Eighteen years after drafting him, Chase Utley will finally don Dodger blue. The 36-year-old has struggled with production and injuries this season, but has hit well since returning from an ankle injury. The trade doesn’t instill confidence that Howie Kendrick will return quickly from an injury of his own, but if Utley continues hitting as he has recently, there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off in production.
Now, onto the prospects the Dodgers gave up.
Darnell Sweeney ranked 11th on the Dodgers’ farm coming into the season and placed 12th in my midseason update. The 13th rounder from 2012 has made a steady ascent up the minor league ranks, steadily producing everywhere he’s played. A switch-hitter, Sweeney offers gap power and the speed to steal some leg doubles, flashing fringy home run pop. Darnell has averaged a strike out a game this year and has walked eight percent of the time. He’s dramatically improved his base stealing this year, converting on 32 of his 45 attempts.
Defense has been the issue for Sweeney. Drafted as a shortstop, he moved to second base in deference to Corey Seager, but has also spent time in left field, center field, and even seen a few games at third base this season. His hands can be hard, his arm can be erratic and his reads in the outfield are raw, but he has the speed to recover and chase down balls in the gap.
His offense has taken a step back in 2015, and with the defensive questions, most seem to see him in a utility role. However, if he works hard on his defense and returns to his 2014 offensive profile, Darnell could turn into a starter for them.
John Richy was the club’s third round pick a year ago, a right-handed starter out of UNLV. The Colorado native made his debut with Ogden last year, posting a 5.71 ERA in eight games, then moved up to the friendly confines in Great Lakes, where he lowered that mark to 1.65 in four contests. This season, he’s been with Rancho all year and ranked 38th in the system entering the season.
Richy is a sinker-baller, as evidenced by his career 1.43 ground-to-fly ratio. His fastball hovers around 90 mph, though he’s touched the mid-90s in the past. His secondaries are fringy, though he keeps the ball in the strike zone, walking just 34 batters in 124.1 innings this season.
As his velocity has regressed since he was drafted, Richy’s profile has become more of a back end starter. If that doesn’t work, he could attempt a relief role which may coax more velocity.
While it may seem curious to surrender a prospect like Sweeney for a month and a half of Utley, he has become a redundant commodity in the organization. Both Kiké Hernandez and Jose Peraza offer similar profiles and are more highly regarded, with Hernandez already establishing himself in the Majors and Peraza a consensus Top-100 prospect in the minors. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t deal Sweeney for a rental, but the market has spoken.
In the end, the Dodgers get a veteran replacement for Kendrick and give up a player who didn’t seem to fit in the organization and a righty with a modest ceiling. Sweeney could turn into something more than a utility man, a bet the Dodgers are already making with two other players.[divide]