Water Into Wine


Big thanks to Wally for passing along this tidbit from Keith Law:

"Two Rangers farmhands had disappointing Fall League debuts on Friday. Eric Hurley, in his first game action in over two years, touched 91 in the first but was mostly 88-89, and his slider was flat at 81-83. His arm is very stiff and he was struggling to stay on top of the ball … but he was Walter Johnson compared to Danny Gutierrez, who was 82-85 — not a typo — with no arm speed and a very restricted throwing motion. Gutierrez, who was suspended for unapproved use of Adderall but has a history of off-field issues dating back to his time in the Royals organization, is a non-prospect at this point unless his former low- to mid-90s velocity returns."

Danny Gutierrez, you may remember, was a former Royals relief prospect until the Royals traded him to the Rangers for minor league outfielder Tim Smith and catcher Manuel Pina.

So maybe the wine is merely Franzia, but that still carries a lot more punch than Aquafina… and it’s not the first time Dayton Moore’s come out on the winning side of a small trade like this one.

Maybe it’s not even going to be a trade of any significance. Smith has hit at every level so far in the minors, showing both power and speed. Even better, he’s been ridiculously consistent.

20093 TeamsAA-A+-Rk3114287150853172445.321.392.465.857
2010Northwest ArkansasAA3505294180950153342.306.372.453.825
4 Seasons12951793486343118254101184.306.373.450.823
AA (2 seasons)510741372701282234763.307.375.448.823
A (1 season)538671442541370213381.300.359.450.809
Rk (1 season)13241012204.333.308.667.974
A- (1 season)961823501911116.284.396.383.779
A+ (1 season)13818405041971020.333.413.475.888

At the age of 24 and over 350 plate appearances last year at Double A Northwest Arkansas, Smith came very close to hitting his exact career averages in batting average, OBP, Slugging and OPS.  It’s a little weird to look at.  He can take a walk and doesn’t strike out a lot and has added a 75% success rate in stolen base attempts.

On top of that, the Royals added Manuel Pina, a catcher who they now have on the 40 man roster and who’ll likely start in Omaha next season.  Pina’s mostly known as a defensive catcher, but hit nine homers in 362 plate appearances in 2010 across Double A and Triple A.

Gutierrez has done alright since the trade, striking out 7.4 batters per nine innings this season in three levels of the Rangers system.  But reports like Keith Law’s above about Gutierrez’s lack of velocity aren’t encouraging.  The Royals traded him mostly due to off the field issues, related both to arguments over his rehab after shoulder injuries and also some run ins with the law (including chain link fence irrigation).  His velocity has usually been in the 91-95 mph range, so such a steep drop is alarming.  He may have resurfacing shoulder issues.

Maybe it’s just good luck, but Dayton Moore has come out on the good side of a lot of these kinds of small deals.

He’s traded journeyman southpaw for Paulo Orlando, the speedy Sao Paulo sensation who broke out in Double A this year for the Naturals, showing 20/20 skills and posting an OPS of .846.

He’s traded lefty Tyler Lumsden to Houston for Jordan Parraz, who, despite a slow start, finished 2010 with a .760 OPS and had 39 extra base hits for Omaha and could be a candidate to make the big league roster next year (in a very crowded field, mind you).  Tyler Lumsden hasn’t advanced beyond Double A since 2008 when he pitched for Omaha.  He’s since spent time with Houston (of course) and, after being released by the Astros, San Diego’s Double A affiliate.

Even Lumsden’s acquisition by the Royals was a stroke of luck for Moore.  At the deadline in 2006, Moore traded Mike MacDougal to the White Sox for Lumsden and Dan Cortes.  Lumsden at the time was the prize of the deal and only later did Cortes develop into a prospect.  Cortes, you’ll note, was the key to the Yuniesky Betancourt trade in 2009 and has since debuted for the Mariners and struck out six batters in 5.1 innings in September but his 5.13 ERA in 151 innings since joining the Mariners system isn’t an automatic win despite his good stuff.  MacDougal, however, has bounced between the minors and the majors in a handful of organizations, never sticking anywhere for long.

The big takeaway from all of this is simply that Dayton Moore has a keen eye for developing talent and dark horses.  Think back to 2008 when he pieced together free agents and future considerations trades to build a reliable major league bullpen.  Then there’s the deadline deals he’s made this season to add depth to the minors while adding a few major league stopgaps to hold the position until prospects arrive.  He still has issues with constructing and managing a 25-man roster, sure, but he’s building up the depth of talent top to bottom one move at a time.

Maybe none of the minor leaguers will pan out.  Maybe Gutierrez has a hitch in his delivery that, once corrected, will dominate the minors and turn into a #3 starter somewhere.  Maybe he’ll never reach the the majors at all.

But I don’t think it’s just luck that leads to these kinds of trades.  My feeling is that Dayton Moore’s background in scouting and development is helping him dig up some decent talent for minimal cost (and in cases when the former Royal flounders, almost nothing).  One time can be luck.  Two times can be a pattern, but if it keeps happening, that’s a trend.

And I’m on board with that.

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