Winter Meeting Acquisitions

Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings came and went this past week and the Milwaukee Brewers were among the teams that made some noise at the event. Slingin’ David Stearns paired up with Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski to pull of a significant trade that saw lights-out reliever Tyler Thornburg get shipped up to Boston with three players (and a player to be named later or cash) coming back to Milwaukee in exchange. The Brewers did lose a significant prospect when right-hander 22 year old Miguel Diaz, he of a 60 OFP, was plucked from low-A Wisconsin with the first overall pick of the Rule 5 Draft. But while the club traded their MLB Rule 5 pick to the Cubs (LHP Caleb Smith) in exchange for cash, they also added two new players to the farm system in the minor league portion of this year’s Rule 5. So, who are all these shiny new prospect toys and what should we expect from them?

Thornburg Trade

3B/1B Travis Shaw (Age 26)

Shaw was a 9th-round pick of the Red Sox back in 2011 and after a solid minor league career, he debuted in the majors in May of 2015. He had been playing everyday for Boston since August of that season so he’s not really a prospect anymore, though he remains a relatively “green” major leaguer. Shaw was mainly a first baseman coming up through the minors, but as a big leaguer he has split his time about evenly between first and third base and has graded out as an above-average defender at both positions. In 746.0 innings at first, Shaw has registered +4 Defensive Runs Saved; in 906.0 innings at the hot corner, a position he played only sparingly in the minor leagues, Shaw has accrued +11 DRS. FRAA saw him as worth +9.8 runs last season, which ranked him third among all major league third baseman. Shaw’s addition should be an immediate upgrade to Milwaukee’s infield defense and a significant amount of his value is derived from his skills in the field.

At the plate, Shaw’s hit tool from the left-hand side never been considered all that great and it’s not hard to see why. He’s struck out in 24.4 percent of his 778 MLB plate appearances while batting .251/.312/.442 (.256 TAv) and figures to hover in that .240-.260 batting average range going forward. He struggled against lefties in 2016 and may eventually be a platoon candidate, but he did post a .975 OPS against same-handed pitching in 2015 so he figures to get the chance to prove he can be an everyday player before it comes to that. Travis has walked at about a league-average clip of 7.8 percent in the majors which closely mirrors his 8.1 percent mark in two seasons at AAA, so we probably shouldn’t more than an average on-base percentage in a given year. Shaw has demonstrated above-average power, however, slugging 29 home runs through his first 210 MLB games with another 69 dingers in 521 minor league contests, and going forward should be a threat to hit 15-20 home runs annually.

All together, Shaw looks like a player who has the ability to be an average regular at the hot corner and provide about 2 or so WARP per season. He has another five years of club control and the Brewers don’t really have a third base prospect in close proximity to the majors, so we should fully expect Shaw to get a rather extended opportunity to prove he can be the long-term answer at third.

SS Mauricio Dubon (Age 22)

From humble beginnings as a 26th-round draftee by the Red Sox in 2013, Dubon has developed into a legitimate major league prospect. Dubon began his career with some middling offensive performances in the low minors, but broke out this past season while splitting time between high-A Salem and AA Portland. In 124 games between the two levels, Dubon slashed an outstanding .323/.379/.461 with 6 home runs, 46 extra base hits, and 30 successful steals in 37 attempts.

Less than a week before being traded, Dubon had been named among the Red Sox top 10 prospects by the staff here at Baseball Prospectus, coming in at #7. The diminutive (he stands 6’0″ and weighs 160 lbs) Honduran’s “quick wrists and bat control allow him to be an asset at the plate without much in the way of power” according to the BP scouting report and “[h]e is a plus runner with an above-average arm” with the physical tools to handle the shortstop position. He’s also seen time at second base and third base and played some center field in this year’s Arizona Fall League, giving him that positional flexibility that David Stearns and Craig Counsell love ever so much. Dubon doesn’t figure to repeat the same power numbers he displayed in AA unless he can add some strength to his frame, and his glove is more “good” than it is “great.” But overall he’s given an OFP of 50 as a potential second-division starter at shortstop with a realistic future role of a solid utility player off the bench.

