And now for something totally different. It’s summer, so I’ve kind of taken an “anything goes” approach to the site that should last for about another six weeks or so. The following is not for everyone, I bet, but it’s a) about baseball, and b) tangentially related to the draft. Back to regularly scheduled 2018 MLB Draft programming on Monday…
A friend of mine asked me recently what I thought about Pat Neshek’s trade value. That led me to the realization that I have no idea what Neshek’s trade value is. I pride myself on answering questions when asked — even if it’s a simple “honestly, I don’t know but I’ll try to find out — so I got to work in trying to give a quality answer. A wise man once told me that the best way make sense of the unfamiliar is to find comps. That wise man was me. I told myself that. So here we are.
We started with all the relievers traded in the weeks leading up to the deadline over the past three years. Then we tried to find the ones who had statistical years closest to Neshek’s first half. Finally, we examined the return for each traded reliever and how it could be related back to present day prospect value. Simple enough, right?
In a fun twist, the reliever most similar to Neshek dealt in the last three years is none other than old friend Jonathan Papelbon. A comparison with Neshek on top and Papelbon on bottom…
9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
9.08 K/9 – 1.82 BB/9 – 1.59 ERA – 3.01 FIP – 39.2 IP
Now obviously Papelbon had the sizable perceived edge as being a VETERAN CHAMPIONSHIP CLOSER, but he also came with the risk (or reward, I suppose) of another guaranteed year (after negotiating this part of the deal with Washington) at $11 million on the books. The return for Papelbon was impressive at the time and now looks like an absolute home run. Nick Pivetta is really good. Worth noting that the Phillies paid for Papelbon for that first half-season (minus the minimum) and left the Nats on the hook for the full season thereafter (which they predictably partially deferred…but that’s a whole other thing).
Other closers at the time dealt away with similar numbers to Neshek…
9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
7.90 K/9 – 2.41 BB/9 – 2.85 ERA – 4.87 FIP – 41.0 IP
8.84 K/9 – 4.89 BB/9 – 2.79 ERA – 3.96 FIP – 38.2 IP
11.34 K/9 – 1.08 BB/9 – 2.70 ERA – 1.06 FIP – 33.1 IP
Here we have Neshek at the top followed by 2015 Joakim Soria, 2015 Tyler Clippard, and 2014 Joakim Soria. The return for 2015 Soria was JaCoby Jones. 2015 Clippard fetched Casey Meisner. 2014 Soria brought back Jake Thompson (!) and Corey Knebel. In a fun coincidence that may or may not actually be a coincidence, Baseball America’s midseason rankings had Jones as the Pirates 10th best prospect before being dealt. He was MLB.com’s 12th best prospect. Nick Pivetta was also ranked 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB). And the return for Zach Duke? Well, Charlie Tilson was ranked 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB). That’s weird, right?
It also brings us to Duke. He, along with Clippard (again!), were the two pitchers closest to Neshek dealt at last year’s deadline. The numbers going from Neshek to Duke to 2016 Clippard…
9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
10.04 K/9 – 3.82 BB/9 – 2.63 ERA – 3.04 FIP – 37.2 IP
10.99 K/9 – 3.58 BB/9 – 4.30 ERA – 4.31 FIP – 37.2 IP
Duke is a really interesting comparison for Neshek, I think. Both pitchers were seen as specialists, but were dealt (or will be dealt in Neshek’s case) during a season they put up unexpectedly strong numbers against opposite-handed hitters. As mentioned earlier, the return was a guy ranked 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB) on the top major industry lists updated during the season. As for this version of Clippard, he returned MLB.com’s 14th ranked prospect from New York (Vicente Campos). Worth noting that both Duke and Clippard were not closing at the time of their respective trades — like Neshek, Duke has never closed, FWIW — and were owed monies ($5.5 million for Duke, $6.15 million for Clippard) for one season beyond the in-season move.
9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
11.75 K/9 – 2.75 BB/9 – 1.00 ERA – 1.88 FIP – 36.0 IP
7.88 K/9 – 3.94 BB/9 – 4.50 ERA – 3.51 FIP – 32.0 IP
Top is Neshek (figure you’ve caught on by now, but just in case), middle is Mark Lowe, bottom is Steve Cishek. Lowe is another really interesting comparison for Neshek. Both were/are non-closers, pending free agents, and in the midst of stellar seasons judged by literally any measure. The return on Lowe: Jake Brentz, Nick Wells, and Rob Rasmussen. Cishek, who wasn’t closing at that point, had two years of team control left but wound up being non-tendered by the Cardinals anyway. There’s a chance he’s only included here because my subconscious mind wants the two similarly named relievers linked forever in such a momentous email. Whatever the reason for his inclusion may be, he’s neither a great nor horrible comp for Neshek. The return for him was Kyle Barraclough.
