On Thursday evening, the Cardinals shipped lefty Jaime Garcia to the Braves for a trio of prospects: right-handed pitchers John Gant and Chris Ellis and infielder Luke Dykstra. Eliis and Gant now rank as the 24th and 27th Cardinals prospects, respectively, on MLB.com.
Of the three, Gant, a 24-year-old, is the only one with big-league experience, as he logged 50 innings across 20 games (seven starts) with the Braves in 2016, during which he posted an ERA of 4.86. Over his career in the minors, Gant has logged 462 innings with a 1.26 WHIP and 445 punchouts and had a 4.18 ERA in his 56 frames at the Triple-A level this year.
Gant is armed with a four-seam fastball, curveball, and changeup and, per FanGraphs, Gant threw his fastball -- which typically radars around 92 MPH -- 58.7 percent of the time while with the Braves this year. Given the slower speed of the pitch in comparison to most others, Gast could fall victim to overexposure at the major-league level. Gant has started 81 of the 87 games he’s appeared in at the minor-league level, but he may be better suited for a reliever’s role as a big leaguer.
Here’s how Keith Law of ESPN described Gant
John Gant is a deception guy with average stuff who has missed some bats in the minors and might have value in the bullpen where hitters get just one look at him.
The 24-year-old Ellis split time between the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2016 and fared much better in the lower level. Ellis went 8-2 with a respectable 2.75 ERA and 61:35 strikeout-to-walk ratio over thirteen starts across 78 2/3 innings at Double-A this year, a performance that very much contrasts the 6.53 ERA and 52 walks he exhibited over fifteen starts at Triple-A.
Ellis owns four pitches, including a two-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup, and he must improve his control over each of them to iron out his blatant command issues, particularly those that are generated by his lack of a formidable changeup. Without a sturdy changeup, Ellis -- like Gant and the lack of fastball velocity -- could be figured out very quickly as a starter, hence Ellis’ struggles at Triple-A and subpar command. Nevertheless, if Ellis achieves better feels for his fastball and slider, both, of which, are in need of polishing, he could reinvent himself as a solid big-league reliever, a role where having control over multiple pitches is not necessarily a necessity.
Here’s what Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs had to say about Ellis:
He [Ellis] generates good plane on the fastball because of his overhand arm slot. His changeup is below average, as is his command, and the changeup has little projection because it’s hard to create movement on it from that arm slot. If the fastball/slider tick up in relief, he’s a solid big-league relief piece.
Dykstra spent his season at the Class-A level, where the 21-year-old middle infielder slashed .304/.332/.363 over 81 games. Dykstra, though he garners his share of extra-base hits -- eighteen in 2016 -- power is more or less a nonexistent trait of his, as he has not homered since 2014 and only twice in 749 professional plate appearances thus far. An even .300 batting average in 694 professional at-bats is impressive, regardless of how many home runs are (or, in this case, aren’t) factored into the equation.
The Red Baron himself posted a very insightful story yesterday here on VEB. For more Dykstra insight than I could dream to provide, check out his latest story, which provides a ton of background information on the Dykstra family and keenly picks apart Luke's swing.