This post is by Ewan Ross from our fellow ESPN Sweetspot Blog BlueJaysPlus.com In collaboration with Blue Jays Plus, Ewan and I ran posts on each other’s blogs. You can find mine on their site now. Here is Ewan’s which is a great evaluation of the heartbreaking Tulo trade from a Blue Jays’ fan’s perceptive. Sorry for the Canadian spellings in this article about my favorite player or is favourite?
Last Tuesday was probably the most exciting moment in Blue Jays history since Joe Carter powered the Jays to their 2nd consecutive World Series title in 1993. To put things in perspective for Rockies fans, the Blue Jays have not seen a playoff game (or really even a competitive September) since before the Rockies were even a twinkle in Dick Montfort’s eye.
This year the Blue Jays had been a underachiever over the first 4 months of the season. While they led all of baseball in run differential, they were still mired around a .500 record. By making the move to add Tulowitzki, coupled with David Price, and the other low-level pieces they added signaled that the days of mediocrity and irrelevance were finally over north of the border (at least for the next couple of months).
In an article exchange with our colleagues at Rockies Zingers, we’re going to introduce the incoming players to the respective markets, so without further ado we’ll begin with your replacement at shortstop.
We have a saying in the Jays Twitterverse, that when one of our star players does something stupendous you will frequently see “[Insert Player] is a Toronto Blue Jay!” We’ve most recently seen it used for David Price & Troy Tulowitzki…
Troy Tulowitzki is a Toronto Blue Jay!
— Mike (@gosensgo101) July 28, 2015
But the first time I recall seeing it used, was after the blockbuster Marlins Trade and the Jays fanbase was over the moon about getting the opportunity to see an MVP calibre player like Jose Reyes in Jays colours. While we were all incredibly excited, all of that anticipation wound up being largely for naught, because Reyes was a disappointment in almost every way, as a Blue Jay. After a scorching first 10 games as a Blue Jay, Reyes got a dose of Toronto sports karma by ripping up his ankle sliding into 2nd base on an attempted steal.
He did return 6 weeks later, and went on to post a very adequate season, but the injury coupled with a slumping team took much of the shine off the new look Blue Jays we’d expected to see.
This underwhelming performance has largely continued over the 2014 and start of the 2015 season. His on-base skills have tailed off tremendously, his swing (especially from the right side) looks tremendously affected by a shoulder injury he sustained early in the 2015 season, and most distressingly his defense (which was never a strength) has shown massive signs of age.
Defensively is where the effects of his injuries have most obviously manifested themselves. The ankle injury in 2013 has reduced his range to late career Derek Jeter levels, and the shoulder injury this season has made some of his throws erratic. He will also suffer from maddening lapses in concentration which cause him to boot routine plays more often than you’d expect. This study from last year (via Beyond the Box Score) quantifies the dramatic fall off we’ve seen, and that’s without taking into consideration the further decline we’ve seen during the 2015 season.
Given the trajectory of Reyes’ talent, coupled with the rebuilding nature of the Rockies franchise (to say nothing of Trevor Story waiting in Triple A), I’m expecting that Reyes’ stay in Denver could be a short one. This because of the 44 million dollars still due to him over the 2016 & 2017 seasons, I’d expect he would easily pass through waivers, and be traded during the month of August. However, if the Rockies want to get any talent in return for Reyes, I’d expect they’d need to eat a sizable portion of his salary in order to get that done.
On to the prospects, since that’s where this trade will be won or lost from the Rockies perspective.
Jeff Hoffman – RHP
East Carolina University
22 Years Old
6’4”, 185 lbs
As excited as I am to see my team trade for a player as exciting as Troy Tulowitizki, it’s certainly difficult to part ways with a player with as much upside as Jeff Hoffman possesses. Coming into the 2014 season, Hoffman was viewed as a favourite to go 1st overall with Carlos Rodon & Mark Appel. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel had been one of his primary backers saying “Peak Hoffman is the best amateur pitcher I’ve ever seen. Better than peak Rodon.” Unfortunately for Mr. Hoffman he blew out his ulnar collateral ligament mere months before the draft, and the subsequent Tommy John surgery caused him to fall into the Jays laps with the 9th overall pick (after being passed over by the Rockies who took Kyle Freeland at #8). The Jays were able to take the gamble on Hoffman due to the fact they had picks at #9 & #11, since they hadn’t signed the previous year’s #10 overall pick Phil Bickford.
As a pitcher Hoffman is the complete package. His arsenal features a truly elite fastball, which sits 93 to 97 MPH, & touches 99 MPH. Not only does it have velocity, but it shows movement, both running and sinking naturally to cause a heavy bowling ball like effect.
Complimenting the dominating fastball is Hoffman’s incredibly strong power curve. This 79-81 MPH offering features sharp late bite, but also an incredible amount of depth to its break. The pitch’s effectiveness vs. left-handed batters seems to be a significant point in his favour.