Conclusions from this are pretty straightforward. There’s something magical about players ranked both 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB), so if you can find a guy to hit on those exact spots on each list then he’s the one. If past schedules can be trusted, then those updates should be out next week. In the meantime, let’s look at the returns and how they ranked before the season they were dealt to try to figure out a realistic return. We have the following names to consider: Nick Pivetta, JaCoby Jones, Casey Meisner, Jake Thompson/Corey Knebel, Charlie Tilson, Vicente Campos, Jake Brentz/Nick Wells/Rob Rasmussen, and Kyle Barraclough.
Pivetta – 10th
Jones – 13th
Meisner – 21st
Thompson – 4th, Knebel – 6th
Tilson – 13th
Campos – 20th
Brentz – UR, Wells – 28th, Rasmussen – UR
Barraclough – UR
We can work with three methodologies here. First, a simple mean of all the prospects dealt. I averaged players dealt in the same package and considered anybody unranked to be the 31st best prospect in the system. That got us an average of just under 18th. This could be useful, especially if we’re trying to be conservative with our expected return. We could also look at the wider range of outcomes. Players were ranked as high as 4th and as low as “31st.” That’s probably too wide a range to be useful. However, if we toss out the unranked players — not that big a deal since Cishek wasn’t a great comparable in the first place, plus two of the other unranked guys were part of a larger package anyway — then that gives us a range from 4th to 21st. That makes sense as both a reasonable ceiling and floor. We could also focus on our three favorite comps for Neshek (Papelbon, Duke, and Lowe) to help narrow down the eventual search field. The Lowe trade was weird in that it was more about quantity than quality — though Brentz, unranked here, was one seen as a pretty big draft overslot draft prospect — so Pivetta (10th) and Tilson (13th) wind up as the most useful points of reference.
The four teams publicly connected to Neshek so far this season have been Boston, Kansas City, New York, and Washington. We’ll take a look at each team’s 10th to 13th best prospects as noted by Baseball America prior to the season. For reference’s sake, here’s what the Phillies list looked like…
OF Dylan Cozens
RHP Kevin Gowdy
RHP Nick Pivetta
2B Daniel Brito
Not bad, right? You’d happily take any of those guys for Neshek in a second. Thankfully, all of those guys are already here. Let’s see what else is out there. We’ll run through Boston, Kansas City, New York, and Washington in that order. I included notes from each player’s time as an amateur (if applicable) and then followed that up with present day thoughts on their current value.
1B Josh Okimey
1B Josh Ockimey (Neumann-Goretti HS, Pennsylvania): good athlete; power upside; interesting hit tool; slow; 6-4, 220 pounds
3B Michael Chavis
3B/2B Michael Chavis (Sprayberry HS, Georgia): good approach; above-average to plus defender; can’t throw it fast enough for him; very real right-handed power, at least above-average and plus for me; average speed; average or better arm; good athlete; bat speed is nuts; could be catcher convert; PG comp: Javier Baez; not perfect, but reminds me of Cavan Biggio last year; Callis comp: Jedd Gyorko; I can see maybe RHH Robin Ventura; have heard Blake DeWitt as warning; 5-10, 200 pounds
RHP Mike Shawaryn
Shawaryn’s big 2015 (10.71 K/9 and 1.71 ERA in 116.0 IP) set him up as a potential first round pick coming into the year, but a slight dip in production and stuff has many cooler on him now than before. He’s always been in that ten to fifteen range for him as a 2016 college arm, so the recent downtick in stuff isn’t something I’m too worked up about. At his best, he’s got enough fastball (87-94, 95 peak), a changeup with big upside, and a breaking ball that seemingly improves every time out (even as he’s had some rocky starts this year). Breaking down his individual pitches is obviously important, but the main selling point with Shawaryn was always going to be his above-average to plus command, standout control, and deceptive motion. Assuming his decline is more fatigue – he’s approaching almost 250 college innings in his career; for context’s sake, that’s about a hundred more than AJ Puk and over twice as many as Alec Hansen – than injury (though separating the two can be tricky without proper pre-draft medical screening), Shawaryn might be the perfect candidate for a team in round two (or three if they are lucky) willing to draft a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher with the intent not to pitch him competitively the summer after signing. Draft him, sign him, get him working with your top player development staffers, and focus more about 2017 rather than getting onto the field immediately. If it turns out he’s feeling good and looking good sooner rather than later, so be it. But he’s the type of smart young pitcher that could begin his first professional season at High-A without much concern. That’s the path I’d consider taking with him, but maybe I’m making more out of a few good rather than great starts than I really ought to.
