Wednesday’s Traded Prospects

If we are to assume the Roy Oswalt rumors to be true, yesterday brought us three trades, all of which have already been written up here at FanGraphs: Jhonny Peralta to the Tigers, Scott Podsednik to the Dodgers, and now, Oswalt possibly to the Phillies. When trades with significant prospects are dealt, I write up the players as soon as they happen. That I waited until this morning to begin my analysis on Giovanni Soto, Lucas May, Elisaul Pimentel and Vance Worley tells you a lot about where those players grade out. We’ll finish the Oswalt trade analysis when all pieces of the trade have been disclosed, but for now, we’ll start with what we have this morning:

The Astros reportedly acquire Vance Worley.

It’s been a big couple weeks for Vance Worley. On July 9, the 22-year-old threw his first career complete game shutout in Double-A, striking out 7 and inducing 14 groundball outs against Harrisburg. His next outing came nine days later, and Worley responded with eight more shutout innings, his fourth scoreless outing in seven starts. Repeating the level after a lackluster 2009, the Phillies rewarded Worley with a promotion to fill a hole in their Major League bullpen.

Worley’s unceremonious debut came last Saturday in the ninth inning of a 10-2 win over the Rockies, inducing Ian Stewart to hit a flyball to center before striking out Chris Iannetta and Brad Hawpe. Worley threw 17 fastballs, averaging at 92.9 mph, though Texas Leaguers shows that he did cut and sink his fastball at different times. Worley also mixed in two solid sliders and one show-me curveball. The next day, Worley was sent to Triple-A, where he made his debut on Tuesday. Pitching against the Durham Bulls, Worley threw six more shutout innings, striking out seven with a 10-1 GO/AO ratio. If Jon Heyman is to be believed, Worley’s career with the Phillies will end there, with 24 scoreless innings spread over three levels.

So, what are the Astros getting in the former third-round pick? In college at Long Beach State, Worley was an underachiever, finishing his career with a 3.98 ERA, and worse, a 5.66 K/9. To quote Baseball America’s draft scouting report that year: “Command is the primary concern with Worley, not in terms of walks but in quality of pitches and efficiency.” But scouts still liked the potential, an innings-eater body with a fastball at 91-94 mph. It transferred to some big results in his debut summer, as Worley dominated the South Atlantic League over 11 starts.

The Phillies were more aggressive with Worley the next season, skipping High-A and sending him to the Double-A Eastern League. He struggled there, posting a 5.34 ERA (versus a 4.39 FIP), with a highish BABIP (.305) and a very low LOB% (59.5%). There was certainly more buzz about Worley perhaps being a better fit in the bullpen, especially with the addition and development of a slider to his arsenal. But before relegating Worley to that fate, the Phillies gave him another try at Double-A this year, and by most accounts, it has gone well. Worley isn’t going to strike a lot of people out, but he pounds the strike out, and has the potential to post above-average groundball and home run rates. However, he’s been inconsistent in that regard.

Worley is a close-to-the-Majors pitcher that should either be a back-end rotation guy, or someone who I still believe could thrive in relief. The Astros will have a big decision on their hands during Spring Training next year, but either way, they have a solid pitcher who has never been better than he has in the last three weeks.

The Royals acquire Lucas May and Elisaul Pimentel.

Certainly the more interesting prospect here is Pimentel, a recently-turned 22-year-old Dominican pitcher that has had success this season in the Midwest League: 3.49 ERA, 7.1 H/9, 9.7 K/9. This is Pimentel’s third-year stateside — after success in the Gulf Coast League in 2008, he struggled a bit last year in the Pioneer League, mostly due to a .361 BABIP allowed. At that level, at that altitude, you have to blame Pimentel’s environment, and not the pitcher himself.

That has stabilized this year, and from May 22 to June 20, Pimentel was the best pitcher in the Midwest League: 1 earned run in 35 innings. He’s struggled a bit since then, with five of his six homers allowed this season coming in the last month. He’s been stingy with the longball previously in his career, however. Pimentel is a ways away from the Majors, and his stuff isn’t great (Baseball America has him 88-92 mph with the fastball), but anytime you can acquire someone that has shown the ability to strike people out, command the strike zone, and keep the ball in the stadium — in exchance for Scott Podsednik — you have to do it.

May is less interesting, though as a catcher close to the Majors, perhaps he shouldn’t be. May was drafted all the way back in 2003 as a high school shortstop. I believe, and look for readers to correct me, that May will be a minor league free agent this season unless he is added to the Royals 40-man roster. Like the Dodgers often do, May was converted to a catcher between the 2006-and-2007 seasons. His athleticism and arm strength are both plus, but it hasn’t translated to solid catching skills.

As a hitter, it’s hard to separate May from the environments he’s benefitted from, both when he showed power at Inland Empire in 2007, and his .347/.392/.603 batting line this season in Las Vegas. We know he doesn’t bode well in either the walk or strikeout columns. He’s going to hit lefties some, and probably could make for a decent back-up catcher. Again, given what the Royals gave up, this has to be considered a win.

The Indians acquire Giovanni Soto.

I know I wasn’t the only Cubs fan that did a double-take when this trade hit the “wire” yesterday — Hendry has us believing anything, these days. Instead, when the dust settled, it was merely former 21st round draft pick Giovanni, a lefty from Puerto Rico that has had a lot of success in his 29-appearance professional career. Soto is a beanpole at 6-foot-3 but just 155 pounds, so the Indians hope is that there’s some projection to be salvaged. We already know he is a lefty that gets groundballs (1.96 GO/AO), so it’s not a terrible starter kit. And, as I wrote this offseason, the Indians do a good job when picking prospects to acquire.

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I think you mean Scott Podsednik to the Dodgers.