The hot stove is officially heating up.
On Wednesday, the Indians traded former ace Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfield prospect James Ramsey. (If you’re looking for tonight’s winning lottery numbers, you might want to ask our own Kyle Downing, who mentioned the possibility of the Tribe dealing Masterson just minutes before it actually happened.)
Nonetheless, acquiring Ramsey would appear to be a great return for the Indians.
Masterson is just a year removed from an All-Star appearance and being the Tribe’s ace, but he’s done nothing to help the Indians make the playoffs this season. In fact, getting rid of him could ultimately be the best route for the Indians, though Masterson certainly has the talent to return to last season’s form (and the Cardinals are great at fixing pitchers anyway).
But it didn’t appear that the Indians could get much out of Masterson this season, and they decided to cut their losses. Getting a solid prospect like Ramsey in return is a great move.
The 24-year old Ramsey was drafted by the Twins in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft, but he returned to Florida State and was a first-round pick by the Cardinals the next season.
He had an underwhelming professional debut with the Cardinals’ Single-A Advanced affiliate in 2012, but hit an impressive .265/.373/.440 over 496 plate appearances across three affiliates last season. He added 16 home runs and 51 RBI, and even played a game at Triple-A Memphis.
He returned to Double-A Springfield for the Cardinals this season, and was hitting .300/.389/.527 over 281 plate appearances prior to being traded to the Indians. He’s added 13 home runs (which ranked 6th in the Texas League) and 36 RBI, and participated in this year’s Futures Game as well.
The Indians tweeted that Ramsey will report to Triple-A Columbus, instead of going back to Double-A with Akron.
MLB.com ranked Ramsey 6th among Cardinals prospects in their midseason prospect rankings, though he will climb to 5th among Indians prospects.
Ramsey is known as a smart player who has strong leadership skills, and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo notes that he even drew comparisons to Tim Tebow for his combination of athletic skills, intangibles, and Christian faith.
But what he provides on the field isn’t too shabby, either.
He’s always been known as a solid hitter, and he draws tons of walks as well. Mayo notes that he has plus speed (though he doesn’t steal a lot of bases) and can play center if the Indians choose to put him there, but has the arm for a corner outfield spot as well.
Scouts weren’t sold on Ramsey’s power coming out of Florida State, but he’s posted solid power numbers throughout his minor league career and should have at least average power in the future.
The Indians suddenly have an enviable stockpile of minor league outfielders, in addition to Michael Brantley at the major league level.
According to MLB.com, 4 of the Indians’ top 5 prospects are now outfielders. After shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Tribe’s top 4 prospects all play the outfield: Clint Frazier, Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, and Ramsey. The Indians also drafted outfielder Mike Papi 38th overall in this year’s draft, and they have plenty of others that I could name as well.
That’s a really impressive group.
Granted, prospects will break your heart. It’s pretty likely that at least one of the players I just listed won’t live up to expectations, but the Indians have acquired plenty of options in case that happens. Papi can play first base in addition to the outfield, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Indians made a trade to clear the logjam as well.
But still, that’s an impressive group.
It might not make sense to some people that the Indians continue to add outfielders, even though they have so many stockpiled at the minor league level. But that’s the point: like I said, prospects will break your heart. It’s important to have alternative options in case other players don’t live up to expectations.
For now, the Indians will continue to acquire the best players available, and they can worry about what position they’ll play later.
Of the Indians’ top outfield prospects, Ramsey is likely the closest to the majors, and it’s not impossible that he could make an appearance in Cleveland at some point this season, though a debut next season seems more likely.
Meanwhile, Naquin was hitting well with Double-A Akron but is currently injured, Frazier and Papi are both with Single-A Lake County, and Zimmer is still with short-season Mahoning Valley.
As a result, the Indians have plenty of time to deal with their outfield “problem,” though this “problem” is about as much of a “problem” as deciding if you want a black or a white Lamborghini. So it’s not really much of a problem at all.
Still, these “problems” have a way of sorting themselves out, and that’s certainly what will happen with the Indians moving forward.