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Miami/Detroit Trade: From a Draft Perspective

The Ichiro deal to the Yankees may have stolen the headlines, but the more interesting trade on July 23, 2012, from both a recent draft perspective and for the long-term implications, has to be the five player deal between the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins. You could say the same thing about the players involved in the deal: Anibal Sanchez is a quality arm, and Omar Infante is useful in his own way, but the most interesting players involved in the deal are the three prospects and two draft picks changing hands. Let’s take a quick draft-oriented look back at the three Detroit players who are now the newest members of the Miami Marlins organization.

The obvious key to the deal for Miami was obtaining prized righthanded pitching prospect Jacob Turner. I had Turner rated as the ninth best draft prospect in 2009, and, lo and behold, he went off the board to Detroit at pick number nine. I revisited his stock just eleven months ago (see below), and not enough has changed since then to make a rehashing worth it. I won’t profess to have a great deal of knowledge of Detroit’s player development program, but it sure seems like the scouting department’s love of hard throwers (good!) doesn’t jive with the coaching staff’s peculiar desire to see their arms pitch to contact and get ground balls (not so good). A two player sample may or may not be meaningful depending on your view, but the backslides of both Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner is a tad disconcerting to me.

His repertoire is similar to [Shelby] Miller’s, from the plus-plus fastball to the promising curve and change. Come to think of it, not much has changed from Turner’s high school days, at least in terms of future stuff grades: fastball has always been a weapon, curve still has plus upside, and change is well on its way to becoming a nasty third offering.

  • Good size? Is 6-4, 205 good enough? Check.
  • Good athlete? Solid, if not spectacular. Check.
  • Clean mechanics out of a ¾ delivery? Check.
  • Fastball velocity? How does a peak velocity of 93-94 MPH sound?
  • Good command? Check.
  • Off-speed repertoire? Curveball is already a plus pitch and circle change should be an average big league offering, at worst.
  • College scholarship from a school that knows pitching? If North Carolina wants you to pitch for them, you’re probably a good one. If you decided to Carolina only after turning down Vanderbilt, you’re almost certainly a good one. Those two universities have coaching staffs that really know their pitching. Check.

Rob Brantly was a huge favorite of mine dating back to his earliest days at UC-Riverside. I actually had him ranked as the 2010 MLB Draft’s 32nd best prospect on the annual “way too early” big board back in October 2009. He moved up one spot (31st, for the math-challenged) by February, when I also first compared him to Derek Norris. He finally settled in as the sixth ranked college catching prospect that year. That doesn’t sound great, but when you consider the first two names on the list are already big league players (Bryce Harper and Yasmani Grandal) things don’t seem quite as bad. Mike Kvasnicka (ouch), Micah Gibbs (ouch, again), and Matt Szczur (still a big fan) also fit in to the top five. I also doubled downed on the Derek Norris comp at that point, writing the following:

Originally my favorite four-year college in the 2010 class, Brantly’s sophomore season hasn’t really done too much to hurt his stock, but has nonetheless seen his spot in the rankings slip as other college guys have simply done more. The one and only time (maybe) I’ll lift something directly from the always wonderful Baseball America comes now:

[Redacted] has a strong, compact swing and the ability to make consistent, hard contact to all fields. He has a mature, patient offensive approach, excellent pitch recognition and advanced strike-zone awareness. He has above-average power to the pull side and also good power the other way.

That could very easily be written about Rob Brantly, but it was actually the most recent scouting report on Washington’s Derek Norris. The comparison isn’t perfect, but I think it works as a general outline – big bat, professional strike-zone awareness, solid defensive tools, but not yet a reliable backstop. Norris was a fourth round steal out of high school in 2007; Brantly could be the college equivalent, in round and value, here in 2010.

Obviously, I overshot Brantly’s professional power upside by a pretty wide margin, but I remain a believer in his on-base skills and good enough defense behind the plate. He’s a solid player who is close to big league ready. Once he gets the call, he should settle into a long career as a backup catcher with the chance to break through as the lefthanded strong side of a platoon.

The last piece of the Marlins return is hulking lefthander Brian Flynn. I’ve heard him compared to Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer, a similarly sized (actually listed at the exact same 6-8, 240 pounds) pitcher who relies on deception to help an otherwise average fastball play up. Strong minor league performances thus far give hope that he can stick as a starter, but I think a future in middle relief – where he’d go FB/SL/occasional CU, just like Schwimer – is the most likely outcome.

I was impressed Detroit got a deal done with Wichita State LHP Brian Flynn, a draft-eligible sophomore that many had pegged as likely to return for one more season with the Shockers. Lefties who are 6-8, 240ish pounds and can reach the mid-90s don’t come around too often, but it wasn’t just Flynn’s questionable signability that dropped him to the 7th round. At this precise moment in time, Flynn is a one-pitch pitcher. Even that one pitch, his fastball, isn’t that great an offering when you factor in his inconsistent ability to harness it. If the slider keeps developing and he shows he can work in the occasional change, then we might have a dark horse starting pitching prospect. If not, Flynn will try to make it in the competitive world of professional relief pitching.

As for the pick for pick portion of the trade, I’ll let Baseball America’s Jim Callis, the best in the business, do the writing:

The Marlins gave up the last pick in the supplemental first round (currently No. 37) for the final pick in the supplemental second round (currently No. 73).

This year, the No. 37 selection had an assigned value of $1,394,300 and the No. 73 choice was worth $701,700. That’s a difference of $692,600. Those values will be adjusted based on the growth of industry revenues this year, so how much exactly the Tigers added to their bonus pool and the Marlins subtracted from theirs has yet to be determined.

So, Detroit moves up a round and gets some extra draft spending cash. Seems relatively fair when you consider Anibal Sanchez is a free agent in just over two months. My only concern, and this is admittedly cynical and biased against what I consider an awful Miami ownership group, is that Miami suggested the draft pick swap in a long-term effort to save some money. All in all, however, the trade makes a lot of sense for both sides. Detroit gets a short-term fix in their quest for a championship in 2012: Sanchez is good enough to start the second game of a playoff series if need be and Infante is at least better than what they’ve currently got at second. Miami gets an exciting starting pitching prospect, recent big leagues ups and downs notwithstanding, and two players that should contribute something to the big club within the next year or two. As an outsider, I valued Turner as a shiny enough trade chip to hold out for more, but I understand their urgency in making what they believed was the best deal for them at this time.

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