The rumors had been out there about the new Rays regime dangling RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the trade market with his two years of team control remaining. Arizona took the bait as their own new front office pull the trigger on their first trade, sending OF Justin Williams and SS Andrew Velazquez to Tampa. Lets take a deeper look at the prospects headed to Tampa as the Rays look to re-stock their farm system.
Justin Williams was the D-Backs second round pick in the 2013 draft, taken from Terrebonne High in Houma, Louisiana. The left handed hitting, right handed throwing outfielder is listed at 6'2, 215 pounds and will play the upcoming season as a 19 year old. He split time between Missoula of the advanced rookie Pioneer League and Low A South Bend, hitting a combined .351/.403/.467 with a 136 wRC+ and .396 wOBA. He drew 24 walks while striking out 67 times with 12 doubles, five triples and four homers. Williams was particularly lethal at Missoula with a .904 OPS and .386 batting average through 208 plate appearances as an 18 year old. I can't leave out his insane .490 BABIP in that span either because, well, them's video game numbers. He would come back to Earth with his promotion as he hit .284/.348/.461 in his final 112 PA's. For his short career, Williams has been a .351/.401/.461 hitter while playing in some pretty hitter friendly confines for 421 of his 544 career plate appearances.
His only tool that wouldn't grade out as average right now is his fielding which has taken steps forward in his second year in the outfield. He was a short stop in high school and has improved his tracking while displaying a solid arm. He's an average runner which leads to decent range, placing the emphasis on his bat as his defense as a whole isn't anything special and limits him to a corner. He's shown a great ability to make contact as a pro and a look at his batted ball profile shows he keeps the ball on the ground 2/3 of the time and rarely makes weak contact leading to pop outs. He's generally regarded as having plus power despite only hitting five home runs as a pro. Getting his swing geared towards lifting the ball would certainly help in improving his home run totals as he has the raw strength to put one on a berm somewhere in the Midwest.
Andrew Velazquez came into the spotlight this past season as he set the consecutive games reaching base record with 74 games. The diminutive switch hitting middle infielder is listed at 5'8 and 175 pounds and was taken in the seventh round of the 2012 draft out of Fordham Prep in New York. 2014 saw him repeating the Midwest League with Low A South Bend and playing short stop exclusively for the first time. He hit .290/.367/.428 this year with a 129 wRC+ and .366 wOBA. In his first full season at age 19, Velazquez stole 50 bases with nine home runs, 15 triples, and 18 doubles. He scored 94 runs and worked 62 walks (10%) with 136 strike outs (21.9%). In 1,075 professional plate appearances, Velazquez has posted a .283/.356/.407 line with 72 extra base hits and 79 stolen bases.
The 50 steals jumps off the page when you look at his stats but he doesn't do it with pure footspeed, as he shows great instincts on the bases with plus speed. He's got enough pop to put it in the gaps and can take advantage of a cookie over the plate but double digit home run totals are unlikely. His game is more line drive oriented while using his speed to get the extra base when possible. With the leather he drew plenty of praise, being named the best defensive short stop in the Midwest League by the league's managers. They also called him the most exciting player in the league. He's got a plus arm with enough range to stick at short.
Jeremy Hellickson has settled into a back end starter while coming up with Tampa after winning Rookie of the Year in 2011. The Diamondbacks will have him under control for two more years before he hits free agency. Meanwhile Tampa comes away with Williams who looks like a middle of the order hitter about to bloom. He's got the raw strength and contact to really put a charge into balls but it hasn't shown itself in games yet. Velazquez showed himself to be pretty impressive at the top of a line up; wreaking havoc on the bases while getting on base at a solid clip. He's also becoming a solid defender up the middle which is always nice and looks to be an area of interest for the Tampa front office. Earlier in the year they acquired SS Willy Adames from the Tigers. Both will probably begin the year in High A Charlotte but its really too early to tell as this is just the beginning of trade season.