In a somewhat surprising move, the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros made a trade! While it seems mostly harmless on the surface, it appears that more moves are on the horizon for Houston. The trade included promising young pitcher Nick Tropeano, who made four starts for the Astros at the end of the season. He now heads to Los Angeles along with catcher Carlos Perez in return for Hank Conger. It seems that the Angels made out well, getting a 24 year old pitcher with a four-pitch repertoire for a promising catcher that has resided in Mike Scioscia’s doghouse the last two season.
Although this trade is probably more intriguing for deeper league mixed or AL only owners, it is worth looking at the moving pieces. I am more interested as to what the Astros have in mind moving forward in regards to Jason Castro and Jonathan Singleton with Conger added to the mix.
Los Angeles Angels acquire Nick Tropeano and Carlos Perez
Nick Tropeano – SP
Minor League Career: 31 W, 24 L, 3.26 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.4 K/BB
2014 AAA: 20 GS, 9 W, 5 L, 3.03 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 3.6 K/BB
2014 Houston: 4 GS, 1 W, 3 L, 4.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 3.32 FIP
It is hard to get hyped about Nick Tropeano as an uber prospect but the Angels did acquire a young pitcher who can command four pitches even though his average velocities are a below league average. However, the bigger ballpark and run support that he will receive in Los Angeles make him an interesting option if he can win the fourth or fifth starter job this spring. Tropeano features a repertoire with a 91 MPH fastball that does have a tailing effect, an 80 MPH slider that is his best swing and miss pitch, an 82 MPH changeup and a 91 MPH sinker. After a rough debut, Tropeano used his sinker sparingly in his last two starts in 2014 and had much more success. Over his four starts batters hit .133 against his slider and .150 versus his changeup. This is a positive sign but those same hitters were bashing his sinker at a .333 clip and hit .262 against his fastball. Improved command and working ahead in the count will really enhance his outlook. Even though his fastball does generate grounders, most of his outs are of the fly ball variety, which is why the move to LA could prove beneficial. Tropeano has gone from a fantasy possibility to a potential sleeper in this trade.
2014 AAA: 88 G, 33 R, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB, 259/323/385
Carlos Perez is a catcher with offensive upside but has yet to drive the ball with power in the minor leagues. He does possess good game calling ability and profiles as the type of backup catcher that will thrive in Los Angeles with former catcher and manager, Mike Scioscia. His career slash line in the minor leagues is .277/.359/.393. Since catchers often flourish later in their development, Perez is a nice grab for the Angels with the opportunity to develop behind Chris Iannetta.
Houston Astros acquire Hank Conger
Hank Conger – C
2013 Angels: 92 G, 23 R, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 249/310/403
2014 Angels:80 G, 24 R, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 221/293/325
One of the reasons that I find the Astros trading for Hank Conger odd is because of the presence of Jason Castro and Max Stassi already in Houston. Although Castro is arbitration eligible, his case will be a tough one since he underwhelmed in 2014 after what seemed like a breakthrough the year prior. Now he may be fighting for his job unless he gets a new home. Since Conger is a switch hitter, a move to Houston may be what it takes for him to reach his offensive peak. Conger has shown flashes in the minor leagues as seen in his career slash lines of .297/.359/.467 in the minor leagues and .298/.371/.470 in AAA. It is now time to determine if Conger is not only more than a “quadruple A” hitter, but can his minor league OPS numbers translate to a major league career. Since the PCL is a notoriously labeled a hitter’s league, the move to a much better offensive home in Houston may be the fresh start that Conger needs. Look what happened last year with Devin Mesoraco after he no longer had Dusty Baker as his manager. If Conger is going to step up he needs to handle the inside pitch. In his charts, he only hits .235 on pitches middle in and .051 on pitches up and in. But when he can extend his arms, Conger shows great coverage on the outer half of the plate, hitting .328 on middle outside and .346 on up and away. Depending on what corresponding moves occur in Houston, Conger is a name to stash away late in drafts for a catcher two with upside.
Although the first trade of the Hot Stove is a minor deal, it has many implications and possibilities. Let the speculation begin.
Statistical credits: BrooksBaseball.net, Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/EMLRT8
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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!