5:57pm: The Braves announced that they have traded Kubitza and right-hander Nate Hyatt to the Angels in exchange for left-hander Ricardo Sanchez.
4:49pm: The Angels are close to acquiring third base prospect Kyle Kubitza from the Braves, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links). Per Gonzalez, the Halos will land Kubitza without parting with anyone on their Major League roster. Earlier today, Gonzalez reported that the Halos were prioritizing adding a third base prospect in trades.
Kubitza, 24, ranks 10th among Braves prospects, per Baseball America and 16th according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo. In 529 plate appearances at Double-A last season, Kubitza batted .295/.405/.470 with eight homers and 21 stolen bases.
Baseball America describes Kubitza as a “fiery” player with a smooth line-drive stroke, some of the best plate discipline in the Braves organization and one of the strongest infield arms in the game. Both MLB.com and BA note that Kubitza’s swing can get a bit long, which leads to a high strikeout rate and prevents him from fully realizing his power potential in a game setting. His acquisition is significant for the Angels not necessarily for their 2015 club, but for their long-term future, as David Freese is a free agent next offseason and former top prospect Kaleb Cowart’s development appears to have stalled.
Hyatt, also 24, was a 13th-round pick in 2012 and repeated Class-A Advanced this past season with much-improved results the second time around. After posting a 3.86 ERA with 10.6 K/9 but a troublesome 5.8 BB/9 in 2013, Hyatt dropped his ERA to 2.71 and posted a similar strikeout rate (10.4 K/9) with markedly better control (3.9 BB/9) in 63 innings. He’s a pure reliever, never having started a game as a professional.
In Sanchez, the Braves have acquired a player that ranked second among Halos farmhands, according to BA, but is years away from contributing at the Major League level. Sanchez is just 17 and spent last season pitching in the Arizona Rookie League, posting a 3.49 ERA with a 43-to-22 K/BB ratio in 38 2/3 innings (nine starts, three relief appearances). The Angels signed him for a $580K bonus out of Venezuela in July 2013.
BA and MLB.com both praise Sanchez’s smooth, effortless delivery and note that his curveball is his best pitch, projecting to be a plus offering. Despite his age, Sanchez’s fastball is in the 94 to 95 mph range, and he already appears to have a feel for a changeup, based on the pair of scouting reports. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweets that Sanchez has the most future value of any player in this trade and calls it a nice acquisition for an improving Braves farm system.
Sanchez is a high-ceiling acquisition, but his age is yet another indicator that the Braves do indeed appear to be focusing on 2017, when their new Cobb County stadium will open. The Angels, meanwhile, acquire a player in Kubitza that can step into the lineup in 2016, if not sooner in the event of an injury in the infield this season.