Before trade season really got underway, there was another somewhat major deal struck. The Los Angeles Angels traded second baseman Taylor Lindsey (their #1 prospect per BaseballProspectus’s pre-season rankings),1 RHP R.J. Alvarez (#4), shortstop Jose Rondon (#8), and RHP Elliot Morris (unranked) to the San Diego Padres for Huston Street and RHP Trevor Gott (unranked).
Before we get into how this affects both teams at the minor league and major league levels, let’s address the elephant in the room. The Padres just got four prospects, three within the Angels top ten, for a closer. This seems high even for a reliever that has an astronomical ERA+ of 319.
#Padres got a huge amount of value for Street…and we don't even know the 4th name yet.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 19, 2014
So what’s going on?
The simple answer is that this trade is a great way to describe just how bad Los Angeles’s minor league system really is. None of these top ten prospects made it onto the Top 101 prospects in the preseason for BP.2 I can’t fault the Padres for taking this deal, it has a lot of parts, which means a lot of lottery tickets. The issue is that they have mostly one dollar tickets.
The Prospect Side
Taylor Lindsey, the top prospect in this trade, is essentially a bat only prospect. That’s not a terrible thing. The hit tool is the tool that can carry a player to the majors and keep him there no matter their defensive skills or a lack of power. At worst, this has usefulness off the bench if Lindsey can truly bring that hit tool with him to the majors. Take minor league numbers with a MAJOR grain of salt, but Lindsey is hitting just .248/.323/.400 at Triple-A in 75 games. This would be a decent line for a decent second baseman at the major league level, but there are no guarantees that his batting line will carry without a dip at the highest level.
Though he is a pitcher with a possible 70 fastball and ranked #4 on a team’s top ten, R.J. Alvarez is looked at as more of a possible late-inning reliever. But, when you have the 95+ mph fastball working with a solid slider, that makes for a closing prospect.
Elliot Morris is an unknown to me so I won’t touch on that here and Jose Rondon is a relative unknown. The 20-year-old shortstop is hitting .321/.360/.410 this season (SALT), but this is at High-A in the California League, a rather forgiving offensive environment.
The Major League Side
I know I said it already, but an ERA+ of 321! That’s immense. Street has just seven base-on balls in 33 innings so far while striking out 34. The Angels will be hoping for a lack of regression from the 1.09 ERA that their new closer is currently sporting. They traded the farm, putting them even further back in any possibly attempt to rebuild their farm system and ensuring their bottom rank heading into next season in order to shore up their bullpen with one of the best late inning relievers in baseball.
Sitting in second-place in the AL West,3 Los Angeles slots Street into the closer role without a doubt, despite the small sample size success of Jason Grilli.
The haul is not great despite the numbers. However, when trading a reliever you’re often just looking for lottery tickets and a possible average hitting second baseman is a decent lottery ticket. The Angels now have possibly made their final trade and are looking at the roster they hope to take into October. If Street can continue locking down the final inning of close games, he could help them overtake the Oakland Athletics.