Last Thursday the Royals picked up a former top prospect and first round pick for a left handed bullpen piece, sending Kyle Bartsch to the Padres in exchange for Reymond Fuentes. It may not have received much press at the time due to the 40-man roster crunch, but now looks like a good time to break down the two players involved in AJ Preller's first trade as a General Manager.
OF Reymond Fuentes
Photo courtesy of NJ Baseball
A first round pick in 2009 (28th overall) out of Fernando Callejo High School in Manati, Puerto Rico, Fuentes signed for a cool $1,134,000 bonus with the Boston Red Sox. Cousin of Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran, he was sent to the Padres following the 2010 season in a package including Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly for Adrian Gonzalez. He made his major league debut in 2013 for the Padres after hitting .330/.413/.448 between AA and AAA with 35 stolen bases, 25 doubles, six home runs, and 51 walks to 81 punch outs. FanGraphs had him down for a 145 wRC+ and .388 wOBA between the two stops and he went 5-33 in a stint in September with the parent club that didn't inspire much confidence.
This past year he once again split time between AA San Antonio and AAA El Paso, hitting .324/.386/.453 in 194 PA's in AA and .261/.337/.376 through 178 trips to the plate in AAA. All told he made 372 plate appearances with 25 stolen bases, 15 doubles, five homers, five triples, and 33 walks (8.9%) to 64 strike outs (17.2%). He hit a combined .294/.363/.416 with a 116 wRC+ and .354 wOBA, scoring 54 runs with 33 RBI's and was only caught stealing three times. The left handed hitter provided more thump away from home, hitting .297/.363/.456 in 206 plate appearances while only managing a .290/.362/.366 line at home, but he was 19 for 19 in stolen base chances in El Paso and San Antonio. He was also much better against right handed pitchers than same handed throwers, posting an OPS 151 points better against righties (.805 vs RHP and .654 vs LHP). His game really picked up after a slow start, hitting .355 with a 15:27 BB:K ratio and was 13 for 13 in stolen bases from June 1st until his last game on July 26th when he suffered a leg injury.
Photo courtesy of Bill Center/Padres.MLBlogs.com
Fuentes' main tool is his speed which translates to both sides of the ball. He's a plus runner with good base stealing instincts and excellent range and defense in left field or center field. He doesn't show anything in the power department, probably maxing out at 5-10 homers per year at his peak. Scouts are down on his hit tool, despite posting at least a .315 average his last two trips through the Texas League spanning nearly 600 plate appearances. A red flag there is a .381 BABIP in 2013 and .392 BABIP in 2014 at the AA level. He's a career .302 hitter in 245 AAA plate appearances though with a .310 BABIP in 2014. His arm isn't quite noodle status but it's also not a strong point in his profile, grading out anywhere from fringy to a tick below average. Overall, I believe he could handle holding down either left or center field in a starting role for a team out of contention. Going to the Royals though, Fuentes looks like a 4th outfielder and another speed option on the bench. With limited time spent in AAA, he's most likely to head to Omaha to kick off the 2015 season.
The trade was necessary for the Padres as they had to make a decision on whether they should protect Fuentes from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. By deciding to deal him, its obvious he was not going to make the cut, and they were at least able to get another player in return. After the trade, he was added to Kansas City's 40-man roster.
When John ran through the San Diego system in his book, he had this to say about Fuentes -
I was quite negative about Reymond Fuentes in the ’13 book, writing that while he was a great athlete, "he can’t hit." Ahem. Well he sure made me look bad, hitting .330/.414/.448 combined between San Antonio and Tucson. Texas League observers felt that while he was luckier last year compared to ’12, he also made very genuine improvements, showing much better plate discipline and a sharper, more consistent swing. He did have trouble making contact during a major league trial, but overall his chances appear much better than they did before. Fuentes has a weak arm but is otherwise a very good fielder, excellent in left field and solid in center. He played some right field at San Antonio, which is fine if you don’t mind the arm. My guess is that Fuentes will be something like a .260/.330/.370 hitter, not enough to start for most teams but good enough to hold a roster spot as a defense-oriented reserve and platoon bat. Grade C+.
LHP Kyle Bartsch
Photo courtesy of Alan Dobbins Photography
An unknown in almost all prospect circles, Kyle Bartsch was selected by the Royals in the 7th round of the 2013 draft out of the University of South Alabama, signing for a pittance of $10,000. The 5'10, 210 pound senior sign made 21 appearances out of the Idaho Falls pen after signing, totaling 29.1 innings of relief with 37 strike outs (31.6%), nine walks (7.7%), 20 hits and zero homers, good for a 2.45 ERA, 2.49 FIP, and 0.99 WHIP. He limited Pioneer League hitters to a measly .190/.250/.305 triple slash with an incredible month of August where he surrendered just five hits in 14.1 innings, walking two with 20 K's.
Going into his age 23 season, the Royals front office decided to push Bartsch up two levels to High A Wilmington where he was more in line age-wise with the rest of the league. He made 41 appearances for the Blue Rocks, putting together a 2.29 ERA and 2.99 FIP in 55 innings with a 1.04 WHIP, 52 strike outs (23.6%), 12 walks (5.5%), 45 hits and three homers allowed. Bartsch tallied seven saves in nine opportunities while also racking up ground balls 47.4% of the time with a 1.85 ground out to fly out ratio. The opposing Carolina League hitters only mustered a .227/.268/.323 line against him with a .275 BABIP and 77.7% strand rate.
Photo courtesy of Jen Nevius
Looking at his splits, you can tell he's harder for left handed hitters to make solid contact off him, with lefties hitting just .213/.258/.262 against him with one extra base hit, a home run. He was also especially lethal once again in the month of August, limiting hitters to a .111/.158/.167 triple slash with 13 strike outs to just two walks, with two doubles and two singles allowed the entire month. Right handed hitters fared slightly better, hitting .234/.272/.350 off him.
The scouting report on Bartsch is pretty simple. He utilized a low 90's fastball with good life that tops out at 94 mph and gets good sinking action in the lower bands. He also works with a pair of breaking balls and a change up. He's got a high 70's curve and low 80's slider that look very similar and each flash potential. The change up is in the 79-81 mph range and is clearly his fourth pitch.
I like this deal for the Royals, taking advantage of a 40-man roster crunch to add a young outfielder that still has potential with a first round pedigree, only costing a relief prospect currently with a LOOGY cieling. If the BABIP gods continue to bless Fuentes and he maxes out he could potentially be a .290-.300 hitter with 10 HR and 20-30 stolen bases and good defense. Bartsch could end up being a useful bullpen piece in a year or so if everything breaks right for him.