Just days after the Kansas City Royals traded Wil Myers and three other prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays, another top prospect is on the move in the wake of a massive, nine-player trade between the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds addressed their need for a top-of-the-order center fielder by acquiring Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians, as well as infielder Jason Donald.
The Diamondbacks will finally get a young, cost-controlled shortstop in Didi Gregorius, left-handed reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson.
And in exchange for Choo, 30, who will be a free agent following the 2013 season, the Indians will receive center fielder Drew Stubbs from the Reds. The Tribe will also get top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from the Diamondbacks as well as relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw.
Here’s a more in-depth look at all the prospects involved in the three-team trade.
Didi Gregorius, SS (Acquired by Diamondbacks)
Signed out of Amsterdam in 2007, Gregorius has always drawn rave reviews for his defense at shortstop. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise when the 22-year-old’s bat started to blossom over the course of the 2012 season.
Opening the year at Double-A Pensacola, the left-handed hitter batted .278/.344/.373 in 81 games and demonstrated an improved approach relative to previous seasons. The Reds promoted him to Triple-A Louisville in early July, where he batted .243/.288/.427 with 31/12 K/BB in 48 games.
Although his average and contact rate was regressed at the more advanced level, Gregorius showcased more power by collecting 19 extra-base hits that included six home runs.
His strong performance across the two levels ultimately earned him a big-league call-up when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1. Even though he would only appear in eight games with the Reds, Gregorius made the most of his opportunities by collecting six hits in 20 at-bats.
At 6’1”, 185 pounds, Gregorius has a projectable build that should allow him to add strength as he matures physically. An instinctual and creative shortstop, the 22-year-old is a plus defender with excellent range in all directions.
His glove is equally impressive thanks to a combination of impressive hand-eye coordination and soft, sure hands. An above-average arm completes his impressive overall defensive skill set and is more than enough for the position at the big-league level.
At the plate, Gregorius isn’t nearly as polished, though he’s certainly not a slouch. The left-handed hitter employs a short, compact swing with a direct bat path that yields line drives from line-to-line. He has a tendency to get beat by good velocity, so the fact that he enjoyed a slight power surge upon reaching Triple-A Louisville last season is encouraging.
While he doesn’t strike out a lot, Gregorius would benefit from working deeper counts and drawing more walks. There’s little doubt in my mind that his excellent bat-to-ball ability will translate in the major leagues; however, that same ability also forces him to expand the strike zone to reach more pitches, which, in turn, results in too many weakly-hit balls.
Even if Gregorius offers league-average production for the position, the value tied to his defense should make him a commodity. In reality, he projects to have an average hit tool by the time he settles in as the team’s everyday shortstop. And while he may flirt with double-digit home runs on occasion, Gregorius is more likely to amass 25-30 doubles in a given season.
Regardless of the quality of talent dealt to land Gregorius, the Diamondbacks acquired a legitimate shortstop prospect who may win a Gold Glove or two over the course of his career while serving as the team’s No. 2 hitter, ideally.
In my two looks at him last month in the Arizona Fall League, the 22-year-old left me convinced that he has a future in the major leagues. While he’s not a high-ceiling, elite prospect, Gregorius is a genuine up-the-middle talent with quietly good athleticism and tools.
Under the assumption that the Diamondbacks will ease him into the role of the team’s everyday shortstop, Gregorius will likely open the 2013 season at Triple-A. However, he may be allowed to compete for the position during Spring Training.
Gregorius, who I ranked as the Reds’ No. 5 prospect earlier today, won’t be arbitration eligible until the 2016 season and is set to become a free agent in 2019.
Lars Anderson, 1B (Acquired by Diamondbacks)
After posting a .934 OPS between High and Double-A in his age-20 season in 2008, Lars Anderson quickly emerged as the Boston Red Sox’s future first baseman. The 25-year-old’s career has declined steadily since then, though; he’s never matched the career-high 18 home runs hit that season and come nowhere close to a .300 batting average.
By the end of the 2011 season, Anderson had played his way out of the Red Sox’s long-term plan, and certainly didn’t help his own case by posting a .791 OPS with 120 strikeouts in 136 games at Triple-A Pawtucket.
And it’s not as though the Red Sox didn’t give him a fair chance. Anderson was called up to the major leagues in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and appeared in a total of 30 games. However, the left-handed hitter failed repeatedly in those auditions, batting .167/.268/.188 with 14 strikeouts in 56 plate appearances.
