The Indians made an important move yesterday in trading Rafael Betancourt to the Rockies for Class A pitcher Connor Graham.
This is a move that will surprise no one, considering the team was unlikely to exercise their $5.4 million option on Raffy Right next year. However, this move signifies that the team is willing to look beyond 2010.
I think that most fans can agree that this is a good thing. With the current state of the pitching rotation and the fact that some of our best prospects are two years away, competing in 2010 is not as important as 2011.
Currently the Indians have 4 players listed in Baseball America's top 50 prospects, with Carlos Santana listed as number seven and Matt LaPorta coming in at number 22 (Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Weglarz were simply listed by alphabetical order in the 25-50 half of the list).
Of those four I would only expect to see Weglarz and LaPorta in the big leagues prior to next September (at least for serious consideration). Unfortunately, none of those prospects listed can provide pitching help.
That's where Graham comes in.
In two and a half seasons in the minors Graham, from Miami of Ohio, has pitched in 48 games and started all but two of those. His numbers have been impressive in Class A ball with an overall 20-10 record and an ERA of 2.55. This year for the Rockies Advanced A team in Modesto he has gone 7-4 over 80 innings notching 87 strikeouts to only 41 bases on balls. Though his WHIP is a bit high at 1.35, his K/9 makes up for it at 9.7 and his HR/9 has been microscopic at 0.2.
Baseball America describes Graham as a hard-thrower that sits in the mid-90's and can touch 96 at times. In the past Graham has had issues with location, in part because of a hard slider that he has difficultly controlling and a fastball with "plus natural life," according to BA. As he stands currently, he is projected as a solid bullpen option for the Indians. However, should he be able to reign in his two current pitches and pair them with a curve or changeup he would be a valuable addition to the big league rotation.
Looking forward this deal could work out well for the Indians, who certainly got their money's worth out of Betancourt, a converted infielder.
Time will tell who else among this current batch of Tribe players becomes a big league troubadour, until then stay positive Tribe fans.