November 26, 2013
Jones (a Pirate) Walks the Plank (a Metaphor)
Claimed INF-S Cord Phelps off waivers from the Indians. [11/25]
Dan Duquette trades a future reliever for a present one. Brach is interesting in his own way. The former 42nd-round pick has a three-pitch mix: low-to-mid-90s fastball, slider, and splitter. His delivery, which features a lot of moving parts, is deceptive and enhances his stuff. On the negative side, Brach is a fly-ball pitcher with underwhelming walk rates. That could prove to be a disastrous pair outside of Petco Park's spacious yard. Expect to see him work in middle relief for the O's.
In addition to a pun-worthy last name, Abad features max-effort mechanics that include noticeable arm drag and a tendency to lean backward during his delivery. It's not surprise then that his command is a bit an issue. Nonetheless, the southpaw throws four pitches and increased his velocity by a few ticks last season. He's not your typical funky left-hander with extreme splits—his multi-year True Average against lefties is one point better than his mark against righties—but he's worth the camp spot.
Oakland's 37th-round pick in 2012, Wooten is (predictably) a long shot to reach the majors. Our Mark Anderson describes him as a "strong kid with lots of holes in his swing." Wooten played all over the field last season, spending most of his time in the outfield, but also took reps at first and third base. For now, the East Carolina University product would do well to carve out a career as a bench player.
A onetime first-round pick and top prospect for the Padres, Decker has seen his stock decline due to injuries—he's broken a hand and a foot over the past few seasons—and unfulfilled promise. When healthy, Decker is a patient hitter who treads the line between disciplined and passive. He has good power potential, but many are skeptical about its usability and it didn't show up in games last season. Ultimately, the bat is the key to Decker's big-league future.
Relative to Decker, Mikolas has a better shot to stick on the Pirates roster—likely as a middle reliever. The well-built right-hander relies on a fastball-curveball combination to do his work, and he tends to keep the ball on the ground. The pinpoint control he showed in the lower minors hasn't translated to the majors yet, but it's hard to see him continuing to walk four-plus batters per nine innings. More alarming than the walk rate is the fact that Mikolas once ate a lizard.
Originally signed as a minor-league free-agent, Jones provided the Pirates with a quality return on their investment by hitting .256/.318/.462 over the past five seasons. He's a platoon player through and through, so Clint Hurdle wisely micromanaged his plate appearances during their shared time in Pittsburgh. Yet the Harvey, Illinois native didn't thump righties like usual in 2013, and as such became an obvious non-tender candidate. Now the Pirates will try to cash in on Jones, his raw power, and solid track records. Odds are they'll find a taker.
Life is tough for a hitter whose power makes up most of his value and who plays half of his games at PNC Park. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for fantasy owners), Jones does not have to worry about that anymore. It's tough to tell how his market will shape up at this point, but almost anywhere would be an improvement over his former home park. And if it's somewhere like Yankee Stadium (as has been rumored already), he could go from forgotten man to underrated value pretty quickly. —Bret Sayre
If you're in an on-base percentage league, Decker's positional battle in the spring will be very much worth paying attention to. If not, there's a ceiling on his fantasy value, and it’s been slowly dropping as he's advanced through the minors. The “above average” power projection he once had seems far-fetched after he hit just 10 homers in 415 plate appearances in Tucson, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the minor leagues. And playing in a strong pitcher's park like PNC won't help him rediscover any of that prospect shine. He's unlikely to have value outside of NL-only leagues in 2014, but his is not a name to forget. —Bret Sayre
Traded OF-L Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas to the Pirates for 1B/OF-L Alex Dickerson. [11/25]
Traded RHP Brad Brach to the Orioles for RHP Devin Jones. [11/25]
Josh Byrnes spent his Monday moving players stuck in designated-for-assignment purgatory.
The more famous of the incoming players is Dickerson, who draftniks are sure to remember from his days at Indiana University. Although he turns 24 next May, the former Hoosier's upside and role remain under examination. Dickerson has a mature approach, a decent hit tool, and the potential for above-average power production. He's yet to fully tap into that raw strength, however, and it's worth wondering if he ever will. Previously pigeonholed as a first baseman, the Padres think Dickerson can cut it in the outfield—likely left field, where his below-average range and arm won't be exposed. If so, the move would remove some burden from his bat. Dickerson should reach the majors in 2014. Whether he can mature into more than a bat off the bench is to be determined.
Jones is another recent collegiate draft pick, having joined the Orioles by way of Mississippi State in 2011. The 6-foot-2 right-hander creates good leverage on his pitches thanks to a high release point. His heavy fastball sits in the low 90s, though it plays up in spurts, and his slider flashes plus. Jones lacks a good third pitch, and he struggled in his first go-round at Double-A. San Diego's plans for its newest arm are unknown, but he could reach the majors next season in a relief role, with a long-term projection as a middle reliever.
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson