The roster rules brought on by the shortened 2020 MLB season led to more trades than usual being resolved with players to be named later, or PTBNL. The Orioles made a number of these deals through the month or so that teams were allowed to make trades. On Monday afternoon, they settled the last of their PTBNL deals, receiving 18-year-old pitcher Miguel Padilla from the Astros.
The trade that ultimately netted Padilla sent pitcher Hector Velazquez to Houston. If your first reaction to Velazquez’s name is, “Who?” that’s probably because he never actually pitched for the Orioles.
The O’s acquired Velazquez as a waiver claim less than a week before spring training shut down in March due to the pandemic. When the regular season got under way, Velazquez was outrighted off of the 40-man roster by the Orioles. That means he was passed through waivers unclaimed. The Astros acquired Velazquez from the O’s for a PTBNL on July 29.
Given Velazquez’s specific situation of having just passed through waivers less than a week before the trade, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this ended up being a PTBNL that quietly turns into a small cash transaction later. Velazquez never even pitched for the Astros, which wouldn’t have affected the PTBNL but does reflect that Houston probably only picked him up “just in case,” and that he was not worth that much. Getting even a low-level player for Velazquez is interesting.
Padilla is a lot like the players the Orioles received as PTBNLs in late September in the sense that he is a former international amateur signing from deep in a system. The Fangraphs prospect ranking for the Astros from January ranked 40 prospects and mentioned an additional 24 names to at least sort of keep an eye on. That’s 64 guys. Padilla is not one of them. He is a deep cut from the system.
After signing with the Astros as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela two years ago this month, Padilla spent the 2019 season with the Astros Dominican Summer League Affiliate. In 26 innings over 19 games, Padilla struck out 26 batters. This is surely something that got the attention of Elias. Padilla also issued 16 walks out of 109 batters faced. Just as surely, that’s why the Astros made him the PTBNL for Hector Velazquez.
Most of the international players who are signed are inked on or very close to July 2, the first day of a new signing period. Padilla being signed in November probably means he was discovered later than the typical prospect and did not command a bonus in the six figure range. The best I have been able to find was a guess from an eagle-eyed Astros fan tracking signings of a $50,000 signing bonus.
These are the kinds of players the Orioles were not getting, or at least not in the quantity that other teams were getting them, under the Dan Duquette regime and earlier. They just did not put in the money and effort to do that. It may be that none of Elias’s PTBNLs will amount to anything as Orioles. I think his strategy of using them to get some players the O’s couldn’t get as system depth themselves is an interesting one.
Two weeks ago, the Orioles received another pair of PTBNLs from the Braves. That was the return for Tommy Milone, traded to Atlanta on August 30. Atlanta has been operating under heavy restrictions on the international market due to some recent malfeasance under a now-banned executive’s umbrella, so they did not have the same pool of international talent deep in the system to draw from.
The O’s chose instead to get two 2018-drafted infielders from the Braves. AJ Graffanino, son of former MLBer Tony, was an eighth round pick. Greg Cullen was a 14th round pick in that draft. These acquisitions are more in the vein of the players acquired in the Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy deals from last offseason.
Unlike the other PTBNLs, these guys actually merited an “others of note” mention from Fangraphs in its pre-2020 Braves ranking. Cullen is under “Power As Carrying Tool,” with a blurb noting “pretty strong exit velocity data,” while Graffanino is labeled under “Bench Sorts.”
Graffanino hasn’t had any significant action since the 2018 season, when he played in 43 pro grames after being drafted. He missed the 2019 season, except for one at-bat, with an injury. He checks in as the current #30 prospect in the Orioles system by MLB Pipeline nonetheless.
With Padilla in the fold, these are the completed trades made by the Orioles since the start of the 2020 season:
- RHP Miguel Padilla from the Astros for Hector Velazquez
- SS Isaac De Leon from the Marlins for Richard Bleier
- IF Terrin Vavra, IF Tyler Nevin, and OF Mishel Deson from the Rockies for Mychal Givens
- LHP Kevin Smith and SS Victor Gonzalez from the Mets for Miguel Castro
- IF AJ Graffanino and IF Greg Cullen from the Braves for Tommy Milone
In addition to Graffanino, Vavra, Smith, and Nevin are on that top 30 prospects list. Smith, at #12, is ranked highest, with Vavra at #13 and Nevin at #22.