Scouting The Trade Market: Kole Calhoun

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The trade deadline is now officially less than a month away, and the Yankees figure to spend most of their energy upgrading this year’s pitching staff and bench. The 2014 payroll plan looms however, and the impending free agencies of Nick Swisher (after this year) and Curtis Granderson (after next year once his 2013 option is exercised) mean the team is likely to be looking for a young, affordable outfielder in the next 18 months. Domonic Brown of the Phillies has been a popular name as a potential target, mostly due to his status as a former elite prospect, but he’s not the only guy out there.

The Angels are flush with young outfielders, obviously highlighted by the ultra-dynamic Mike Trout. They also have the powerful Mark Trumbo and speedy Peter Bourjos, giving them a very nice core of homegrown outfielders. Those three draw all of the attention and rightfully so, but down in Triple-A they also have the 24-year-old Kole Calhoun, who Baseball America ranked as the team’s 20th best prospect in their Prospect Handbook before the season. John Sickels ranked him as the team’s 11th best prospect this spring.

Calhoun’s minor league numbers are pretty dynamite, a .404 wOBA in 274 Triple-A plate appearances this season. That works out to a 140 wRC+, which is adjusted for ballpark and league. His Rookie League (141 wRC+) and High-A (142 wRC+) numbers are right there as well even though the Halos completely skipped him over Low-A and Double-A. We’re talking about 1,100+ minor league plate appearances that have consistently been ~40% better than league average after the necessary adjustments. That said, stats do not tell the entire story. Let’s look at the ins and outs of the former Arizona State Sun Devil…

The Pros

  • Calhoun, listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 lbs., offers some power and lots of patience. His 39 career minor league homers are inflated by hitter friendly home parks, though he’s also hit for plenty of doubles and has strong road numbers as well. An 11.9% walk rate backs up the patience part, and his strikeout rate isn’t outrageous either (17.2%). “He sees his share of pitches and knows what he can handle, seldom missing a pitch he can drive,” wrote Baseball America in the 2012 Prospect Handbook.
  • A left-handed batter, Calhoun has held his own against southpaws over the last two seasons: .300/.367/.500 with nine homers in 230 plate appearances. Obviously that’s not a huge sample, but it is encouraging. “He’s confident and doesn’t dwell on bad at-bats,” added Baseball America.
  • Defensively, Calhoun has experience in all three outfield spots as well as first base. Baseball America said he offers “at least average range on the outfield corners and at first base, and his plus arm strength is a good match for right field.”
  • Calhoun got a taste of the big leagues earlier this season — eight games and 14 plate appearances — but still offers all six years of team control, the first three as a pre-arbitration-eligible player. “He wins admirers not for his raw tools but for his blue-collar approach, plate discipline and professionalism,” wrote Baseball America.

The Cons

  • Calhoun’s walk (7.8%) and strikeout (19.0%) rates in Triple-A this year have taken a big step back compared to the first two years of his minor league career — 13.3% walks and 16.8% strikeouts. Big league pitchers struck him out four times in those 14 plate appearances (28.6%).
  • Baseball America says he has “fringy bat speed,” which limits his long-term power potential. Yankee Stadium could help to a certain extent since he is a lefty, but anytime you’re talking about a long-term corner outfielder with questionable power you have a potential ‘tweener.
  • Although Calhoun can steal the occasional base, he isn’t terribly efficient — 33-for-47 (70.2%) in his minor league career — and Baseball America says he “he grades out as a below-average runner.”

The Yankees do not have anyone in the upper levels of their farm system who projects as an everyday big leaguer, which is why they’re likely to be stuck scrounging the trade market for a Swisher/Granderson replacement. The Angels have enviable young outfield depth and seem like a logical trade partner*, though they’re reported looking for a rotation upgrade and a left-handed reliever better than Hisanori Takahashi. The Yankees don’t have that to offer, not unless they’re willing to dangle Boone Logan. Can’t say I would recommend that when we’re talking about a kid with zero big league success to his credit. The goal is still to win this year.

