|Catchers have been the hottest commodity on the trade market this offseason, and few teams had a more acute need for an upgrade at the position than the Angels. That’s why Los Angeles dealt promising 21-year-old righthander Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies for heavy-hitting backstop Chris Iannetta. The trade marks new general manager Jerry Dipoto’s first significant transaction with the Angels.
The 28-year-old Iannetta mashed 57 home runs over the past four seasons while ranking second among catchers (min. 1,000 plate appearances) with a .211 isolated power and fifth with a .361 on-base percentage. Only former Angels backstop Mike Napoli has shown more power in that time with a .261 ISO. The Angels lineup eagerly welcomes Iannetta because the club’s incumbents—Jeff Mathis (37 OPS+), Bobby Wilson (53) and rookie Hank Conger (80)—hit a mere .192/.252/.302 with 10 homers in 2011. Somehow, the Twins managed to undercut the Angels’ .555 catcher OPS with their own feeble .509 mark.
In trading for Iannetta, Los Angeles eschewed the free agent catcher market, where the Rays found Jose Molina, the Pirates Rod Barajas, the Twins Ryan Doumit and the Rockies Ramon Hernandez. In fact, Colorado simultaneously signed Hernandez and traded Iannetta, who has hit much better at Coors Field (.869 OPS vs. .707 road) and versus lefthanders (.911 OPS vs. .744 against righties) for his career.
The Rockies continue their recent trend of trading for talented domestic pitchers developed by other organizations. The Angels made Chatwood their top pick in the 2008 draft (second round), and he zoomed to Anaheim at age 21 after little more than 300 minor league innings—only one at Triple-A. Colorado picked up Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, the Indians’ top top picks in the 2009 and 2010 drafts, when they dealt Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland in July. The Rockies can boast of having developed international pitchers such as Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio and Esmil Rogers, but they’ve have had less success cultivating their own domestic pitching talent. See: first-round picks Greg Reynolds (2006), Casey Weathers (2007), Christian Friedrich (2008) and, to this point, Tyler Matzek (2009).
|Tyler Chatwood, rhp
Born: Dec. 16, 1989 in Yucaipa, Calif.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Redlands (Calif.) East Valley HS.
Career Transactions: Selected by Angels in second round of 2008 draft; signed June 13, 2008.
The Rockies are betting on Chatwood’s electric arm strength and supreme athleticism because he has yet to find consistent results in the majors or high minors. In a testament to Chatwood’s athleticism, former Angels scouting director Eddie Bane believes that he could have been a prospect as a center fielder, too. Summoned to the big leagues in 2011 after a lone one-inning start for Triple-A Salt Lake—and well before he had matured as a pitcher—Chatwood showed firm velocity on his fastball (averaging 93 mph) and curve (79 mph) in the big leagues, but he also walked nearly as many (71) as he struck out (74) in 142 innings. If he improves the location of his fastball, which tops out near 96, and the consistent depth on his hammer breaking ball, then he has the weaponry to pitch near the front of a rotation or in a high-leverage relief role. His low-80s changeup had its moments in the minors as well, though he shied away from using it with the Angels. On the negative side of the ledger, scouts don’t like the short, stabbing takeaway in Chatwood’s delivery nor his mature, 6-foot frame. The mechanical blemish may be a contributing factor to his poor command in the high minors, where he has struck out just 50 and walked 38 in 90 innings at Double-A and Triple-A.
|Chris Iannetta, c
Age: 28. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: 1 year, $3.55 million (Iannetta has option to void his $5 million club option for 2013).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.