RHP Travis Lakins
RHP Travis Lakins (353) is an athletic young arm with less miles on it as a draft-eligible sophomore than many of his peers. I view him as a really good potential reliever, but I can see why one would look at his athleticism, frame with some projection left, and fastball command and think otherwise.
Ockimey is a local guy (Neumann-Goretti) who has hit for three straight years including a strong showing this year in A+ as a 21-year-old. He’d be a more than fair return for Neshek in a vacuum, but, as a guy locked into first base, doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Phillies specific organizational needs. I’d still be pleased with the return, but could see why others might be less than thrilled.
The ideal target might just be Chavis. Of course, if he’s the guy you really want, then the odds of actually getting him decrease. That’s the first rule of making up trades on the internet. If it seems like you’re getting the obvious better end of the deal, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Chavis broke out in a major way at High-A and has since held his own in AA the past few weeks. He’d instantly be the best third base prospect in the system and become an immediate — assuming you’re cool bending the definition of “immediate” to “within a year” — threat to Maikel Franco’s job. He’d be a perfect piece for the rebuild.
Shawaryn and Lakins are both college arms who feel a little overrated on this list. Shawaryn reminds me a lot of a righthanded version of Cole Irvin: strong collegiate track record, fifth round picks in last year’s draft, better than the High-A competition but still has plenty to prove in AA. Like Irvin, Shawaryn has fifth starter upside with a decent fallback of middle relief. I’d be underwhelmed if he was coming back for Neshek. Lakins has a little more upside if everything breaks just right, but a far riskier overall profile. I tend to think he’s a middle reliever in the long fun, so I’d pass on him for Neshek. He was really good in High-A, but has experienced the equal and opposite result so far in AA.
RHP Kyle Zimmer
3. San Francisco JR RHP Kyle Zimmer: 91-94 FB, 95-97 peak but can get it up to 99 when amped up; some of the best FB command of any amateur you’ll ever see; there is some talk of inconsistency with his fastball, but I’m not taking that bait: looking at start-by-start velocity shows that he most commonly sat 93-96, even late in games; he was down to the upper-80s in one start (92 peak), but rebounded to show 92-93 (95 peak) the next Friday; inconsistent but really good 81-86 SL with cutter action that could become plus pitch in time; 76-81 kCB that flashes above-average to plus, presently his strongest secondary offering; raw 78-86 CU that he used more frequently with each game, both picking and hitting his spots better as the year progressed – he often used the change early in counts to set hitters up as he is unafraid to pitch backwards when necessary; one nitpick: command of breaking stuff comes and goes; relatively new to pitching, so he has the benefits (and potential injury downside) of a fresh (or unready) arm – I can understand those who are worried that he has done too much too soon on the mound developmentally, but believe that with proper care in pro ball he’ll be fine; outstanding athlete with the chance for three (or four) plus pitches, an arm with limited mileage, and pinpoint fastball command all sounds like a potential first overall pick and frontline MLB starting pitcher; 6-4, 220 pounds
OF Seuly Matias
OF Khalil Lee
If you’re going to go safe with the first pick, then it only makes sense to swing for the fences with the next one. Highly athletic two-way prep star Khalil Lee (170) certainly qualifies as a big cut from the heels that could either result in a majestic home run or the cooling breeze of a major whiff and miss. Of course, that presupposes that boom/bust prospects result in all-or-nothing players; a swing for the fence can just as easily result in a double high off the wall or a sac fly. Prospect evaluation can mean many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t (or shouldn’t be) is an exercise in projecting binary outcomes. Anyway, Lee’s upside is considerable and the arrow on his likelihood of getting there is pointing up after a tremendous pro debut that saw him turn tools to skills quicker than just about anybody outside of the Kansas City front office could have anticipated.