Prospect-for-prospect trades are very rare because every team loves their kids more than everyone else’s. Maybe GM Jerry Dipoto likes Adam Warren or D.J. Mitchell enough to do a one-for-one swap, which would be a cool little “you need a pitcher, I need a hitter, let’s trade” kinda deal. Think Jesus Montero-for-Michael Pineda on a smaller, Triple-A scale. That would be neat. Either way, I do like Calhoun quite a bit because he’s well-rounded and has shown signs of being able to hold his own against same-side pitchers, plus he offers the Yankees trademarks of left-handed pop (assuming Yankee Stadium shows him some love) and patience. He’s not a sexy name, but he’s a definite fit.

* Just to be clear: There are no reports or evidence that the Yankees are trying to acquire Calhoun or that he’s even available. This is me just throwing a name out there.

Freddy steps in, doesn't miss a beat
Getting used to Alex Rodriguez, non-superstar
  • pat

    Sounds like what we hope Ramon Flores can mature into.

    • Mike Axisa

      Great point.

      • yooboo

        Ramon Flores for Kole Calbaun trade is something I dont object.

        Calabun is MLB ready anytime now and Flores wont be until at least 2 years later.

  • yooboo

    How about Diamondbacks OF/1B Marc Krauss? He got a wake up call and he is not required to be on 40 man roster. Getting him and putting him in AAA as Yanks are in preparation to replace Swisher at RF next season if 189m is not a hoax.

    Arizona is loaded in southpaw and OF so Yanks could part with Corban Joseph and someone else. Getting rid Joseph off 40 man roster can help Yanks land a better player or pitcher. Dunno.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I don’t know Krauss, but it certainly sounds like an interesting way to move guys in seemingly blocked positions for others that aren’t. Not something I’ve given a ton of thought to. Interesting.

    • Ted Nelson

      I certainly think they should consider trading him in the right deal, but I don’t see a rush to get CoJo off the 40-man. He’s an almost MLB ready LH IF prospect. He’s got immediate value if Cano, Chavez, or ARod goes down. I would dump Laird, Pena, and maybe lile 5 other guys on the 40 man before CoJo.

  • jjyank

    Who need Cole when we can have Kole?

    • CP

      Maybe the Yankees could swing a three team deal for Kole and (Jason) Hammels.

      • Thomas

        Can they lure Garret Anderson out of retirement?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Get a blood sample from both, combine, and voila…..Kole Fucking Hammel without giving up the entirety of Charleston and 2/5 of the MLB rotation. Cashninja!

        • jjyank

          The only way that wouldn’t work out is if A-Rod got in the way. Then it’d be his fault.

          • stuart c

            it wouldn’t be a-rod’s fault because he’d drop the vial of blood. a-rod sucks!

            • stuart b

              Hey brother!

    • vin

      And to think… we could’ve had Gerrit Cole, Cole Hamels, and Kole Calhoun. Fire Cashman.

      • Gonzo

        I think failing to field an all Molina/Sanchez team was a fireable offense years ago.

      • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing With Balls and/or RI$P FTW)

        huh? how could we have had cole hamels?

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I never thought I’d need that “hyperbole as literary device” link TWICE in one day.

  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

    Make it happen, for no other reason than that Sterling hast to come up with a Home run call for him.

    • jjyank

      Calhoun! He hit it to the moon!

      Well I’ll tell ya Suzyn, you can’t predict Kole.

      • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

        That’s impressive. God damnit is that you Sterling?!

        • Robinson Tilapia

          And did you bring some veteran announcer presents?

          • jjyank

            I always have presents.

  • Voice of Reason

    Doesn’t seem like the kind of name a Yankee player would have.

    • Gonzo

      Kole Calhoun and Slade Heathcott sound like two guys that would get along swimmingly.

      • Will (the other one)

        Full disclosure: you work for Cinemax, right?

        • Gonzo

          Pay the man, Shirley!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Last time I thought this about a AAA guy, his name was Ivan Nova.

