This morning, I heard through the grapevine that the Dodgers were close to trading John Ely to an unnamed team for an unnamed minor leaguer — you can guess why I didn’t choose to go public with that, right? — and I figured that maybe it’d be Houston or Miami, two teams desperate for talent.
Turns out, it’s Houston: Ely has been traded to the Astros for 23-year-old lefty Rob Rasmussen, in a rare trade broken by the teams themselves and not the media. Rasmussen was one of the pieces Houston got from the Marlins for Carlos Lee after he refused to come to Los Angeles, so this is coming full circle in a way.
Rasmussen is a UCLA prospect who was a second-round pick of Miami in 2010, and in 60 games (53 starts) for the two organizations he’s got a 7.3 K/9 and a 3.8 BB/9. A month ago, Marc Hulet ranked him as the #15 Houston prospect at FanGraphs:
Rasmussen is another guy that falls into the muddled group of 10-12 guys that could be ranked in the 11-15 range. The lefty ranks up on my list due – in part – to personal familiarity with him, having followed him since his college days.
A scout I spoke to about the former UCLA pitcher sees a big league role in his future. “I think he’ll be able to get people out at the big league level but he’s got to get the ball down,” he said. “He’s up to 94 mph with two breaking balls. The little dude works his tail off.” Two concerns brought up were his lack of deception, as well as his command/control issues – although he has few red flags in his delivery.
Because Rasmussen has a short, slight build, it’s difficult to project him as a big league starter, although he’s been extremely durable in the minors by pitching almost 300 innings during the past two seasons. He’s also known for being competitive so he could have the perfect makeup for a reliever. I heard a loose comp to lefty reliever J.P. Howell, formerly of the Royals and Rays.
If Rasmussen can find a way to get on top of the ball and create downward action on his pitches while also harnessing his breaking balls, he could be a valuable piece of the Astros bullpen as soon as mid-to-late 2013.
When he was traded in the Lee deal, former Baseball Prospectus prospect hound Kevin Goldstein — now with the Astros of course — graded him thusly: “short lefty has solid stuff and command, but no potential to make an impact beyond a bullpen role.” At 5’10″ and 155 pounds, it does seem like the bullpen is in his future. (He’s also on Twitter: @RasmussenRob).
As for Ely, this comes as no surprise, given that he’s proven little since his short moment in the sun in 2010, and it’s honestly good to see him go to an organization where he might actually be higher than 10th on the depth chart. Then again, Houston (and the AL West) isn’t exactly the friendly home ballpark for a pitcher of his skills.
With Ely gone, the formerly full 40-man roster now stands at 39, opening up room for the two or three more players (outfielder, reliever, etc) we all know are still coming.