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Movers and Shakers - Part Two

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A quick recap of the trades that have taken place since the calendar flipped to 2015.

The Zorilla, Ben Zobrist of the Oakland A's.
The Zorilla, Ben Zobrist of the Oakland A's.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we've made it to the month of January, lets keep breaking down these deals. In the Prospect Trade Analysis series, I've fallen a bit behind (I'm blaming Billy Beane, John Hart, and AJ Preller for that). In the first part of the Movers and Shakers mini-series, I recapped the deals from mid-December until December 31st. Now we move on to New Year which should bring even more trades chockful of prospecty goodness.

Also make sure you check out the latest in John's quest to complete The 2015 Baseball Prospect Book, the Top 20 Prospects for the Detroit Tigers.

Yankees add a pair of relievers for former Top 100 prospect

manny banuelos

Braves left handed starting pitcher Manny Banuelos.

Photo courtesy of Rudy C. Jones

The deal -

The New York Yankees acquire RHP David Carpenter and LHP Chasen Shreve from the Altanta Braves in exchange for LHSP Manny Banuelos.

The skinny -

The Yankees flip one of their former top pitching prospects for a pair of relief arms that can help them immediately. The headlining piece with MLB service time here is right handed relief pitcher David Carpenter who underwent a career renaissance with the Braves and pitching coach Roger McDowell. He was picked up off waivers from the Red Sox following the 2012 campaign where struggled with the Astros and Blue Jays, and was traded twice while posting a brutal 8.07 ERA and allowing over 14 hits per nine innings. He was involved in on of those rare trades for a manager, being packaged with Mike Aviles and sent to Boston for current field general John Farrell. The past two seasons with Atlanta, Carpenter has notched a 2.63 ERA over 126.2 innings and 121 appearances. He's struck out 141 while walking just 36 in that time frame with a 2.88 FIP and 140 ERA+. The 6'2, 230 pound right handers arsenal is essentially a fastball/slider combo, and he went to the heat over 72% of the time with an average velocity of 95.6 mph according to FanGraphs, and can touch the high 90's when he's amped up. The slider is a mid 80's pitch with good bite and rated as league average by FG's pitch values. The Yankees recently avoided going to arbitration with him by agreeing to a one year deal for $1.3M, and they still have him under team control through the 2017 season. Carpenter will slot into the middle innings for New York to bridge the gap to their two-headed monster at the back end of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

Left handed reliever Chasen Shreve made his MLB debut with Atlanta last year, making 15 appearances for the Braves spanning 12.1 innings with a 0.73 ERA and 1.43 FIP, striking out 15 while issuing just three free passes and allowing 10 hits. Prior to that, he made 46 appearances between AA Mississippi and AAA Gwinnett, throwing 64 frames with a 2.67 ERA, 1.92 FIP, and 87 punch outs (35.5%) to just 12 walks (4.9%) and 51 hits allowed. Shreve will turn 25 in July next year, but it will be considered his age 24 season because of where his birthday falls. The 6'3, 190 pound southpaw is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher but will mix in a change of pace to keep right handed hitters honest. The heater sits in the mid 90's, throwing both a two and four seamer while going to the latter almost 56% of the time. Shreve throws a mid 80's slider about a quarter of the time, and the pitch features sharp break and is a legitimate Major League weapon. His change up sits in the low 80's and has more cut action to it than fade. Shreve retained his rookie status and will be under team control for New York for the next six years. He could make the pen out of spring training with a good showing, but he's likely to start the year with AAA and wait for an injury or ineffectiveness on the part of another reliever before he gets the call.

In exchange for the two relief pitchers, Atlanta received left handed starting pitcher Manny Banuelos from the Yanks. Listed at 5'10 and 205 pounds, Banuelos spent the 2014 season working his way back from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in October of 2012. He made 25 appearances and threw 76.2 innings between A+ Tampa, AA Trenton, and AAA Scranton/W-B. Banuelos posted a 4.11 ERA and a 4.61 FIP with 71 strike outs (21.8%) to 31 walks (9.5%) while surrendering 64 hits and 10 home runs. The soon to be 24 year old was once a consensus Top 50 prospect according to the major media outlets like Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com prior to the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. A mid 90's fastball and Bugs Bunny change up were his bread and butter while being accompanied by a sharp mid 70's hook. His stuff hasn't returned 100% yet to pre-surgery levels, but Atlanta is taking a gamble that he will get back to it soon. My guess is Banuelos will be breaking camp with AAA Gwinnett as he continues to shake the rust from his surgery.

