Hudgins & Sinisi Traded to San Diego

Here’s the deal:   Rangers 2003 third rounder John Hudgins, a right-handed pitcher, and 2003 second rounder Vincent Sinisi, a lefty  first baseman / outfielder, leave the Texas organization for Padres’ Triple-A center fielder Freddy Guzman and 19 year old right-hander Cesar Rojas.

Texas gets the sort of player they’ve coveted for quite awhile now, a plus center fielder with game-changing speed,  plus a big young, raw arm, which the Rangers development team also favors.

San Diego gets two players who are much better fits for their program than they are in Texas, and thus more valuable to the Padres than they were to the Rangers:    a smart, crafty fly-ball pitcher and a pure, left-handed gap hitter who can exploit the big alleys in Petco Park.

I like the deal for everyone involved.  Here’s a rundown on the players:

Freddy Antonio Guzman:   .274 / .348 / .411 with 11 SB’s @ Triple-A Portland  (assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma)

Off and on this winter, rumors circulated that the Rangers were interested in acquiring Tampa Bay center fielder Joey Gathright, universally regarded as the fastest man in baseball.   It turns out that Texas probably couldn’t have come up with a deal ridiculous enough to get Gathright–Tampa later turned down an offer of Florida’s outstanding left-handed rookie Scott Olsen for their speedster.  But a few months down the road, they got a guy who might prove to be Gathright’s equal…for a lot less than Tampa wanted for Gathright.

Switch-hittting Freddy Guzman is clearly the fastest man in the minors now that Gathright has graduated to the majors and he’s an exceedingly gifted base stealer.    In 2002, Guzman stole 69 bases while getting caught a dozen times.  In 2003, he stole 90 bags…in only 107 tries.   In 2004, he stole 70 in 82 attempts.  He went into the 2005 season expected to win a job as the Padres center fielder, but he blew out his elbow in the spring and lost the season to Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

San Diego sent veteran scout Bill Clark to an open workout in the Dominican Republic in the spring of 2000 where he timed a "Pedro de los Santos" (Guzman) at 6.5 in the 60 yard dash.  He immediately offered a $15,000.00 signing bonus and brought the 19 year old to Arizona in March, 2000.

Guzman began  his career as a second baseman but midway through his second year at the keystone, he broke his leg breaking up a double play and missed the  rest of the season.  That winter as he was preparing for his return to action, Guzman requested a move to center  field  and he took to it like a duck to water.  Immediately, according to one report, his left-right range topped  the scouting  charts and  he showed tremendous  instincts.

He is considered to have double-plus range (obviously) and makes good reads, but his arm is considered a bit below average.  Small, at 5’10",  165 lbs., he’ll never hit for much power, but he makes good contact, has always displayed solid plate discipline, and–it goes without saying–can get singles that would be garden-variety ground ball outs for most everyone else.

This year, Guzman has fanned 19 times and walked 14 times in 124 at-bats and those ratios have been consistent throughout his career.  In 2004, he drew 30 walks and struck out 46 times in 264 at-bats for Triple-A Portland.

This year, the switch-hitter has gotten to lefties at a .296 / .367 / .407 clip and is hitting .268 / .343 / .412 against right-handers.    In 2004 at Triple-A Portland, he  hit .292 / .376 / .361 against righties and .290 / .328 / .435 against lefties.  At Double-A Mobile, he hit .295 / .404 / .352 against right-handers and .260 / .269 / .400 against southpaws.

Guzman will be assigned to Oklahoma for now, but he should be in Arlington before long.  Some see Guzman as a prototype center fielder while others will tell you that he doesn’t have what it takes to be an everyday player, but in either case, his speed and defensive capabilities in center make him a valuable asset and the best player in this deal.

Cesar A. Rojas:   2-4;  6.75 ERA @ Arizona Rookie League Padres in 2005

Rojas, a 19 year old Venezuelan, is exactly the sort of pitcher the Rangers have targeted lately–and the antithesis of John Hudgins.  He’s big (6’3",  200 lbs.) and throws very hard (Rangers scouts had him at 95 this spring).   he also throws a slider and a change.    San Diego signed him for a six-figure bonus back in July, 2002.   He’ll simply move about ten miles down Bell Road from Padres extended spring training in Peoria to Rangers camp in Surprise.

John Hudgins:   1-1;  6.38 ERA @ Triple-A Oklahoma (assigned to Double-A Mobile)

It seemed inevitable that, someday, John Hudgins would somehow end up in the Padres organization after his bigget supporter in the Rangers organization, Grady Fuson, left Texas for San Diego where he is Vice President of Player Development and Scouting.   Hudgins, a smart, savvy collegiate pitcher is the sort of pitcher that Fuson coveted, but that the current Rangers development staff probably would not have drafted in the first place.

Hudgins entered professional baseball coming off of one of the more heroic efforts in College World Series history, earning a CWS MVP award in spite of the fact that his Stanford Cardinal did not take home the top prize.  After a truncated first professional season, Hudgins soared through the High-A Cal League before making a seamless transition to Double-A ball in 2004.

