Thursday, December 6, 2012

Revere Out; Pitchers In

On their final day in Nashville for the Winter Meetings, Terry Ryan and Co. were busy making moves. Sandwiched between poaching Ryan Pressly from the Sawx in the Rule 5 draft and extending set-up man Jared Burton, the Twins made their biggest move of the off-season in which Ben Revere was shipped off for starting pitchers, Trevor May and Vance Worley.

I wrote two days ago about the prospect of trading Ben Revere given the bull market for center fielders and the near MLB-ready options available to the Twins. Everyone loves Revere: he's fun to watch, has a shiny batting average and a winning smile. However, Terry Ryan pulled off a shrewd move selling Ben Revere at his peak value.

I say this for two reasons, the first is the fact that his production is unlikely to significantly increase. Revere will never have power, so scratch that potential route of improvement. It's also rare to see a player make great strides in walk rate either, so I wouldn't count on that. His last route to becoming a very good hitter would be to improve his batting average. This route is entirely possible, but his success will be intimately linked to his babip, meaning the improvement will be rooted in luck more than skill. As an offensive package, what you see is what you get with Revere. Defensively, Revere spent most of 2012 on Baseball Tonight's "Web Gem's" or dominating FanGraph's UZR leaderboards. And it's hard to argue that he's not a top notch defensive outfielder. However, the baseball community essentially agrees that a player's defense only regresses after they reach the majors. Meaning, when offense and defense are taken into account, Revere had nearly reached his peak value at the end of 2012.

The second reason Revere was at his peak value is twofold: his age and contract. The Phillies were looking to get younger, making the free agents on the market (Bourn, Upton etc.) counterproductive. A team who looks at Revere can make the assumption they will get his prime years instead of decline years. In addition, his contract is barely a drop in the bucket. Revere won't even reach arbitration until 2014 and is under team control through 2016. These are essentially the factors that set Revere apart from Span and brought in the yield of two pitchers to Span's one.

Terry Ryan making the wise judgement to sell high on Revere, returned him a couple very interesting pitchers. You can make the case for either of these guys being 'the guy' in the trade, but we'll start with Vance Worley. Vance, drafted in 2008, never profiled as a top prospect coming up through minors. Despite good numbers, scouts and analysts never loved his stuff (a fastball that touches the low 90's plus a slider complemented by a show-me change and curve). However, he continued his success into the majors notching a 3.50 ERA in fractions of three major league seasons. To back that up, Worley has an un-Twins-like strikeout rate of 7.7 k/9 to match a Twins-like 3.1 BB/9. For the sabermetrically inclined, that all combines for a 3.57 FIP, right in line with his ERA. The question with Worley is going to be rooted in his durability. Worley had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow after the season (a possible excuse for his second half slide), but should be ready for Opening Day. Realistically, Worley immediately becomes the Twins' best pitcher despite profiling more as a #3 or #4 on most teams.

Along with Worley came a former top pitching prospect in Trevor May. This time last year, every publication was all over this kid. May is a big righty with a power fastball and curve. He had dominated the lower minors posting other worldly strikeout rates that distracted most from poor control. When Trevor reached the AA Eastern League last season, he was exposed to the tune of a 4.87 ERA. However, May struck out more than a batter per nine continuing his reputation as a power pitcher. Going forward, the big question, like Alex Meyer, is whether he can develop some control. It's an interesting challenge for the Twins; they aren't used to having powerful and wild starters to develop. Again like Meyer, May's significant risk comes with the potential to develop into a front of the rotation horse.

All taken together, this move makes the Twins intentions obvious: they won't be half-assing this rebuild. Ryan has taken a realistic stance and recognized there was no way the Twins were going anywhere as currently constituted. Trading Revere and Span may have dropped the team from 72 wins to 68 in 2013, but provided balance and hope for the future. Given Ryan's fantastic track record in evaluating minor leaguers, I have faith in his assessment of Meyer and May as well as his implicit anointing of Aaron Hicks as the center fielder of the future: a potentially bright future.

This post brought to you by Founders Brewing Company and Kowloon Walled City's new album 'Container Ships'.

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