Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reviewing Hart's Trades: Kubitza for Sanchez

The Braves have been active in John Hart's first season at the helm to the tune of SIXTEEN TRADES! Sixteen deals involving major league talent going one direction or in both. Sixteen deals that include over 50 different players, a few draft picks, lots of cash, and two Uptons. It's been friggin unreal to see what the Braves have done.

With the season in our rear view, I will continue to review each one of these trades. This series is going take a little while to get through, but hey, it gives me something to write about.

Trades Already Reviewed
La Stella for Vizcaino
Heyward/Walden for Miller/Jenkins
Varvaro for Kurcz
J. Upton for Jace Peterson and prospects
Carp/Shreve for Banulos

The Trade
Kyle Kubitza and Nate Hyatt to the Angels for Ricardo Sanchez. I took a look at this deal in January.

The Rationale
Lisa Blumenfeld | Getty Sports
While the Braves made many moves last winter and in 2015 that were aimed at the future, this one was unique in that the Braves packaged a pair of prospects to get a prospect with higher potential. One of the stark differences between the Frank Wren-led Braves front office and the new one is how they graded talent. Whereas Wren valued the high-floor guys like Mike Minor and Jason Hursh, John Coppolella goes for the high ceiling players. The latter breeds a higher frequency of bombs, but also gives you a better chance to get an All-Starish player (that's not a word, is it?). In this trade, the Braves chose the brighter future over depth.

Ricardo Sanchez was probably a guy the Braves already liked. Signed out of the Venezuela in 2013, Sanchez was an impressive player in the Arizona Summer League. While most players are young in the AZL, very few turned 17 that April. He K'd over a batter an inning and didn't allow a homer. Sure, control was a problem, but 17 year-old kids aren't perfect. He had the mid-90's velocity you look for, but was lauded for the smooth mechanics to repeat the delivery. His curveball was considered a plus pitch and he was developing a change of pace to keep hitters off balance. As I said back in January, even an aggressive time table saw him reaching the majors in 3 to 4 years so this move was all about the future.

Meanwhile, losing Kubitza and Hyatt was a tough pill to swallow as both had the potential to help the Braves in 2015. Kubitza was coming off a 2014 season where he hit .295 with a .405 OBP, 50 extra base hits, and 21 walks for Mississippi. Considered a good enough defender to stick at third base, Kubitza looked like a promising option in a system that lacked any real corner infielders, nor a good Option B to Chris Johnson at the time. This made Kubitza a bigger prospect than he actually was. Even at his best, Kubitza was an average prospect who was a line drive hitter rather than one capable of 20 homers a year.

As for Hyatt, he was coming off a 73-K season with Lynchburg and a run in the Arizona Fall League. The righty was probably a year away, but at the rate the Braves had been pushing relievers through the system, it seemed possible that Hyatt could be pushing for a spot at some point in 2015.

Short-Term Results
To put it simply, this year looks like a Mulligan for both teams. Kubitza hit .271 in the Pacific Coast League with 45 doubles, but only blasted seven homers. The PCL is known for great offensive numbers so seeing your OPS fall about 80 points from the Southern League took a little of the glow away from Kubitza. He did make his major league debut, though he's struggled to handle major league pitching and still searching for his first extra base hit. Of more interest than the results in the batter's box is how Kubitza has began to move around. He played first base, left field, and even five innings in center field for Salt Lake in the PCL and has even gotten a couple of cameos at second base as the Angels look for options involving Kubitza.

Hyatt never got going in the Angels system. His control was never great, but it went from 3.9 BB/9 with the Hillcats last season to nearly a walk an inning this year. The K's are there, but he's been very hittable and rarely left a game unscathed. He never really turned the corner in his first year at AA and lefties hit a robust .304 with a .455 OBP against him.

But Sanchez wasn't any better for the Braves. On a fairly strict pitch count, Sanchez missed all of May after a woeful April. He seemed to get going in his first three starts of June as he surrendered just one earned run in 14 innings, including a six-inning scoreless outing for his only win of 2015 on June 18, but things shifted in his final three starts. He was placed on the DL after pitching four innings on July 8 and didn't pitch again.

Long-Term Outlook
Much like the recently profiled deal involving Manny Banuelos, what Coppolella and the rest of the Holy John Trinity saw was the ability to add a high-end talent for players they felt were replaceable. Atlanta aggressively moved to add a prospect with a B-grade because the future was more important in their eyes than the depth guys like Kubitza and Hyatt might provide.

Of course, Kubitza could develop into a full-time starter in the major leagues. While we over-inflated his value at the time, there was a reason guys like me were a bit excited about his future. But Kubitza, even if he does start 145 games in the majors, is not likely to be a guy you build around or never feel that you can probably do better than. Losing him when the Braves had Chris Johnson was difficult, but the Braves have since upgraded. *crossesfingers*

Trades are fluid beyond the move that we overanalyze. Sanchez might or might not become a decent pitcher in the majors. He still needs a change-up, needs to stay healthy, needs to learn more about pitching - basically what we say about all 18 year-olds. But his higher-end potential was worth the gamble.

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