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System Sundays: Wrapping up the Deadline Deals and Other Notes

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Tying up some loose ends on the trade deadline moves, and pointing out all the news that’s fit to print.

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Morning, all. Hell of a game last night, eh?

You know, I completely understand Tommy Pham being traded on an intellectual level. The eye issues, the age, the complicating factors of the other outfielders on the club, all those things combined to create a situation in which Pham was by far the easiest move to make in trying to open up space for Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill to get more playing time. On an emotional level, though, I have to admit that seeing Pham dealt and being stuck watching Marcell Ozuna continue to wear a Cardinal uniform is...rather unpleasant. In fact, it’s rather unpleasant just not having Pham on the club, even after only a few days, broken foot be damned.

Anyhow, just needed to get that off my chest.

I have a pair of scouting reports to get to this morning, in order to finish off the returns the Cardinals received in the Pham and Oscar Mercado deals made at the deadline. Lance Brozdowski already published scouting reports on Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera, and Conner Capel the other day; I’ll throw out this one bit of opinion: I am significantly higher on Cabrera than Lance is.

I’ll be covering Roel Ramirez, the third piece in the Pham return, and Jhon Torres, the second outfield prospect in the Oscar Mercado trade, in a moment. But first, a few notes from here and there.

  • Have you heard about this Nolan Gorman guy? He seems like he might be okay at baseball. The Cards’ first-round pick from this year’s draft is off to one of the greatest starts you’ll ever see; through 151 plate appearances at Johnson City Gorman is now hitting .341/.437/.682. Yes, that’s a 1.119 OPS, and that translates to a 183 wRC+. The walk rate is still elite, at 14.6%, even if it’s down ever so slightly from where he was right before he was hit on the hand with a pitch and missed some time, and the strikeouts are manageable at 22.5%. Oh, and did I mention he won’t turn nineteen until next May? As much as I don’t mind the Cardinals being careful with such a young asset, it seems to me Gorman is pretty clearly too good for Appalachian League competition, and should be moved up to State College before long. He went 4-for-6 with a walk and a home run last night.
  • There was a good writeup over at minorleagueball regarding who might be the final piece in the Chris Archer trade, with Shane Baz, a power-armed righty, seen as the most likely player to be named later. Personally, from my perspective I would probably have gone after Ke’Bryan Hayes from that group; I was a big fan of Hayes when I scouted him pre-draft a couple years ago, and he’s developed into an even more exciting prospect in the years since, with a fantastic plate approach and a wide base of tools that could make him an All-Star level player with a little luck. I’m lower on Baz than a lot of other industry analysts.
  • Brady Whalen’s numbers at State College this year are on a solid, steady climb; his wRC+ on the season is now up to 116, with his Votto-esque plate discipline still the primary driver of his success. He’s making a little louder contact than he previously has, though, which is encouraging. Still not the kind of power you expect from a player with his size and frame, but time is on his side, and I never like to bet against a player with this level of strike zone command.
  • Anybody notice that Jurickson Profar is having a stealthily really good season? A 109 wRC+ with a BABIP of just .267 is pretty good, you know. No? Just me noticing? Okay. (slinks away)
  • Justin Williams, recently acquired in the Pham deal, hit his first home run for Memphis last night, and it was a bomb. It’s easy to see why he’s so highly thought of, but the problem is that pitch way up above his hands is really the only pitch he’s going to elevate all that often due to his swing plane. He hits ground balls like Marcell Ozuna hits ground balls.
  • You know who else is stealthily having a really nice season? Lane Thomas, the outfield prospect the Cardinals acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for international bonus pool money in July of 2017. Thomas put up a 119 wRC+ in 435 Double A plate appearances this season, and was recently promoted to Memphis. Thomas has altered his approach since coming to the Cards, it appears to me, and is much more of a pull-side fly ball hitter now than he was before, with a surge in power numbers coming along with that new approach. Between Thomas, Adolis Garcia, and Williams, I think the Cardinals should be able to find an internal fourth outfield option without any trouble at all.
  • Matt Carpenter is just a shade under 5 WAR for the season. I’m just saying.
  • Also having a very intriguing season: Andy Young, now promoted to Springfield. The 24 year old second base prospect has been mostly under the radar up until this year, despite good offensive numbers, but put up a 137 wRC+ in 351 plate appearances at High A Palm Beach and basically forced a promotion to Double A. He’s on the old side for a true prospect, but since moving to Springfield he’s already hit half as many home runs (6) as he did for Palm Beach (12), despite having only 59 plate appearances in Double A so far. The walk and strikeout peripherals are weird right now, but when you’re hitting a dinger every ten at-bats and running a 222 wRC+, taking a walk probably isn’t the most pressing concern for you at that moment.
  • I would really like to see Dakota Hudson get at least one start before too very long. I’ve said since basically the moment he was drafted that Hudson’s one-two punch of sinker and cutter could make him a dynamite reliever in short order, and we’ve basically seen that already. What I’m curious to see is how well that stuff holds up when he has to turn over a lineup multiple times and perhaps dig a little deeper into his repertoire. I’ve seen him as a starter plenty in Memphis, but I would really like to see it at the big league level, to try and gauge where he is in terms of development, and how much further he still has to go.

