Nearly five years ago exactly, the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, and Detroit Tigers pulled off a massive six-player deal that involved future Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, RF Curtis Granderson, and CF Austin Jackson. They all got back together to make another deal this past Friday, but on a much smaller scale and with much less star power.
The New York Yankees plugged their most glaring hole at short stop by acquiring SS Didi Gregorius from Arizona, tabbing Gregorius as Derek Jeter's replacement. The Detroit Tigers shored up the back end of their rotation by adding RHP Shane Greene from the Yankees, and the Arizona Diamondbacks re-stocked their farm system by bringing LHP Robbie Ray and 2B Domingo Leyba in from Detroit. As the go-to site for rookies and prospects at SBNation, we'll analyze all the pieces in the deal as all four players spent time in the minor leagues this year.
Photo courtesy of Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Mariekson "Didi" Gregorius joined the professional ranks in 2007 when he signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $50,000. The 6'2 205 pound left handed hitting, right handed throwing short stop steadily ascended the minor league ranks, getting his first taste of the Major Leagues in 2012 after splitting the majority of the year between AA Pensacola and AAA Louisville. He cracked Baseball America's Top 100 that year, and John ranked him 136th. This will be the second three-team trade he's been a part of by the tender age of 25, first heading to Arizona in 2012 along with Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp, and now to the Yankees. He spent barely a week in AAA before Arizona named him their starting short stop for the 2013 season in late April. Gregorius hit .252/.332/.373 over 404 plate appearances with seven home runs, 16 doubles, a 94 OPS+, 92 wRC+, and .311 wOBA. It was good for 1.4 fWAR with essentially league average defense (-1 Defensive Runs Saved). slightly below average offense, and no running game to speak of (zero successes in two attempts). In his seven game stint to start the year he went 12 for 31 with a .387/.424/.645 triple slash in an incredibly small sample size.
The short stop position was Gregorius' to lose for the 2014 season, and that's exactly what happened as he opened the season back at AAA Reno. In 57 games and 260 PA's, the Dutch native hit .310/.389/.447 with excellent plate discipline (24 BB to 26 K), 14 doubles, three home runs, .375 wOBA, and a 122 wRC+. He was promoted in early June after incumbent short stop Cliff Pennington went down with an injury and finished out the year with Arizona, hitting a meek .226/.290/.363 with six home runs, nine doubles, 22 walks (7.4%), and 52 strike outs (17.4%) in 299 trips to the dish. More advanced metrics weren't kind either with a 76 wRC+, 81 OPS+, and just 0.3 fWAR. Gregorius is a much better hitter against right handers, hitting .274/.340/.428 over 421 PA's between AAA and MLB. Against southpaws, he only managed a .233/.324/.317 triple slash line in 138 trips to the plate. The move to Yankee Stadium should benefit Gregorius as 18 of 20 extra base hits in 2014 were down the right field line to his pull side. He's also faded down the stretch the past two seasons, posting an OPS south of .600 from August 1st on. On defense, he was once again about league average with the leather (0 DRS), and only committed six errors in 80 games with the Diamondbacks split between third base and the two middle infield position. At the AAA level, he made 10 errors in 57 games while playing both second base and short stop.
After a little over a full season's worth of at bats spanning two years, the book has been written about Gregorius. He's a slick, flashy defender with a fantastic arm and solid range, but is lacking in the offense department. He doesn't have much power and still struggles with consistent contact, but has become a solid hitter against right handed pitchers. The wheels are nothing special, grading out as average to a tick below, and he's worked to become a more patient hitter as he posted the best walk rate of his career in 2014. At worst, Gregorius represents the strong side of a platoon with his defense. If the cards fall right and he figures out lefties, he could be a league average hitter that solidifies the toughest defensive position outside of the battery. He doesn't become arbitration eligible until the 2016 season so the Yankees have four more years of control with him.
2014 AAA stats
2014 MLB stats
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Greene joined the Yankees organization as a 15th round pick in the 2009 draft, signing for $100,000 out of Daytona Beach Community College. His first four seasons were pretty bland, throwing to a 4.79 ERA in 341.2 IP while being near the league average age. It wasn't until 2013 that he really made a breakthrough, splitting the year between A+ Tampa and AA Trenton. The 6'4 210 pound right hander kicked off the year throwing 75 innings for Tampa, posting a 3.60 ERA, 2.61 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP with 69 strike outs (22%) and only 10 walks (3.2%). He allowed 83 hits with the opposition hitting .279/.309/.377 off him with a .351 BABIP. He was 24 years old and facing younger competition with strong peripherals so the Yankees brass moved him up to AA. Greene finished the year with a 3.18 ERA, 3.61 FIP, and 1.41 WHIP over 79.1 innings with 68 strike outs (19.5%) and 20 walks (5.7%). The better competition hit him harder, accumulating a .289/.343/.418 triple slash with another high .350 BABIP. Over the course of the entire year, lefties handled him much better, hitting .313/.370/.446 in 260 PA's, but he ate innings and showed good control and decent strike out numbers.
