Bay Area, CA | The much anticipated trade of Oakland Athletics ace Sonny Gray to the New York Yankees is official. As I recently wrote, there was likely no role for Gray on these rebuilding Athletics. Clearly Beane and co. agreed sending SP Sonny Gray and $1.5M in international bonus slot money to the Yankees for three highly rated prospects: OF Dustin Fowler, SS Jorge Mateo, and SP James Kaprielian. All have enjoyed rankings as top 15 prospects in the Yankees organization. Here is a first look analysis of the haul the A’s received, and why there is cause for some concern.
OF Dustin Fowler: The outfielder was drafted in the 18th round of the 2013 draft (554th overall), and Baseball America ranked him as New York’s 10th rated prospect in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Fowler plays CF with ample speed for the position, but is not known as a plus-fielder in any of the outfield positions. At the plate with AA Trenton, Fowler had an AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS line of .281/.311/.458/.769. While he has a nice combination of power/speed, he does not draw as many walks as a Moneyball player might usually take – plate discipline can be coached and improved upon.
Fowler followed his successful campaign with an improved AAA Scranton line of .293/.329/.542/.871 leading to his call up to the Yankees in June. In his MLB debut, Fowler suffered a devastating knee injury to his patellar tendon against the Chicago White Sox. His recovery is estimated to be at least six months. While he is a good chip in the overall deal, the severity of his injury and recovery remains a big question mark moving into next season. The jury remains out on Fowler.
SP James Kaprielian: The right-hander was drafted back in 2012 in the 40th round by the Seattle Mariners, though he did not sign. He was subsequently drafted by the Yankees in the first round in 2015 at 16th overall. Good decision by Kaprielian. Baseball America rated Kaprielian as the 4th and 5th ranked prospect in the Yankees organization in 2015 and 2016. He was #87 across the minors in 2016 as well. Going into the 2017 season he was the 3rd ranked prospect in the Yankees farm system via Fox Sports/Fansided. He was considered the teams top-ranked pitching prospect and potential staff ace should Masahiro Tanaka opt of his contract come the 2018 season.
As was the case with Fowler, Kaprielian’s rise has been hampered with injuries. In this case, elbow issues. It got so bad that this past April he underwent Tommy John surgery, and will be begin a throwing program in about the next month or so. Kaprielian could make a 100% recovery. Or, he could travel the heart-breaking road of former A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker, who underwent multiple Tommy John surgeries. Or, he could be a Rich Harden type that is completely dominant – when he’s able to be on the field. While he makes for another promising piece of the overall deal for Gray, many questions remain.
SS Jorge Mateo: The speedy shortstop was signed at the age of 17 as an international free agent by the Yankees in 2012. Baseball America ranked him 3rd in the Yankees organization after 2014, 1st after 2015, and 4th after 2016. After 2015 he was ranked 26th of all minor leaguers, falling to 85th after 2016. Still well inside the top-100. Heading into 2017 Fox Sports/Fansided ranked Mateo as the 8th best Yankee prospect in their farm system. If you’re 8th best in an off year, you’re probably doing alright.
Mateo’s offense suffered in 2016, accounting for much of his fall in the organizational and league-wide rankings. He is striking out more, and like Fowler is not taking as many walks as Beane and co. would like. But so far in AA Trenton Mateo is doing well in 30 games so far, putting up a .300/.381/.525/.906 line. Minor League Ball notes Mateo’s tremendous speed gives him the ability to get to balls that others can’t, but he is still raw on the defensive side. His strong arm and speed makes him a potential starter at second base, or even the outfield due to the likes of Franklin Barreto waiting in the wings and the potential for a contract extension for every-day SS Marcus Semien. He has the talent to start, and barring an opening in the infield, Mateo may find a home in the outfield.
Verdict: As is the case with transcations that are not clearly one-sided, it’s too early to tell how the A’s did here. The recoveries of Fowler and Kaprielian, and their subsequent performance, will be what eventually drives the assessment of this deal. The same goes for the performance of Sonny Gray. Both teams have assumed great risk/reward in the players they have just traded away/for. In the end I think the A’s did better here than they did in other trades in recent past. One of which will not be mentioned here. Ever.