I'm starting to feel better and better about the Marlins trade yesterday. Sure, they gave up two pretty talented young prospects. But in return, having Carlos Lee will be a big improvement over Gaby Sanchez, and the players the Marlins gave up don't have very high ceilings. Neither of them project to be above-average at their position when they reach the majors. Although these two players are skillful and close to the majors, the Marlins can feel assured that neither player is going to come back to hurt them.
Rob Rasmussen was recently traded along with Matt Dominguez for Carlos Lee on Wednesday. Rasmussen probably has a higher ceiling than Dominguez, which could make the Marlins regret trading him away in a couple of years. With the Astros lack of MLB quality pitchers, Rob Rasmussen actually has a chance to pitch in the majors in 2012 despite never pitching in Double-A.
Rasmussen, twenty-three, is an undersized left-handed pitcher the Marlins drafted in the second round of the 2010 Amateur draft out of UCLA. MLB.com lists him as 5'9'', but I am 5'9" and he looks at least an inch taller than me.
Coming out of a Pasadena high school, in which Rasmussen was a four-year letter winner, Rasmussen was drafted in the 27th round of the 2007 draft by the Dodgers. This was mainly due to signability issues, and the fact that UCLA recruits have a reputation for sticking with their commitment. At UCLA, Rasmussen was very successful. In his Freshman and Sophomore seasons, Rasmussen was used primarily as a long reliever, but he got the occasional start. Even though he was UCLA's third-best starter as a junior, you have to keep in mind that he was pitching behind Gerrit Cole.
When he was drafted by the Marlins 73rd overall in 2010, it was viewed as a pretty safe pick by the Marlins. His floor was and is still at least a LOOGY. Rasmussen signed with the Marlins without any major negotiating battles. Due to a long college season, Rasmussen only pitched in a couple of games in 2010.
In 2011, Rasmussen threw almost 148 innings for High-A Jupiter. Used only as a starter, Rasmussen had a 3.70 ERA and a 4.10 FIP. Surprisingly, Rasmussen had a 4.31 BB/9. His command seems to come and go. He can go multiple starts without having control issues, and then he will start walking people all of a sudden. In 2012, Rasmussen's BB/9 has shrunk to 3.70, but I haven't heard reports of his control improving that much. The control and command of Rasmussen's pitches are what could hold him back from being a starter in the majors.
Heading into the 2012 season, Rasmussen joined the other Marlins in Major League spring training camp, but he was among the first cuts. I was slightly bewildered when I heard the Marlins were going to make Rasmussen repeat High-A. The main reason I can think of why they wouldn't start him at Double-A Jacksonville are the walks. This year, Rasmussen has posted very similar numbers to his 2011 season. It's not like he has had bad numbers at Jupiter, but the walks are a little concerning. Before the trade, I was expecting Rasmussen to be promoted to Double-A Jacksonville in the near future.
Still, his pitches don't have as good of a downward plane as a taller pitcher. If Rasmussen can improve his control, his height shouldn't be something to worry about.
As expected from a left-handed pitcher, Rasmussen has a decent pick-off move. He is also pretty good at pitching from the stretch with runners on-base as well. That's definitely one aspect of his game that his improved since college.
Due to his not very imposing frame, It's unlikely Rasmussen will add any velocity to his fastball as he matures. His fastball sits around 91-93 MPH and doesn't have very much movement. He has better command of his fastball than his other pitches.
Other than the fastball, Rasmussen also throws a slider and a changeup, Neither project as above-average major league pitches, and the changeup might actually be a tad below average.
I'm a believer that Rasmussen can handle throwing two hundred innings a year. However, I don't believe that Rasmussen could throw two hundred inning unless he gains better command of his off speed pitches. I could definitely see Rasmussen as a long reliever who would make a about five starts a year.
The Astros will either start Rasmussen at High-A or Double-A. Due to their crummy starting pitching depth, Double-A is probably the most likely outcome. If Rasmussen heads straight to Double-A, he could be up in the majors by the end of the year. It's very possible that the Astros view Rasmussen as a future starter, so in that case they wouldn't want to rush him as a reliever.As long as he stays healthy, the absolute latest I could see Rasmussen reaching the majors would be midseason next year.
If Rasmussen reaches his potential, which I think is somewhat likely, he will be a solid #4 or #5 starter. If starting doesn't work out, he could be an above-average long reliever or LOOGY. In acquiring Rasmussen, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow continued to rebuild a system that needs pitching depth and prospects with upside.
Matt Dominguez is far more well-known than Rasmussen, but his value has taken a tumble in recent years. When the Marlins signed Jose Reyes this offseason, they showed they had pretty much given up on Dominguez. In my mind, it was only a matter of time before Dominguez got traded. He is a typical player that scouts look at and think that he would be much better off with a new team.
Dominguez has always had outstanding defense at third base. In high school, he played third while future Royal Mike Moustakas played shortstop.The Marlins drafted him in the first round of the 2007 (12th overall) with the assumption that if he can hit for a little bit of power and continue to play amazing defense, he would become an above-average third baseman. Obviously, things haven't worked out, but I wouldn't say that Dominguez was a "bad" pick by any means. The Marlins were counting on him to hit for power and it never happened.
About Dominguez's power, it's not there. All the Astros fans that expect Dominguez to come in and hit fifteen homers a year if given playing time are in for a bit of a disappointment. In some cases, I think people overrate his raw power, just because they want him to hit for power so bad. I mean, if you just watch Dominguez take infield, his fielding ability stands out right away. If he played 130 games a year, I seriously think he could be one of the top five best defensive third baseman in the league.
He does pretty much everything right at third base. He has soft hands, a strong, accurate arm, and great range. On defense, he kind of reminds me of the Nationals Ryan Zimmerman. However, he is still going to have to hit in order to get playing time. His hit tool has never been impressive, and in 2012, it hasn't looked any better. In addition, Dominguez doesn't draw many walks. Hopefully, the Houston coaching staff can help him correct his approach at the plate. Dominguez probably isn't going to hit .260; something like .245 would be a more realistic expectation. The Astros just called him up, so we'll see what he can do against major-league pitching in these coming months.
Overall this was a win-win trade, in which both teams benefited. The Marlins gave up two players with not very-high ceilings, but fairly high floors. Carlos Lee is a bundle of fun, and he will provide a huge upgrade over Sanchez. Marlins fans have no reason to worry that either of these players is going to become an All-Star, but they could see either one facing Miami at some point in the couple years.