Okay, now on to the two scouting reports I have for you today. I’ll try to keep them relatively brief, particularly because I just remembered that today’s game is a very early start. We’ll start with Roel Ramirez, the relief arm included in the Pham deal, and then move on to Jhon Torres, the extremely young outfield prospect who was part of the return for Oscar Mercado.

Roel Ramirez, RHP

6’1”, 210 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 26 May 1995

So, what’s so great about this guy?

A former starting prospect, Ramirez moved to relief work full time in 2017, and saw his velocity jump up noticeably later in the season. He used to work around 90-91 as a starter, but as of now sits around 93-94 and has touched as high as 97. It appears to just have been as simple as Ramirez adjusting to simply airing it out on every pitch, and his repertoire is much better now than it ever was before, obviously.

The fastball is a little on the straight side, but with the velocity bump it’s probably a 55 pitch now, rather than below-average as it was before. It seems as if he hasn’t quite adjusted to max effort pitching just yet, as he’s no longer as much around the zone as he was before, working as a starter. Still, he’s seen a noticeable boost in strikeouts as his velocity has climbed, so it’s probably a worthwhile tradeoff. It would still be nice to see him continue to hone his command at the higher velo range, though.

Ramirez features a pair of offspeed pitches: a slider that I don’t love, and a splitter or forkball that’s pretty intriguing. The slider hangs way too often, and I wonder if he wouldn’t be better tightening it up into more of a cut fastball, rather than trying to get the pitch to tilt when it pretty clearly doesn’t want to. The splitter, on the other hand, has pretty solid tumble to it at times, and he actually chokes it way back in his fingers, almost like an old-fashioned forkball. He basically has the repertoire of a Japanese reliever, actually, which is interesting.

I was really underwhelmed when I saw Ramirez was part of the Tommy Pham trade, as I vaguely remembered the starting version of him from a couple years ago. However, having checked in on him now as a reliever, I’m a little more optimistic. I’m still not certain the ceiling is all that high; I don’t think I see him as any better than a seventh-inning type unless the split takes a step (or two), forward, but there’s certainly a Fernando Salas or Al Reyes type reliever in here, and maybe more somewhere if things do continue developing.

via Baseball Census:

Jhon Torres, OF

6’4”, 199 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 29 March 2000

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I think the Cardinals did pretty well for themselves in the Oscar Mercado trade, as opposed to the Pham deal where the return felt pretty light to me unless Justin Williams turns out to be substantially better than I think he is. (Which he absolutely could, by the way.) Conner Capel, the more advanced outfield prospect the Cards received in return for Mercado, has a very good chance of just being a left-handed version of Oscar Mercado in a year or two, while buying the Redbirds a 40-man roster spot they desperately needed.

The real prize of the deal for me, though, is actually Jhon Torres, who is a very long way away, but has the kind of physical tools that could make him a monster prospect in relatively short order.

Torres is tall and rangy, with plenty of room to add weight to that 6’4” frame of his. He could easily end up 230 by the time it’s all said and done, which would essentially put him in the Jason Heyward body range, and that feels about right to me. He’s a bit of a physical specimen already, but there’s more to come, I think. He’s an above-average runner, has a huge throwing arm, and just generally fits the right field profile perfectly.

Where the real excitement comes in, though, is when Torres is at the plate. His swing is noisy, with an exaggerated leg kick that will need to be toned down, but he generates huge raw power thanks to easy plus bat speed. Even better, he appears to have a real idea at the plate, which is saying something when you consider he’s not even hit the halfway mark between eighteen and nineteen yet. Obviously, some caution is warranted when scouting a player all the way down in a complex league, and he probably won’t appear high on the offseason prospect list for that reason, but think of the impact Elehuris Montero has had this season in Peoria; that’s the sort of splash Torres could make, as early as next season.

As I said, the swing will need some work; I like players with leg kicks, but Torres’s kick involves him moving his whole body around, and shifting his balance point too much for me. Getting him more centered, and getting the leg kick a little more vertical, will help him take off even faster. Just sit him down with a few dozen hours of Jose Bautista hitting dingers footage and watch the improvement roll right in.

Torres is so far away that the list of things that could go wrong is literally too long to mention. However, in making the deal they did with the Indians, the Cardinals pulled at least one huge upside bet, which makes sense as the second piece in a trade that was as much about moving the window of the players in the system as it did anything else. Jhon Torres could absolutely end up nothing at all, easily. But at the same time, he has the kind of physical tools that could also make him a top five prospect in the system within a year or two.

via FanGraphs: