As we approach the trade deadline, watch this space for analysis of trade transactions involving rookies, prospects and young players.
Rangers trade Michael Main and Chris Ray to Giants for Bengie Molina
In their first big move for the second half, the Rangers picked up the veteran catcher from the Giants, seeking to shore up their disappointing catcher corps.
Michael Main: Main is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound right-handed pitcher, born December 14, 1988. A first-round pick in 2007 from high school in Deland, Florida, Main was the 24th pick in the draft that year, but hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, in part due to health problems. He had a cracked rib in 2008, then missed much of 2009 with a viral infection that sapped his physical strength. Healthy this year, he posted a 3.45 ERA with a 72:21 K:BB in 91 innings for High-A Bakersfield in the California League before the trade, allowing 87 hits. His first two outings for Double-A Richmond after the trade have gone poorly, with 10 runs allowed in six innings.
At his best, Main has a 90-94 MPH fastball, no longer throwing as hard as he did in high school, when he hit the mid-90s. He used to have a plus curveball, but the pitch deteriorated and he’s replaced it with a slider. His changeup is solid, and he generally has good command. Scouts continue to praise his excellent athleticism, and he’s still just 21 years old, although he now projects more as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter than the future ace once envisioned.
Rangers trade Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson to the Mariners for Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe
Trying to solidify their rotation, the Rangers trade off four prospects considered surplus to their needs for a genuine No. 1 starter.
Blake Beavan: Beavan was the 17th overall pick in the 2007 draft, out of high school in Irving, Texas. A huge guy at 6-foot-7, 250 pound (born January 17, 1989), Beavan throws just 87-90 MPH. Like Michael Main, he threw much harder in high school (93-96), but has lost velocity. On the other hand, his slider and changeup have improved greatly, and his command and control have been excellent: he’s walked only 12 men this year in 17 starts and 110 innings for Double-A Frisco, on the way to a 10-5 record and 2.78 ERA. From a sabermetric perspective, one negative is a low strikeout rate: he’s whiffed just 68 this year, and he’s not a huge ground ball pitcher. Still, scouts love his pitch efficiency and mound presence, and project him to be an inning-eating workhorse.
Matt Lawson: Another product of the 2007 draft, Lawson was picked in the 14th-round from Missouri State University. A 6-foot, 195-pounder, Lawson is a right-handed hitter who has murdered southpaws this year (.351/.413/.640) for Double-A Frisco, but has been very weak against right-handers (.232/.346/.315). His tools are mediocre and he gets by mainly on hustle and high-effort play, though he does have some pop in his bat. The Rangers have been grooming him as a utility player, giving him time at second base, left field, and center field. He’s not a bad second baseman, but is unlikely to hit enough to have a future as a regular, so the versatility can only help him.
Josh Lueke: A 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander, born December 5, 1984, Lueke was drafted by the Rangers in the 14th round in 2007, from the University of Northern Kentucky. He has better stuff than Beavan, throwing 93-95 MPH, and mixing the heater with a plus slider and a good splitter. His statistical track record is good, too; he has an outstanding 62:10 K:BB in just 38 innings this year between Low-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco, including a 26:5 K:BB in 19 innings at the higher level. Lueke looks like he could be a big bullpen asset, but there are huge questions about his makeup and personality: he was charged with rape in 2009. The charge was later pleaded down to “false imprisonment with violence” with a 40-day jail sentence. Lueke would be a terrific sleeper prospect if not for this question.
Justin Smoak: Drafted out of South Carolina in the first round in 2008, Smoak was supposed to be a Mark Teixeira-like star with switch-hitting power and great plate discipline. However, he has yet to unleash the power seemingly inherent in his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. At age 23, he still has time to figure things out, but his .209/.316/.353 line for the Rangers this year has certainly been disappointing and scouts have pointed out some mechanical flaws in his swing. On the other hand, he’s still showing good plate discipline, with a 38:57 BB:K in 235 at-bats this year, and the major league sample size is still quite small in absolute terms. People shouldn’t be giving up on Smoak at this point.