RHP Josh Pennington (Age 21)

Pennington was considered one of the more promising prep right-handers in the 2014 draft class but Tommy John surgery during his senior season caused him to slip all the way to the 29th round, where Boston snapped him up and gave him a $90K bonus to join the professional ranks. Pennington didn’t debut until 2015 and has been brought along slowly, working only 56.2 innings across 13 starts last season for Lowell of the short season low-A New York-Penn League. He worked to a 2.86 ERA and missed bats at a 21.2 percent clip, but struggled with his control and issued free passes to 11.7 percent of the batters who faced him while posting a much less desirable 5.27 DRA.

In the transaction analysis for this deal up at the BP main site, it was noted that while Pennington didn’t rank among the top 10 Red Sox prospects at the time that post was published, he would have fallen somewhere within the next 10. Despite his less-than-stellar results thus far Pennington brandishes a plus fastball that reaches the upper-90s along with a potentially above-average curveball. His command obviously needs further refinement and given his build (6’0″, 175 lbs) and high-effort delivery, it’s exceedingly likely that Pennington ends up in a bullpen role. David Stearns has shown an affinity acquiring young, high-risk arms with breakout potential during his time as Milwaukee’s GM and we can add the hard throwing Pennington to that list.

Rule 5 Draft

1B Art Charles (Age 26)

Charles began his professional career in 2010 as a 20th-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays and spent three seasons in their system before getting shipped to Philadelphia, where he spent the next three seasons. Charles displayed well-above average raw power from the left side of the plate and slugged 66 home runs in 510 minor league games, but also a penchant for striking out, whiffing in 28.9 percent of his 2,047 plate appearances while batting a combined .236/.331/.432. He was released by Philadelphia after posting a .671 OPS in 91 games at AA in 2015 and couldn’t catch on with another affiliated team, instead signing with the independent New Jersey Jackals (who also featured the familiar faces of Johnny Hellweg, Taylor Brennan, and D’Vontrey Richardson) of the Can-Am League for the 2016 season.

Charles was easily the best hitter in the league last season, batting a ridiculous .352/.461/.699 with a league-leading 29 home runs and 1.160 OPS in 436 plate appearances. He still showed some swing-and-miss while punching out in 21.1 percent of his turns at the plate, but Baseball America praised Charles for “improv(ing) the quality of his at-bats” while naming him the Independent Leagues Player of the Year and ranking him 2nd among the Indy League top prospects. BA calls Charles “a big target at first base who does a decent job of digging out low throws” and says he’s “still young enough to at least serve as a solid upper-level organizational bat, with a chance to end up being something more thanks to his left-handed power.”

Charles had signed a minor league pact with Cincinnati earlier this winter but will now provide some depth at either AA or AAA at first base for the Brewers, a position that is rather weak organizationally behind free agent signing Eric Thames (who himself is a bit of a question mark after playing in Korea for the past three years). He’s the third Stearns’ acquisition this winter who played in an independent league last season, with this front office regime showing that it is more willing to pursue talent from that avenue than the previous one had been.

RHP Matt Ramsey (Age 27)

Ramsey was a 19th-round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2011 and was dealt to the Marlins in 2014 for international bonus pool slot money, and the Brewers plucked him from Miami’s system. He’s been a reliever during his minor league career, never throwing more than 61.1 innings in a season. He has posted excellent numbers overall during his time as a professional, working to a 2.06 ERA with a 176:66 K/BB ratio across 148.1 innings. He missed all of the 2015 season with a lower back injury and was brought back along slowly in 2016, appearing in just 16 games in rookie ball, high-A, and AA and working 22.1 innings with a 1.99 ERA and 29:9 K/BB ratio.

Prior to that 2015 season, John Sickels of Minor League Ball has ranked Ramsey as the Marlins’ 19th-best prospect and gave him an overall grade of a ‘C’ while saying he has “good midde relief possibilities.” Fangraphs listed Ramsey among the “Others of Note” section when evaluating the Marlins’ top prospects prior to the 2015 season, saying that he works in the 91-95 MPH range with his fastball along with a curveball that “flashes 55″, or above-average on the 20-80 scale. His command reportedly comes and goes (as evidenced by his career 4.0 BB/9) but he notably “tinkers with a splitter,” which would make him the fourth hurler acquired by the Stearns regime this winter (along with Luke Barker, Blake Parker, and the since-released Steve Geltz) that throws the rare split-finger offering. Clearly there’s some sort of organizational importance being placed on the pitch, starting with the waiver claim of Junior Guerra during the winter of 2015.

Related Articles

Leave a comment