The verdict -

I like what Atlanta came away with here as the potential is still there for Banuelos to develop into a solid starter. Carpenter and Shreve are good bullpen pieces, but neither figure to get any high leverage innings. Aside from the folks in Detroit, it's been shown that you can build a decent bullpen on the fly pretty easily. Finding quality starting pitching is not quite as simple, and sometimes you have to take a gamble on a guy with an injury history to get that. I'll put Atlanta in the win column for this deal.

Braves and Angels swap three in minor league deal

ricardo sanchez

Braves left handed starting pitcher Ricardo Sanchez.

Photo courtesy of Larry Goren/AP

The deal -

The Los Angeles Angels acquire 3B Kyle Kubitza and RHP Nate Hyatt from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for LHSP Ricardo Sanchez.

The skinny -

Atlanta keeps adding younger talent, but this time they used their minor league depth to acquire a left handed starter with a high risk/high reward profile. The lefty in question here is a 5'11, 170 pound Venezuelan native about to enter his age 18 season in Ricardo Sanchez. He made his professional debut this past season with the Angels rookie level Arizona League squad, throwing 38.2 innings with a 3.49 ERA and 3.90 FIP. He struck out 43 (23.6%) while allowing 22 walks (12.1%) and 40 hits without giving up a long ball. Sanchez is currently working with a low 90's fastball, a promising curve with plus potential, and is working on developing a change up. The delivery is smooth and looks very natural with good feel for pitching. His athleticism and easy motion lead me to believe he'll project to average command in the future. With the potential for two average pitches and a plus breaking ball, Sanchez could wind up being mid-rotation material if he can stay healthy and log some innings. He looks to join an intriguing rotation in advanced rookie Danville of the Appalachian League that will also feature Luis Merejo, Garrett Fulenchek, and Oriel Caciedo.

Third baseman Kyle Kubitza is the main piece headed to Los Angeles, a 24 year old left handed hitter that was a former third round pick and the older brother of Tigers farmhand, Austin Kubitza. The elder Kubitza just completed his fourth season in the Atlanta organization, spending the entire year with AA Mississippi. He hit .295/.405/.470 over 529 PA's in the Southern League with 31 doubles, 11 triples and eight home runs while drawing 77 walks (14.6%), striking out 133 times (25.1%), and stealing 21 bags.  This was good for a 145 wRC+ and .393 wOBA. He's a career .271/.381/.437 hitter with a wRC+ of at least 130 the past two seasons. Kubitza offers a strong eye at the plate and good power to the gaps from his 6'3, 215 pound frame. He handles the hot corner well with soft hands and he possesses a ridiculously strong arm capable of any throw, similar to current Angels 3B Kaleb Cowart. The footwork needs improvement though as the majority of his 25 errors came on easy plays. His 77 walks and .405 OBP paced the league and are indicative of his excellent plate discipline. While he doesn't have the traditional profile of a third baseman, his solid defense and solid eye should earn him regular playing time for a team who can stash his bat in the lower third of the lineup. Kubitza has certainly shown AA to be no challenge to him, so I believe he has the inside track to go to AAA Salt Lake City.

The third part of the deal and second player headed to the Angels is Nate Hyatt. The 24 year old right hander completed his second run at the Carolina League with A+ Lynchburg in his second full season. Over 37 relief appearances and 63 innings, he struck out 73 (26.6%) while walking 27 (9.9%), allowing 60 hits and three home runs with a 2.71 ERA and 3.15 FIP.  After the season he made a trip to Arizona for the AFL, where he made 11 more appearances spanning 10.1 frames. He struck out 12, walked seven, and allowed just six hits with a 4.35 ERA and 4.69 FIP. Hyatt's arsenal consists of a mid 90's fastball with life, a low 80's slider with the potential to be an average pitch, and low to mid 80's change up that is a distant third offering. If he can harness his control he may be able to survive in a late innings role. He must have impressed the Angels scouts in attendance out in the AFL and is primed to break into the high minors with AA Arkansas next year.

