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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Denorfia traded for Marcus McBeth & PTBNL

Yesterday, Chris Denorfia was traded to the Oakland Athletics for two players to be named later, one of which was identified today as 26-year old RHP Marcus McBeth.

McBeth was the A's 4th round selection in the 2001 amateur draft out of the University of South Carolina. Like Jon Coutlangus, McBeth was drafted as an outfielder (also out of the University of South Carolina!), but after three years of hitting with little improvement, he converted to a reliever as a 25-year old. Since then, he has skyrocketed through the A's system, posting impressive numbers for someone who had just started pitching. And now, just two years later, he was acquired by the Reds.

Marcus McBeth Stats:
2005/OAK-RK 25 10.0 11.7 4.5 0.9 1.80 0.90 3.40 --- --- --- ---
2005/OAK-A 25 19.7 9.6 5.9 0.9 5.03 5.03 4.37 0.340 7.35 -1.4 30%
2005/OAK-A+ 25 2.7 10.0 6.7 0.0 0.00 0.00 3.20 0.200 8.48 0.4 20%
2006/OAK-A+ 26 8.7 14.5 2.1 0.0 0.00 0.00 0.67 0.077 2.43 4.0 31%
2006/OAK-AA 26 54.3 10.8 3.3 0.7 2.65 2.48 2.87 0.287 4.26 -0.20 43%
2006/OAK-AAA 26 7.3 8.6 7.4 3.7 11.10 11.05 9.09 0.211 13.25 0.80 18%
2007/OAK-AAA 27 10.0 5.4 2.7 1.8 2.70 1.80 5.50 0.184
--- --- ---
Sample sizes are pretty small here, except for his AA stint last year. But McBeth apparently throws pretty hard, and the result has been outstanding strikeout rates as he's flown through the A's minor league system (10.8 k/9 for 2005-2006). Nevertheless, he also has been pretty wild, with a two-year average walk rate of 4.2 bb/9. The latter flaw is not surprising given that pitching is so new to him, and was much better in 2006, and seems to have continued to be solid thus far in 2007. So I don't think there's any reason that he can't improve on that score. While his HR/9 rates have been pretty low thus far in his career, he is not a ground ball pitcher.

While his arm is probably pretty fresh given his recent conversion, he has yet to demonstrate an ability to get AAA hitters out (note the 5+ FIP's this year and last--his k-rate not been what it was last season, despite that shiny ERA, though admittedly we're dealing with very small sample sizes). Given that he will be 27 at the end of the season, time is not on his side. Still, I can see him helping the Reds, perhaps as early as this season. He seems similar to rule-5 pickup Jared Burton, as well as the recently-promoted Brad Salmon--a power right-hander with the potential for good things(tm) but also the potential to be undermined by control problems. He probably rates behind those two in the depth chart right now--Salmon has had success at AAA, while Burton's rule 5 status means that he'll basically have to fail in the majors before he is let go. But by season's end, he very well could move to the front of the pack, and might even get some appearances in our bullpen.

But having said all that, I'm not feeling very good about this trade. First, Denorfia is hurt and out for the season. Assuming he comes back from it--and admittedly, there is a risk that he won't, though Tommy John surgery is almost becoming routine, and moreover, he is not a pitcher and can play with a weaker arm than before the injury--we are dealing Denorfia at a moment when his stock is about as low as it gets.

Second, while obviously we don't yet know the identity of the other player the Reds will receive in this deal, we're dealing a guy who has a good shot at sticking as a solid big league center fielder and getting someone who is really just a borderline relief pitching prospect. No, Denorfia won't be a star, but he has gap power, plays good defense, and has good ability to get on base. I don't have a problem with dealing him per se (the Reds do have a crowded outfield with the apparent emergence of Josh Hamilton), but I think Krivsky should have aimed a bit higher in terms of the return. All that said, I'll withhold final judgement on this deal until I see who else the Reds get (it may very well turn out to be Jared Burton!).

Update: Christina Karhl wrote this about McBeth in her transaction analysis at BP:
So Krivsky instead decided to ditch someone no longer really in his ballclub's outfield picture for another reliever, and while that might seem like more of the same, McBeth's as interesting as a minor league reliever can get, bordering on meriting a 'prospect' label you don't often tag their kind with. A former centerfielder with mid-90s heat, he might have been able to punch his own ticket at some point with velocity alone. However, a nasty changeup and a promising slider give him an unusually broad assortment for a conversion project, and there's a decent chance he'll be able to stick in The Show before this season's out.
I don't always agree with Karhl, but she always offers a valuable opinion. Most people (including Reds' prospect expert Doug Gray, see comments below) seem pretty high on McBeth, which is encouraging. I still have reservations about him, and about the deal, but I'll definitely be rooting for this kid.
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