After swapping Ernesto Frieri for veteran right-hander Jason Grilli, the Angels’ incessant quest to cobble together a solid bullpen led GM Jerry DiPoto to knock on the door of the struggling Padres – or more like kick the door in – and acquire All-Star closer Huston Street in a six-player deal.
The cost? A pretty hefty one: talented second baseman Taylor Lindsey, 20-year-old shortstop Jose Rondon, minor league strikeout machine R.J. Alvarez, and Elliot Morris, the club’s 2013 fourth round pick. Also heading to the Angels is right-hander Trevor Gott.
The need is quite obvious for the Angels: the club’s bullpen ranks 21st in ERA (3.75), 24th in xFIP (3.90), and tied for the eighth most blown saves (13), And Street, who’s seen a resurgence in production after a step backward last season, should step in and immediately solidify the back end of the pen – not only through his production but by also allowing sidewinder Joe Smith to slide back into a setup role.
After striking out a career low 20.7% of the batters he faced last season, Street’s bounced back to fan 28.1% this season, the fourth best mark of his 10-year career. His walk percentage, 5.8%, is also well below his career rate. The bad – and it’s pretty glaring – is that a lot of his production has been fluky: Street’s strand rate has been perfect (100%) and his BABIP is unsustainably low (.195).
Gott, a sixth round pick out of Kentucky last season, breezed through short season ball, low Class A and high Class A and made Class AA within one season. He’s shown a consistent ability to miss bats thus far, though his control has wavered at points. He could be a useful middle relief arm in another year or so.
As for the Angels’ haul, I ranked Lindsey as the #76 overall prospect – as well as the #1 potential breakout prospect in my book, The 2014 Prospect Digest Annual. And, well, the lefty-swinging second baseman has been a major disappointment, hitting .247/.323/.400 during his first stint in Triple-A. On the positive side, he’s hit .292/.320/.500 since returning from a concussion.
Last season, Taylor topped the Texas League average offensive production by 19% en route to hitting .274/.339/.441. He has a shot to development into a solid contributor at the big league level, peaking around 3.0 or so wins above replacement. Solid-average power, decent plate discipline, and a little bit of speed.
Rondon is a fascinating shortstop prospects: he’s held his own as a 20-year-old in high Class A, topping the league average production by 6%, has consistently hit for a solid batting average, and made the leap from rookie ball last season. There’s some untapped power in Rondon’s bat, especially considering that he bypassed both short season ball and low Class A.
Alvarez has been one of the best relief arms in the minor leagues this season – if there ever was a thing as a relief prospect. The 2012 third rounder has done one thing since entering pro ball: miss bats, a lot of bats. For his career, the 6-foot-1 right-hander has fanned 155 in 103.0 innings. And this season’s strikeout percentage, 38.0% ties a career best. Absolutely unhittable thus three seasons into his career.
The final player received is right-hander Elliot Morris, who’s more organizational depth than anything at this point.
Overall, the Angels got want they have been searching for – a proven, reliable closer. The cost, however, was pretty steep: one potential everyday player, a wild card 20-year-old shortstop, a near-can’t-miss big league reliever, and some nice organizational depth. While neither of the two centerpieces of the deal – Lindsey and Rondon – look like surefire bets, it’s the type of gamble a rebuilding organization should take.