This morning, the Rays and the Padres agreed to a trade that will center around a swap of Tampa Bay reliever Alex Torres and San Diego utilityman Logan Forsythe, ESPN’s Keith Law reports. The Rays will also receive two young relievers in Brad Boxberger and Matt Lollis and a potential starter Matt Andriese in exchange for a second Rays pitchers and arguably the most intriguing player in this deal, Jesse Hahn.
Hahn has been absolutely dominant since becoming a professional. Last season in the High-A Florida State League, the 24 year old right hander pitched to a 2.15 ERA with a 8.5 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a FIP of 2.45 over 19 starts and 67 innings. The year before, in the short season New York-Penn league, he had a comparable 2.77 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 9.5 SO/9 and 2.07 FIP.
His stats are clearly impeccable but more importantly, he has the scouting reports to back them up. Hahn will occasionally hit triple digits on the gun with his fastball, although he generally works in the mid-90’s, and his two seamer is a bit slower but has excellent two plane break. Behind those, Hahn throws a curveball, changeup, and slider, although the his curveball is clearly the best of them and should be above average down the road. As seen by his stats, his command his strong, and he uses his repertoire and control to yield high strikeout and ground ball rates. Prior to the 2013 season, he was viewed as a sleeper prospect by minorleagueball.com’s John Sickels and was listed as the 14th best prospect in the Rays system by Baseball America. Fangraphs ranked him just yesterday as the 12th best prospect in their organization.
As with many young pitchers, the problem for Hahn is health. As a junior at Virginia Tech in 2010, Hahn had been viewed as a first round pick before Tommy John surgery dropped him all the way down the 6th round, where he was taken by the Rays. The surgery is not a death sentence by itself – most modern pitchers bounce back fully from it – but as a result of the operation, Hahn did not pitch for all of 2011 and faced largely younger competition both last year and in 2013, which taints his stats.
And while he could have a ceiling as a number two or number three starter, that’s a moderately unsubstantiated estimate as Hahn has never actually worked as a starter professionally. In an effort to assuage the transition back from injury, the Rays front office severely limited Hahn’s innings. Sure, He technically started 20 games last season, but he averaged just under three and a half innings per start and never threw more than five innings in a single game. If Hahn is to ever join the Padres rotation, he will have to prove that he can consistently log at six inning per game.
Should he be unable to do that that next season in Double-A then San Diego may have a powerful set up man on their hands, but considering the fact that they traded away two minor league relievers to acquire Hahn, I doubt that’s what they have in mind for his future.