keyboard_arrow_uptop
IN THIS ISSUE

American League

National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Signed RHP Tim Lincecum to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. [5/20]

After almost a week of dancing around physicals and contract terms, the Angels acquired a Cy Young-winning starting pitcher when they need one most. Of course, like so much of the Angels’ recent history, the timing could be a bit better, and the move is quite probably too little, too late. By signing the formerly-dominant Lincecum to a one-year contract stacked with incentives, they may be filling a hole in their Swiss-cheese starting rotation, or they may be chasing the same dragon that’s led them to many other ill-fated “superstar” acquisitions. Yet even those among us with the wildest imaginations should temper our fantasies: it’s terribly unlikely the Angels have snagged an ace.

The last time we saw the 2008 and 2009 Cy Young winner, he was hanging onto his Giants rotation spot by his fingernails, struggling to perform at the level we’d expect from the Quad-A depth-level seventh starter on a middling team. The wonky delivery and boyish looks were there, but the stuff certainly was not. His 2013 no-hitter felt more like a dead-cat bounce than the return of a solid starter, and his 2014 repeat felt wild and strange. Lincecum hasn’t been a good starter since 2011 and his last four seasons zeroed out the 2.6 WARP he earned in that year. In workouts, he’s sitting around 90 miles per hour, which may be good enough to no-hit the Padres a couple of times, but probably reflects a below-average cFIP in the 110s rather than his glory days. Plus, he’s not even ready to step into a big-league rotation quite yet. The Tim Lincecum of today isn’t even Rich Hill–he’s Ryan Vogelsong.

On a brief aside … this whole thing feels wrong. That’s not because Lincecum is a shell of his former self–it’s tougher for me to imagine an elite starting pitcher with wonky mechanics remaining effective than it is for me to imagine him falling from grace. And it doesn’t feel wrong that Lincecum would find his way to the Angels, a team with a powerful recent history of acquiring former superstars and re-painting them in the red and white of the O.C. No, I think this feels wrong because Lincecum was so emblematic of the Giants, and it is his lack of Giant-ness that needles more than his incumbent Angel-ness. It is easy to forget that The Freak’s greatest seasons came prior to the Giants’ dynastic apotheosis; in some ways he pre-dated the Posey-and-Bumgarner juggernaut that wreaks havoc on even-year baseball.

But now is not then, and it never will be again. We have to find a way to separate ourselves from Tim Lincecum, dominant Giants starter and Tim Lincecum, injured Angels swingman. This contract is just a bit too rich to imagine that the Angels have done so. Let’s hope you have better luck than either they did, or I have. —Bryan Grosnick

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Acquired RHP Brandon Barker and LHP Trevor Belicek from Atlanta Braves in exchange for LHP Brian Matusz and the No. 76 pick in the 2016 draft; Acquired RHP Franderlin Romero from Cincinnati Reds in exchange for two international bonus spending slots. [5/23]

The beat goes on in Baltimore. I wrote last spring about their penchant for trading away their competitive balance picks and international bonus slots for players of minimal value or as a means for shedding salary. It seems almost to be an annual rite, this discharging of their responsibility to spend money on the acquisition of amateur talent. It might have some value, on the margins. The Orioles can be a little more aggressive if they’re still in a contending position come July, adding more money than they’d be able to if they were diverting significant resources toward the draft and toward international teenagers. The arms they’ve added in these minor moves also carry some promise, if only as interchangeable relief pieces, the kind from which Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, and pitching coach Dave Wallace have gotten so good at building effective bullpens. It’s not a good look, in some ways, and it might prove tragically myopic, but this way of doing things is one reason the Orioles have managed to exceed expectations for going on five years, now. —Matthew Trueblood

Trevor Belicek was Atlanta’s 16th rounder in last year’s draft, a senior sign from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He worked as a starter and reliever between Appy League Danville and Low-A Rome last summer, but has worked exclusively in a long-relief role for Rome this year. A 23-year-old in the South Atlantic League, Belicek has posted gaudy numbers this year on the strength of excellent control. He’s pitched to a 2.49 ERA over 11 relief appearances spanning 25.1 innings in 2016, out-crafting less experienced hitters with 29 strikeouts against just one walk. For his career—all in the low minors save for three Double-A innings in early April—he’s struck out 73 in 85.1 innings, against just 13 free passes.