Lee has the physical ability to be a star if he can remain in center feel as expected. He’d still have above-average regular upside in a corner — we know he has more than enough arm for right field — but the thought of him maintaining enough quickness and flexibility as he fills out to stick up the middle is particularly exciting. Offensively, Lee has the bat speed, swing plane, and muscle to hit for real power, average speed to do a little damage on the bases, and the keen understanding of the strike zone one might expect from a legitimate pitching prospect. There’s a lot to like when the overall package is taken into account.
SS Nicky Lopez
From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.
Zimmer is one of my all-time favorite draft prospects, so you think I’d be into taking a chance on him for Neshek. Unfortunately, his career has been completely derailed due to injury. Hopefully he can come out the other side a productive big league contributor, but I’d let another team take that gamble. International guys are always a weak spot for me, so I’m hardly an expert on Matias…but everything I now know about him I like. His profile reminds me a little bit of the Royals version of Jhailyn Ortiz. Big July 2 bonus, monster power, deceptively fast, lots of swing and miss, solid walk rate…I’m in. The fact that he’s a bit further away from the big leagues is actually a plus in that Rule 5 roster concerns can be pushed back a few extra years.
Same logic would apply for Lee, who is killing it in full-season ball at just a few months older than Matias. He’s striking out a ton, but everything else in both his scouting and statistical profile looks great. Either him or Matias would be a coup for Neshek. Lopez wouldn’t be quite the same home run, but it’s hard to dislike a player who has hit at every stop in his pro career AND has skyrocketed to AA just thirteen months after being drafted. His ceiling and his floor run into each other a bit — reminds me of the house they built in “Hurricane Neddy” — but getting a young, cheap future utility player for Neshek wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
OF Dustin Fowler
78. OF Dustin Fowler (West Laurens HS, Georgia): average speed; average arm; pretty swing; upside with bat; 6-1, 170 pounds
RHP Domingo Acevedo
3B Miguel Andujar
LHP Jordan Montgomery
The first and last players listed above are pretty much non-starters, but for totally different reasons. What can you say about poor Dustin Fowler? A ruptured patella tendon is no joke. Hope he makes it back. On a more positive note (for New York), Jordan Montgomery is too big a part of both the Yankees present and future for them to even consider moving him for a middle reliever like Neshek. Bummer. The one silver lining in eliminating two names off the bat is that it gives us more space to gush about Domingo Acevedo. Simply put, Acevedo is really, really exciting and the prospect of getting an arm like his, slim as it may be, for PAT NESHEK astounds me. The big righthander is another international guy I didn’t know a ton about before doing some digging, but he sounds awesome. Cashman apparently calls him “Little Pineda.” I’m not trying to make it out that Acevedo is under the radar — he pitched in the Futures Game, so he’s a pretty big deal — but I’m still a bit surprised how a Yankee who has a plus fastball — he once hit 103 MPH! — with an above-average changeup and emerging slider packed into a 6-7, 250 pound frame isn’t getting way more hype than he is. This is a potential dream return.
Finally, there’s Andujar. His profile reminds me a little bit of the America’s Choice prospect version of Maikel Franco. Feels like a fair return to me — sometimes those knockoff cereals are even better than the name brand stuff — with the added bonus of playing a position of need within the organization. Maybe the Yankees look to sell high on him now that he’s off to a blazing MLB start (380 wRC+) through a whopping five plate appearances. I’d be pretty happy with Andujar for Neshek if I didn’t have my hopes up already that Acevedo could be had.