The verdict -

While dealing away Kubitza created a hole at third base in the pipeline, they soon filled it with Rio Ruiz in the Evan Gattis trade. Depending on how the Angels front office feels about the aging David Freese, Kubitza could get a shot to crack the roster come 2016. Hyatt is another in the long list of two pitch relievers with questionable control that can touch the high 90's. If he maxes out his potential you have a quality set up man, but neither of the two have the impact potential a mid-rotation starter like Ricardo Sanchez. This one swings in Atlanta's favor.

Oakland gets new double play combo, acquire Zobrist and Escobar

daniel robertson

Tampa Bay short stop Daniel Robertson.

Photo courtesy of Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

The deal -

The Oakland A's acquire UT Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for SS Daniel Robertson, C John Jaso, and OF Boog Powell.

The skinny -

I'm pretty sure Billy Beane's master plan for the offseason was to confuse the baseball world, and this was his magnum opus for the Winter. After moving a number of All-Star players from the organization in an attempt to get younger and re-toll, the A's bring in a veteran short stop and the best utility man in the business for his top prospect and two others.

The big fish and one of the top position players left on the trade market, Ben Zobrist left the only organization he's ever played for in the major leagues. After spending nine years with Tampa, the Zorilla takes his career .264/.354/.429 batting line and incredible versatility to Oakland for his final year before free agency. Last year in his age 33 season, Zobrist put up a 119 wRC+, a 116 OPS+, and .333 wOBA with a .272/.354/.395 line, 10 home runs, and 34 doubles. He also stole 10 bags, drew 75 walks (11.5%) to 89 strike outs (12.8%), and was worth 5.7 fWAR and 5.0 rWAR. Defensively, he saved one run at second base, six in left field, was neutral in both right field and at short stop, and his UZR/150 marks were equally as impressive. As mentioned before, he's only under contract for one more year with a $7.5M salary before becoming one of the top position player free agents. For now though, he's going to anchor the A's line up and allow Bob Melvin to play match ups at the SS, 2B, and LF positions between Zobrist, Marcus Semien, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, and Eric Sogard

Yunel Escobar has spent the last  two years holding down the short stop position in Tampa Bay. He posted a .258/.324/.340 triple slash over 529 plate appearances last year, accumulating a 94 OPS+, a 95 wRC+, and .299 wOBA with 18 doubles, seven home runs, and 43 walks (8.1%) to 60 strike outs (11.3%). While he has a history of quality defense, metrics like UZR/150 and DRS were not kind to him, resulting in a -26 UZR/150 and cost the Rays 24 runs on defense. This tanked his fWAR down to just 0.2 and a -0.2 rWAR. He's on the hook for $5M this upcoming season with a $7M salary in 2016, and a $7M team option for 2017 with a $1M buyout, bringing the total left on his contract to $13M over two years. He'll be 32 years old next year and would have been slotted in as Oakland's Opening Day short stop, but was flipped to the Nationals for relief pitcher Tyler Clippard.

The only MLB piece headed to Tampa is C/DH John Jaso. The left handed hitting catcher first broke into the big leagues with Tampa back in 2010 when he finished 5th in the Rookie of the Year race with a .263/.372/.378 line, a 111 OPS+, a 115 wRC+, and .340 wOBA while being worth 2.3 fWAR and 2.6 rWAR. In late 2011 he was shipped to Seattle, then the following offseason was part of a three team trade where he ended up in Oakland. This past season, his second with Oakland, Jaso put up a .264/.337/.430 line with 18 doubles, nine home runs, 28 walks (8.1%), and 60 punch outs (17.4%) in 344 plate appearances. This was good for a 121 wRC+, a 117 OPS+, a .339 wOBA, and was worth 1.5 fWAR and 1.6 rWAR. Long known for his prowess against right handed pitching, the A's were able to limit him to just 27 PA's against southpaws (about 8% of his plate appearances) while posting a .272/.344/.449 triple slash on right handers. On defense, John Jasojingleheimerschmidt cost Oakland five runs behind the dish with just one error, one passed ball, and he threw out just 11% of base thieves in 55 games at catcher. He did encounter some concussion issues last year, and there's really no way of telling if he's put the injury behind him yet. Now back with his original team, Jaso and the Rays agreed to a one year, $3.175M contract to avoid arbitration in his final season before becoming a free agent..

