The Atlanta Braves made another seemingly unbalanced trade in their favor last week when they acquired power-hitting outfield prospect Travis Demeritte from the Texas Rangers in exchange for starting pitcher Lucas Harrell and lefty reliever Dario Alvarez. These two pitchers are notable for having been let go by other teams just two months ago. Harrell was released by the Tigers on May 16, then signed by Atlanta on May 20. On May 25, Alverez was claimed off of waivers from the Mets.
Both Harrell and Alvarez have pitched well since returning to the majors. Alvarez returned in mid-June, while Harrell returned at the beginning of July, and made just five starts before he was traded. The fact that any team thought these two pitchers had enough value to improve their chances of competing for a postseason berth is fascinating, but what’s even more amazing is that those two pitchers were traded for a really good prospect.
Travis Demeritte is a young, raw, athletic projection prospect who is having a very good season in the best hitters league in the minors. He was drafted in the first round in 2013 as the No. 30 overall selection out of high school in Winder, Georgia. So far as a pro he’s had mixed results, with the low-light coming last year when he received an 80-game suspension for PEDs. That PED was apparently furosemide, which is banned because it’s used to flush another “drug” from your system — the subtext being that the drug was not necessarily a performance enhancer, but a recreational drug.
While Demeritte missed a year of development, reports say that he’s turned that missed time and suspension into a deepened personal effort to excel, and that is starting to show up on the field. In the high-A Texas League this season Demeritte hit .272/.352/.583 with 25 home runs, while facing older pitchers in 345 of his 378 plate appearances this season. While his strikeout rate is massively high — the biggest knock on his prospect star — his walk totals and raw power have remained steady as his hit tool improves.
He’s by no means close to a sure thing as a prospect, but he has a good pedigree as a highly thought of raw power prospect. He’s still only 21-years-old and has already proven he can handle high-A. If he continues to hit for average and power, and his walk rate stays high, then the strikeout rate is not that much of a concern.
In taking the glass half full approach with Demeritte I would have ranked him as the No. 24 overall prospect in a very deep Braves system on my mid-season prospect list. MLB.com ranked him as the No. 9 prospect for Atlanta, so they certainly like the tools and the results.
As far as the trade goes, I am absolutely floored that the Braves got this good of a prospect for two pitchers that two teams didn’t want two months ago. Atlanta got lucky that they rehabilitated their careers, and then got really lucky that Texas was willing to give them such a good lottery ticket in return. We should speak of this trade in the same vein as the Dansby trade and Touki trade, in which Atlanta got a seemingly lopsided return.