Friday, November 30, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Nationals Trade for Gregor Blanco Clone

The Hot Stove got a bit warmer yesterday as the Washington Nationals  and Minnesota Twins made a significant trade with the Nats sending pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for OF Denard Span.  I have to say I'm still trying to figure out who I like in this trade.

Span is an OF I've liked for awhile now.  He's a former Twins first round draft pick in a long line of toolsy HS OF's.  He's taken his time progressing through the Twins' farm system and acclimation to the majors.  He bats left and throws left.  His game is defense, getting on base and speed in that order.  He has some gap power but HR's have not been part of his game so far.  Here are his stat lines for 2012, career and 2013 Bill James projection:

2012                  .283/.342/.395, 4 HR, 17 SB, 8.3% BB, 10.9% K in 568 PA.
Career                .284/.357/.389, 23 HR, 90 SB, 9.5%BB, 12%K in 2671 PA.
2013 Bill James  .281/.350/.379, 5 HR, 19 SB, 9.3% BB, 12% K in 593 PA.

There are some things to like in those lines.  Decent BA, more than acceptable OBP, solid BB and K rates.  He's 28 yo so could still find some upside in the future.  What I don't like is he does not compensate for his lack of power with the number of SB's you'd like to see from a top-of-the-order hitter.  As I got to looking at Span's stat line, it struck me that the closest comp to what the Nats were getting might be right here in our own backyard.  Here's the same 3 stat lines for Gregor Blanco:

2012                  .244/.333/344, 5 HR, 26 SB, 11.3% BB, 23% K, 10.1 Fld, 3.6 BsR in 453 PA
Career                .253/.346/.328, 7 HR, 52 SB, 12/3% BB, 20.3% K, 9.4 Fld, 8.2 BsR in 1289 PA
2013 Bill James  .246/.346/.328, 2 HR, 11 SB, 12.9% BB, 19.5% K in 210 PA.

Blanco has a higher BB%, but also a higher K% which could limit him going forward.  Otherwise, note that if you normalize PA for both players, their key numbers are almost identical with Blanco a bit better stealing bases.

The difference?  The Giants picked up Blanco for free last year while Washington just traded a good pitching prospect for Span.

Alex Meyer is a big RHP out of Kentucky who throws in the mid-upper 90's.  He played at A and A+ levels in his first professional experience last year and the numbers look promising as he struck out 139 while walking 45 in 129 IP at the two levels. He would be an asset in any organization, but the Twins are almost desperate for more of his type of pitching prospect.  Minnesota will now commit for Ben Revere as their CF/leadoff hitter with Aaron Hicks coming along in the system.

The fallout in Washington is that the Nats will now probably not re-sign Adam LaRoche, will likely move Michael Morse to 1B and move Wonderboy to a corner OF slot with Span taking CF.  While their OF defense will improve significantly, trading LaRoche's bat for Span's will hurt the lineup.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs proclaimed this trade a steal for the Nationals.  Keith Law at ESPN was less enthusiastic.  My first reaction was closer to Dave Cameron's, but after studying the stat lines and thinking through the fallout, I have to say I'm now leaning more toward Keith Law's take.

I'm more impressed now by the Blanco pickup by the Giants last year and more convinced that worse things could happen than for him to be the starting CF and leadoff hitter for the Giants next year.


  1. The Nats are looking good. They've been searching for a CF for a while. With Wonderboy, Zimmerman, Werth and Morse they really don't need a bat in the OF, they need a defensive first guy who can get on base. Huge win for them.

    Not sure what to think about Minny's side, or what that organization is doing. If Meyer can put it all together its great, but that just seems like a big time lottery ticket to me.

    I've liked Span for a while as well. Minny seems to have a CF factory going. But I think they sold short out of pitching desperation.

    1. That's how I see it at this moment too.

      As for the money set aside for trying to re-sign LaRoche, will they now use it to upgrade other area(s)?

    2. Hedge their bets by shopping Morse it looks like!

  2. I have to say it looks to me like you're underrating Span by a considerable margin or overrating Blanco by the same. Span's a career 105 wRC+ in over 2500 PA, with a peak level around 120, while Blanco's a 90 wRC+ in 1200 PA. So you're looking at a 15% spread in offensive ability that cuts across league average. (By wOBA the split is .332 v .310). I'll give you Blanco's advanced base running skills and they're probably a push defensively, but that's a significant offensive split (based in about equal parts on better contact skill and slightly more power), which is why Span's worst season (by fWAR) and Blanco's best are pretty much the same.