Before the craziness of this year's Winter Meetings, the Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates matched up on a deal to send utility man Sean Rodriguez to the Bucco's for a player to be named later. Friday afternoon the trade was completed when the Pirates sent over minor league right hander Buddy Borden. To those unfamiliar with the Pirates organization you may be asking yourself "Who is Buddy Borden and is he also known as Buddy the Elf?" The answer to the second part is no, but let's answer the first half of that question.
Photo courtesy of Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images
A 7th round selection out of UNLV in the 2013 draft, George "Buddy" Borden signed with the Pirates for $180,400. The 6'3, 210 pound right hander made his professional debut with Jamestown of the short season New York-Penn League and blew the doors off the league, making six appearances totaling 16.2 innings of work with 23 strike out (35.9%) to just five walks (7.8%) and 10 hits allowed with a 1.08 ERA, a 1.24 FIP, and 0.90 WHIP. He was an age appropriate 21 years old with a .278 BABIP and excellent 86.7% strand rate. New York-Penn League hitters only managed a .169/.234/.271 line against him with right handers having no hope, hitting .146/.205/.268 off him. Left handers were a much better at .250/.280/.333 with short sample size caveats all over the place since this was over just 25 plate appearances. He also showed a fly ball tendency by registering a 0.86 GO:AO ratio and 30.6% outfield fly ball rate, 4.5% more than league average.
The Pirates sent Borden to Low A West Virginia for his full season debut as a 22 year old. He made 26 starts and an emergency relief apperance, totaling 128 innings for the season with a 3.16 ERA, a 4.27 FIP, and a 1.18 WHIP. Buddy struck out 122 (23.1%) with just 48 walks (9.1%), 103 hits, and 13 home runs allowed with a .265 BABIP and 75.7% strand rate. The opposition hit .220/.298/.345 against him this past season while holding left handed hitters to a .201/.274/.282 line while right handers posted a .731 OPS and .238/.322/.409 triple slash. He once again showed fly ball tendencies with a 30.3% outfield fly rate and 0.88 GO:AO ratio.
Borden found success in Low A working with an 89-93 mph fastball with sink that he can ramp up to 96 mph in shorter bursts. He also features a below average mid 70's curve and a below average low 80's change up with the hook a little ahead of the cambio. He has the frame to eat innings and his fastball is effective, but the off speed stuff needs to take a step forward for him to stay in the rotation. I think he can stick as a starter for a few more rungs up the minor league ladder, but he will get torn up once he reaches the upper levels without improvement. For now, he looks like a potential swing man to mop up innings in the bullpen.
2014 Low A stats
The Pirates continue to make minor tweaks to their roster after their incredible playoff run fell short. One area the team was looking to address was offensive depth and a utility player now that Josh Harrison is the everyday third baseman. They were able to knock out two birds with one trade, picking up Sean Rodriguez from the Rays. Since the beginning of 2013, the Rays have put Rodriguez everywhere on the diamond save for center field, catcher or pitcher, playing 64 games in left field, 41 at first base, 28 at second base, 10 in right field, nine at third base, and eight games at short stop. He's also hit .227/.286/.417 in that time frame over the course of 481 plate appearances. Rodriguez has hit 17 homers, 23 doubles, and four triples with a 97 OPS+ and 27 walks (5.6%) to 125 strike outs (26%). While Borden's numbers on the surface look good, he doesn't look like a long term starting option and is a fair price to pay for Rodriguez. Put the W for this trade on the Pirates board.