By now you’ve heard all about the Diamondbacks trading Didi Gregorius. There were some silly “Jeter replacement” comments made, and maybe we have our old friend Kevin Towers to thank for that, but the important part here is that the D-backs have cleared a spot in the crowded middle infield and added two worthwhile prospects. Neither Robbie Ray or Domingo Leyba are going to change the future outlook of the Diamondbacks’ farm system by themselves, but they’re still reasonable pieces that deserve some consideration.
23-year old left hander Robbie Ray is the centerpiece of the deal, and he comes to Arizona from Detroit, the third team in the trade. Ray was drafted by the Nationals in 2010 in the 12th round, then shipped to Detroit when Washington traded for Doug Fister. In the low minors, Ray exhibited strong numbers, including strikeout rates that made him highly regarded arm. But as he’s climbed the minor league ladder the strikeouts have fallen and he’s gotten hit more frequently. In his age-22 season, he made his major league debut, logging 28 innings for the Tigers last season. The results weren’t pretty, but the stuff flashed at times.
Scouting reports have started to sour on Ray to a degree, although I’m not sure anyone was every truly that high on him. The outlook continues to be that of a #4 starter from the left side with an average fastball, a potentially plus changeup, and a potentially average curve. He’s currently working on refining the curveball and trying to make it work for him as at the fastball and change are ahead of his breaking ball. There’s already been some speculation that he could end up a reliever should the third pitch never come around. That may be a bit presumptive, though, as Ray will surely benefit from some more minor league seasoning and coaching. At 23, he’s still got time to improve and should open the 2015 season in AAA.
If we’re looking for a comparison for Robbie Ray, we may not have to look very hard. The Diamondbacks have a lefty with an okay fastball, an above average changeup and inconsistent breaking ball. His name is Wade Miley, and while the two are physically different and Ray may have a touch more velocity, the basic idea is similar. But Ray only become Miley if his curve and command improve. If I were to slot Ray into the Diamondbacks Top 30 Prospect List, I’d place him somewhere in the neighborhood of sixth or seventh, behind a guy like Touki Toussaint but nearly even with a guy like Jake Lamb with the tie-breaker being your personal preference. Ray has a big league future in some capacity and he’s a top-10 guy, so that’s not a bad addition to the system. We should see him at some pointing 2015 and he still has room to grow, so there should be some optimism here.
As an aside, I’d like to address some of the feedback received when Ryan wrote up the deal last week.
Joining Ray in the deal was Domingo Leyba, a 19-year old second baseman. Signed out of Santo Domingo in 2013 for $400,000, Leyba was another solid piece of the Tigers’ farm system before heading to Arizona. In parts of two minor league seasons, his peripherals have been a little erratic. He was good in his debut with the Dominican Summer League Tigers back in 2013, then was decent for the Low-A Connecticut Tigers before receiving a promotion to full season Single-A West Michigan where he absolutely scorched the ball in 30 games. Because he only played 67 games in 2014 by the season’s end, the Tigers opted to let him get a few more at-bats in the AFL (albeit during his age-18 season). Unsurprisingly, he was overmatched in 47 at-bats.
Leyba’s trajectory has been relatively solid, but he’s also not considered an impact prospect. He makes a ton of contact, didn’t walk much at all in 2014 and has been labeled as more solid than good by people I’ve spoken to who’ve scouted him. He’s got one thing going for him, however, and that’s an impressive ability to put the bat on the ball as the hit tool is his best attribute. Speed is not a huge part of his game and defensively he’s limited to second, so he’ll have to hit. That said, he has a chance to make that work considering Leyba has a relatively smooth and easy swing at the plate. If I had to slot him into he D-backs’ system, it’d be in the same neighborhood as Robbie Ray – the top ten but certainly in the latter half of that, in the neighborhood of Sergio Alcatara and Peter O’Brien, perhaps just behind that pair given his defensive positioning. Leyba likely starts 2015 in Single-A and ends it in High-A, putting his big league ETA in the late-2018 or early-2019 range.
While neither Robbie Ray or Domingo Leyba are about to significantly change the forecast of the Diamondbacks’ farm system on their own, they do help replace the players lost in the Jeremy Hellickson trade. They both also have useful abilities aren’t simply throw-away guys by any means. If Ray can stick in the rotation, even the back end of it, he’ll help balance the three up-and-coming righties in Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair. A scout I spoke to suggested that Leyba could be an Omar Infante-type with, perhaps, a touch less power. That’s not truly exciting, but it’s not worthless.
Considering that both players were obtained for a flawed player in Didi Gregorius, I agree wholeheartedly with Ryan’s assessment that the Diamondbacks got a fair return in this trade, at least insofar as we can assess it at this point in time. Prospects will be prospects and we’ll have to wait and see how the picture develops. The Diamondbacks certainly shopped Gregorius for more value than they got in this deal, but to think they’d get a Noah Syndergaard in return was outlandish. Had the organization traded Didi last winter, perhaps the value would have been higher, and he certainly didn’t boost his stock in 2014. Instead, they waited it out (likely to get a feel for Chris Owings‘ progress) and had to accept less in return. Yes big league shortstops are valuable, but it’s easy to overvalue a guy like Gregorius, because as we know, he’s just not that good at this point in time. The D-backs were willing to bet that he wasn’t about to get a whole lot better and now have Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba to show for it.
This deal seems reasonable for now and we’ll have a much better idea in a year or two. Arizona didn’t get fleeced, but they didn’t undoubtedly win the deal either. Instead, this falls squarely in the category of “fair” for now.
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