Although Lobaton, the Nationals new backup catcher, and Karns, who was ranked by Baseball America as the Nationals’ ninth best prospect, are the centerpieces of the deal, both Rivero and Vettleson have a chance to offer long term value for Washington.
Rivero, 22, is a lefthander who ranked 17th on Baseball America’s list of the top 30 Nationals prospects. Although of relatively slight build – just 6’0, 150 lbs – Rivero’s stuff gives him the chance to be a number three starter, with a live fastball that he can run up into the mid-90s and a curveball and change up that are inconsistent but show flashes of average to above average potential. His performance in the minors has been mixed as he posted a respectable 3.40 ERA in 127 innings for High-A Charlotte last season, but his peripherals – 3.4 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9 – were more fitting of an organizational filler than a top prospect. In fact, his walk rate has regressed every year since the start of his professional career in 2010, but if he can improve his command and consistently get ahead in the count, then his strikeout rates should increase as well.
MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd compared Rivero to fellow lefthander Ian Kroll, who the Nationals acquired last offseason and shipped to Detroit in this one. Rivero has similar stuff to Kroll and like Kroll, Rivero will start his first season in Washington with Double-A Harrisburg, but Ian had already failed as a starter when he arrived in the Nationals organization. Rivero, on the other hand, still has the capacity to start and will likely be given every opportunity to do so.
Vettleson, 22, is an outfielder who has had mixed results since being drafted in the first round, 42nd overall, in 2010. He was toolsy and athletic at the time, with the ability to play solid defense in right and a bat that would hinge on how much power he developed. So far, that power has come and gone in stints, with Vettleson knocking 15 out for Bowling Green in 2012, en route to a .275/.340/.432 slash line, but managing just 4 home runs and a .388 slugging percentage for Charlotte last year. That’s low even for the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Top scouts seem varied in their appraisal of Vettleson’s abilities; Baseball America called him the Rays 20th best prospect, but ESPN’s Keith Law had him all the way up at eighth. His ceiling is that of defensively above average right fielder with 20-25 home run power, but the risk is high.
Neither of these players are sure bets for anything but they offer plenty of upside should their tools pan out and 2014 could be a pivotal year for both prospects.