Friday, January 5, 2007

Agreed in Principle

It has been widely reported that the Yankees have agreed in principle to a trade which would send Randy Johnson to Arizona for Jose Vizcaino, Ross Ohlendorf, Alberto Gonzalez, and a fourth prospect, rumored to be Steve Jackson.

I don't know a whole lot about these prospects beyond their stat line, but I can interpret those statistics and get a sense of how good they are.

Luis Vizcaino is a solid major league reliever. He has posted an ERA in the mid-threes for three straight years. He is coming off a year where he saw his walk rate increase to 3.99, but also his strikeout rate jump to 9.92. He has always been prone to the home run, but he throws hard enough that he's pretty hard to hit. He is actually better against lefties than righties, which could define his new role in the Yankee bullpen. He'll be somewhere between Scott Proctor's 2006 and Kyle Farnsworth's 2006. He's one year away from free agency.

Ross Ohlendorf is the best of the three prospects in the deal. I would have prefered Micah Owings, but Ohlendorf is not a bad pickup. I've heard mixed reports about how hard he throws, anywhere from 93-95 to 97-99. He probably throws about 95. On top of this, Ohlendorf has excellent control. In 368 minor league innings, he has walked 2.35 per 9. That's not a whole lot worse than Phil Hughes folks. Of course, he's no Phil Hughes. Ohlendorf has a career K/9 of 7.20. His K rate dipped to 6.33 in 2006. His secondary pitches aren't anything special. He throws an average change and slider. The control helps him eat innings. He pitched 182.2 innings in 28 starts in 2006, or 6.53 per start. I think that Ohlendorf could be a major league starter not unlike David Bush. He's a few months away from being major league ready, and won't turn 25 until August. He'd probably be in the 15-18 range if I reranked the top-30. Update: It looks like the radio reports on his velocity were wrong. Ohlendorf throws closer to 92.

Alberto Gonzalez resembles another player named A. Gonzalez. He's an all-field, light hitting shortstop. He is a career .283/.339/.386 hitter in three minor league seasons. He probably won't hit too much better than that in the majors. He's a very good defender, although he's no Ramiro Pena. He won't be any better than a bad starting shortstop or average utility player in the majors. He'll have an A. Gonzalez-like career.

Steve Jackson just had a nice little AA season, but it remains to be seen if he is for real. He floundered in his first full season in the minors, posting a 5.33 ERA in 158 innings in A ball. He's a groundball pitcher, and found a lot of his ground balls falling in for hits. He struck out less than six per nine, and had good but not great walk rates. The Diamondbacks recognized that he may have been a little unlucky and promoted him to AA, where he had great season. In 24 starts, he tossed 149.2 innings with a 2.65 ERA. He struck out 7.52 per nine, and walked 2.71. Jackson throws a sinking fastball in the low 90s. In his three seasons in the minor leagues, Jackson has been very good at preventing the home run (.66 per 9 innings). I can't see Jackson getting any better than someone like Darrell Rasner. He's ready for AAA, but could be the odd man out of a loaded rotation.

Overall, I think that we made out pretty well with this trade. I was really hoping that Owings would be a Yankee, but Ohlendorf is still pretty good. Vizcaino will give us an excuse to trade Brian Bruney while he still has value, and provide another solid arm for our bullpen. Alberto Gonzalez is a younger version of Andy Cannizaro, and Steve Jackson could end up a replacement-level pitcher. All for a 43 year old former ace who just underwent a serious back surgery and had a 5.00 ERA.

Next up: I take a look at the Yankee bullpen.