The most intriguing player involved here has to be short stop Daniel Robertson who is heading to Tampa in the deal. A former supplemental first round pick from 2012, Oakland challenged Robertson by sending him to the A+ California League for his age 20 season in 2014. He responded with a .310/.402/.471 triple slash to go with a 132 wRC+, a .389 wOBA, and .349 BABIP. This time around he parked 15 in the seats to go with 37 doubles, three triples, 72 walks (11.2%), and 94 strike outs (14.6%). His 2014 season brought improvements in just abut every offensive category compared to the year before, and he only made three more errors at short in 24 more games (17 E, 123 G). After the conclusion of the regular season, Oakland sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .301/.398/.356 over 88 plate appearances with a homer, a double, 11 walks and 20 punch outs. The Rays are getting an offensive-minded short stop that totes an above average hit tool and great plate discipline. His power projects to be average down the line, but it may take a few years for it to show up in games. He's not the fleetest of foot with below average speed, but he makes up for it in the field with great instincts, positioning, and first step quickness. The arm can handle the throw deep in the hole, and he's got soft hands and rolls a good double play. The acquisition of Robertson continues a trend Tampa began earlier this season in stockpiling short stops, adding Robertson, Andrew Velazquez, Willy Adames, and Adrian Rondon since July to a group that was headline by Hak-Ju Lee.

Who doesn't love a throwback? Boog Powell, the outfielder - not the BBQ master and former Oriole great, pairs the old school name with an old school style of play. Curious how he got the nickname? In an interview with the Napa Valley Register, Powell re-told the story to Harrell Miller -

"My name is Herschel Mack. My grandpa is Herschel and my dad is Mack. For a little while they called me Little Mack, but I really didn’t like that, so my parents decided to call me Boog. The Baltimore Boog Powell happened to be a favorite of my grandpa’s. The name stuck and I’ve been Boog ever since."

A 5'10, 185 pound left handed center fielder, Powell signed with Oakland out of Orange Coast Community College after being selected in the 20th round of the 2012 draft. He made his full season debut this past season, splitting the year between Low A Beloit and A+ Stockton. With Beloit, he made 311 plate appearances with a .335/.452/.429 triple slash that included seven doubles, four triples, three long balls, and 16 stolen bases out of 29 attempts. He worked 53 walks (17%) to just 49 strike outs (15.8%) with a 160 wRC+, a .413 wOBA, and .404 BABIP. In late June he received the call to join Stockton in the California League, and he appeared in 11 games before going down with a 50 game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines. He returned in time to play three more games at the end of the season before heading to the Arizona Fall League. In 14 Cal League games, Powell hit .377/.449/.459 by going 23-61 with three doubles, a triple, eight walks, and four strike outs. Powell took 84 more trips to the plate in the AFL, hitting .300/.402/.429 with a pair of homers, three doubles, 12 walks and 11 punch outs. All told, Powell made 380 plate appearances with a .343/.451/.435 line, 61 walks (16.1%), 53 strike outs (13.9%), 10 doubles, five triples, and three homers. It came out to a 158 wRC+, a .413 wOBA, and crazy high .404 BABIP. On defense, he made 10 outfield assists with four errors while playing 77 games in center field and three in right. The 22 year old excelled at each level he played at, and despite the black mark of the suspension, he was the MVP of the Midwest League All-Star game. The most obvious thing about Powell when looking at his numbers, is that he has a fantastic eye at the plate. At every level he played at this year, he drew more walks than strike outs. He also put up a BABIP that screams, no...shrieks regression. While he does have a skill set that is conducive to high batting averages on balls in play (low fly ball rates with plus speed), expecting a .400 BABIP again is foolish. Tools-wise, Powell rates out as pretty much average defensively with his arm being a tick above average. With the stick, his power is below average and the hit tool would be a 50 with his wheels a plus. He needs to do a much better job utilizing his speed on the bases though as he's a very sloppy base stealer. At this point, I could see him being a 4th outfielder that can pinch hit to get on base and come in as a defensive replacement. I don't think he'll have the pop to crack the starting line up, but he could be a useful player, especially with a National League club.

