A Minor League Trade Usually Brings…Minor Changes

This little nugget caught my eye about a week ago as I was browsing through the Baseball Prospectus website.  Apparently the Phillies and Orioles completed a trade, with the Orioles sending 25 year old OF Ronny Welty to the Phillies in exchange for 22 year old RHP Julio Rodriguez.  It’s a trade of two minor leaguers, each of whom have never played above AA in the minor leagues, but I wanted to briefly discuss the trade for two reasons:

  1. Julio Rodriguez was a Top 10 prospect in the Phillies organization as recently as 2011 (#8 according to ESPN’s Keith Law and #9 according to Baseball Prospectus)
  2. I was able to see Ronnie Welty play a decent amount while working for the Orioles AA minor league affiliate in Bowie last year

What the Orioles Received

As I said, Julio Rodriguez was rated as a top 10 prospect in the Phillies organization last year, although the Phillies minor league system has not been strong recently.  I have never seen him pitch, but his results prior to 2012 were promising, as seen in the table below.

Rodriguez1

The thing that sticks out the most is his impressive strikeout totals, which were over a batter per inning in every year and every level he pitched, with the exception of the 10 innings he threw in 2008.  There was a problem of course, and it was that the results weren’t matching what the scouts were seeing.  According to reports, Rodriguez relies heavily on a deceptive delivery, as his stuff, which includes a max velocity fastball in the high 80’s left a lot to be desired.  Scouts were/are skeptical about his lack of an above average pitch, were interested to see how he would handle AA lineups.  As you can see from his 2012 line in AA, it wasn’t encouraging.

Rodriguez2

Despite a high strikeout total, Rodriguez’s already borderline average command tanked, as he issued more than 5 BB’s per 9 innings, leading to a 4.70 FIP, and obviously falling out of favor with the Phillies front office.  Reports have mentioned that his pitches have looked worse and his arm has looked slow.  There are some who think he may have been injured, but injury or not, his 2012 performance was enough to remove him from prospect lists.

What the Orioles Gave Up

Unlike Rodriguez, Welty was never considered a top prospect in the Orioles minor league system.  He’s primarily a right fielder who handles the position adequately.  I wasn’t able to see a full minor league season from Welty, as he was injured for most of the season, only appearing in 37 games.  When he was in the lineup, I was most impressed with his power, as he slugged .564 and hit 8 HR’s in only 146 plate appearances.  His swing can get long, causing him to strike out a lot, so he may not hit enough to get to his power as he continues up the organizational ladder.  He will kill a fastball, but showed some trouble with better off-speed pitches.  Additionally, despite showing decent plate discipline in previous years, his walk rate dropped to 2.1% in 2012 (small sample size).  See his career minor league stat line below.

Welty

In my limited time seeing Welty play, I thought his ceiling could be that of a 4th or 5th OF in the major leagues, rather than an everyday player.

Conclusion

The Orioles pick up a former prospect that still has some upside, but will need to overcome quite a few hurdles to get back on the prospect map.  A move to the bullpen seems unlikely, as the below average fastball/poor command combo would be a disaster.  In return, they gave up an organizational outfielder who may see some time in the show, but likely won’t make much of an impact while there.  Essentially, there is a good chance that neither of these players reach the major leagues and that the average baseball fan will never know this trade even happened.

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