The Braves and Diamondbacks have agreed to a trade that has Justin Upton headed to Atlanta as part of a seven-player deal, according Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The trade comes on the heels of last night’s news that the two organizations were discussing a prospect package for the 25-year-old outfielder.
Headlining the return to the Diamondbacks is third baseman Martin Prado and right-hander Randall Delgado, as well as a trio of prospects: right-hander Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and third baseman Brandon Drury.
In addition to Upton, who will join brother B.J. in the Braves’ outfield, Atlanta will also receive third baseman Chris Johnson in the trade.
The specific prospects involved in the deal were first reported by Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
Scouting Reports and Projections
Randall Delgado, rhp
Although Delgado is technically no longer a prospect, the 22-year-old is still a high-ceiling arm and is under team control through 2018. Regarded as the Braves’ second-best prospect, behind Julio Teheran, headed into the 2012 season, the right-hander finished his rookie campaign with a 4.37 ERA and 76/42 K/BB in 92.2 innings spanning 17 starts.
He will likely compete with the Arizona’s top prospect, 21-year-old Tyler Skaggs, for the final spot in the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starting rotation.
Nick Ahmed, ss
Aggressively ranked as the Braves’ No. 3 prospect this offseason, Ahmed was the organization’s second-round draft pick out of Connecticut in 2011. In his full-season debut at High-A Lynchburg in 2012, the 22-year-old batted .269/.337/.391 with 84 runs, 46 extra-base hits (36 doubles), 40 stolen bases and 102/49 K/BB in 130 games.
At 6’3” and 205 pounds, Ahmed possesses an athletic and projectable frame. Thanks to his above-average-to-plus speed, he has both the range and instincts to remain at the position. Furthermore, he already showcases fluid actions and a reliable glove that should only improve as he gains experience.
At the dish, the right-handed hitter has undeniable potential, but leaves something to be desired. Considering both his speed and basestealing prowess, Ahmed would be ideal as either a leadoff or two-hole hitter. However, his on-base skills and contact rate will need to improve during the upcoming seasons to ultimately achieve such a role.
Although he showcases plenty of present gap power, it’s difficult to envision him with anything more than slightly below-average power at maturity. Overall, Ahmed would benefit from a more patient approach in which he sees more pitches and manipulates counts in his favor.
With Chris Owings likely to open the 2013 season back at Double-A Mobile, it’ll be interesting to see which player sees more time at shortstop. My guess is that it will be Ahmed, as Owings was bound to see more playing time at the keystone with Didi Gregorius now ahead of him on the organization’s depth chart.
Zeke Spruill, rhp
Ranked as the Braves’ No. 8 prospect, Spruill, 23, spent the entire 2012 season at Double-A Mississippi, where he registered a 3.67 ERA with 106/46 K/BB in 161.2 innings.
A 6’5” right-hander—and a second-round draft pick of the Braves in 2008—Spruill’s fastball works in the low-90s with exceptional sink, which he uses to generate a favorable amount of groundball outs (1.44 GO/AO). Due to his height and arm slot, he’s able to consistently throw the pitch on a downhill plane and pound the bottom half of the strike zone.
Spruill’s changeup represents a second potentially above-average offering, as he throws it with nice fade and arm speed nearly identical to that of his fastball. Although his slider is currently a less advanced and consistent offering, it features tight break when thrown correctly and flashes plus potential. To sustain his previous success at both Triple-A and the major leagues, the right-hander will need to establish one of his secondary offerings as an out pitch.
Even though the Diamondbacks were already loaded with pitching prospects, the addition of Spruill gives the organization even more depth on the mound.
Brandon Drury, 3b
A 13th-round draft pick in 2010 out of an Oregon high school, Drury, a third baseman, posted a disappointing .539 OPS in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League during his pro debut. However, following a conservative promotion to the rookie-level Appalachian League the following season, the then-18-year-old tore the cover off the ball, batting .347/.367/.525 with 31 extra-base hits (eight home runs) and 35/6 K/BB in 63 games.
But Drury struggled in his full-season debut in 2012, batting .229/.270/.333 with 31 extra-base hits (six home runs) and 73/20 K/BB in 123 games for Low-A Rome in the South Atlantic League.
A right-handed hitter, the 6’2”, 190-pounder employs a quick, balanced swing that allows him to use the entire field better than most players his age. As of now, Drury showcases mostly gap power, as evidenced by his 55 doubles over the last two season. However the 20-year-old does have projectable raw power, which could be above-average at maturity.
The biggest difference between his 2011 and 2012 campaigns was his plate discipline—or lack thereof. Aided by a .373 BABIP in 2011, Drury’s free-swinging approach caught up to him last season. Although he fanned only 73 times in 123 games, Drury wasted far too many at-bats by making excessive weak contact which, in turn, lowered his BABIP to .261.
At the hot corner, Drury showcases serviceable quickness despite his overall lack of speed. After committing only eight errors last season in the Sally, a cold-weather league notorious for producing high error totals, his glove, range and strong arm should allow him to stick at the position.
However, at the same time that also places additional pressure on the development of both his hit and power tools.
Although I want to be excited about the Diamondbacks’ return for Upton, it’s disappointing relative to what could have been.
Considering the prospect package that was reportedly offered by the Mariners—including top prospect Taijuan Walker and middle infielder Nick Franklin—earlier this month and ultimately blocked by Upton, their return from the Braves pales in comparison.
Don’t get me wrong; they’re receiving a nice crop of prospects—some of the best in the Braves’ system—but none of them projects as more than an average player in the major leagues.
Had the Diamondbacks acquired top prospect Julio Teheran in the deal, as well as 26-year-old masher Evan Gattis, then I’d have no problem declaring them the winner of this seemingly unnecessary trade.
Prado and Delgado are the key players in this deal. In Prado, the Diamondbacks have landed one of the more consistent hitters in the National League, not to mention one who’s capable of playing third base on a daily basis, in addition to a host of other positions.
Meanwhile, Delgado gives the organization another legitimate starter for the next six seasons. At the same time, it also reduces the pressure on Tyler Skaggs to contribute out of the gate this year, giving him more time to develop at Triple-A.
One thing is for sure: The Diamondbacks’ mediocre return for Upton now gives the Marlins an opportunity to land an unprecedented package of high-end prospects in exchange for Giancarlo Stanton.
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