Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hot Stove Update: D'Backs Trade the Farm for……Jeremy Hellickson?

Whoa!  Dave Stewart completed his first significant move as the new GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks by trading away two prospects, Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez to the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Jeremy Hellickson.  My first reaction is that this is a terrible trade for the D'Backs and a great one for the Rays, but let's break it down.

Jeremy Hellickson is a familiar name to prospect watchers as he was a darling of the sabermetric crowd throughout his minor league career which featured a combination of high K rated(K/9=9-10) with low BB rates(BB/9=1.5-2.5).  He had a low-mid 90's FB.  "Hellboy" made his MLB debut in 2010 and went 4-0, 3.47, 36.1 IP, 1.98 BB/9, 8.17 K/9.  Expectations continued to run high for him.  He went 13-10 with an ERA of 2.95 in 189 IP in 2011 but his K and BB cratered to 3.43 BB% and 5.57 K%.  His success was dependent on holding opposing batters to a BABIP of .223.  In 2012 he went 10-11, 3.10, 177 IP, 3.00 BB/9, 6.31 K/9, BABIP= .261.  He went 12-10 in 2013, but his ERA ballooned to 5.17 despite continued improvement in his BB/9 to 2.59 and his K/9 to 6.98.  His BABIP allowed rose to .307.  He underwent elbow surgery for bone spurs and did not appear in 2014 until July.  He went 1-5, 4.52, 63.2 IP, 2.97 BB/9, 7.63 K/9, BABIP= .321.  Hellickson is an extreme flyball pitcher who has gotten hurt a lot by the long ball, although his HR/FB is not extraordinarily high.  The stadium in Arizona is not likely to give him any breaks in helping him limit HR's.

Hellickson has 2 years of arbitration eligibility left and Dave Stewart apparently thinks he will be healthy and continue to improve his K and BB numbers with a regression in his BABIP allowed which would make him a solid starter.  That is a lot of ifs, though.  Hellickson is clearly not the caliber of pitcher that James Shields was when the Royals gave up 2 good prospects for him.  Of course, the 2 prospects the D'Backs gave up are not nearly as MLB ready as Wil Myers and Jake Odirizzi, but I do like Williams and Velazquez a lot.

Justin Williams is a B-L, T-R OF drafted in round 2 in 2013.  He is 6'2", 215 lbs and has tremendous power potential.  He has put up impressive numbers in his first two professional seasons, but has yet to show the power he projects to have.  He hit a combined .351/.403/.437 with 12 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR in 320 AB's over 2 levels last season.  Oh, and he is still just 19 yo! He does not take a lot of walks but has kept his K rate right about 20% which is pretty good for a young power hitting prospect.  Personally, I loved Justin Williams before he was drafted and I love him now.  I would be ecstatic to have a prospect like him in the Giants system.

Andrew Velasquez plays SS and projects to stay at the position.  He is 5'8", 175 lbs and hits from both sides of the plate.  He was drafted in 2012 and is a year older than Williams.  He spent all of last year at Low A South Bend in the Midwest League which is usually pitcher friendly.  His line was .290/.367/.428, 18 2B, 15 3B, 9 HR, 50 SB, 10.0 BB%, 21.9 K% in 622 PA's.  I don't know about you, but those look like very nice numbers to me.  I would be very happy to have a player like that in the Giants system right now.

Personally, I think Dave Stewart gave up way too much in this trade for a pitcher who may be damaged goods and wasn't all that to begin with.  Williams may be still 3-4 years away from the majors, but this has the makings of turning into one of the all time bad trades in baseball history up there with Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, George Foster for Frank Duffy and Jeff Bagwell for Rick Anderson.  Velazquez is not chopped liver as prospect either.

OF course, Hellickson might regain his form of 3-4 years ago and the D'Backs might sneak into the postseason and take it deep like the Royals this year, but I just don't see Hellickson as being nearly in the same class of pitcher as James Shields nor do I see the D'Backs with a bunch of high ceiling young players reaching their peak years in the near future.

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