A durably-built southpaw, Belicek pounds the zone with below-average raw stuff. His fastball sits in the 86-88 range and might scrape 90 on its best days. He’s able to get ahead with both a changeup and curveball, throwing from a semi-windup with a hint of deceptive funk in the back of his arm action that alters hitters’ timing. Belicek’s curveball sits in the mid-70s with loopy tilt, but features good rotation and deep 11-5 action. His change is in the 82-83 range and has a late wrinkle of turnover to his arm-side, down and away from right-handed bats. As he progresses to higher minor-league levels he’ll have to prove he has the pitchability to make his low-grade stuff work against more advanced professional hitters. —Adam McInturff

To know a little bit more about Franderlin Romero, I will start with this quote from Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette:

“The pitchers we have acquired today are very competitive and have very good instincts. They have excellent control, keep the ball in the ballpark, and consistently keep the ball over the plate. Not only have we stocked the pitching in our farm system, but we also added three potential major leaguers.”

While the former about Romero is undoubtedly true with a career 0.4 HR/9 and a stateside 2.4 BB/9, the latter is unlikely. Originally signed as a 17-year-old in 2010 out of Venezuela, Romero did not appear stateside until 2013, and did not make a full-season roster until this past year. He does fill up the zone with a low-90s sinker with good control, and isn’t afraid to go inside with the offering. He has a curveball that is 77-79, but it lacks consistent shape and is a fringe-offering. Ditto with his low-80s slider. His changeup is behind the rest of his arsenal and is just a show-me pitch right now. Romero is a quality competitor and should be able to compete at higher levels, but is more organizational arm than anything else. —Steve Givarz

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Recalled C/OF-B Blake Swihart from Triple-A Pawtucket. [5/20]

One of the things most important things I’ve learned about being a baseball analyst is this: we should always assume that a major-league front office is operating with more and better information than possessed by those of us in the public sector. While this assumption has been tested time and time again (mostly by Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart) this heuristic has seemed to bear fruit: the dealing away of a pitcher who suddenly comes up lame, the signing of a Cuban export with no track record, or literally everything the Cardinals do.

But when the Red Sox–one of the game’s smartest, most revered teams–started the process of giving Blake Swihart an extended look in the outfield as opposed to behind the plate, I asked myself two questions. “Are they crazy?” then “What am I missing here?” Swihart is not far removed from being one of the game’s top overall prospects, and a diamond amidst the churned-up quartz of the big-league catching market. He’s even less removed from a solid close to the 2015 season, where he racked up a .353 OBP and .452 slugging percentage in the second half. If the Red Sox didn’t have another interesting catching option in Christian Vazquez, you’d have to imagine he’d have been given every chance to succeed despite his early-season struggles. But not only did Swihart have trouble making contact against right-handed pitching, the Sox’s rotation seemed to be out of sync with the young catcher. Vazquez has a reputation for success as a receiver, so it’s Swihart on the outside looking in, perhaps to fill the gap left by Rusney’s Castillo’s fall from grace (and Brock Holt’s injury).

The problem is that left field has become the recycling bin for major-league teams; it is the place to throw the guy who fits into no other place or position. Got an extra corner infielder who can hit a little? Chuck him into left. Aging out of the middle infield? Give left a try. Brock Holt is injured? Move your catcher to left field. Despite this, a left fielder needs to have one of two profiles to really be successful: (1) hit a lot, or (2) field a lot and hit a little. I can’t imagine a scenario where Swihart fits either of these molds. While young and talented, the shift from behind the dish to left field robs Swihart of almost all surplus value. Anyone can play left field, but only a few can don the tools of ignorance. As an outfielder, Swihart isn’t special.

