The Seattle Mariners made the first move of the hot stove by sending starting catcher Mike Zunino, OF Guillermo Heredia, and left-handed pitching prospect Michael Plassmeyer to the Rays in exchange for OF’s Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley.
I’ll give some quick thoughts on the Major League assets in the deal, but most of our focus will be on the prospect side of things, as that’s out wheelhouse here at Prospects Live.
Former Florida Gator Mike Zunino is the headline grabber in this five-player deal. Zunino has a reputation as a positive defender behind the dish and an overall asset defensively. On offense he struggles making consistent contact but when he does it normally goes a long way. Zunino was a below-average offensive player in 2018, hitting .201/.259/.410, and an 84 wRC+. He has hit a combined 45 homers the last two seasons and is controllable for a few more, so he gives the Rays a few things they are looking for. For fantasy, Zunino is only relevant because of how bad the catching position has become. His ADP in the #2EarlyMocks was pick 263, which has him as the 12th catcher off the board.
2019 Projection: 55/22/57/1 …. .227/.302/.465 in 123 games
Guillermo Heredia gives the Rays a solid 4th OF behind injury prone Kevin Kiermaier, Tommy Pham, and Austin Meadows. Heredia just steps into the role that Mallex Smith vacated with the deal. He’s a positive defender who can play center and has a strong arm, and fits the run prevention style of the Rays. He’s a below-average hitter that doesn’t drive the ball but makes contact at an 85% clip. Like Zunino, Heredia also has a few years left of team control.
2019 Projection: 38/3/40/4 … .240/.323/.340 in 53 games
Michael Plassmeyer was the Mariners 4th round pick (118th overall) in the 2018 draft out of the University of Missouri. The left-hander out of St. Louis stand 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds, giving him the frame and look of a potential innings eater. Plassmeyer pitched 203 career innings on campus and only walked 35 batters, 1.55 per 9, and that skill carried over to his pro debut. He pitched in 13 innings, making 12 starts and only walked 4 batters over 24 innings, 1.50 per 9. Obviously the Mariners were taking it easy with him after he threw over 91 innings in his final collegiate season. He sits 89-92 with the heater with an average slider and a changeup with a chance to get there. Here’s some video from his collegiate days:
The Mariners added a pair of outfielders in this move in Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley. 25 year-old Mallex Smith had a breakout in 2018 as he hit .296/.367/.406 with 40 stolen bases. Smith took advantage of Kiermaier missing almost the entire season by playing in 141 games and producing a 117 wRC+. I’m expecting a bit of regression going forward for Smith in the batting average department, as a career high BABIP pushed him up around .296. I think he’s more of a .260-.270 bat but one that will have significant fantasy value due to the stolen bags. Mallex Smith was coming off the board around pick 111 in the #2EarlyMocks.
2019 Projection: 83/3/47/34 …. .283/.342/.387 in 150 games
The big long-term winner in this trade might be Jake Fraley. Fraley gets out of the deep Rays farm system and finds himself now one of the top five prospects in a barren Mariners system, with a much clearer path to the big leagues. Fraley was a Competitive Balance Round B selection (77th overall) by the Rays in 2016 out of LSU. He has an average hit tool with average power projection with an above-average glove and plus wheels. The issue here is health. Fraley hasn’t been able to stay on the field but could move quickly if he does. Jason Woodell ranked Fraley as the 23rd prospect in a deep Rays system.