After four-and-a-half years in the Red Sox’s organization, Anderson was traded to the Indians at the July 31 trade deadline in exchange for Double-A pitching prospect, Steven Wright. Assigned to Triple-A Columbus following the trade, Anderson batted .196/.319/.286 with 18 strikeouts in 18 games.
And now he’s on the move again, this time to Arizona where he will attempt to remind everyone that he was once a highly regarded young hitter. The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, clearly view him a wild card-like player and hope that (another) change of scenery may revive his bat.
If he hits, then that’s great; Anderson could spend the 2012 season stashed in Triple-A as the organization’s last-resort first baseman. If he struggles, then it simply doesn’t matter, as expectations were minimal to begin with.
Trevor Bauer, RHP (Acquired by Indians)
Okay. This is where things get interesting.
The Cleveland Indians will receive right-hander Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Don’t worry, you read that correctly.
It wasn’t particularly surprising that the 21-year-old’s name has recently come up in trade rumors. After all, Diamondbacks’ GM Kevin Towers will always listen to offers for any of his players. But the fact that a deal centered around Bauer actually materialized is just as surprising as it is baffling.
In his junior season at UCLA in 2011, Bauer registered a 1.25 ERA and led the nation with 203 strikeouts—also a Pac-10 single-season record. The right-hander’s excellence on the mound ultimately led to his selection as the winner of the 2011 Golden Spikes Award—a prestigious honor given to the nation’s top amateur ballplayer.
Selected by the Diamondbacks with the third overall pick of the 2011 draft, Bauer received a $3.4 million bonus when agreed to a four-year, $4.73 million major-league contract in late July. The right-hander was assigned to High-A Visalia to begin his professional career where he his 17 strikeouts in his first nine innings prompted a promotion to Double-A Mobile.
Noticeably worn down after a long, long college season, Bauer struggled at the higher level to the tune of a 7.56 ERA but still consistently missed bats and posted an excellent strikeout rate.
Headed into the 2012 season, I ranked him as the No. 8 overall prospect in game and one spot ahead of the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy. Returning to Mobile to begin his full-season debut, Bauer enjoyed a strong start with seven wins in his first eight starts, and posted a 1.68 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 48.1 innings.
The Diamondbacks handed Bauer another challenge with a promotion to Triple-A Reno in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. And seemingly right on queue, the 21-year-old responded by registering a 2.82 ERA over eight starts.
Bauer was finally called up to the majors on June 28 and made his debut later that night on the road against the Atlanta Braves. While he showcased a deep arsenal of above-average pitches, he exited the game after only four innings due to a high pitch count and discomfort in his groin.
Wanting to give Bauer the benefit of the doubt, the team gave him three more starts—two of which were pretty terrible. And after registering a 6.06 ERA with 13 walks in 16.1 innings, they sent him back to Triple-A to refine his command and overall approach.
As a pitcher with a history of aggressively attacking opposing hitters, it seemed as though Bauer was attempting to nibble at the strike zone during his four starts with the Diamondbacks. It was as if he was trying to fool hitters and execute perfect pitches rather than trust the nastiness of his pure stuff.
While watching his final start in the majors last summer, there was a moment where I honestly questioned whether he might have a case of the yips (see: Ankiel, Rick).
Bauer’s fastball sits in the mid-to-low-90s with some late arm-side action, but also flattens out when left up in the zone. His curveball is an absolute hammer; his explosive, torque-oriented delivery makes it especially deceptive and difficult to recognize out of his hand. The right-hander’s loaded arsenal also features a tumbling splitter, slider and above-average changeup.
Considering his historically-good track record and potential five-pitch mix, I can only assume that the Diamondbacks’ willingness to trade him was the result of an alleged falling out between both sides in early October.
Hey. I get it. Bauer is an extreme creature of habit. With a pre-start routine of foul-line-to-foul-line long-toss and an arsenal that could consist of eight different—some of them his own inventions—pitches, his approach to the game may not be for everyone.
But there’s no reason to suddenly believe that Indians have acquired anything short of a future No. 1 starter. With nearly a decade-long drought in their farm system due to poor drafting and ill-advised trades, the organization’s current dearth of pitching prospects is astonishing. Therefore, the fact that they landed Bauer is a huge deal for the Tribe and step in the right direction for both sides.
Bauer, who turns 22 in January, will have an opportunity to be the new face of an ailing franchise for at least the next six years. And assuming that this is the first move of a much-needed re-tooling of their system, the Indians finally have a young arm to build around.
He’ll presumably spend the entire 2013 season at the front of the team’s starting rotation, and given the level of excitement and intrigue attached to his arrival, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the Indians’ Opening Day starter.