We have traded RH Nathan Eovaldi to Boston in exchange for LH Jalen Beeks.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 25, 2018
One day after the New York Yankees bolstered their Super Bullpen with Zach Britton (details of that trade were reported here), the Red Sox, who are five games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East, did the opposite, and strengthened their rotation. Eovaldi, a free agent at season’s end, is having a nice bounce back season after missing all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery. Known for once having top-five velocity in baseball and a lot of streakiness, Eovaldi gives the Red Sox a relatively young (28) righty in the rotation. Eovaldi was slated to pitch against the Yankees this evening, but will head to Boston instead.
So, what did the Rays get in Beeks?
Beeks was the Red Sox 12th round draft pick in the 2014 MLB Draft out of Arkansas. He posted a minuscule 1.98 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in his final season with the Hogs and the Red Sox liked what they saw. He doesn’t have the pitcher’s frame that sends scouts drooling, listed at just 5’11” and 195, and now 25 years of age, Beeks seems to be who he is in stature.
Our heralded leader John Sickels had Beeks the seventh-ranked prospect in the Red Sox preseason top 20. Here’s why:
Age 24, 12th round pick in 2014 from University of Arkansas; nice season in the high minors, 3.29 ERA with 155/55 K/BB in 145 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 121 hits; fastball anywhere between 88 and 94 MPH with good command and deception; good change-up that helps heater play up, mixes in adequate curveball and slider; doesn’t get a huge amount of attention but could be a sneaky fourth starter or a fine bullpen lefty. ETA 2018.
Beeks primarily works with three pitches, but has four in his arsenal. His best offering is a low-90s fastball, but it is deceptive and he is able to move it and get strikeouts. He has a what some reports have as a curveball and others as a slider, so that should tell you how solid an offering it is. That said, it is effective in keeping hitters at bay, reasonably slower than his fastball. Beeks added a splitter to his arsenal last seasons and that helped see improved strikeout rates and more ground balls. Lastly he throws an above-average changeup that most will say has been his biggest improvement and adds to the deception of his fastball as a true strikeout pitch.
(video from Aaron Thorn | YouTube)
He seems to have little issue repeating his delivery, but it does come with some effort. That said, he keeps the ball back and hidden, and that slight pause seems to help deceive batters.
Beeks was throwing arguably the best baseball of his young career with Pawtucket in 2018. He had a nice 2.89 ERA and his 3.05 FIP shows it was very much for real. He was striking out 12.06-per-nine (a career-high aside from his five inning pro debut in 2014) and walking just 2.58-per-nine. The command is there and his baseball smarts keeps him in games. He has 16 starts this season, and after making 26 in each of the past three years, we know he can go innings and has the stamina to pitch all season.
He’s really been a menace on lefties this season, but the splits are pretty close to both hitters. Righties hit a little lower (.213 to .220), but they are also able to launch the ball more from the right-hand side. He was producing a career-low ground ball rate one year removed from posting some of the best numbers of his career. Perhaps that hurt him in his 2018 big league debut. He made two uninspiring appearances, walking four in 6.1 innings and allowing 11 hits, one of which was a home run. That’s not at all surprising, a trait sometimes common with the “shorter” pitchers.
What did the Rays get?
The Rays are a winner in this trade, but that doesn’t mean the Red Sox aren’t. Eovaldi was a flier, coming back from injury better than most expected, but with a bevy of young and talented arms coming off of injury of their own in 2019, Eovaldi likely wasn’t in the future plans. The Rays got a younger, seemingly healthier arm who has plenty of big league innings left. He may not crack the 2019 Opening Day roster with the aforementioned wealth of Rays young pitching, but he should provide valuable depth at the least with back-end rotation abilities.