(piece originally ran on MinorLeagueBall.com)
The New York Yankees and Houston Astros finally struck a deal after more than a week of rumors flying around about Brian McCann. The Astros got their second former Atlanta Braves catcher, acquiring McCann to play alongside Evan Gattis. In exchange, the Yankees (who also sent some money) acquired two young fireballing prospects in Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman.
The Yankees are stockpiling young pitching while trading off their old salaries, starting last season with names like Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate and Nick Green coming over at the deadline. This trade, however, was more like the Ben Gamel (in which they brought Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula over from the Mariners) in that the arms they acquired may be a little further away than some bigger names in system, and are somewhat question marks behind their youth and inexperience.
Abreu is the more exciting of the two prospects. The 21-year old right-hander (who won’t be 22 until the 2017 season is in the books) was a top ten prospect on the Houston Astros and MLB Pipeline wasted little time making him a top ten Yankees prospect as well, listing him at No. 10 after the trade. John had him as one of his 2016 sleepers, much like successful Astros pitching prospects Michael Feliz, Francis Martes, and David Paulino before him. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in for a mere $185,000 before the 2014 season and has made strides ever since.
His most attractive asset is his rifle of an arm, one that consistently throws mid-90s heat while touching 99 with relative ease. Most impressive is the fact that he was signed with a high-80s fastball in 2013, so in just two seasons the 6-foot-2, 175 pound righty added some very nice velocity.
The downside is that he is still very raw. Some, like Baseball America, feel he has been able to get away with his fastball at the lower levels thus far, overpowering the young hitting with straight gas. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have quality secondary offerings (they all project to be above-average pitches), they simply aren’t there yet. As Abreu matures into a pitcher, his slider, changeup and curve should all improve as well. He doesn’t use a lot of effort to throw, but he does seemingly use a lot of effort to repeat his quick motion, which combined with inconsistencies in his off-speed pitches has led to some command issues early on in his career. Last season, for example, over two levels he struck out a nasty 10.22 per nine, but walked 5.15 per nine as well.
There is a lot to like about Abreu, and enough has been shown to confirm that he has future starter potential. Both Nick Green and Dillon Tate showed improved command in their small sample size with he Yankees last season. If Abreu could do the same, he could have front-line projection written all over him.
Like Abreu, Guzman is a tall and lanky right-hander, standing at 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds. Also like Abreu, he will be 21 for the duration of the 2017 season. But wait, there’s more. He, too, was signed out of the Dominican Republic. And also like Abreu, Guzman throws straight gas.
Guzman is much more raw than Abreu, which is frightening considering how much heat he can harness with his fastball. He hit 97 to 98 on the regular, hitting triple-digits with ease, topping out at 103 according to some reports. He adds in a slider and a changeup, which are still a bit behind but developing nonetheless. That fastball has enough to like that the Yankees can be patient as the other stuff comes along.
Unlike Abreu, most see him as a reliever, which would help him get by with that overpowering fastball a lot easier. The Yankees hope they have a new Aroldis Chapman on their hands, but still just 20 years old over this winter, there is a lot of time to figure it out.
Simply put this is a huge win for the Yankees no matter what happens with their young prospects’ futures. They got an aging McCann off the books (having to pay less than many expected to do so). With the long-awaited emergence of Gary Sanchez, McCann was shifting to DH, and this allows the Yankees to pursue some of the other rumored power bats they are keyed in on. At the worst it was a salary dump, at the best, they just added to new, young arms that will help the new direction that the Yankees are building towards.
The Astros got themselves a veteran bat for the middle of the lineup. Shortly after the trade, reports confirmed that they signed Josh Reddick as well, adding two nice left-handed bats to their already potent lineup. The Astros needed some veteran presence to surround their younger lineup, and they already have McCann penciled in as their catcher. While he will likely be in a platoon, seeing time at both DH and catcher, McCann seems to be a good fit in Houston.
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