Blue Jays Add Berrios, Subtract Martin/SWR

There are no sure things in life. That applies equally to blind dates, bank loans, and baseball prospects.

Sorry I haven’t been posting much of late, regular readers. I’ve been watching minor league games, talking to my usual contacts, and tweeting a whole lot, but some writing projects have taken up most of my time and limited memory.

The Blue Jays acquired Jose Berrios from the Twins for Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson (currently with the US Olympic team in Japan) of the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats, a deal that at first blush seems to be a heavy price to pay.

But is it?

Only time will tell. Again, there are no sure things, but in nine seasons of covering the Jays farm system, Martin was as close to a sure fire first division regular I’ve seen since a Dominican kid by way of Montreal.

Martin has elite strike zone judgment, a feel for the barrel, and outstanding athleticism. The only questions appeared to be his eventual defensive position, and to what extent his power tool would develop. A jammed finger on his right hand on an awkward slide into 2nd in late May limited his ability to drive the ball with any authority for a month – he went from late June to late July without an extra base hit – but he seemed to be barreling up more pitches over the last week. Defensively, well, he may not be a Gold Glove candidate just yet, but Martin had made some improvements in his range, transfer, and throwing accuracy at SS this season. It will be interesting to see where the Twins play him. He had almost evenly split his time between short and CF this season.

A year ago, the sky seemed to be the limit for SWR. Invited to the alt site, he looked very much like a big league middle of the rotation guy in waiting. This season has been a different story. Fastball command this year has been his biggest issue, contributing to a concerning 5.2BB/9 rate – the ability to miss bats (13.3 K rate) is still there, but too often SWR struggled to find the strike zone, causing him to fall behind hitters and drive up his pitch count. In 11 starts for the Fisher Cats this season, he didn’t pitch beyond five complete innings. If he wasn’t walking guys, it seems like he was catching too much of the plate in get-me-over pitches, and giving up some contact. His GB rate of 32% was the lowest of his career, and as a result – you guessed it – his FB rate was hovering at around 50%. When he wasn’t missing bats, he seemed to not be giving up weak contact. There is still hope for SWR – he commands all four of his pitches – but his velo did not bump up as might have been expected.

As you near the trade deadline, like gas prices before a long weekend, it tends to get expensive. I still have strong confidence that both Martin and Woods Richardson will be big leaguers. In the case of the former, the Jays were dealing with depth, as out good friend Gideon Clarke noted:

And there is a danger in using pre-season rankings to determine a prospect’s value, as BA’s JJ Cooper observed:

Still, there is reason for considerable optimism in the Blue Jays clubhouse. The team is finally home, and management went out and got a solid rotation piece. From a prospect perspective, they kept the players they’re likely highest on (mercurial Nate Pearson, Gabriel Moreno, Orelvis Martinez, and Jordan Groshans – sorry, I tend to think the Twins were not as high on Kevin Smith as some of you might be). Despite the team’s bullpen woes, starting pitching is still the name of this game, and Toronto has upgraded themselves in that department.

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