Nelson Cruz Trade Analysis: Scouting Reports For Every Twins, Rays Player Involved
The race to baseball's July 30 trade deadline is officially on.
The Twins and Rays synced up for July's first significant deal, with Minnesota sending all-star designated hitter Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay in exchange for a pair of righthanded arms, Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman. The Twins also sent minor league reliever Calvin Faucher to the Rays.
Cruz, arguably the most powerful bat on the market, was an obvious trade candidate as a pending free agent after the Twins failed to meet expectations this year, and makes sense as a fit in Tampa Bay. The move fixes one of the biggest holes in Tampa Bay’s well-diversified lineup, giving them a righthanded slugger who has slugged .500 or better in 13 of the past 14 seasons.
For the Twins, acquiring two close-to-MLB-ready starting pitchers helps bulk up a rotation that will see J.A. Happ and Michael Pineda hit free agency at the end of the season. Jose Berrios, also a potential trade candidate, is a free agent after 2022.
Ryan is the headliner of the return, although neither pitcher heading to Minnesota appears far off from the majors. Ryan briefly spent time in our Top 100 prospects list last season, and is considered one of the better arms in the Tampa Bay's deep system. Ryan is also penciled into Team USA's starting rotation as it competes in the Tokyo Olympics.
Scouting reports below.
Joe Ryan, RHP
For the Twins, Ryan gives them a nearly MLB-ready pitcher with a chance to start. He was slated to rank seventh among the Rays Top 30 at the midseason update. Ryan has been able to dominate minor league lineups with a very fastball-heavy approach and plus control. Ryan’s fastball doesn’t have overwhelming velocity (it sits 90-93 mph and tops out at 94-96) and it doesn’t have the massive spin rates/movement profile that generally indicates massive carry at the top of the zone. But Ryan hides the ball well and has consistently gotten swings and misses with his fastball. This year, Triple-A hitters have swung and missed at 20 percent of his fastballs in the strike zone. His low-80s fringe-average slider does get some chases out of the zone and he’s gotten better at spotting it on the outer third and down-and-away out of the zone to righthanded hitters. But it's not a weapon, and neither is his slow, early count get-over curveball. He throws an average changeup, mainly to lefties. Ryan’s fastball-heavy approach raises some concerns about how well it will work turning over a lineup multiple times as a major league starter, but he’s had success with his approach at all levels of the minors and there are evaluators who believe his fastball will continue to be successful against MLB hitters. At worst, he should be a useful reliever, but his durability and plus control should give him a shot at starting.
Drew Strotman, RHP
Strotman has bounced back from Tommy John surgery in 2019 and was slated to rank No. 23 in the Rays midseason prospects update. His stuff is every bit what it was before the surgery, but his control has not been as sharp since his return. Strotman mixes a 92-95 mph fastball with a hard, high-80s slider that sometimes has depth. He’s added a high-80s/low-90s cutter that is equally effective. Strotman commands his slider and cutter better than his fastball, and at times he will use them to get back to even in counts. He also throws a slower mid-70s curveball that he doesn’t command all that well, but it can be used as a surprise early-count strike. His changeup has improved to the point that it gives him a third average offering. It has solid deception and some late arm-side fade. It’s proven to be a swing-and-miss pitch for him in Triple-A. Strotman has a varied assortment, solid stuff and upper-level success. For a Twins team that needs pitching for 2022 and beyond, he’s a useful addition who could start. Improving his fringy control is the remaining item on his to-do list.
Five MLB Breakout Pitchers For The 2023 Season
The following pitchers fall into the grouping of younger starters with varying degrees of major league experience who look primed for a breakout season.
Nelson Cruz, DH
Cruz is an ageless wonder, continuing to punish baseball’s this season to the tune of a 141 wRC+ through 85 games. He ranks among the 92nd percentile or better in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard hit percentage, as well as expected wOBA, batting average, slugging percentage. In other words: Cruz hits the ball hard, often far, and adds extra oomph to a Rays lineup that has been mostly average (101 wRC+) this year and owns a .682 OPS against lefties, which Cruz feasts on.
Calvin Faucher, RHP
In Faucher, the Rays get a pitcher whose fastball this season has averaged 95 mph and touched 100. The numbers are not pretty, (1-1, 7.06) but he has whiffed 42 in 30.2 innings. The fastball plays fairly true, however, and gets hit. He backs it with an extremely high-spin curveball thrown in the mid 80s as well as a cutter he uses roughly one-third of the time. He alternates which side of the rubber he throws from and has a short-stride delivery. He was taken out of UC Irvine in the 10th round of the 2017 draft.