Ray’s Ramblings: July 24th

Written by: Ray Butler (@CoachRayButler)

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I’ve got a lot on my mind as we enter the last full week of July…..

  • Remember when I wrote about Nick Williams when he got called up to the big leagues? Williams now has 71 MLB plate appearances. He’s batting .309/.347/.603 with 4 HRs, 15 RBI, and 17 Ks. Not bad, huh? Look, I know it’s a small sample and a month from now, he may be (much like the Phillies) largely forgotten about. But take a glimpse at his advanced stats on Fangraphs: There’s nothing that screams “unsustainable!” He’s always been an extremely high BABIP player with a minuscule walk rate. His batting average probably won’t be over .300 by the end of the season (it currently sits at .308), but he’s posted a 128 wRC+ so far in Philadelphia. His AAA wRC+ this season? 129. I think the sample that Williams has given us is genuinely what his potential is capable of. I just added him in my fantasy league.
  • Padres SP prospect Anderson Espinoza has reportedly progressed to throwing bullpens. Espinoza has missed all season with recurring elbow discomfort. To be honest, I have no idea when (or if) we’ll see Espinoza in games during the regular season. If his elbow remains pain free, he’s almost a sure bet to play winter ball in order to continue his development. For now, I think there’s a good chance he begins the 2018 season back in High-A Lake Elsinore before being promoted to AA San Antonio sometime around midseason. As for his future projection, I think the ceiling remains the same: astronomically high. The floor, however, is lower now with more risk associated to it.
  • A couple of followers suggested I write a piece on last week’s Tyler O’Neill for Marco Gonzales trade. I’m not sure I have the quantity of thoughts for a separate article, but I’ll talk about it now. When news of the trade broke, most people immediately claimed the Cardinals ‘won’ the trade. I can’t blame them: O’Neill ranked 56th in my midseason top 100 prospect rankings, and Gonzales has all but been forgotten about by common baseball fans. But trades are almost never that simple, and here’s why this transaction is more complex than it seems. Yes, O’Neill was included in most preseason prospect lists despite a rough first half. His ranking, however, is based almost entirely on his ceiling and potential (even more so than most top prospects, in my opinion). His ranking is based on what he eventually could be in the major leagues, not necessarily what he is right now. O’Neill very well could develop into a .280 AVG, 25-30 home run hitter that validates his inclusion in top prospect lists. There’s a real chance, however, that O’Neill is a perennial .220 AVG, 20 home run hitter. If reality is the latter, we may look back on this trade ten years from now and realize the Mariners were the victors. Why? Because O’Neill and Gonzales are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Tyler O’Neill? A physical specimen with a high ceiling and low floor. Marco Gonzalez? A 6’0 southpaw with a high floor and relatively low ceiling. If needed, Gonzales’s polish could allow him to contribute to a major league team down the stretch of this season. It wouldn’t at all surprise me to see him get a handful of starts for Seattle during August or September. At times, he’ll show flashes of a #3 starter, but I think he’ll consistently produce like a back-end guy. Always solid, never spectacular. At the end of the day, Gonzales is simply much less risky than O’Neill. So if you take everything I’ve said into consideration, which side are you taking now? I’ll be interested to look back on this trade five years from now and evaluate how things shook out.
  • Do we trust the Red Sox to not screw up Rafael Devers being part of the big league club? Yesterday, Buster Olney tweeted that Boston chose a good time to call up the power hitting third baseman: The club can evaluate Devers’ play for 7-10 days before making a decision on whether acquiring a third baseman from another team is absolutely necessary. That seems like a lot of pressure for a 20 year old who had far fewer than 50 plate appearances at the AAA level before being promoted. Let’s hope Devers shows flashes early and can maintain his footing. I could certainly see the Red Sox DH’ing him a lot early to keep things simple for him.
  • The Dodgers could probably get away with holding steady and not trading for a starting pitcher even though Clayton Kershaw is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a lower back injury. Their lead in the NL West is probably THAT comfortable (even though a team with World Series aspirations would never turn down another stud arm). Industry folks (myself included) have linked them to rental Yu Darvish, but the more I think about it, the more a Justin Verlander trade makes sense. The Dodgers could more easily hold onto crucial pieces of their farm system if they chose to trade for Verlander (who would probably be packaged with Justin Wilson) instead of Darvish, and while Darvish is set to become a free agent following this season, Verlander would be under contract until the conclusion of the 2020 season. As a Verlander owner, I really hope this (or any Verlander trade) happens.
  • A report surfaced Monday morning that the Mariners may be a ‘surprise’ team in the Sonny Gray sweepstakes. Uh, what? If I’m Billy Beane, I’m not sure there’s a possible prospect-based Mariners offer that I’d accept. Other Gray suitors– the Yankees, Astros and Brewers– could all offer a better prospect package to the Athletics without breaking a sweat. I’ll file the Sonny Gray to Seattle scenario as “highly unlikely”.


Thanks for following along!

Featured image courtesy of SportsGlory

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