pitches, the movement on his 94 mph fastball was enough to handle A-ball hitters. The belief is usually that we don’t know a prospect’s true colors until he reaches Double-A, however, and it’s been a rocky season for Pelzer.

Through 18 starts, Pelzer had a 4.52 ERA, 1.13 GO/AO, was getting crushed by left-handed hitters (.846 OPS allowed), and a 4.72 BB/9. After July 13, the Padres moved Pelzer to the bullpen, whether because of his lack of success, a chance to limit his innings, or a chance to showcase his raw stuff for the trade deadline. In four relief outings since, Pelzer hasn’t allowed a run in 6.2 innings, and has been a groundball machine. Still, with 10 walks allowed, control is a problem like it hasn’t been since college.

With such a drastic platoon split that’s been apparent since his professional career began, it’s hard to imagine Pelzer having a ton of success as a starting pitcher. But in the bullpen, where his fastball can go above 95 mph with movement, and where his slider is death on right-handed hitters, Pelzer could be very good. If the Orioles end up with an elite reliever for a half-season of Miguel Tejada that they really didn’t need, it will certainly be a victory for them.