As the deadline approaches, there hasn’t been many major trades as many teams still believe that they are still at least on the fringe of the race and grabbing a wild card spot. The Astros are not one of those teams and they traded away the closer they signed in the off-season with the intent of trading him later in the year, trading him to a team that has been looking for bullpen help.
The Tigers traded Class A outfielder Danry Vasquez to the Houston Astros for their closer, Jose Veras.
Veras is somewhat unusual as a late inning reliever, since he doesn’t throw a 4-seam fastball or a slider. Instead, Veras throws a sinker, a curveball, and a splitter. Here is where he locates them on average:
The splitter works as an arm side pitch mainly thrown to lefties, while the curve is located glove side on average, well located low, to throw mainly against righties. His sinker is located slightly low on average, and thrown with decent velocity, about equally glove side and arm side. Because of this pitch selection, he has nothing that he throws high consistently, and so he is a low ball pitcher with a low release point:
Not surprisingly, he doesn’t get a lot of swinging strikes, but he does still have a good strikeout rate, mainly because of the called strikes he gets with his curveball and sinker. The improvement of Veras, a slight but real one, this year from previous years is that he is walking less batters. Instead of actually throwing more pitches in the zone (his zone percentage is much better than it was in 2012, but really about the same rate it has been for his career), he is throwing more first pitch strikes. Overall, he is throwing a few less curves and a few more splitters than he was last year. To start counts, he is also throwing less curveballs, throwing more splitters and sinkers, which is a little surprising considering he is having success with the curveball at getting called strikes. The following graph will give us a look at his other results, based on average locations and average velocity (the entire graph, like the first one, is the strike zone)
The whiffs are mostly coming on pitches are coming mostly glove side and are the slowest, meaning mostly curves. The hardest pitches, it seems like arm side sinkers, are the ones he have given up the 4 homers on. The outs, contact, and home runs all come in relatively the same closer, which isn’t surprising. The velocity between the average contact and the outs is reversed from what you would expect it to be, that is, the harder pitches are turning into outs, perhaps speaking to at least some effectiveness at getting contact outs with the sinker.
Vasquez was rated as between the 4th and 6th best prospect in the Tigers system before the season, but the Tigers system was universally ranked as one of the worst, if not the worst system in the MLB. At the same time, he doesn’t turn 20 years old until next year, and he has played all of this year in full season, in a league where the average player is just over 21 years old. Just holding his own offensively in the league and showing other skills would make him a legit prospect.
Vasquez was leading off for the Tigers’ A-ball team when I saw him, despite having good size. He should fill out some more as he gets older, which means that he should add some more power. The body is a definite plus, as is the age. Right now, his athleticism and body movements seem to be a little awkward, which may just be a product of his age and because he hasn’t added weight yet. For the most part, his swing is controlled pretty well. It is somewhat uppercut, and it is also a little bit long, not coming through the zone quickly. As a product of this, he got jammed really bad in one at-bat I saw, and he probably doesn’t handle the inside pitch well on a whole. The swing also probably makes him a low ball hitter.
He’s played exclusively left-field so far this season, but has at least been positively rated by FRAA this year. He has never played centerfield in the pros before, so even though he hasn’t added weight yet, it looks like he is a corner outfield bat. The park is playing a little bit pitcher friendly, yet Vasquez is hitting a little better than league average when it comes to OPS and wRC. However, it isn’t because he is hitting for power, as his ISO is worse than league average, relying mainly on contact, with below average walk and strikeout rates. He hasn’t been efficient in stealing bases, but speed score still thinks he is above average.
He seems like a flyer guy based on just size and age to me. He obviously has some bat skills, just basing it off his numbers and age, and if he adds power, he could be a legit force with the bat. However, he is still quite a distance from the Majors, and he needs to show off at least another tool, whether it is plus defense, speed, or power (and the latter two usually don’t develop, prospects usually don’t get faster or more athletic, though they can get better defensively with more reps. Power is the most likely to develop, but it isn’t a guarantee that he will fill out, and it isn’t a guarantee that the bat skills would improve, even if he gets bigger).