Everyone knew that San Diego Padres lefty Drew Pomeranz was on the trade block and it was expected that the Boston Red Sox would be active on the trade market. It was still a surprise to see this one come down the transaction wire: Pomeranz heads east to Fenway Park, and in exchange the Padres receive Anderson Espinosa.
First, the view of Espinosa pre-season from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Anderson Espinosa, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-0 WT: 170 DOB: March 9, 1998
2015: Grade C+
Oh, boy, this one looks terrific. The Red Sox gave Espinosa a bonus of $1,800,000 in 2014, an all-time record for a Venezuelan. He opened 2015 in the Dominican Summer League but was obviously too good for that level. Promoted to the Gulf Coast League, he blew away older competition in 10 starts, drawing tremendous praise for his talent and backing that up with strong numbers. He finished with one start in A-ball which did not go very well, but he was just 17. Espinosa showed an 89-94 MPH fastball when he signed but that increased to 93-98 last year, with a few reports of 99-100. This is easy heat, too, with a clean, smooth delivery from an athletic body. His curveball and change-up need some additional polish but both project as plus pitches and are certainly quality offerings given his age. His feel for pitching is also respectable and he has plenty of mound presence. He’s not a huge guy but nobody seems concerned about that. If Espinosa were from the United States, he would be entering the draft pool in 2016 and would be viewed as a candidate not just for the first round, but a candidate to go number one overall. We need to see how he holds up to a workload of course, but while it is generally wise to keep expectations in check for a young pitcher, Espinosa has all the physical and intangible attributes to be a number one starter, assuming he continues to throw strikes (which seems likely) and stay healthy (too soon to know). Grade B+.
The Red Sox opened Espinosa this year at Greenville in the South Atlantic League, a highly aggressive posting for an 18 year old. He's had some brilliant performances and some mediocre ones, totaling up to a 4.38 ERA in 76 innings with a 72/27 K/BB. That may not sound exceptional but he is the age-equivalent of a guy who just got drafted out of high school last month; for him to hold his own in full-season ball is very impressive.
Observers who saw Espinosa pitch early in the season felt he'd solidified his status as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, perhaps even the best one. He's been spottier lately but we're still looking at a possible top-of-the-rotation talent a few years down the line.
In terms of talent exchange, it is a short-term move for the Red Sox but it helps solidify the rotation for the pennant run. For the Padres it adds a premium arm, a nice boost for the farm system, although like all pitching prospects Espinosa comes with risk.