The verdict -

I've flipped back and forth on this deal as to who could be considered the winner of the deal, but I'm going to say it's a push. I've long been a fan of Ben Zobrist and his supreme versatility while providing an excellent stick. He's a complete steal with a $7.5M salary this year, and Oakland also has a few options with him in the future if things don't work out how Trader Billy thinks. While surrendering Daniel Robertson was a hefty price tag, the acquisition of Franklin Barreto earlier in the winter made losing their top prospect a little easier to swallow. If you want to break it up into smaller deals, you could split this into Zobrist for Robertson, and Escobar for Jaso and Powell. In this situation, I'd take Zobrist and the Jaso/Powell group which turns this into a push for me.

A's flip Yunel Escobar to Washington for Tyler Clippard and his glasses

tyler clippard

A's right handed relief pitcher Tyler Clippard.

Photo courtesy of Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

The deal -

The Washington Nationals acquire SS Yunel Escobar from the Oakland A's in exchange for RHP Tyler Clippard.

The skinny -

Note - While I usually do not do write ups on trades involving MLB players only, this particular one needs to be looked at to get a proper view of the Ben Zobrist deal.

At this point in his career, Nationals incumbent second baseman Danny Espinosa doesn't inspire much faith within the organization. In order to bolster their starting line up, the Nationals brought in Yunel Escobar from the A's, just days after being acquired from Tampa Bay in the Ben Zobrist deal. With Washington, Esobar is expected to handle second base duties, a position he has never played before. He was also brought in as a future in-house insurance policy should Ian Desmond take his talents elsewhere after becoming a free agent following the 2015 season. For a more detailed account of his 2014 season, look above at the previous trade. His defensive metrics at short stop were horrendous last year, so maybe a move across the keystone was inevitable for Escobar. As mentioned above, the Nationals have him under contract for the next two years at a total of $12M with a $1M buyout on a 2017 team option.

With Oakland rebuilding their roster on the fly, why not work on the bullpen too? Good ole Trader Billy did his thing and brought Tyler Clippard into the mix from Washington. The 6'3, 200 pound right handed relief pitcher has been a dominant relief force since his first full season in 2009, posting a career 2.88 ERA, a 139 ERA+, and 3.64 FIP through 491 innings. Clippard has worked in a set up role the past two seasons in front of Rafael Soriano, allowing just 84 hits in 141.1 frames with 155 strike outs (28%), 47 walks (8.5%), a 2.29 ERA, 166 ERA+, and 3.29 FIP. He posted a 0.4 fWAR and 1.8 rWAR in 2013, and a 1.5 fWAR and rWAR in 2014. On the mound, he's a fastball/change up guy for the most part, occasionally slipping a curve into the mix. His fastball sits in the low 90's and averages 91.8 mph while being used 48.3% of the time. The ole cambio is a low 80's offering he goes to 34.5% of the time with an average velocity of 80.4 mph according to pitch f/x data. As a super two player he's entering his fourth and final trip through the arbitration process, and has not come to terms with Oakland yet. Oakland filed at $7.775M with Clippard and his reps looking for $8.85M for the 2015 season. With the recently announced shoulder injury to incumbent closer Sean Doolittle and his track record in the set up role, he looks to be the most obvious replacement.

The verdict -

While I normally lean towards the side acquiring the everyday position player, Oakland wins this one easily. Escobar looks to be on a sharp decline while Clippard could easily be the next David Robertson. That's his top comparable with Baseball Reference's Sim Score, and they do have similarities statistically. It's hard not to think Beane knew about Doolittle's shoulder woes before pulling the trigger on this deal, even if the injury news wasn't announced until nine days after the trade. Speculation on my part there, but I wouldn't see it as a ridiculous theory. Getting one year of Clippard for two of Escobar

Cubs, Mariners swap minor league pitchers

lars huijer

Cubs right handed starting pitcher Lars Huijer.