Greene broke camp for the 2014 season with an assignment to AAA Scranton/W-B on the heels of his strong 2013 campaign. The International League hitters had no trouble handling him as he compiled a 4.61 ERA, 3.40 FIP, and 1.58 WHIP over 66.1 innings. He struck out 57 (19.2%) while walking 26 (8.8%), but once again he was victimized by a .360 BABIP and 65.5% strand rate. The opposition hit .292/.352/.393 against him as a starter and he was also pretty horrid at home in AAA, posting a 7.17 ERA and 2.21 WHIP. The first three appearances he made in 2014 were out of the bullpen, twice with Scranton/W-B and once with the Yankees in late April. He came back to the AAA rotation five days after his MLB debut and stayed there until his promotion in early July when the Yankees were desperate for help in their rotation that had been decimated by injuries. Once in New York he really turned things on, throwing 78.2 innings with a 3.78 ERA, 3.71 FIP, and 1.40 WHIP with 81 punch outs (23.5%) and 29 walks (8.4%). Greene allowed 81 hits with a .330 BABIP and an opponents triple slash of .264/.332/.381. His half season of work resulted in 1.2 fWAR and he generated 50.2% ground balls and a 1.78 GO/FO ratio after posting a 1.26 GO/FO in AAA.
On the mound, Greene works with a basic three pitch mix of a fastball, slider, and change up, but he can manipulate the fastball to cut or sink, giving it three different looks at generally the same velocity (92-94 mph) with a little more on the four seamer. The slider is his strike out pitch, throwing it 26.6% of the time with New York in the mid to high 80's. He rarely uses his mid 80's change up, throwing it just 3% of the time. He features a crossfire delivery which creates deception and gives him good angle on the pitch. There's no doubt Detroit was impressed with him as his best start of the year came against the Tigers when he dominated them through eight innings, scattering five hits and three walks with five strike outs. At this point he likely slots in as the #5 starter in the Tigers rotation with 5 1/2 years of team control and near league-minimum salaries for the near future.
2014 AAA stats
2014 MLB stats
Photo courtesy of Bryan Green
Robbie Ray was a 12th round pick by the Washington Nationals in 2010, but signed for a bonus befitting a much higher round at $799,000 out of Brentwood High School in Tennessee. His first full season was his full season debut as well as a 19 year old in 2011. He struggled the following year in A+ Potomac as a 20 year old, three years younger than the average Carolina Leaguer. 2013 began with a return to Potomac before earning a promotion to AA Harrisburg on the heels of a 3.11 ERA and 3.97 FIP over 84 innings. Ray struck out 100 (29.3%) while walking 41 (12%) with just 60 hits allowed, and opponents hitting just .205/.311/.336 off him with a .273 BABIP. He finished the season with 58 more innings at the AA level with a 3.72 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and 1.33 WHIP. Ray racked up 60 more strike out (23.5%) with only 21 walks (8.2%) and 56 hits allowed and a .317 BABIP. Between the two levels he struck out 160 and walked 62 in 142 innings pitched with a 3.36 ERA and 3.80 FIP. Opponents hit .224/.318/.351 off him with lefties in particular struggling to a .560 OPS, and just one of the 13 home runs he allowed. He was much better on the road as well, pitching to a 2.87 ERA and limiting opponents to a .196/.292/.319 triple slash.
Over the Winter, Washington flipped Ray as the headliner of a package to Detroit for Doug Fister. Detroit sent the 22 year old lefty to AAA Toledo for the start of the 2014 season, before having him make his Major League debut in May. He was called up again in August and struggled mightily. For Toledo, he made 19 starts and a relief appearance totaling 100.1 innings of 4.22 ERA ball, a 4.05 FIP, and 1.50 WHIP. Ray struck out 75 (17.2%) with 44 walks (10.1%), 106 hits allowed, and a .326 BABIP. His MLB time wound up spanning 28.2 innings with just 19 punch outs (14%), 11 walks (8.1%), and 43 hits including five home runs. It added up to a brutal 8.16 ERA, but a 5.23 FIP and 4.78 SIERA as he was dealing with a ridiculously low strand rate of 59.6% and equally as high BABIP of .376 in the short sample. For the entire season he threw 129 innings with 149 hits allowed, 55 walks, 94 strike outs, and 11 home runs allowed. That translated to a .295/.365/.453 triple slash with a .342 BABIP by opponents with right handed hitters posting an .836 OPS and left handers a .765 OPS.
