Left-handed pitcher Caleb Baragar might be a viable option for the San Diego Padres as they look for pitchers for the 2021 season.
Intra-division trades don’t often happen, and for a good reason. There is always a fear that one of the players will torture your team for years. Naturally, most intra-division trades involve lower-level pieces that shouldn’t have a large impact.
A.J. Preller’s most recent trade within the NL West was when he sent away Alex Dickerson to the Giants last year. The Padres had designated Dickerson for assignment, and the Giants sent Franklin Van Gurp in return. Now it’s time for the two teams to make another low-level trade with Caleb Baragar as the centerpiece.
Baragar was a 9th round pick in 2016 out of Indiana. He served as a starter throughout the minor leagues, but in 2020 the Giants used him as a reliever on their team. In 2019 he primarily pitched in Double-A and there he had a 3.45 ERA and 3.89 FIP in 120 innings. In 2020 in the big leagues, he had a 4.03 ERA and 4.04 FIP in 22.1 innings.
At this point its reasonable to be asking, “why is this player worth being the centerpiece of a trade, even if it is a low-level trade?” Based on what I have told you, it’s perfectly reasonable to be asking that. He has never been a top-30 prospect; his minor league numbers aren’t great. Why focus on him?
The reason why he should be on A.J. Preller’s radar is his advanced analytics, specifically his spin rate. He uses his fastball 75% of the time, then pretty evenly splits the other 25% between a curveball and slider. In 2020, his fastball ranked in the 92nd percentile in spin rate and his curveball in the 93rd percentile. That high spin rate put him in the 70th percentile for xBA and 65th percentile for xERA. All of this was done in a shortened season, so it’s reasonable to be skeptical of the sample size.
His spin rates could be high because he was used in a reliever role. For comparison, Drew Pomeranz saw an uptick in his fastball spin after converting from a starter to a reliever. I see Baragar as an underrated pitcher that shines in advanced analytics. Fangraphs still has his future value as a 35+. Based on their own standards, they are greatly underestimating him, and should have him closer to a 50. A 35 rating projects that a player will go back and forth between the big leagues and the minors. A 50 rating projects them to be an average arm that will consistently stick in the MLB.
While he won’t be the final piece of the puzzle for the Padres, he is a very good risk to take. The pitcher has all three of his minor league options. He is a lefty arm that has experience starting or could be used out of the bullpen. And most importantly, he is an undervalued player that the Padres can get the best out of. If the Giants feel the same as Fangraphs, then the Padres can acquire an average arm for a fringe MLB player’s price.