Most reports have been that the usage of the curveball has been dialed back from a developmental standpoint, which at least partially explains his somewhat underwhelming strike out numbers.
His nasty curve can be seen below:
His changeup is clearly his 3rd best pitch, however it does project as a usable big league pitch. Even though it will still be important for the changeup to develop, because of his curveball’s effectiveness vs. left-handed batters, it somewhat reduces the need for a reliable 3rd option. Hoffman has been working on a cutter, but has shown it in games very infrequently.
The biggest question surrounding any pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery is going to be their command, and in that regard Hoffman has passed with flying colours. In the 70+ innings he’s pitched thus far this season he’s walked only 17 batters, which seemingly is even better than the command was reported to be coming into the draft.
Hoffman is the complete package in my eyes, and even though he’s going into a strong Rockies farm system featuring star prospects such as David Dahl & Raimel Tapia, I believe he instantly becomes the Rockies #1 prospect.
Miguel Castro – RHP
20 Years Old
6’5”, 190 lbs
Castro, along with fellow 20-year-old Roberto Osuna, were the talk of spring training where their dominant performance saw each of them jump directly from High Single A all the way to the big leagues out of camp. It took less than a week (and a Brett Cecil injury) to force Castro into the closer role, where he picked up a save in his 3rd career game. He would go 4 for 6 in save opportunities in the month of April, and then be sent down to Triple A Buffalo just 3 days into the month of May. It truly appears that Castro wilted before our eyes after just 2 weeks of good performance. He visibly seemed to tire, and allowed consistent hard contact.
The way that Castro has been handled since the demotion have been up and down. After his demotion he went to Triple A Buffalo and was starting games, and began to ramp up to be used as a starter again (like he had been prior to spring training). In his 5th start back (with middling amounts of success) he injured his finger and was placed on the disabled list for a month. Upon his return he has returned to the bullpen and has pitched very well.
Castro’s fastball is a dominant pitch, which has grown significantly over the past year as he’s started to fill out his incredibly thin body. Once sitting in the low 90s, he now sits 93 to 96, and when used out of the pen frequently touches 98. After the fastball the package breaks down a bit however. His changeup is his 2nd best pitch which plays well off players having to gear up to hit the heater. The slider has some work to do, as its very inconsistent.
As a player still growing into his body, his command continues to be a problem for Castro. This won’t always manifest itself in high walk totals (though it can like three walks he threw in his 2nd appearance as an Isotope), but more frequently will be missed within the strike zone that turn into very hard contact. I’d think the hope with Castro would be that as he stops growing, and fully matures into his gangly body that his mechanics would stabilize and that leads me to believe there’s room for growth in his command profile.
I believe rather firmly that Castro’s future is in the bullpen, and that the Rockies are making the correct move by leaving him in that role. He will be best utilized in short bursts to maximize his fastball, and certainly has the potential to be the Rockies closer in very short order.
For perspective, I believe I would’ve had Castro as the Blue Jays #6 prospect prior to all the deals that have gone down over the past week, and would probably slot into the 7 to 10 range on any Rockies list alongside guys Forrest Wall. My view of his limitation as a reliever does lower his ceiling considerably however.
Jesus Tinoco – RHP
20 Years Old
6’4”, 230 lbs
The first thing to note about Jesus Tinoco, is that his listed weight is wildly incorrect. He is listed at 190, but he has added a tonne of weight to his frame, and is at least 220, probably pushing 230. This is all good weight he’s added especially to his lower half.
He throws a heavy sinking fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s (92-94, touching 96), with room for projection. He’s shown the consistent ability for a pitcher his age to generate ground balls, which will certainly be to his benefit if he ever reaches Coors.
Both his slider and his changeup have flashed as above average pitches, and have shown marked improvement during this season. I believe he does project to be a starter at the big league level, especially given the way he’s filled out physically.
Players like Tinoco seemingly grow on trees in the Blue Jays system. The Blue Jays were so stacked with arms that even after shipping away 11 arms over the past month there are still 10-15 interesting arms worth tracking in the organization. As a result it isn’t too difficult to let him go, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a valuable asset for the Rockies to acquire.
Pre-season Tinoco was a consensus top 15 prospect in the Jays system, and his stock has probably risen slightly throughout the year. I’d imagine if he continues success throughout the rest of the year he could be a sleeper contender to sneak into post-season Rockies top 10 prospect lists.
Looking at the package as a whole, I can’t help but be a little underwhelmed. There’s no question that Hoffman as the centerpiece of the trade is about as good as you could expect, but it’s the secondary pieces, and salary their taking back that would have me concerned. When you contrast it to the Cole Hamels trade (since I view them as players of similar value), the Phillies received 3 potential impact pieces while the Rockies only have Hoffman to show for it. If Castro is a starting pitcher, and the lottery ticket that is Tinoco pans out, then the deal could still pay off in the long run for Colorado.