Edinson Volquez didn’t exactly impress Rangers brass last night who might have been interested in acquiring the starting pitcher for the trade deadline. The Rangers reportedly brought much of the braintrust to Kansas City last weekend to see if Volquez was a match, and despite his outing last night, he may still be an upgrade over their current rotation. With a weak market for starting pitchers, the Royals should still be able to ask for a solid return for the impending free agent.
Volquez should have several potential suitors, as many contenders could use depth to their starting rotation. The Rangers have a deep system, ranked seventh by Baseball America, that could match the Royals needs in several ways. Here are a few names the Royals could target in a deal for Edinson Volquez.
RHP Luis Ortiz
Ortiz was ranked as the third-best prospect in the Rangers’ system in Baseball America’s midseason prospect list, so he may be a bit beyond the reach of what the Royals can expect. He had a 2.60 ERA in 65 innings in the very difficult pitching environment at High Desert this year. The 20-year old was recently promoted to AA, but he has been a quick riser and could be in the big leagues by next year.
Baseball America writes that he has a plus fastball and slider, and he has shown a mid-90s fastball, according to John Sickels. Ortiz has a big frame and good upside, and has shown an ability to throw strikes, with just a 1.9 walks-per-nine-innings rate in the minors. Ortiz did have some elbow issues last year with a strained flexor muscle, but no surgery was needed. The 2014 first-round pick has the kind of upside the Royals need and could contribute next year, like they want, but it seems a bit of a stretch to suggest the Rangers would give him up for Edinson Volquez.
LHP Yohander Mendez
Mendez was ranked the #4 prospect in the system by Baseball America and MLB.com. He signed for $1.5 million out of Venezuela and has impressed with a strikeout per inning in his professional career. His fastball sits in the low 90s and MLB.com notes he has a "fading, sinking changeup with deceptive arm speed, and it's a legitimate plus pitch that keeps right-handers at bay."
There are some questions over his durability since his 79 2/3 innings this year are a career high. He began the year at High A ball, but has advanced two levels this year. He was just promoted to AAA, tossing five shutout innings in his first start for Round Rock, and could be a Major League rotation option next year, at age 22.
RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez
Gonzalez was the Rangers’ first round pick in 2013 out of Oral Roberts, and by 2015 he was in the big leagues, pitching well with a 3.90 ERA in 67 innings. However he struck out fewer big league hitters than he walked, and he has regressed badly this year. He has a 5.23 ERA in 98 innings for AAA Round Rock, and has been awful in 10 1/3 innings for the Rangers this year.
The 24-year old Gonzalez is not far removed from being a Top 100 prospect, being ranked by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com before the 2015 season. However his strikeout numbers are unimpressive in the minor leagues, with just 6.6 whiffs per-nine-innings. Gonzalez has a fastball that sits at 91 mph with good movement, and he has produced a 48% groundball rate in his limited Major League action. He throws a slider, curveball, and change up, and profiles as a mid-rotation starter who could join the Royals rotation immediately.
RHP Nick Martinez
Martinez also got his feet wet in the big leagues last year, impressing with a 3.96 ERA in 24 games, 21 of them starts. Like Gonzalez, however, he suffered from a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio and regressed this year. He has a 4.01 ERA for AAA Round Rock, but has become a strike-thrower with just 1.34 walks-per-nine innings. However he hasn’t been racking up strikeouts either which could be problematic at the big league level.
Martinez averages 91 mph with his fastball, and features a curveball, slider, and change. The 25 year-old is still rather new to pitching, having played infield for Fordham University, only to be converted to the mound as a professional. Like Gonzalez, he looks to be more of a back-end rotation option, but he could step in right away and compete for a rotation job.
RHP Ariel Jurado
The 20-year old Panamanian has one of the "highest floors" out of any pitcher in the Rangers system, according to MLB.com. He has advanced quickly and is already at AA ball, having just been promoted. Jurado has been an extreme groundball pitcher thus far in his career with a low 90s fastball that has sinking action. He has also been a terrific strike-thrower, with a 1.6 walks-per-nine innings ratio in the minor leagues, although those numbers spiked in his time at High A High Desert.
MLB.com ranks him the #11 prospect in the Rangers system and sees him as a "#4 starter", but John Sickels of Minor League Ball likes him more than others. He may not be ready for the big leagues at the start of next year, but could be a contributor by 2018.
RHP Dillon Tate - He has the pedigree but hasn’t had the results yet, and at age 22 in low A ball, is probably not the MLB-ready arm the Royals are looking for.
RHP Luke Jackson - The 24-year old has some MLB experience and can hit 95-97 in relief roles, which is where he’ll probably end up in the big leagues.
RHP Connor Sadzeck - The 24-year old can throw in the high-90s but has had major control issues in the past. He has taken a huge step forward this year for AA Frisco with a 3.33 ERA and 3.2 walks-per-nine innings, but may be a reliever at higher levels.
OF Ryan Cordell - The toolsy outfield has shown power, hitting 18 home runs for AA Frisco this year, but his overall line in the hitter’s league - .263/.321/.479 - is underwhelming. He is 24 and can play centerfield capably, and could be a nice complimentary piece in a trade.
RHP Michael Matuella - He was a first-round talent that fell to the third round of the 2015 draft due to Tommy John surgery. Having pitched just three professional innings, he is too far from the big leagues to interest the Royals.
LHP Andrew Faulkner - He has enjoyed better success since moving to the bullpen due to the lack of an arsenal and shaky command at times. He has racked up strikeouts and has some MLB service time and could be a decent reliever with his deceptive delivery.