  • Rey22

    When I read the headline I was like ……who?

    • Paul VuvuZuvella

      We all were.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I really thought he was coming up with a funny alternate spelling for Cole Hamels.

  • Fernando

    Some other options…

    Free agent candidate:
    Angel Pagan – SH with speed and capable of playing CF and RF. Cheaper than Melky, Bourn, Swisher or any of the other FA.

    Trade candidates:
    Allan Craig (STL) – Cards have Holliday, Beltran and Jay for OF and Berkman/Carpenter at 1b. FA in 2017, Can play RF, LF and 1B. Plus 3 HR’s in 2011 WS vs Rangers. They could offer Nunez for him, as a replacement for Furcal in 2014.

    Gerardo Parra (ARI) – Arizona can use some middle IF help with Stephen Drew headed for free agency. Nunez could be an option here.

    Dexter Fowler (COL) – Rockies need some pitching (Phelps, Mitchell and Warren could be of interest) and a 2B prospect (Joseph or Adams). Guys like Marshall and O’Brien could also factor in since they have to be protected or exposed in the Rule 5 draft.

    • Knoxvillain

      I’d do a Warren, Adams, and Marshall for Dexter Fowler. That would be one kick ass outfield assuming Gardner comes back normal.

      • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing With Balls and/or RI$P FTW)

        fowler’s bat is basically russell martin away from coors. he’s not the answer.

      • Will (the other one)

        No thanks. I know Fowler’s been better with the stick this year, but his plate discipline still scares the crap out of me. And honestly, for a guy with his speed, his base-stealing isn’t all that impressive either.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Never heard of this kid. Therefore, if we don’t acquire him, we are DOOMED.

    In all seriousness, if all he would cost is some AAA excess and the Angels don’t think much of him, why not?

  • Greg

    I’ve seen Kole play, and he’s actually a good young OF’r. Maybe the Angels could offer the Yankees … Vernon Wells???

    • LiterallyFigurative

      When does Vernon Wells’ contract expire?

      If it’s before 2014, count me on the YES side.

      • Brian S.

        Are you high?

  • Tom

    Mike: Are you sure the minor league wRC+ are adjusted for both park and league? My understanding was they are only adjusted for the league

    (not really a big deal, just curious)

  • Alex P

    If I am trading with the Rockies Charlie Blackmon would be my target. Yes I know he is coming off an injured toe.

  • Scott

    Hey guys, Angel fan here, and known Angels prospect junky. When it comes to Calhoun, you gotta keep in mind that the Angels are an extreme right handed lineup and they’re obviously known for their free-swinging ways. Jerry Dipoto from day one has been clear in his intent to balance the lineup and add a degree of patience that has been missing in their overall team approach. Calhoun does both.

    Granted, scouts aren’t in love with his tools, and I completely understand why. But if you were to ask me to compare him to any major leaguers, I’d say Melky Cabrera and Brian Giles. He’s built the same as both and comes with the same tools package. Also, Calhoun has been consistently sold short in his career. He’s a victim on the philosophy of drafting and developing exceptional athletes on the off chance you hit the lottery and end up with someone like Mike Trout.

    Calhoun was fantastic at collegiate powerhouse ASU and has completely BURNED through the minor leagues thus far. At worst, he’ll be an exceptional 4th OF. Also worthy of keeping in mind, the Angels have some VERY good pitchers in their system that are only 2 years out, specifically Garrett Richards, Ariel Pena and Nick Maronde.

    There really isn’t a pressing need within the organization for pitching prospects. What the Angels need is a very good lefty reliever that’s inexpensive and under control for at least 2 more years, and a catching prospect that can become an everyday catcher at the major league level within the next year or two. The teams simply do not match up. Austin Romine isn’t healthy and even when he was, he just wasn’t hitting enough and he alone wouldn’t be enough to get Calhoun. Boone Logan would be ideal, but again, I doubt Yankee fans would want to part ways with him. Granted, over time Calhoun would make the deal look very smart for New York, but Cashman would be burned at the stake long before then.