The Houston Astros acquired John Ely, another quasi-interesting arm to add to their expanding list of potential backend starters that now resides somewhere just south of a baker’s dozen, from the Los Angeles Dodgers, in exchange for left-hander Rob Rasmussen.
Ely, 26, has been smacked around during his three stints in the big leagues, posting a 5.70 ERA and middling peripherals — 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 — in 115.1 career innings. His numbers at Triple-A last season, however, were the best of his entire professional career.
In the offense-inflated PCL, Ely made 27 starts (168.2 IP) and struck 165 (8.8 K/9) while walking just 36 (1.9 BB/9). His Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was a sparkling 3.04, the lowest mark in the league among pitchers with 70+ innings. He also saw a noticeable uptick in his groundball rate too, jumping from just over 43% in 2011 to 48.2% last year.
With all that being said, Ely’s going to regress next year, at whichever level.
Historically, he’s always shown above-average control and average-ish strikeout numbers, but the last time he put up numbers close to this was in 2008, in High-A. And there’s a strong — STRONG — possibility that he peaked last season. His MLB ceiling now resides somewhere around 1.5 wins above replacement as a fringe fourth or fifth starting pitcher, or somewhere between replacement level and half of a win as a reliever.
Heading back to Los Angeles is Rasmussen, 23, who was originally acquired as part of the Carlos Lee to Miami coup.
Rasmussen, a 2010 second round pick, was a bit of reach, a 5-foot-9, 160 pound left-hander that profiled better as a serviceable middle reliever rather than a 30-start hurler. In 142 innings between High-A and Double-A, he averaged 7.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. And his SIERA was a slightly above-average 4.10
Not to be a size-ist, but I remain very skeptical on his long term plans as a starter. Instead, he could develop into a useful left-hander out of the bullpen; he held fellow southpaws to a .692 OPS last season.
In the end, though, this is basically moving starting pitching depth that the Dodgers clearly don’t need, to the Astros for a replacement level reliever. Both are interchangeable, though the Astros will likely come out ahead in the end.
Photo of John Ely Courtesy of the Examiner.com