The Guys Besides Yunel

While it’s fun to evaluate Alex Gonzalez vs. Yunel Escobar in a vacuum — and, inevitably, come out favoring Escobar — there were three minor league players involved in today’s Blue Jays-Braves trade. R.J. Anderson and Joe Pawlikowski have already tackled the deal from the perspective of each team, but I’m here to detail the analysis on the three players currently in the minor leagues: Jo-Jo Reyes, Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky.

Reyes, so far as I can tell, is the only player that has ranked as a top 10 prospect (BA #8 pre-2007). He is also the only one that no longer qualifies as a prospect, and the only one with a failed Major League track record. That came in 2008, when Reyes’ 3-11, 5.81 stats actually appeared far worse than his 4.61 xFIP. In his 194 inning career (where he’s nearing in on 2 years of service time completed), Reyes has consistently had a lower xFIP than ERA, thanks to a 15.5 HR/FB%.

Home runs weren’t always a problem for Reyes in the minor leagues, but between his Major League stints and his current run at Triple-A (5.70 ERA, 1.5 HR/9, 17.0 HR/FB%), it’s an important indicator going forward. His long-time bugaboo, command, is improving: 2010 is currently his fourth-straight minor league season improving his BB/9 ratio. He’s pretty much a power pitcher without the power: strikeouts, home runs, and walks all come at high rates, with his ultimate success hinging on command.

In terms of pedigree, it’s outrageous to think that 5-foot-7, 155-pound Tim Collins could rank ahead of Reyes, a big-bodied former second-round pick. This is the type of thinking that Collins has long been susceptible to, and the thinking he’s consistently outpaced. In 130 games at the minor league level over four years, Collins has a 2.40 ERA, 13.6 K/9 ratio and 5.9 H/9 ratio. He lives in the strike zone, and brings deception and sneaky velocity everytime he touches the mound.

I suppose it’s possible that Collins touches the Majors this season — he’s maxed out at what he’s going to become, so it would be defensible — but the Braves bullpen is so good, I sort of doubt it. Instead, he should get the opportunity to replace Reyes at Triple-A Gwinnett, because he’s passed the Double-A test (currently riding a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings). It’s hard to think that Collins has a long career ahead of him, but naysaying this guy has essentially become pointless.

The least visible part of this trade is Tyler Pastornicky — he has neither a Major League record nor a freakish pedigree. But I doubt the Braves make this trade without him; we know how good that scouting department operates, and they wouldn’t be the first to fancy Pastornicky as a sleeper. A fifth round pick out of a Florida high school in 2008 (drafted one pick before the Braves), Pastornicky has great bat control, sporting a career strikeout rate of just 13.8%. However, his average is just .264 and his ISO just .089 for his career, so he clearly has a ways to go in developing strength and power.

At just 20 years old in the Florida State League, a .258/.348/.376 batting line is more than defensible. He’s upped his walk rate this season (11.8 BB%) and he’s still been a nuisance on the basepaths, following last year’s 57-steal season with a 24-for-31 mark this year. Pastornicky is problem a second baseman down the road, but he’s improved enough at shortstop to maintain some believers about his future there.

Because of their starting pitching depth, Jo-Jo Reyes doesn’t mean a lot to the Braves — they would have traded him in for future reliever Tim Collins without the other pieces involved. But to add a potential long-term replacement for Escobar (on top of the short-term replacement that Alex Gonzalez offers), there’s a chance the Braves don’t think this is as short-sighted as many analysts do.

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13 Responses to “The Guys Besides Yunel”

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  1. DonCoburleone says:

    So Collins was a starter for the Jays minor league team? Or has he been used out of the bullpen his entire career?

    And if he’s been a bullpen guy, are the Braves thinking of converting him to a starter? (you said in this article that he will probably be taking Reyes’ spot in the Braves AAA rotation).

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    • Bronnt says:

      Yeah, I doubt he immediately steps into the Gwinnett bullpen for the Braves, because that one is really good too: Kimbrel, Marek, Gearrin, and Dunn all down there. They’ve also got a second lefty (in addition to Dunn) in Mariano Gomez. He’ll remain at AA, I think.

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    • Bryan Smith says:

      I should have clarified — I meant Collins could take Reyes spot on the roster, not in the rotation. Collins always has been, and will be, a reliever.

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  2. CesarV says:

    I was reading some scouting report about Pastornicky not so long ago in which it was mentioned that a breakthrough was expected soon for him, and that scouts where starting to look at him as a player with a future at SS and a decent bat.
    Reyes was not going to see Atlanta’s rotation any time soon, so he was very expendable. And if Collins can be successful at the major league level, this is a win-win. (Provided Yunel rebounds at some point in his career).

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  3. Sean says:

    Two points:
    1) With Pastornicky, I think one ought to mention that he’s really improved his power this season despite hitting in a power sapping environment in the FSL. Given he’s still only 20 there’s no reason to think he cannot continue to develop his power, and given his other skills that makes him a pretty useful looking prospect. Obviously we’ll have to wait and see how he develops, but all the tools are there for him to be a good MLBer at one of the middle infield positions.

    2) You’re underselling Collins’ stuff. I get that you weren’t trying to denigrate him in any way, but Collins has better stuff than you’re letting on. His fastball this season has been sitting in the low to mid 90s, and according to first hand accounts from a guy who’s done some camera work for the New Hampshire team, Collins has even touched 97. Factor in that his curveball remains a plus-plus pitch, and there’s really no doubting his stuff. He didn’t garner the nickname Tim Collincecum because his stuff was mediocre.

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    • Bryan Smith says:

      Re-reading what I wrote, you’re right, I think I am underselling Collins stuff. The curveball should be mentioned, and his fastball is usually around 93-94 mph, which is obviously very good for a lefty. Fitting he’s going to the team that has Billy Wagner … he’s kind of the poor man’s Wagner, no? (Meant as a compliment)

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      • Sean says:

        Yeah, I think that’s a fair description. I’d imagine we should see whether he’s the poor man’s or middle class man’s version sometime next year or 2012 at latest given the Braves have Wagner and Saito leaving after this season, and Kawakami’s contract is up after 2011.

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  4. Holier says:

    I’ve looked at both their fangraphs/baseball reference pages for a few minutes after the trade happened and determined neither will be much of a MLB player if at all, further cementing my accurate analysis this trade is a steal for the Jays

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  5. B N says:

    “Pastornicky is problem a second baseman”

    In Soviet Russia, second baseman problem is Pastornicky!

    I assume you meant “probably”?

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  6. Nathaniel Dawson says:

    Tyler Pastornicky’s pedigree actually is pretty freakish — he’s the son of a former big leaguer, Cliff. Not many people can say that.

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  7. Ryan says:

    how did I know bryan smith was going to side with the non canadian team…. I should of never read this article somehow the jays 17th and 18th prospect are major league ready this year (at 20) possibly and a future starter…. I guess the jays got 16 other major leaguers in the system ready then

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  8. Ryan says:

    I feel like people are more concerned about the Braves future than the fact that they’re poised to make a run in the playoffs now. Escobar may end up being an All Star. Maybe he’ll have a Jeter-ian rise in defensive efficiency. Regardless, Gonzalez adds some much needed pop to an already good team. Reyes has 3 innings this year, nothing lost there. This isn’t a new thing for the Braves to trade away young talent (See Wainright, Adam), even though I disagree classifying a 27 year old with a composure issues as “young talent.” I think in the end everyone will benefit. Escobar needed a change of scenery, and Atlanta needs to win now.

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