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They Might Be Giants

Avelino and De Paula: A Look At Who The Giants Got For Cutch

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It wasn’t going to be superstars, but the Giants got a decent return.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at New York Mets
Yes, this is the only picture of Abiatal Avelino that is available.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a year ago, the Giants pulled off a trade for Andrew McCutchen, hoping that a solid veteran bat, even if past his prime, would help propel the team to heights in 2018. That…didn’t happen, although McCutchen wasn’t the problem on the team. Now, the Giants have traded him to the Yankees, and gotten a couple of prospects back. Did they do well?

Before we dive in, a quick reminder: The Yankees are paying for a one-month-plus-playoffs(?) rental, and McCutchen is a good player but not a gamechanger at this point. The Giants were never going to get future superstars.

Abiatal Avelino

Avelino’s minor league career finally woke up this season, in his third season playing at Double-A. That got him a midseason ranking on MLB Pipeline at 23, though he hadn’t made any preseason lists.

Offensively, Avelino’s calling card is his speed. His best season was 2015, when he stole 54 bases in 72 attempts. He hasn’t matched that since, partially due to limited playing time and partially due to not getting on base very much. This season, he has 25 steals in 31 attempts. But the bat is what matters.

After starting the season at Triple-A and moving down, Avelino hit .337/.392/.553 in 49 games with Trenton before moving back up to Triple-A, where his struggles have returned. The biggest difference with Avelino’s Double-A stint was an unprecedented power stroke (he had 10 home runs in those 49 games, after having a career high of 6 in a season previous), but also simply getting hits. That latter skill eluded him in Triple-A, though he still showed better power overall at the higher level. In 74 games at Triple-A this season, he has only five home runs, but he’s added a career-high six triples and six doubles.

Avelino’s defense will keep him going as a prospect. He doesn’t have the range to be an everyday shortstop, but his soft hands and a plus arm will let him do okay there. He can play third and second base as well. That gives him a utility player profile that will help his chances. The power blossoming he had this season needs to stick for him to improve the other aspects of his game, but having turned 23 this year, it’s possible he had growth rather than a one-year spike when it comes to that tool.

Avelino is not on the 40-Man roster, but he will be Rule 5 eligible in the offseason, which makes for an interesting roster conundrum.

To be honest, Avelino looks a lot like Alen Hanson with defense, just younger and without much development. As a utility player, he’s an interesting fit in an organization that has Hanson, Kelby Tomlinson, Ryan Howard and Jalen Miller running from MLB to High-A ball, all of whom have some tools that lend them to a utility infielder role.

Juan De Paula

De Paula is the Lottery Ticket of this trade. Ranked as the Yankees #21 prospect in the offseason, and currently ranked #26 by MLB Pipeline, the 20-year old has put together a very nice season at short-season Staten Island, his second year at the level. He had a 1.71 ERA, with 46 strikeouts and 26 walks in 47.1 IP. His better peripheral is the .207 average allowed, which is right in line with his career norm across four seasons.

De Paula’s fastball has been on the upswing as he’s grown, and it now sits in the mid-90’s after sitting in the upper 80’s as a teen. He has more control than command, and he throws consistently to quadrants of the plate but not always in the zone.

That’s carried him, though he does throw a curveball and a changeup. Both of his offspeed pitches will need to be improved, both in terms of control and consistency, but at 20 that’s hardly an unusual situation. The changeup appears to be the more advanced of the two, as one scouting report preferred a slider (which I don’t see mentioned in other reports) to the curve De Paula throws.

One notable thing about De Paula is that his delivery is very high-effort, laying much of his power on his arm. There is some elevated concern there for injury, because of that. However, as he grows and gets more strength in his lower body, he could make some tweaks that will help.

(Staten Island…lowkey one of the better backdrops in baseball during the day)

A couple of scouting reports lists his ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a late-inning reliever, but both of these scenarios are dependent on improving his control (and staying healthy, of course).

Summary

Once again, it’s a one-month rental of Andrew McCutchen ahead of free agency, and the Giants were not going to get superstars. The question is, did the Giants get more than they would’ve gotten from a compensatory draft pick after the second (or 4th) round? Yeah, absolutely.

One bigger question: How do these two compare to the two players that the Giants traded away to get McCutchen: Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick? Let’s save that for another day.

I’m still a little stymied by Avelino, and how he fits into the organization (this might be the beginning of the end of Kelby Tomlinson’s tenure with the Giants). He’s not a future starter, but this season showed some hope of a Major League bench role. If it was a one-season wonder, though, his floor might not be higher than Triple-A. But De Paula’s a very interesting lottery ticket. He’s raw, but there is a lot of potential in him and he’s got a great chance to be a Major League contributor

One final word: Scouting reports are always varied in their quality and consistency, but one thing stood out in the reports on both these players. Around the board, they were praised for their baseball intelligence, their hard work and knowledge of the game. If nothing else, those are traits we’ve seen the Giants look for in young players and generally have led to performances that have surprised people. So to that end, these are acquisitions that fit the Giants.

Editor’s Note: This tweet went out earlier, adding an interesting wrinkle to the Giants’ minor league system.