The Marlins continued their complete destruction of their Major League roster by trading away the best Major Leaguer they got in the massive trade with the Blue Jays. The Marlins moved Yunel Escobar to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league infielder Derek Dietrich. Dietrich was a 2nd round pick by the Rays in 2010 out of the Georgia Tech where he consistently put up good numbers (after being drafted in the 3rd round by the Houston Astros in 2007 out of high school in Cleveland). He was rated as the 17th best prospect in the Rays system by Kevin Goldstein before the season started, between Wilking Rodriguez and Josh Sale.
Dietrich spent 2012 split between A+ and AA and has a career .812 OPS in the minors. The 23 year old left-handed hitter has spent most of his career as a shortstop but played 51 games at 2nd base in 2012. Most do not seem to believe that he will stick at short and will eventually have to move to 2nd base in a more permanent capacity. According to batted ball data (both FRAA and Range Factor), Dietrich is a below average defensive shortstop, but the small sample size at 2nd base has him as a good defender. The problem has more to do with his athleticism than his arm. While speed score doesn’t always equal athleticism, it does give us some idea and a picture as to his speed tool at least. Dietrich’s speed score was just 4.4 in AA in 2012 (after a 5.6 speed score in A +) and was 4.3 in 2012 (Baseball Cube has his speed rated at 50 out of 100 despite the fact he has been caught stealing more than he has successfully stolen a base). When you just look at him (I don’t know if the listing of 6-1 200 really does this justice), he doesn’t really look like a shortstop. In fact, his build looks much like a 3rd baseman (and if the arm isn’t the problem, perhaps there is where his future lies). I definitely do not like his throwing motion (but didn’t really get a read on his strength or accuracy), and he simply doesn’t get to as many balls as a normal shortstop and doesn’t look the part. I have got him at 11.23 seconds on a triple (I haven’t published the list with that one yet), which is not bad at all, so maybe there is a little more athleticism is in there, but it is doubtful that he will gain athleticism.
His power is considered above average, especially for a middle infielder (offensive numbers for 2nd baseman really aren’t much better than they are for shortstops). Even when he stepped into AA (small sample size alerts apply, but it is a trend we have seen in the other levels as well) his ISO was .039 better than league average. However, his K/BB was terrible (25.5 K%, 4.3 BB %) and according to Baseball Prospectus, he played at a replacement level for those 34 games. There are complaints that Dietrich is perhaps too pull heavy, and he certainly has below average plate discipline along with a below average contact tool (it has played out not only at the AA level, but the lower levels as well). His actual swing is sort of interesting, as he keeps his hands pretty low and uses a big foot raise (but not a real stride) to get his timing down (and he was standing in the very back of the batters box in the video of him I saw). The swing itself isn’t anything to be concerned with, as it is relatively flat but I found the way he bends his front knee a little bizarre (this main mean nothing, it just seems like an awkward way to stand in the box. Obviously some hitters have had quite a bit of success with awkward stances). He has put up high BABIPs throughout the minors, including .023 higher than league average in A+ and .040 higher than league average in AA. While his high line drive rates (if that translate) would help this, the K/BB is really concerning.While he was “young” for AA, he came out of college as a high round draft pick, where the assumption is that he would be advanced. He actually seems to, at least at the plate (as the tools elsewhere in the field are somewhat lacking), play the role of a raw player, displaying power but with a bunch of strikeouts and not many walks.
Dietrich comes with a lot of risk, much like Yunel Escobar, but there is some upside there. An infielder with power is always valuable, especially when you consider how 2nd baseman hit this year (.253/.315/.374 overall in 2012). However, Dietrich isn’t ready for the majors yet and will have to improve on his plate discipline if he will ever have consistent success in Miami. I like this trade for the Rays because Escobar is relatively inexpensive and has a track record (2012 excluded) of playing a solid shortstop both in the field and at the plate. Escobar will be a starter (at least initially), while Dietrich doesn’t have the positional value or even the upside of Escobar (he was worth 2.6 wins above average in 2011 according to Baseball Reference, and it wasn’t like he was bad in 2012, with positive defensive values according to every defensive metric available).