His repertoire consists of a low 90's fastball he can run up to 97 mph, an above average change up with good fade, and a fringy breaking ball. The change up sits in the low to mid 80's and he messed around with a high 70's slider and curve without really finding anything that worked. He's got solid control, a durable 6'2, 195 pound frame, and is a good athlete who repeats his delivery well. There's always a chance Ray finds the right grip for his breaking ball and establishes himself as a pitcher with an average, above average, and plus pitch giving him a mid rotation cieling. If not, he could wind up as an inning eating back end option. With Arizona he could step into the competition for the fifth starter slot or make a return to AAA, this time in the Pacific Coast League.
2014 AAA stats
2014 MLB stats
Photo courtesy of Bryan Green
The Detroit Tigers struck a deal with Domingo Leyba in 2012 for $400,000 out of the Dominican Republic. The 5'11, 160 pound switch hitting middle infielder tore apart the Dominican Summer League in his pro debut as a 17 year old in 2013. Over 247 trip to the plate, he hit .348/.446/.577 with 28 extra base hits including 15 doubles, eight triples, and five homers. He walked 34 times (13.8%) to just 26 strike outs (10.5%) while also stealing 16 of 24 bases with a 195 wRC+ and .487 wOBA. He was buoyed by a .376 BABIP and didn't show any distinctive splits by handedness or whether he played at home or on the road. DSL numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt as they don't really have any meaning as far as a baseline for projections. What you can take from the numbers is he performed much better, like 95% better, than the rest of the league in his first pro season at a very young age while playing 20 games at short and 36 at second base.
His impressive season was good enough to vault him over the rookie leagues and straight to short season A ball for the 2014 season. Through 37 games and 154 PA's at Connecticut in the New York-Penn League, Leyba hit .264/.303/.375 as an 18 year old playing against competition an average of three years older than him. He hit 11 doubles, one homer, and stole one base while walking eight times to 17 strike outs and spending the majority of his time in the field at the keystone. His BABIP was more realistic at .294 and he posted a 99 wRC+ and .315 wOBA. After Detroit send short stop Willy Adames to Tampa at the trade deadline, they promoted Leyba to Low A West Michigan. He began his stint at second base but moved over to short stop for the last half of August. Leyba made 124 plate appearances in his 30 games there with an incredible .397/.431/.483 triple slash which was good for a 165 wRC+ and .420 wOBA. One could argue it was a stretch of fantastic luck with a .441 BABIP, but the short sample also included Leyba hitting line drives at a 23.1% clip, 7.4 points better than the Midwest League average. Across the two levels he made 278 plate appearances with a .323/.360/.423 line, 14 walks to 30 strike outs, and 21 extra base hits. Leyba only went up to hit right handed 66 times and only managed a .233/.292/.283 line against southpaws, which is something to keep an eye on in the future as this is the first time he's shown any sort of statistical weakness in his brief career. He finished the year off with 13 games in the AFL as one of a handful of teenagers, hitting just .171/.277/.171 against FAR more experienced competition.
The calling card with Leyba is his well rounded skill set and phenomenal maturity. He has great barrel control and an innate ability to make contact while spraying the ball all over the field. The power isn't there right now but he could grow into the strength to post double digit home run totals. His approach at the plate is really good and he could wind up being a low walk, low strike out type of player. Average would be a generous way to evaluate Leyba's speed as he doesn't stand out with his wheels but doesn't hold up traffic either. The lack of footspeed also limits his range, but sure hands, quick transfer from glove to hand, and good defensive instincts make him a great second baseman, but fringy short stop. Leyba's maturity is well beyond his years, acting and playing like a grizzled veteran rather than someone who is still two years away from his first beer. A start in the California League could be in Arizona's plans as he has the polish to hold his own against older players. Looking further into the future, I could see Leyba cracking the MLB roster sometime around 2018 or 2019 at second base. By that point his main competition will probably be Chris Owings, but envisioning rosters three to four years in advance is tough.
2014 A- stats
2014 A stats
It's easy to look at this and see all three teams winning this deal. New York finds a short stop to play good defense, Detroit adds another option to their fifth starter mix, and Arizona replenishes the farm with a nearly MLB ready starter and a teenage second baseman with a good stick. All four players involved have their warts, but I like it for everyone involved. It may not have the star power and implications of the last time these three got together for a deal, but this trade still will have an impact on the upcoming season.