The Pirates have traded minor league outfielder Quincy Latimore to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Jeanmar Gomez.
Gomez is a 24 year old (he will turn 25 years old before the beginning of Spring Training) right-handed sinker/slider ground-ball guy that has a low strikeout rate and was designated for assignment earlier this month after throwing 206.2 innings for the Indians from 2010 to 2012 with a .6 fWAR and -3.0 WAA. He fell in the group that had averagish fastball velocity without a curveball or slow pitch that I profiled recently. This is not a successful group of starters. Gomez threw either his sinker or slider 62.5 % of the time according to Fangraphs. Just 13 other starters since 2010 (minimum 100 innings) have thrown that many sinkers/sliders), and those pitchers had a 110.69 FIP – average. An optimist might point out that Hiroki Kuroda is the closest comp when it comes to sinker/slider usage. However, Kuroda has a 4% better swinging strike rate (10.2 to 6.2) and the average swinging strike percentage of the group is 6.9% well below league average (which is around 10%).
There were 17 relievers that threw at least 100 innings since 2010 with at least 62.5% sinkers/sliders. Those pitchers had a 91.24 FIP -, a 19.45 difference. The difference between all starting pitchers and relievers is 103 to 95, suggesting that there is a bigger difference between sinker/slider pitchers and regular pitchers. It is a small sample size, but it also suggests that sinker/slider pitchers are better relievers. The swinging strike percentage isn’t impressive (9.85), but it is much better than we saw from the starters. The average velocity of those pitchers’ sinkers were 90.68 MPH, which Gomez should be able to surpass in the pen.
So I think you can make a serious argument that Gomez could actually provide more value out of the bullpen than in the starting rotation. At this point, we aren’t sure what the Pirates are planning to do with Gomez. What about what the Indians are getting in return?
Quincy Latimore is about to turn 24 and has spent the last two seasons in AA. He was originally drafted in the 4th round out of high school. Interestingly, listed at 5-10 175, he looks sort of like a middle infielder, as his lack of size is pretty apparent. Despite this, he has only played in the outfield in his minor league career.
In AA Altoona, Latimore had a 107 wRC + and 102 wOBA + in 2012. Latimore is believed to have real power, but it hasn’t played in games, with a .167 ISO for his career. This may be because he has raw power, but reports are that his approach is so bad that it doesn’t play in games. The good news is that his ISO has been trending upwards, and he had a .182 ISO in 2012. Our odds projection has him as having just a 32.5 % chance of succeeding (that is, reaching a 107 wRC + in the Majors) as a hitter in the big leagues. This is worse than nearly every hitter (we just looked at 1st basemen) we looked at in the original odds post. He had large platoon splits in 2011, but they shrunk in 2012 and his splits haven’t been very consistent, so these numbers may not be very meaningful when it comes to Latimore.
He has mostly played left-field in his career, but has continued to play a little center-field each year. According to FRAA, he has been very solid in the outfield, with good numbers, but his baserunning numbers have not been as good (he still had a 2.2 WARP, meaning he was an above average player, even with positional judgment in the Eastern League). His speed scores were very good in the lower minors, but since getting to AA, they have regressed to below average. This could be for two reasons (that I can think of), he has gotten less athletic as his body has matured, or the advanced fielding (especially behind the plate) in AA has caused him to be less efficient. The latter is probably more likely, since his stolen base numbers are virtually the same, he is just being caught more. When projecting him forward, it is hard to believe that he will provide much value on the bases in the Majors. There actually have been some questions about his defense, but not his athleticism. I find it a little curious that he has been playing mainly left-field and not much right-field, perhaps showing that his arm is a little weak, but from what I have read his arm isn’t bad.
He was Rule 5 eligible, but no one selected him, he will most likely start the year in AAA for the Indians and probably watch his basic numbers benefit from the friendly park in Columbus (so in other words, be careful of saying Latimore “broke out” in 2013 if he has good numbers). He has a very flat swing, but his body movements aren’t fluid (including, and especially, his forward step and stride) and he doesn’t have what you would call elite bat speed. He also looks extremely ugly when he swings at pitches low in the zone (or out of the zone), as he simply doesn’t seem to have great bat and body control.
Latimore is just one year younger than Gomez, and it appears Gomez has a role on a big league club (I think he will be a nice reliever, but not very effective as a starter) while Latimore’s chances of helping a MLB team aren’t don’t seem to be great as a corner outfielder with offensive and baserunning questions. Gomez still isn’t arbitration eligible until two more seasons, meaning he is very inexpensive out of the bullpen (or emergency 5th starter). The Pirates’ pitching staff was below average in both the rotation and the bullpen, and while I don’t think Gomez will help with the former, he will help with the latter. On the other hand, the Indians had already designated Gomez for assignment, so to get anything for him is a plus, especially since they don’t have to use a 40 man roster spot on Latimore.