The argument is that the Red Sox see this move as a broadening of his skill set and not a permanent move–to this, I call bull. Swihart’s defensive issues in the past have shown that he probably requires more major-league reps in order to practice his role and iron out his defensive inefficiencies. No, he’s unlikely to ever feature the howitzer arm or plus receiving of Vazquez. I just can’t imagine why a team wouldn’t want to use him where he can develop to be a valuable regular. As a left fielder, Swihart sure looks like he’d make a pretty decent catcher. —Bryan Grosnick

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Purchased the contract of OF-L Jared Hoying from Triple-A Round Rock. [5/23]

The Rangers’ 10th-round pick in 2010, Jared Hoying’s business card reads “True center fielder who can also play in the corners.” His addition to the roster gives Texas real versatility while Shin-Soo Choo recovers from re-injuring his hamstring on the bases. On his journey through the minors, Hoying displayed a knack for defense, speed on the bases, and a surprising amount of power (49 home runs for Triple-A Round Rock between 2014 and 2015), but was never able to get past his tendency to swing early and often until 2016. In 41 games this year, however, Hoying has slashed his strikeout rate from 21.2 percent in 2015 to 16.7 percent, and walked a lot more, raising that rate from 5.6 percent to 12.4 percent. This refined plate discipline allowed Hoying to get on base at a .409 clip, and he’s already slugged seven homers in the young season. While he’s not a prototypical prospect, there have been late bloomers in the outfield before, and a good showing for Texas in this opportunity will only improve his stock. Not only that, but this major-league appearance is just reward for six years of dedicated work for the Rangers across all levels of their farm system. —Kate Morrison

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Acquired LHP Brian Matusz and the No. 76 pick in the 2016 draft from Baltimore Orioles in exchange for RHP Brandon Barker and LHP Trevor Belicek; Designated Matusz for assignment. [5/23]

This was an easy call for the Braves. They’re a rebuilding team in the asset-gathering phase. With plenty of money available (Lord knows they aren’t spending it trying to remain respectable at the big-league level), it made all the sense in the world for them to throw a few million dollars at the opportunity to add to their stockpile of picks this June. As we’ve established by now, the current rule set governing the draft not only makes it important to draft as high as possible, but rewards the accumulation of multiple picks. Each additional slot, within the top 100, provides an exponential increase in spending power and negotiating leverage, not to mention access to another talented amateur. Loathsome though multiple aspects of the Braves’ rebuild are, the rebuild itself is looking more and more like a foolproof endeavor. It might take a little while yet, but the farm system is already rich, and the Braves are now in a slightly better position to improve it next month. —Matthew Trueblood

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Purchased the contract of OF/IF-B Ty Kelly from Triple-A Las Vegas. [5/23]

A 13th-round pick out of UC Davis in 2009, Kelly has spent 855 games in the minors with five different organizations, and finally earned a promotion to the big-boy team by leading the PCL with a .391 average and .478 on-base percentage. Kelly has gotten on base at every level and in every organization he's played for (a career .382 OBP over seven seasons), and he does it by working counts in his favor, and by using the whole field from both sides of the plate. His swing is definitely geared for contact, short to the ball without much loft or leverage, and you shouldn't expect many extra-base hits. He's also by no means a burner, and is essentially a station-to-station runner. He's a versatile defender who has spent time at every position butcatcher, and his average arm and quality hands will allow him to help in a pinch wherever the Metropolitans would like him, with third and left field being the best positions. There's absolutely no upside here, but Kelly should be a competent 25th man who can give you quality at-bats off the bench and not kill you with the glove all over the field. It's not a sexy profile, but it could be a useful one. —Christopher Crawford

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
bhacking
5/25
Maybe I’m just getting numb to the large contracts, but 2.5 million plus incentives for Lincecum doesn’t seem too rich to me. It’s only a 1 year deal and the Angels are clearly pretty desperate for pitching.
bigchiefbc
5/25
As a Red Sox fan, Bryan is spot on regarding Swihart. Every Sox fan I've talked to is absolutely apoplectic over the decision to put Swihart in LF. If they're truly convinced that Vazquez is the catcher of the future, then it's absolutely criminal that they didn't trade Swihart away earlier, when his trade value was near peak. Especially with so many major league teams having catcher openings/injuries. You can't tell me that Swihart couldn't have fetched a decent arm in return from someone. They cannot possibly think that Swihart will hit enough to become an every day outfielder, which means every day he spends in the outfield, his trade value goes down, and that's indefensible.