Before the trade deadline had come and gone, the Angels did everyone a favor and started playing just about as bad as any team can possibly play. The starting pitching hasn’t been horrible since Blanton’s long overdue departure, but the bullpen (blowpen) took an enormous step in the wrong direction and the offense everywhere before and after Mike Trout has disappeared. The Angels quickly became sellers, and while they were unable to strike deals for all players on the market, the Angels did find trade partners in the Braves and A’s. As you undoubtedly already know, the Angels sent Scott Downs to Atlanta for Cory Rasmus and Alberto Callaspo to the rival Oakland A’s in return for Grant Green. These two prospects are the initial steps taken toward building a brighter future. So what do we have on our hands?
RHP Cory Rasmus – Rasmus is of course better known these days as the brother of Blue Jays CF Colby Rasmus, but to his credit, Rasmus has made it to the Major Leagues on his abilities as a pitcher. Certainly not living up to the hype of being selected in the 1st round, Cory has carved a nice role for himself in the minors. Armed with a 92-95 mph fastball with movement and breaking ball with late movement, Cory Rasmus has put up impressive numbers in AAA so far this season. 37 IP, 50 K’s and a 1.67 ERA. Upon arriving in Salt Lake, Rasmus immediately inherited the closer spot in the bullpen and fanned the first two hitters he faced.
Cory’s biggest issue as a pitcher is about the most predictable one on earth, control. While Rasmus has a low ERA and excellent 1.14 WHIP, he walks an alarming 5.4 batters per 9 innings. It’s safe to say that batters that he doesn’t strike out, he walks because that’s been the trend this season. The biggest thing to remember about Rasmus right now is that he’s still coming into his own as a reliever. Rasmus was drafted as a starter and after a series of injuries and mediocre seasons was converted to relief last season. He definitely still has some growing to do but has flashed considerable upside in this role. It remains doubtful that Rasmus will see nearly this much success at the major league level, but with a bullpen as beleaguered as the Angels’ has been lately, Rasmus should carve out a consistent role as a middle reliever rather soon with the Angels.
Given that Rasmus should turn out to be a serviceable reliever for a few years, it isn’t a horrible return given that the Angels only sacrificed two months of Scott Downs. However, some of the pundits are correct in their assessment that relievers like Rasmus are common.
2B/SS/3B/OF Grant Green – This is the trade that has quite a few Angels fans excited. Green is a young infielder with considerable promise. A former 1st round pick, who Athletics GM Billy Beane ranked just above Mike Trout on his draft board, Green had a successful collegiate career at USC and carried over his production straight into the minors. Dubbed a Top 100 prospect in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Green put up solid numbers at every level. He’s tall and athletic, incredibly coordinated for his size and fits just about anywhere on the diamond. Most recently, Green has been featured at 2B and SS though he has the ability to play 3B as well. Green hits for average (career .306 hitter in the minors), can get on base at a decent clip (.354 career OBP) has moderate power (average around 15 HR a year along with 30 doubles) and has shown an ability to swipe bases on occasion (13 SB last year in AAA). Green has an incredibly smooth, rather effortless stroke from the right side and doesn’t have any pressing issues that should prevent him from being successful in the major leagues. His offensive profile should play out similar to Howie Kendrick’s.
The biggest issue with Green is his arm and defense. He has a slightly below average arm for a shortstop and third baseman, which would lead one to believe that he could profile as a second baseman or outfielder. However, the A’s tried him at both spots and the results weren’t promising. Some scouts questioned whether he could fill any position in the major leagues. My own personal assessment of his abilities, I think he certainly looks most comfortable at shortstop and would make an adequate defensive option there, similar to former Angels prospect Jean Segura, who many thought couldn’t play shortstop at the highest level and is now an All-Star. With time, Green should grow into an above average second baseman and shortstop though. As far as his position goes, the Angels, more specifically Mike Scioscia, employ the perfect scheme for Green. Chone Figgins never had a true position for the longest time, neither did Maicer Izturis and both have had excellent careers as a “super-utility” player.
This is part of what makes Green’s acquisition so exciting for Angels fans. If he’s a third baseman, he’ll likely be the Angels starter at the hot corner for a couple years until Kaleb Cowart arrives, upon which time Green would be used as a super-utility player. Green’s arrival could also potentially signal a trade of fan favorite Erick Aybar, whose low cost and skill set would make him a valuable acquisition for many teams. The Angels are desperately in need of starting pitching and Aybar could be the key that brings the necessary arms to Anaheim. The caveat with that of course would be Eric Stamets and Jose Rondon being in the minors. Both of those prospects figure prominently in the Angels plans and could also force Green in a super-utility role. Then there’s second base, where Howie Kendrick holds equal value to Erick Aybar. Green could be a good major league second baseman, but again the Angels already have two excellent second base prospects in Taylor Lindsey and Alex Yarbrough.
Inevitably, I envision Green blossoming into a .280/.330, 30 2B, 10 HR, 10 SB type of offensive player in the major leagues, perhaps a slight step below Howie Kendrick in terms of overall numbers. When you have a hitter capable of putting up those numbers, you find a spot for him in the lineup and that’s how I see Green getting his playing time. A little bit at every spot which results in quite a lot of playing time. The biggest service Grant Green provides the Angels is security. If Aybar is hurt, we have an excellent backup option. If Cowart doesn’t develop quick enough at third base, no problem, Green can step in and get the job done. If the Angels need someone to bridge that gap to Lindsey or Yarbrough, Green can be that player, or he could even make Lindsey and Yarbrough available on the trade market which would be valuable.
In return for a year and two months of a subpar third baseman in Alberto Callaspo, I’d say the Grant Green acquisition was a stroke of pure genius on the part of Jerry Dipoto.