Photo courtesy of Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

The deal -

The Seattle Mariners acquire LHP Mike Kickham from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Lars Huijer.

The skinny -

With Mike Kickham on the waiver wire, Chicago was looking to get something in return for him before he had the decision to accept an outright to AAA or become a minor league free agent. Seattle was willing to take a chance and offered up 20 year old right hander Lars Huijer. The Dutch native signed with Seattle in 2011 after playing for their Junior National team and for Vaessen in the Dutch Major Leagues as a 17 year old, playing against players on average 10 years his elder. Assigned to the Arizona League, Huijer posted solid numbers against players closer to his age. After two successful years in short season ball, he made his full season debut in 2014 as a 20 year old with Low A Clinton. Before getting a late June promotion to A+ High Desert, he made 12 starts and four relief appearances spanning 71.2 innings with a 4.02 ERA, a 4.80 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. The 6'4, 2013 pound righty struck out just 44 (145) while walking 34 (10.8%) and hitting 18 batters with just 59 hits allowed on the heels of a .264 BABIP and 69.3% strand rate. Huijer made 12 more starts for High Desert in the California League and was knocked around pretty hard. Over 52.1 more frames he allowed 69 hits and eight home runs with 32 punch outs (%) and 27 walks (%) with a brutal 6.54 ERA, a 6.51 FIP, and 1.83 WHIP. He does have a few things going for him despite the surface numbers with a .341 BABIP and 65.7% strand rate likely to regress and a composite 1.89 GO:AO ratio and 53.8% ground ball rate which are both excellent marks. He's got three pitches in his quiver, offering a below average heavy high 80's fastball with sink, the makings of an above average change up with good arm speed and 10+ mph difference from the fastball, and a decent low to mid 70's curve he can throw in any count for a strike. Huijer is still working on his control and command, as shown by the 10.7% walk rate, the 26 hit batters throughout the year, and putrid 1.25 K/BB ratio. As he goes into his age 21 season, it would not surprise me in the least bit if Chicago sent him to their new A+ affiliate in Myrtle Beach, but cracking that rotation may prove difficult as he'll likely be going up against Duane Underwood, Paul Blackburn, Jen-Ho Tseng, Daury Torrez, and Jonathan Martinez.

Kickham has had a pretty eventful 2014; making his second stint in the big leagues with the World Champion San Francisco Giants, getting DFA'd and claimed by the Cubs in December 2014, and now getting traded to Seattle. The majority of his 2014 campaign was spent with AAA Fresno in the Pacific Coast League, making 27 starts that totaled 148.1 innings with a 4.43 ERA, a 4.03 FIP, and 1.58 WHIP. Kickham struck out 131 (19.6%) while allowing 64 walks (9.6%) and 171 hits with a .355 BABIP and 64.7% strand rate. He induced a 1.87 GO:AO ratio and 49.9% ground ball rate with Fresno before getting shelled in a very brief two inning stint with the Giants. Seattle looks to already have a pretty crowded rotation, but they only have one lefty in the bullpen for sure with Charlie Furbush. Kickham joins Lucas Luetge, Edgar Olmos, and David Rollins as the only other southpaws on the 40 man roster, and he looks to have the inside track on snagging that last bullpen spot with his ability to go multiple innings. The heater sits in the 92-95 mph range as a starter with sink, and a move to the pen should kick that up a few ticks. His go-to breaking ball is a tight slider in the 81-83 mph range, and a change up. Seattle will want him to keep working on his control and command which has plagued him throughout his minor league career (10% career walk rate and 1.41 WHIP). He could be a decent swing man/long reliever for a team but I wouldn't expect much more.

The verdict -

It's not often a team can take a guy they scooped up off the waiver wire and flip him for a half-decent prospect. The Cubs win this deal on that basis alone. Due to Huijer's unique background of growing up and training with MLB Europe's academy, I consider him to be a "young 21", meaning he doesn't have the traditional background of a prospect. After three and a half years in the Mariners system though, I'd like to see his velocity make that jump, but he's still young. He won't be considered a top prospect, especially in such a loaded system as the Cubs have, but he could be a useful piece down the line if he does get those velocity gains. Without that, I don't see him cracking an MLB roster.