Dodger Blue Bye-Yu – Part 3
As the cornerstone of the Darvish trade, the Rangers got (according to Baseball America’s John Manuel) the fourth-best overall prospect traded across all teams at the deadline or leading up to it; here’s Manuel on Willie Calhoun, who immediately slots in as the Rangers #2 prospect, right behind fellow 2020 likely arrival Leody Taveras:
“A deal to an American League club should help the defensively-challenged Calhoun, whose bat is an asset. The 5-foot-8, 187-pounder is a unique profile in many ways, including his ability to make consistent hard contact. He had just 49 strikeouts in his first 373 at-bats.”
That pretty much follows the trend with Calhoun, who I love because, in this modern era, he’s an aberration: he hits for average and power, without striking out very much. That’s an awesome combo when you consider all the swing and miss built into the present (and likely future) Rangers lineups.
Calhoun is a squat, fireplug of a player, listed at 5’8’ and 187 pounds. I’m a fan of shorter power guys because their strike zones are naturally a bit smaller. Here’s MLB.com on the Rangers new fireplug (and, hopefully, sparkplug—if they can find him a position):
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 45 | Field: 40 | Overall: 55
“Calhoun went from a homerless season at Arizona in 2014 to leading all junior college players with 31 homers at Yavapai (Ariz.) in 2015, prompting the Dodgers to draft him in the fourth round. He had one of the best pro debuts in his Draft class and backed it up by leading the Texas League in total bases (236) and RBI (88) after jumping to Double-A for his first full season. He continued to mash in Triple-A this year, enhancing his value before becoming the centerpiece prospect in the trade that sent Yu Darvish to Los Angeles in July.
Calhoun also finished second in the TL in homers (27) and strikeout rate (one per 8.6 plate appearances), demonstrating his rare combination of hitting ability and power. A left-handed hitter, he has a quick bat and a knack for making contact, and he might do even more damage once he learns to wait a little better for pitches he can drive. He could be a .280 hitter with 20 or more homers per season at his peak.
That would be quality production for a second baseman, but Calhoun probably won’t remain in the infield. His quickness, hands and arm all grade as below average at second, though he has worked hard on his defense. An outfielder and third baseman at Yavapai, he’s most likely to wind up in left field and has begun playing there this year.”
Here are his 2017 stats, mostly at AAA OKC (Bricktown being a solid but not otherworldly hitters park) and a cup of coffee so far in Round Rock:
Those are some good numbers for a 22-year-old player looking for a position and still having to hit Triple A pitchers.
I was most intrigued, as I noted, because the guy seems to be one of those guys who “just hits.” Put him wherever in the field, wherever in the lineup. As they used to refer to Matt Stairs, he’s simply a “professional hitter.”
So I had to see his swing for myself; here’s a look:
I like the open stance, and he has fast hands and a smooth, quick move through the ball. His biggest issue is that hitch, but I’ve seen good hitters with bigger ones (including a guy we just inducted into Cooperstown from down Houston way, Jeff Bagwell). I think a hitting coach is going to get ahold of him and work on that, and his forward head drift as he strides.
That said, there’s something to the “if it ain’t broke” idea with a guy like Calhoun. It would be as if a young Bagwell had someone say, “Son, you crouch too much, you hitch, and you step backward as you swing. Be here at 6:30 tomorrow morning and we’ll get to work fixing it.”
My bet is, Jeff’s closest exposure to Cooperstown if that happened would have been as a member of the paying public.
The best thing that could happen to the likes of any of these three guys? They get the kind of coaching the Dodgers are renowned for, and the kind a young Bagwell got from the Houston hitting coach his rookie year. You may have heard of Rudy Jaramillo.
Point being, don’t let anyone tell you the Rangers sold low on Darvish. They got what the market would bear for a three-month rental who had been lit up his last start, and had been inconsistent for stretches, especially with the home run.
What’s more, any of these three is likely to be better—more advanced and higher-probability impact major leaguer—than the compensatory pick we’d get in next June’s amateur draft if we held onto Yu and he signed elsewhere.
I don’t think Yu’s coming back to Texas. I think it was a good ride, but I think he’s seen enough of the heat. My gut says he’s going to love LA, and the atmosphere of a Dave Roberts-run clubhouse; trust me, that’s no knock on Jeff Banister – just high praise for Roberts.
He’ll also love tag-teaming with and learning from Clayton Kershaw.
And he’ll love Dodger Stadium, because it’s definitely not the launching pad Globe Life Park can be.
But we didn’t get taken, and we didn’t get fleeced. You have to give value to get value, and that’s meaningful, because if you get the reputation as a guy who wins every trade, eventually, the other guys take their pieces and go home.
In order to do what I think the Rangers still hope to do—get a ring for Adrian Beltre—they’ll need a lot more giving-value-to-get-value, smart free-agent signings, and most of all, plenty of the competitive fire that made Beltre say this after the Darvish trade. (Note: there’s alot more to do to get a ring while Adrian is still here – assuming two more years, three tops – and we’ll get into that in the weeks to come).
Asked if a “rebuild” would change his mind about staying in Texas, Beltre had this to say:
“Yes, it absolutely would change my mind. At this stage of my career, I’m not here for a rebuild. But I don’t think it will be. I think there is a possibility of this team playing better this year. I’m still focused on this year and don’t want to think about it right now, but it would change things for me.”
Beltre continued, telling Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News:
“We’re not pleased with the trade. I don’t think we are completely sold on the situation being [hopeless] for this year. It was a tough a situation. I know he’s going to be a free agent and they were trying to get something. I try to understand the business side of it and I understand what they are doing, but the on the baseball side you are not happy. That doesn’t matter. That’s not going to change our mentality.”
That’s not a guy asking to be traded, or a guy making a threat.
That’s a guy frustrated with losing one of the one-two tandem of aces keeping this team with a long shot chance at a Wild Card.
That’s a man who knows you don’t get to October easily, and once you do, anything can happen.
That’s a leader thirsty for a swig of beer and the sting of champagne in his eyes.
Trades like the Darvish deal, as much as they hurt now, are the kind that might help pop bottles of bubbly in the fairly near term. This team wasn’t going to pass eight teams to take the Wild Card. This team didn’t have enough of the intangible bullpen pieces to win in October. This isn’t 2016, or even 2015. This is the down year before the resurgence.
And who knows? If these trades work out, maybe one of these kids shall lead them. Stranger things have happened when it comes to the Rangers.
The full series
Dodger Blue Bye-Yu: