News broke late of Jeremy Hellickson’s trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks — the first big move of each team’s respective new General Manager. The deal, described by many as addition by subtraction, netted Tampa Bay a pair of minor league prospects, INF Andrew Velazquez and OF Justin Williams from Arizona.
Matt Silverman, President of Baseball Operations, thanked Hellickson for his time with the Rays,
“As we thank Jeremy for his contributions to the Rays organization and wish him great success in Arizona, we are pleased to receive two talented young prospects in return. They have the potential to become impact players at the major league level, and we are excited to add them to our player development pipeline.”
Hellickson is coming off two rough seasons, culminating in a combined 13-15 record and a 5.00 ERA. Moreover, many have insisted that he fell out of favor with the organization after waiting until after his arbitration was settled to report elbow discomfort prior to the 2014. The discomfort resulted elbow surgery to clear out bone spurs, delaying his return to the rotation until July.
The move clears approximately $4M in salary, also opening a spot in the rotation for Nate Karns or Alex Colome while Matt Moore continues to mend from Tommy John surgery. It does, however, stack the 40-man roster constraints, necessitating roster moves in the near future.
The Rays released a full writeup on the newly acquired prospects,
Velazquez, 20, enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 for Class-A South Bend, and was named Midwest League Prospect of the Year in addition to a midseason and postseason All-Star. The switch-hitter led the Midwest League with 50 stolen bases, 94 runs scored and 15 triples. In 134 games (129 at shortstop), he recorded a .290 (158-for-544) batting average, .367 on-base pct., .428 slugging pct., 18 doubles, nine home runs and 62 walks. His 50 steals ranked seventh among all minor league players. From April 22 to July 16 he reached base safely in 74 consecutive games.
Following the season, Velazquez was named the No. 12 prospect in the D-backs system by MLB.com and the No. 16 prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America. The Bronx, New York native was selected by Arizona in the seventh round of the 2012 June Draft out of Fordham Prep School.
Williams, 19, hit a combined .351 (102-for-291) between Short-Season A Missoula and South Bend in 2014, and won the Pioneer League batting title with a .386 (73-for-189) mark for Missoula. At the time of his August 3 promotion, he had compiled a Missoula-record 28-game hitting streak, batting .443 (51-for-115) during that time. He recorded 52 hits in the month of July, most of any professional hitter at any level. After the season, Williams was named a postseason Pioneer League All-Star, the league’s No. 7 prospect by Baseball America, and the No. 14 prospect in the D-backs system by MLB.com. He finished the campaign with a combined four home runs, 46 RBI, .403 on-base pct. and .467 slugging pct.
Williams, a left-handed hitter, owns a .351 career batting average over two professional seasons. He was selected by Arizona in the second round of the 2013 June Draft out of Terrebonne High School in Houma, Louisiana.
Scott Grauer (DRaysBay) put together an excellent breakdown of the prospects the Rays received.