As the co-editor of both Friars On Base and Yanks Go Yard, the Fansided Network’s Padres’ and Yankees’ team sites respectively, I found myself in a unique position earlier today. The Yankees had long been smitten on Padres’ third baseman Chase Headley, and now, because of the suspension of Alex Rodriguez and the inconsistent play of Kelly Johnson, the Bombers found themselves calling Omar Minaya and A.J. Hinch, asking about Headley.
So, it was no surprise that while I was preparing to pour concrete at a friend’s house, my phone began blowing up from both coasts. Yanks Go Yard senior writer Ricky Keeler from the east coast, co-editor of Friars On Base Dave Warren from the west coast. A deal was imminent, and Headley was coming to the Bronx. Elation from one staff, perhaps some sadness from the other. The Padres had agreed to send Headley to New York as a summer rental, for a journeyman utility infielder, and a promising pitching prospect. So exactly who are Yangervis Solarte and Rafael DePaula? Well, thanks to my unique position, with one foot in each of the Padres’ and Yankees’ worlds, I can tell you!
Yangervis Solarte has spent the better part of the past nine seasons bouncing around the minor league systems of the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers. He’s unique in the fact that he can play second base, shortstop, third base, and the corner outfield spots. He recently had been recalled by the Yankees from their Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes Barre. Solarte beat out long time Yankees’ farm system favorite, Eduardo Nunez for the 25th and final spot on the Yankees’ big league roster coming out of camp, shocking the world.
The 27-year-old who had been entrusted to man the middle and corner infield by Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi, did not disappoint in his first month in the big leagues. Solarte hit .303, with an .865 OPS, along with 9 doubles during the first month of the season. The “Yangy Clipper” quickly became a fan favorite, with even talk of Solarte being an early contender for AL Rookie of the Year honors. Solarte followed up his hot April, with an almost identical May, batting .299, with 5 long balls, and 13 driven in. Now whether the scouting reports caught up to Solarte, or he simply hit a wall, the month of June was a complete dumpster fire. He dropped more than 30 points on his batting average, and he looked completely lost at the plate. Things did not improve as he finished his rookie campaign in the Bronx, hitting only .254, with 6 home runs and 31 RBI.
Solarte should make a very valuable super-utility man for the Friars. He’s a switch-hitter with some pop, who can at times, be an on-base machine. While he struggled through all of June and most of July, Yankees’ coaches raved about his work ethic and team-first mentality. Perhaps after experiencing the ups and downs of his first season in the big leagues, he can bounce back and become the .270/15/50 utility man that can help the Padres in several different roles.
The big catch of this deal, was getting right-handed pitcher, 23-year-old Rafael De Paula. Many in the Yankees’ organization viewed him as one of the building blocks of a future starting rotation along with Luis Severino and Ian Clarkin. De Paula’s stuff has been described by many as “electric”, and he was often requested as a prospect piece in many trade proposals.
A little bit of background of De Paula. He stands 6’2″, weighs just a hair over 210 lbs, and throws hard. He’s from La Victorian, Dominican Republic and signed with the Yankees back in 2010. He was under some scrutiny from MLB following his contract signing, while MLB looked into the validity of his age. Upon his debut in the Dominican Summer League, he opened eyes, and in 61 2/3 innings, posting a 1.46 ERA, with a 12.49 K/9 rate.
His primary pitch is the fastball, one that has been
as “…one that sinks well, forcing most hitters to pound it into the ground.” His velocity ranges between 92-94 MPH, on average, but has been known to pop it at 96-98 MPH on occasion. De Paula’s other pitches include an above average slider, and a change-up that is still in the works. He was once ranked at the Yankees’ #4 prospect before hitting the wall during second half of last season. He split time between Charleston and Tampa, the Low and High A teams in the Yankees’ system.
De Paula put up solid numbers in Charleston, posting a 6-2 record, with a 2.94 ERA in 13 starts. His K/9 rate increased again, jumping to 13.4. In 10 more starts after being promoted to Tampa, De Paula showed signs of struggling, going 1-3, with a 6.06 ERA. His K/9 rate dipped to ONLY 9.2.
So far in 2014, De Paula’s season has once again been one of inconsistency. Pitching in Tampa again, he posted a 6-5 record, with a 4.15 ERA, while raising his K/9 rate back up to 10.5. His struggles in Tampa last season were due in part, to walking too many hitters, averaging over 5 1/2 walks per 9 innings. He’s lowered that rate in 2014, averaging just over 3 walks per 9 this season. Consistency is De Paula’s only issue, but he is still young. If he can harness his control, and show more maturity as he goes through the Padres’ system, he could be in San Diego by late 2015 or early 2016.
Trade Grade: Given the fact that Headley was going to walk, and the best the Padres could hope for is a draft pick if they made him a qualifying offer, a useful utility man with a ton of flexibility, and a diamond in the the rough power arm, I’ll give the Padres a B+ on this transaction.