There’s not usually a lot to say about moves involving players designated for assignment, but I think it’s worth pointing out that in yesterday’s trade of RHP Mauricio Llovera for Red Sox minor leaguer RHP Marques Johnson, the San Francisco Giants have once again done that savvy thing where they’ve made a move to add a player from the previous year’s draft.
It’s kind of a neat little trick they’ve only done two other times prior and I’m really stretching it with one of the two examples. The most “famous” one was trading for Zack Cozart’s expiring deal ahead of the 2020 season in order to get the Angels’ first round pick in 2019, shortstop Will Wilson. The other “example” is trading for RHP Kai-Wei Teng the season after the Twins had signed him out of the KBO.
Wilson has a .239/.320/.418 line across four minor league seasons and a decidedly non-Giantsy 125-353 BB-K and while Teng has 544 strikeouts in 426.1 minor league innings, he also has 212 walks to go along with it. He still looks like a solid prospect, but between the two of them, hardly spectacular results. So, why call them savvy?
I just think it’s neat to get an extra draft pick where your team didn’t have to pay the bonus. It’s also early enough in the player’s development process that getting the Giants’ player development process involved could better realize what might’ve been lost to other teams. There’s always the risk that a prospect doesn’t pan out, but adding raw talent is never bad and it’s nice to see the Giants’ front office continue to be aggressive on this front.
If it sounds like I’m saying Marques Johnson will pan out, please don’t misunderstand. Llovera is exactly the kind of reliever a lot of teams have and while trading him away in return for another player is typical, historically, that player received in return has almost always been as boring. This one has one flake of spice on it by being a 2022 draftee.
The Red Sox selected Johnson in the 11th round of of Long Beach State, where he transitioned from reliever to starter in his senior season.
Blogging the Red Sox: America’s most beloved Red Sox blog wrote at the time:
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Johnson “has a fast arm,” according to his Baseball America scouting report. “His average fastball touches 95 mph and sits 91-93 mph. He generates high spin rates with his fastball, but as of yet, that has not generated exceptional movement or life on his heater. He throws a low-80s above-average slider that has plenty of tilt. He’s steadily improved his now fringe-average changeup.”
Sox Prospects has a few more notes:
Mechanics: Throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, starting on the first base side of the rubber. Athletic delivery with some effort and deception. High leg kick. Good extension. Arm comes through late and high and can be disruptive to hitters.
Fastball: 93-96 mph. Tops out at 98 mph. Fastball has a very high spin rate and intriguing characteristics.
Slider: 83-85 mph. Shape varies, with some more vertical and others more horizontal. Does not consistently snap the pitch off and can get loose with it in the zone. Potential fringe-average pitch with continued refinement.
He also has a changeup that’s more of a work in progress.
The overwhelming read on this is that the Giants traded 27-year old Mauricio Llovera who was on the 40-man roster and therefore made the major league minimum for 23-year old potential future Mauricio Llovera who makes the minor league minimum.
When I read what he features, I also think he has the potential to be the Mauricio Llovera we saw briefly with the Giants, right down to the command-control issues. Johnson’s career BB/9 in college was 4.7 against a 10.8 K/9. Through his first 28 minor league games — where, it should be noted, it looks like he’s being used in the later innings and as a closer — it’s a 6.3 BB/9 and 11.3 K/9 (43-24 K-BB in 34.1 IP).
So, I assume the Giants will work on making sure that fastball is a sinker if it isn’t already and polish up that slider so that he slots in with their preferred pitching profile of a 95+ fastball-2500 rpm slider guy. Their pitching lab has a good track record, but even if it doesn’t work out in this case, it’s great to see the team get a guy who fits their plan instead of just a guy.
Also, even though he grew up in Hemet, California (where he played two years of community college before transferring to Long Beach), Baseball Reference says he was born in San Jose, which could very well mean that he has Bay Area Ties.