Grading The Prospects: LHP Matthew Liberatore Highlights Cardinals/Rays Trade

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The Ray and Cardinals have struck a significant trade involving four players and two draft picks:

  • The Cardinals Get: LHP Matthew Liberatore, C Edgardo Rodriguez & Competitive Balance Round B selection
  • The Rays Get: OF Jose Martinez, OF Randy Arozarena & Competitive Balance Round A selection

While Martinez may be the biggest name today, the prospects being moved can’t be overlooked.  Liberatore was set to be ranked as the Rays’ fourth best prospect on our soon to be released Top 10, and while Arozarena won’t be ranked quite that highly he’s no slouch.  Let’s take a look out our reports/grades for the two main prospects involved (Edgardo Rodriguez is just 19-years old and has 244 career PA after being limited to 10 games in ’19):

Matthew Liberatore – Left-Handed Pitcher
Current Age – 20
ETA – 2022
Grade – B+

Liberatore is still a work in progress, but his upside is clear.  Pitching at Single-A in ’19 he posted a 3.10 ERA while displaying all of the skills we look for from a pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 8.73 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.3% SwStr%)
  • Control – 3.56 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 57.3%

There’s obviously more upside in the strikeout department, especially with a curveball that has already flashed plus.  He complements it with a mid-90s fastball, slider and changeup, giving the 6’6” southpaw the arsenal to develop into a top of the rotation stud.  He’ll pitch the year at 20-years old and has only thrown 111.0 professional innings, so he still needs time to refine his stuff and develop.  That said the upside is obvious and it’s only a matter of time before he gets the respect he deserves.

Randy Arozarena – Outfielder
Current Age – 24 (he’ll turn 25 on February 28, 2020)
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – C+

Arozarena spent time at Double-A (116 PA) and Triple-A (283 PA) before arriving in the Majors (23 PA), showing signs of putting things together along the way.  In the minors he hit .344 with 15 HR and 17 SB, and while his .398 BABIP is obviously unsustainable he showed an improved approach (SwStr%):

  • 2018 – 9.6%
  • 2019 – 8.0%

The 2019 mark led to a 17.8% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate, and while those may not be elite numbers they give him a chance to be a solid top of the order hitter.  For that to happen he needs to continue refining his approach, while also becoming more efficient on the bases (he went 19-for-32 in SB overall last season).  That will be paramount, since he doesn’t have big power (think 8-12 HR).  Worst case he’s a fourth outfielder, though he has the potential to be more than that.

Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, Prospect 361, Baseball America

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