Capps Comes Through

Yesterday Matt Capps, the Nationals closer and one of the biggest sources of stability in the bullpen was traded. In exchange, the Nationals received Wilson Ramos, a stud prospect from the Twins. They also acquired Joe Testa, a left handed pitcher. If you are worried about who might be given the ball in relief now, check out my post from Tuesday. The Nationals did lose their closer, someone they might not have re-signed in the offseason, but in exchange, they got one really impressive prospect.

A Little About Wilson Ramos

Ramos is very well regarded, and it isn’t surprising. He actually came up and played for a few games with the Twins this year, an impressive enough feat for a 22 year old. In only 27 ABs he hit .296/.321/.407, not bad for a guy his age, although way too limited of a time to glean anything real. In the minors last year, he really impressed, hitting .317/.339/.454 in 214 AA plate appearances. This year has been less impressive, in AAA he’s only hit .241/.280/.345, but he’s still young enough that you don’t panic. Unless, I suppose, you’re the Twins. As for what people have said about him, it makes you wonder just what the Twins were thinking.

Baseball Prospectus ranked him the #4 prospect in their system this year.They say he’s above-average both defensively and offensively. They write “He has consistently shown the ability to hit for average with an outstanding contact rate, and there’s raw power in his hitting mechanics as well. He’s agile defensively with a plus arm, and he works well with a pitching stuff.” All good stuff, reminiscent of a guy who’s catching for the Nats now, although most likely without the HOF ceiling. The description, though, fits in my mind. His negatives, as you may have noticed, were his lack of patience and ability to take a walk. He’s also been hurt a bit in the past, although he’s been healthy in 2010.

Keith Law ranked him as the 42nd best prospect in the minors (behind Derek Norris, by the way) and had some good and some bad things to say. He noted that “Ramos is big, taller than his listed 6-foot height, and his large frame suggests he might outgrow the position. But right now he throws extremely well (he’s nailed 43 percent of would-be base stealers in the past two years) and his receiving is adequate… At the plate, he has strong hands and very good hand-eye coordination, with a hard, line-drive-oriented swing; he’s also impatient, drawing just six walks in his abbreviated 2009 season, and will have to up his patience or hit well above .300 if he ever has to move out from behind the dish.” Baseball America thought even better of him, and called him the #2 prospect in the Twins organization this year.

All this may make you wonder where Derek Norris fits into the system now that Ramos is here. I think he fits in the same, and if they have two “catchers of the future” that’s a good thing, not a bad one. The best you hope for is not to get too attached to either one, have them both succeed, and watch the Nats flip one in a couple of years for something better.

And then the Other Guy

Joe Testa, whether he likes it or not, will always be the “other guy” in this trade. He could save 500 games, he’ll be the other guy in the trade. He’s not considered much of a prospect, and I saw one site ranked him the #49 guy in the Twins system last year. He went to a small school and is only 5’10”, so he didn’t get drafted, but signed into the Twins organization and has pitched pretty well in relief. His first two years in the organization went pretty well – in 2008, split between Rookie Ball and Low-A, he pitched 28 1/3 innings, struck out 30 and had a 3.18 ERA. Nothing too exciting considering his age (22) and the fact that he pitched in college. Last year was more impressive, though. Spending time between Low and High-A ball, he pitched a full season of relief, 82 2/3 IP. He struck out 116 while walking 41, and had a 1.96 ERA. Starting to look better.

This year he spent some time in AA, but it didn’t go nearly as well. In 24 IP he struck out 21, but he walked 16 and had a 8.25 ERA. He was sent back to High-A where he’s done well again: 30 IP, 29 K/12BB and a 3.30 ERA. He’ll likely start out at High-A Potomac and may see Harrisburg before the end of the year, may just start off there next year.

Testa is a lefty who can strike hitters out, and that’s always nice to have. According to him, thanks to a Twins blog interview, “I throw a fastball, curve, slider, change up and a cutter. I’d say my out pitch would be my fastball and cutter.” He also mentions being a big fan of Paul O’Neill, so maybe he fight a few Gatorade coolers. Testa may be a bit of a longshot to do much, but in a year or two if he saw a few years of relief success in the majors, I wouldn’t be shocked.

Good Trade

Regardless of whether Ramos or Testa ever pan out, this is quite frankly a haul for the Nats. Getting Ramos was a win, getting what amounts to a throw-in pitcher who can actually strike hitters out is a bonus. Rotoworld may have said it best, calling the fact that Rizzo was able to get this much for Capps “quite astonishing.”

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