It has certainly been an exciting trade deadline. Seemingly within a matter of minutes, the Los Angeles Angels pulled off two separate trades for outfielders. First they pried David DeJesus away from the Tampa Bay Rays and then they landed David Murphy from Cleveland.
The Indians, who are currently dead last in the AL Central and were recently ripped by their star second baseman Jason Kipnis for their woeful play, are apparently now sellers at the deadline. Who were they able to pry away from the Angels for Murphy?
Eric Stamets didn’t make John Sickels' top 20 Angels prospect this season after sitting at No. 13 entering the 2014 season. Stamets lost some of his luster after spending four weeks out of action in 2014. 2015 hasn’t been much different.
Stamets was drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 draft. The now 23-year old shortstop came into the league known for his defensive prowess. He has not failed to live up to those expectations over the course of his four year career. 2014 was his finest season, as he racked up the best fielding percentage amongst all Texas League shortstops.
This video exemplifies his high defensive marks. Watch as he lays out and then quickly gets to his feet and makes a nearly perfect long throw across the diamond.
Every last person that discusses or sees Stamets gushes over his defensive ability. Standing at six feet, 190 pounds, Stamets has a big arm and tremendous speed. His footwork along with his speed give him solid range (4.61 career range factor) and helps him make difficult plays seem easy (.974 career fielding percentage).
Where Stamets struggles is at the plate and staying healthy.
Stamets does possess amazing speed and seems to have good awareness on the base paths, successfully swiping 79.5% of his attempted bases in his career. The problem is he isn’t on base enough to use it.
His career slash in is .262/.317/.360 but even those numbers are inflated from his first two seasons in A and High-A ball. His past season and a half in Double-A has been a real struggle at the plate. Stamets has batted a mere .240 and has reached base just a lick under .300. He has very little power, both in the home run department as well as in the gaps as Stamets has average 3.5 home runs and 13 doubles over his two stints in Double-A.
While he doesn’t walk a lot (a 6.2 % career walk rate), he also doesn’t strikeout a ton. This season, he has only struck out 10.4 % of the time, so the contact is there. Due to the lack of pop and an unlucky .266 BABIP, Stamets simply doesn’t sneak out many hits.
Seemingly, when he gets into a pitch, however, he can drive it as evidenced below.
The shortstop has had to be patient during his developmental stages as two bizarre injuries have cost him significant amounts of time over the past two seasons. He injured his finger squaring to bunt last season giving him trouble gripping the baseball and bat. This season, Stamets was on the shelf for over five weeks recovering from a shoulder injury that he endured essentially falling down on the base paths. The promising news is that the injuries have been self induced, almost of clumsy proportions. Nothing seems to indicate that these are lingering or will be reoccurring issues.
It’s a peculiar option for the Indians. They appear to be pretty set up the middle with Francisco Lindor (two years younger than Stamets) settling in at the big league level and Kipnis emerging as one of the premier second basemen in the game. Perhaps the Indians envision Stamets as a guy who can use his defensive talents at the hot corner, a position they haven’t had a tremendous amount of success with the past several seasons.
Stamets, despite being 23, is still somewhat a work in progress missing nearly 10 weeks of the past two seasons. Reports are that he had changed his swing last season, a progression that has obviously been hurt by his time on the shelf. His defense is strong enough that if he can minimally improve his hitting, he should have a shot at the big leagues in a Brendan Ryan utility role at the very least.