Using veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco as bait, the Miami Marlins have successfully hooked three hard-throwing arms. The Fish have acquired Angel Sanchez, Josh Wall and Steve Ames, while the two clubs also exchanged international signing dollars, and you can read more about the big league portion of the deal by checking out Jeff Sullivan’s offering from the weekend.
This deal can be best categorized as quantity over quality, in terms of the prospects heading to the state of Florida. Although all three young, right-handed hurlers can hit the low-to-mid 90s with their fastballs, their ceilings are tempered by command issues and lack of consistent secondary stuff. Despite having a weaker minor league system in terms of depth, none of the three arms appeared on my pre-season Top 15 prospects list for the Dodgers. The prospects have never appeared on any FanGraphs top prospects lists over the past four seasons, although Sanchez was highlighted as a potential sleeper on my pre-2012 Dodgers Top 15 prospects compilation.
Out of the players expunged from the Dodgers system, Sanchez has the most potential to impact his new organization. The 23-year-old Dominican native signed with Los Angeles in July of 2010 and made his pro debut in full-season ball the following season. He pitched well in Low-A ball, posting a 2.82 ERA with just 72 hits allowed in 99 innings of work. Moved up to High-A in 2012, Sanchez was left battered and bruised by the offensive-padding environments of the California League. His ERA jumped to 6.58 and he allowed 157 hits in 130 innings. After allowing just five home runs during his pro debut, that number jumped to 26.
The organization had Sanchez take a step backward to begin the 2013 season and he returned to the Low-A Midwest League. In 72 innings, his ERA settled at 4.88 and he was still hittable with 80 base-knocks allowed. He allowed just six home runs and showed average control with 28 walks allowed. The young pitcher throws his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s and backs it up with a slider that flashes average-or-better potential. His changeup, though, is a distant third offering at this point. Currently a starter, Sanchez’s future could very well lie in the bullpen.
I saw Sanchez pitch against the Tigers’ minor league affiliate in the Midwest League on June 12. He has a slender frame with lots of room to fill out. In this game, he spent a long time on his back leg while delivery the ball during his full windup, which seemed to impact his balance and, as a result, his command. He also showed a need to pitch inside more often, especially to right-handed hitters.
Wall is the only member of the trio with big league experience, which came earlier this season. Unfortunately, he was inconsistent during his big league stay. His time in Triple-A — his second season at the same level — hasn’t been much better as seen by his 5.60 ERA and 16 walks in 27.1 innings. He completely melted down in June and posted an ERA over 10.00 in 10 appearances out of the ‘pen.
His mid-90s fastball has been his meal-ticket to date but his slider also flashes above-average potential at times. A former starter, he occasionally tosses in a curveball (usually to left-handed hitters) and a changeup. If he can strengthen the command of his pitches, the tall, lanky Wall has the potential to spend time working the seventh and eighth innings for a big league bullpen. A little more of a controlled delivery and a consistent arm slot would go a long way in helping him reach his potential.
Ames’ ceiling is probably that of a sixth- or seventh-inning guy — perhaps along the lines of former Dodgers farmhand, long-time Blue Jay and current Ranger Jason Frasor. Ames has a respectable ERA of 3.67 in his first try at the Triple-A level but he’s been extremely hittable and has allowed 45 hits in 34.1 innings of work.
Like the other two arms, the 25-year-old former 17th round draft pick is primarily a two-pitch pitcher. His fastball sits 91-92 mph and his breaking ball is of the slurvy variety. He has a very quick delivery and arm, which makes his fastball look quicker than it really is, and his above-average control also helps his stuff play up. Slowing himself down a bit might help the command of his pitches but it might also take away from his deception. When I saw him pitch against the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, he worked up in the zone too much and noticeably slowed his arm down for the breaking ball. Ames’ younger brother Jeff Ames is solid pitching prospect in the Rays system.
The Dodgers organization did an excellent job of acquiring a veteran, mid-rotation starter in a market where there are few similar arms available — and the organization did it at a low cost with no players lost from the currently 25-man roster. The biggest loss was to Los Angeles’ upper-level depth with both Wall and Ames being culled from the Triple-A affiliate. For the Marlins, the organization acquired three cost-controlled arms with live fastballs but none of the prospects can be considered current or future building blocks.
Clearly, by refusing to pay any of the veteran pitcher’s salary, the Marlins front office was not going to pry away the likes of Julio Urias, Joc Pederson or Corey Seager. However, their insistance on not picking up any of Nolasco’s remaining salary meant that they had to settle for three pieces of moderate value at best.