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To say that Monday night’s seven player trade between the Rays and the Royals was contentious would be an understatement. The move made ripples in all corners of the baseball world, while setting the local sports talk radio airwaves ablaze. Gone are RHP James Shields and Wade Davis. In return, the Rays received über OF prospect Wil Myers along with Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard. The initial opinion is that the Rays raked in this deal, at least in the long-term.
We Rays fans have watched our team deal some of the bigger named players for years now. Players like Matt Garza, Delmon Young, Edwin Jackson, and Scott Kazmir (among others) rose to prominence with the Rays, only to be traded. Trades that found many a Rays fan scratching his/her head. Those moves were easier to swallow, after all the above mentioned players haven’t been nearly as effective since parting ways with the Rays.
This one stings a bit more. Shields really doesn’t have the downsides of Garza, Jackson, or Kazmir. And well, if the Rays could have afforded to keep Shields and Davis on the roster, they would have. The fact of the matter is that the Rays have not been able to sustain consistent rosters on a $35-$70MM payroll. Ahem, I guess we could point the fingers of blame at those that are more than willing to offer excuses for why they cannot get out to the Trop as opposed to actually going to games. I digress.
This move isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact this trade is pretty damn great, especially for the Rays. So who are the new faces that will eventually be seen around the clubhouse? Let’s take a peek.
Wil Myers, OF
Described as having “big time power” OF Wil Myers has a very real chance of winning a starting position with his new team following Spring Training. Furthermore, Myers has above average defensive skills, and an accurate plus arm which make him an Myers has been called the best power-hitting prospect in the minor leagues, and his ranking as the best minor league player by Baseball America only bolsters that reputation. Myers hit .303 with 64 home runs, 259 RBI and has a slugging percentage of .522 in his four minor league seasons. Last season he posted a .314 BA/.387 OBP/.600 SLG/.987 OPS line, with a combined 37 home runs and 109 RBI. Not to shabby for the 22 year-old prospect. Flaws? Myers has the tendency to swing and miss. Bleacher Report put it best,
Last season, between two minor league levels, he struck out 140 times in 522 at-bats. In 2011, he struck out 87 times in 354 at-bats. Those numbers could be worse, but no one is going to mistake this kid for a contact hitter anytime soon.
Myers struck out 140 times in 134 games in 2012. It was also his first season implementing a new, more aggressive approach at the plate. As his pitch recognition inevitably improves with experience, his strikeout and walk rates will even out. Whether that comes from time spent with Triple-A Durham fails to be seen at the moment. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay has Myers under their control for (at least) six years. That’s more than enough time for Myers to become a force with the Rays.
Acquiring Myers may have been a risky move, especially since he has no major league experience. However Myers’ upsides, by and far, outweigh any of the risks therein.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP
Selected in the supplemental first round of the 2008 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, and ranked as the Royals fifth best prospect in 2012 by Baseball America, Odorizzi has a fairly impressive minor league résumé.
Odorizzi has posted a 3.50 ERA in five minor league seasons, with a 3/1 K/BB ratio. In 2012, Odorizzi spent most of his time in Triple-A where he was able to boast some pretty good numbers against righties and lefties alike, posting a .279 OBA/.339 OBP/.442 SLG line against righties, and a .229 OBA/.301 OBP/.332 SLG line against lefties.
In 2012 Odorizzi gave up 12 homers, striking out 88 and walking 40 in 460 total plate appearances, relenting 41 runs (35 earned). A contact pitcher by all accounts, Bleacher Report noted that,
Even though he didn’t miss as many bats in Triple-A, he did post a 2.93 ERA in 107.1 innings—all the more impressive in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Odorizzi has a 92-95 MPH fastball with some late sink to the arm side, a nice 12-to-6 curveball, a slider, and a changeup in his repertoire. His tendency to pitch up in the zone makes him vulnerable against keeping the ball in the yard. Too, the command on his curveball is a bit shaky. He will probably need a little work in Durham to refine his command, as well as to work on pitch sequencing.
Mike Montgomery, LHP
Ranked as the Royals top prospect upon entering the 2011 season, Mike Montgomery is a left-handed pitcher who, as Bleacher Report put it, had been “on the fast track to the major leagues.” That was prior to suffering a forearm/elbow injury which cost him two months on the DL. He hasn’t been quite the same since his return, posting a 5.32 ERA and 4.12 BB/9 in over 150 innings in 2011.
Montgomery was then demoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas after posting a 5.69 ERA and 4.22 BB/9 in 91.2 innings of work.
Pitch wise, Montgomery had a fastball that was sitting in the mid-90’s prior to his injury. He also had the ability ramp up the velocity when he needed. Whether he’ll regain that ability is a bit hazy at the moment.
Montgomery’s changeup has received above-average grades and he has a curveball that causes hitters to swing and miss. His curve is a pitch that will also need to be tightened and thrown with more velocity.
Make no mistake about it though; Montgomery was dealing prior to his injury. And if there’s any organization that can get the 23-year-old back on track, it’s the Rays. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him well.
Patrick Leonard, 3B
Patrick Leonard is the least experienced player of the group acquired by the Rays. Leonard is a 6’4”, 225-pound third baseman with power and good plate discipline. Leonard posted a .251 BA/.340 OBP/.494 SLG/.834 OPS line, with 14 homers and 46 RBI in 235 at-bats with Burlington in 2012. As per his scouting report, Leonard is a right-handed hitter that “has an impressive feel for the strike zone given his lack of experience, which, in turn, allows him to utilize his above-average raw power. Even though a majority of his pop is currently to the pull side, his advanced pitch recognition suggests he’ll learn to use the whole field with more experience.”
Whether he’ll stay at third, or eventually make the transition to first base or left-field as he matures is still up in question.
Whatever your thoughts may be on this move, Lookout Landing offered a bit of perspective that may find you basking in the knowledge that the Rays absolutely raked:
The entire Rays front office, right this moment, is celebrating naked in a champagne jacuzzi. It was the cheapest champagne the corner store had available, but this champagne isn’t for drinking. And besides, the Rays just saved millions and millions of dollars. The Rays cut costs and improved the organization’s long-term outlook by leaps and bounds.
Last but not least, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank Shields for all that he’d done for and with the Rays. I can only hope that Shields’ impact will be felt among the younger pitchers on the starting rotation. I’ll be rootin’ for ya, Juego G…just not in games that you start against the Rays!