Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dodgers send John Ely to Astros for Rob Rasmussen, and it's a good deal

Not the trade some were expecting, but a trade nonetheless. The Dodgers sent John Ely, the perpetrator of "Elymania" a few years ago to Houston for left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen.

With the Dodgers signing Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, while also shopping starters Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, Ely was about 15th on the starting pitcher depth chart. It's nice he's going to get a chance somewhere else, as the Astros are coming off a 107-loss season and can use help in the rotation.

Then again, Ely hasn't done much since he fast start, as Eric Stephen aptly pointed out on Twitter.
"After starting his major league career with a 2.54 ERA with 37 K / 8 BB in 46 IP, John Ely's last 18 apps: 1-11, 62 runs in 69.1 IP"
So, there's that. Ely is probably Four-A roster fodder at this point, but it's still a worthwhile risk for Houston.

Rasmussen, 23, is a wee man, listed at 5'9, 160 pounds. Surprisingly, he's been a starting pitcher in his minor-league career (60 games, 53 starts).

Rasmussen was drafted in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Marlins. Prior to that, he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 27th round of the 2007 draft, but he didn't sign and ended up attending UCLA. He was dealt from the Marlins to the Astros (along with another local boy -- Matt Dominguez) to get Carlos Lee last season.

His peripherals aren't exactly great, but he's left-handed and has a pulse, so he has some value. He generally keeps the ball in the park (0.7 HR/9) and gets a decent amount of strikeouts (7.3 K/9), but his 3.8 BB/9 needs some work. It's not that bad, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Baseball America ranked him No. 7 in the Miami system prior to the 2012 season. FanGraphs ranked him No. 15 in the Astros' stacked system and Minor League Ball gave him a "C+" grade, but not a Top-20 ranking this winter.

From FanGraphs:
"A scout I spoke to about the former UCLA pitcher sees a big league role in his future. 'I think he'll be able to get people out at the big league level but he's got to get the ball down,' he said. 'He's up to 94 (MPH) with two breaking balls. The little dude works his tail off.' Two concerns brought up were his lack of deception, as well as his command/control issues – although he has few red flags in his delivery."
From Minor League Ball:
"Rasmussen was drafted in the second round in 2010, out of UCLA. He is pitching in the High-A Florida State League this year at age 23, posting a 3.90 ERA with a 75/36 K/BB in 88 innings with 83 hits allowed. Rasmussen is undersized at 5-9, 160, but he has good arm strength and works in the low-90s, mixing in a curve, slider, and changeup. Rasmussen threw strikes in college but has had mixed results as a pro, and has not dominated the lower levels of the farm system. He could be a fifth starter but is more probably a reliever in the long run."
Control seems to be Rasmussen's biggest issue -- and rightfully so. His fastball sits in the 89-92 MPH range. He also has a potentially plus-slider and potentially an average curveball and changeup. He has the classic four-pitch arsenal and, coming from the left side, makes it a little bit better.

Being able to control and command the pitches are going to be what determines his future -- as well as his build. There aren't many sub-6-foot starting pitchers in the game, which is why many are projecting him as a reliever. I say, let him stay in the rotation until he proves he can't handle it.

Rasmussen threw 54 1/3 innings in Double-A last season and I could see him beginning the season in Double-A with a midseason promotion to Triple-A, if warranted.

Oh, and there's really nothing to not like about the trade.

Photo credit: Brhirschmann, Wikimedia Commons

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