RHP Austin Voth
Washington JR RHP Austin Voth: 89-93 FB, 94 peak with plus command; good mid-70s CB; Cape 2012: 89-91 FB, 93 peak; 77-79 CB; plus 82-84 SL; solid 81 CU; FB can get too straight and command wavers; 6-1, 190 pounds (2011: 7.27 K/9 | 69.1 IP) (2012: 8.55 K/9 | 2.81 BB/9 | 3.86 FIP | 67.1 IP) (2013: 8.72 K/9 | 3.08 BB/9 | 3.74 FIP | 105.1 IP)
OF Rafael Bautista
3B Drew Ward
3B/1B Drew Ward (Leedy HS, Oklahoma): very strong; good athlete; untapped upside; intriguing natural talent with bat; big raw power; impressive pitch tracking and recognition; really like his approach; could be a catcher long term; strong arm, but mechanics out of whack; PG comp Jim Thome; profile reminds me some of Phil Nevin; 6-4, 200 pounds
RHP AJ Cole
The popular industry comp of Porcello works in a lot of ways, but I much prefer sizing the young Florida righthander up with Porcello’s Detroit teammate, Justin Verlander. Verlander represents Cole’s ultimate upside as a big leaguer, but it’s interesting to compare the two pitchers at similar points in their development. Despite possessing a 93 MPH peak velocity fastball, Verlander wasn’t even drafted coming out of Goochland HS (VA). Scouts questioned his shaky control and inconsistent mechanics while also citing concerns over how his 6-4, 170 pound high school frame would hold up as a professional. He embarked on an intense workout program upon enrolling at Old Dominion that helped move him closer to the finished product that we see today. Cole offers a similar velocity floor (low-90s) when compared to the high school version of Verlander, but has the edge when it comes to prep peak velocity as he has been clocked as high as 96-98 MPH at various stages in the past year. So, Cole has a better fastball at this point in his development, plus more consistent breaking stuff and a more advanced overall feel for pitching. If, and it is admittedly a pretty sizable if, Cole’s 6-5, 190 pound frame fills out like Verlander’s similarly projectable high school frame did, then you could eventually be talking about two very similar pitching prospects come draft time. With a little more muscle packed on, Cole’s fastball has the potential to be one of the signature pitches in all of baseball much in the same way Verlander’s heater has emerged as a special offering.
Voth is fine enough, but too dull for me as another fifth starter/middle relief type. The system has too many of those guys as is at the moment. Bautista is a fascinating prospect in that he’s got some of the very best speed in all of the minor leagues…and some of the tiniest power around. He hasn’t had an above-average year at the plate since 2014, so a speed/defense fifth outfielder seems like the most realistic outcome. Ward would be a realistic return for Neshek. I wouldn’t necessarily jump for joy, but it’s a logical enough fit — capable defender at third base, track record of hitting (until AA), strong draft pedigree — that it would be hard to hate.
Like Kyle Zimmer above, Cole will go down as one of my all-time favorite draft prospects. I mean, I may or may not have compared his ceiling to Justin Verlander at one point. Fine, I did. And I even quoted my past self to prove it. Anyway, he’d be a bit of an awkward fit here as a 25-year-old up-and-down arm with only about fifty big league innings under his belt, but if the scouting and player development staff came together claiming they saw something correctable about his mechanics that would help unlock his full upside (a theory I’ve heard about why they really pushed for Mark Appel in the Giles deal) then I’d trust them to give it a shot. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t because of the Appel thing, but if I hired them then I should listen to them and trust them to do their jobs, right?
If I had to rank all the potential returns, it would look like this…
1 – RHP Domingo Acevedo
2 – OF Seuly Matias
3 – 3B Michael Chavis
4 – OF Khalil Lee
5 – 3B Miguel Andujar
6 – 1B Josh Ockimey
7 – SS Nicky Lopez
8 – 3B Drew Ward
9 – RHP Mike Shawaryn
10 – RHP AJ Cole
11 – RHP Kyle Zimmer –
12 – RHP Travis Lakins
13 – RHP Austin Voth
14 – OF Rafael Bautista
The Acevedo, Matias, Chavis tier is a clear cut above the rest. Any order of those three can easily be defended since all are really good. I’d build a statue of Matt Klentak if he can pull something like that off. It would be small and I’d probably use aluminum foil, but it would still count. The hitters from Lee through Ward would probably make up the second tier. No statue for that, but I’d still be pleased. I think that tier represents the fairest value for Neshek, especially if you take Lee out of the equation. The rest would be tier three. Those would be last resort type deals for me. I’d be fine holding out until the very last minute of the deadline for something better even if it meant risking losing the deal and getting nothing for Neshek back. Not getting any of those guys would be worth the risk of potentially getting something better.
Quick disclaimer: nothing about the above was particularly scientific. The player pool from which the Phillies should be negotiating is much, much larger than my artificial sample. The odds are great that the player(s) the Phillies wind up getting for Neshek won’t actually be from among the sixteen (fourteen, really) listed above. I just wanted to bring a little order to the chaotic world of pretend GM trade nonsense that is the perfect mix of fun and pointless. It’s pretty much the non-porn reason why the internet exists.