Hudgins began 2004 in the High-A Cal League where he went 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA before executing a seamless transition to Double-A Frisco that July. In his first month as a Texas Leaguer, Hudgins went 2-2 / 2.45 and held the league to a .203 average through six starts.   He finished up going 5-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 12 starts, holding the league to a .226 average and recording 64 strikeouts in 69 innings.

Hudgins figured to start the 2005 season in the Oklahoma rotation, but as spring training drew to a close, there were rumblings that he would return to Frisco, where he wouldn’t even have a spot in the rotation. One source told us that they were contemplating grooming him for an R.A.. Dickey-style long man role. At the 11th hour, however, Hudgins was named the opening day starter for the RoughRiders and landed in the Oklahoma rotation after three solid Texas League starts.   

Overall, Hudgins final numbers in Oklahoma last year were terrible.  He went 3-7 with a 5.87 ERA, but what is easily forgotten in light of his final numbers is that Hudgins was outstanding early on for the RedHawks, posting a 2.88 ERA in six May starts.  He struggled in five June starts (7.33) and was even worse in July (8.80 in six starts).   But Hudgins had been pitching in pain all year and by the end of July, it was clear that there was no point in going further and he was shut down for the season.  Doctors found a calcium deposit growing in Hudgins’ elbow that had been grinding on the soft tissues, causing pain and inflammation.  He underwent minor surgery to correct the problem in August and returned to action without physical problems this spring.

Hudgins reminds me a bit of Rick Helling (and that’s not just because both were aces at Stanford).  Both hit double A with little more than a cup of coffee in A ball. Helling made 26 starts in the Texas League, posting a 3.60 ERA in Tulsa and Hudgins made 12 starts, posting a 3.13 ERA in Frisco. Like Helling in his prime, Hudgins brings a fastball that sits at 88-90, but is unafraid of challenging hitters with it nonetheless.   Like Helling, Hudgins is a pronounced fly-ball pitcher who gives up too many dingers.   Hudgins yielded 12 jacks in 69 Texas League frames back in 2004.   For frame of reference, Kameron Loe gave up 5 in 113  innings that same year.   

At his best, Hudgins outsmarts hitters. Aside from his outstanding change up which he "sells" by appearing to dramatically overthrow, he doesn’t possess plus stuff, but his intelligence, attitude and approach should allow him to succeed anyway.  In light of his fly-ball extremisim (0.69 G/F ratio this year) and propensity for giving up the long ball, however, he’s certainly a much better fit in San Diego’s spacious Petco Park than at Ameriquest Field in Arlington.

Vincent Sinisi:   .220 / .298 / .300 @ Triple-A Oklahoma / .309 / .373 / .368 @ Double-A Frisco  (assigned to Double-A Mobile)

Since winning an NCAA national championship for Rice University in 2003, Sinsi’s luck has been positively awful. Sinisi’s career (and possibly his life) were threatened by a horrible turn of events following a July 2004 outfield collision in which the Rice alum suffered a complex fracture of his forearm. A relentless staph infection ultimately necessitated seven surgeries before the arm could begin to heal correctly and Sinisi spent spring training 2005 sitting and watching.

He got off to a late start, missing the first five weeks of the season before reporting to Bakersfield for duty in mid-May. Relatively speaking, he got off to a slow start once he reported, hitting .295/ .354 / .386 in 44 at-bats during the month. He admitted to the DMN’s Todd Wills that he didn’t feel comfortable upon his return, saying that "everything was real fast at first."

Dom Chiti told Wills that Sinisi would have to "play his way out of the [California] league," and when June rolled around, that’s precisely what Sinisi did by hitting an absurd .398 / .480 / .716 in 88 at-bats for the month.

Sinisi hit the ground running in Frisco, going 11-23 with a homer and three doubles in his first 23 at-bats, but then things went south in a hurry and he suffered through a 2-31 slump before going on to finish July with a .175 / .237 / .214 line for the month. He rebounded in August going .296 /.333 /.398, but he clearly wasn’t himself.   He looked tired and, on occasion, disinterested. 

Back in good health for the first time in a long time, Sinisi hit his  way out of Frisco this spring, hitting .309 / .373 / .368.   Of concern, obviously, was the fact that Sinisi–who will be limited defensively to either first base or left field–did not demonstrate the sort of power that one would see from  a corner infielder or outfielder, especially one who doesn’t bring plus defense to the table.

Prior to this year, Sinisi has projected as a strict platoon guy, with lopsided splits.  Southpaws have usually dominated the sweet-swinging lefty, but this year, Sinisi tuned up lefties at a .462 / .563 / .615 clip at Frisco, albeit in just 13 at-bats.  In Oklahoma, he’s hit .333 / .333 / .500 against lefties in a dozen at-bats.

Mike Hindman

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