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The Twins have amazingly acquired three valuable minor league arms

In the past week, the Twins have added Zack Littell, Dietrich Enns, and Gabriel Moya to their minor league system—and they gave up virtually nothing.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics
Farewell Jaime, we hardly knew ye.
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Late Saturday night, The Twins and Yankees completed a trade that send newly-acquired Jaime Garcia and cash to New York for minor league pitchers Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns. If you remember, the Twins had just traded Huascar Ynoa to the Braves for Garcia and Anthony Recker, and traded John Ryan Murphy to the Diamondbacks for Gabriel Moya.

Let’s take the money out of the equation for a second — after all, Jim Pohlad has repeatedly insisted his pockets are open if it makes the team better. The Twins traded Huascar Ynoa for Jaime Garcia and Anthony Recker, and then traded Garcia for Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns. Adding Recker also allowed them to trade John Ryan Murphy to the Diamondbacks for Gabriel Moya, a LHP pospect. If we do some fancy middle-school algebra here, that equation rearranges itself to Ynoa + Murphy + money = Recker + Littell + Enns + Moya. That sounds good on its own, but if we dive even deeper, the Twins may have pulled off the steal of the century.

Just to get this out of the way: it’s spelled Zack. No need for debate on this one. Zack Littell was ranked a mid-season top 100 prospect by KATOH, and MLB Pipeline rated him the #22 prospect in the Yankees’ System. He seems to have put something together this season with the Yankees. In 2013-2016, as a part of the Mariners organization, he averaged about 7.87 K/9. While only posting a 7.19 K/9 at High-A this season for the Yankees, he was promoted to Double-A and put together an eye-blistering 10.64 K/9. The best part of this improvement? It’s likely sustainable. While increasing his strikeout percentage to 29.7 — which is 5 points above his previous career high — Littell has kept his walk, ground ball, and fly ball percentages all in line with his career numbers. Plain and simple, he is just striking out more guys. So what has been the difference? Littell himself attributes it to maturity. He was quoted as saying:

“I’m getting older and maturing more, kind of learning myself and who I am much more,” Littell said. “I think that’s just the difference every year is just I get more and more mature in my mechanics, mature in my delivery and really just try to be better.”

The other thing that is impressive about Littell is his ability to limit runs scored. He has a 2.31 FIP and 2.27 xFIP at Double-A, and he’s outperforming those numbers, too. He has a 2.05 ERA at Double-A. By that measure, he is instantly the best starter at Chattanooga. He is more than half a point better than Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves, and over a full point better than Felix Jorge or Kohl Stewart. Poor Dereck Rodriguez, son of Pudge, is two full points of ERA worse than the new guy.

Son of Pudge might actually be the best guy in the system to compare Littell to though. Both started the season at High-A and were promoted mid-season. Rodriguez has pitched only two fewer innings than Littell. Rodriguez has given up five more runs and three more hits over that period, and struck out 16 fewer batters. On top of that, Zack Littell actually has slightly better numbers this season than Jose Berrios did in 2015 at Double-A.

At only 21 years old, Littell is 3.4 years younger than the average player at his level. While Twins fans may not see him debut this year, he is not far off either. This is the kind of trade move that we, as Twins fans, should have been hoping for. A guy who can help the team possibly as soon as 2018, more likely 2019, without trading away pieces that would have hurt those teams.

The other guy in this Garcia trade, however, is likely to get a cup of coffee even sooner than Littell.

Dietrich Enns is a mid-westerner. He played high school baseball on the south side of the Chicago Metro, and college ball at Central Michigan University. Not quite “one of us,” but close enough. More importantly, he is a 26-year-old left handed pitcher at Triple-A. He has been used as both a starter and a reliever in his career; and while starting exclusively this year, he projects as a long-relief and spot starter type of player. He owns a 2.29 ERA across 39.1 innings pitched this season. While he was a fly ball pitcher earlier in his career, over the last couple years at the highest level of minor league baseball, he has become a slight ground-ball guy. He also has a tendency to get batters to pull his pitches.

Enns is a somewhat of a contact pitcher. He has struck out 23.6% of batters this season, while walking 6.4%. That is good for 8.47 K/9 and 2.29 BB/9. He also has pitched to a 2.29 ERA, which is better than every starter currently in Rochester that isn’t Dillon Gee or Kyle Gibson. Like Littell, Enns has also pitched to a better ERA than FIP or xFIP, in his case those numbers are 2.73 and 3.54 respectively.

According to Minor League Ball, Enns throws four good pitches. The best is a High-80’s or Low-90’s fastball, followed by a change-up in mid-to-low-80’s, and two breaking pitches- a slider and a curve. To me this sounds like a stereotypical soft-tossing, crafty lefty. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion. It is also worth noting, Enns seems to have successfully come back from a 2014 Tommy John Surgery, but has suffered from other injuries this season.

After last season, our friends over at Pinstripe Alley graded him as an ‘A’ and considered him an option for their big league club for the 2017 season. Despite being left unprotected and passed over in the Rule 5 draft, he could very well be a member of the Twins before rosters expand in September, but is otherwise a very good candidate for a call-up at that point. I would currently guess he is third on the list of potential call-ups, behind Gibson and Gee.

Speaking of Pinstripe Alley, they aren’t quite sure what to make of this trade. I will be happy to speak up from a Twins perspective. This is a great trade for us. If the Twins get 2-3 years of replacement level relief out of this deal, they win big; and both guys have much higher ceilings than that. Enns profiles very similarly to 2016 Adalberto Mejia.

The third pitcher that the Twins acquired this week is also an interesting lefty. Gabriel Moya had been used primarily as a closer by the Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate. He has posted some impressive numbers in his 17 saves. His K/9 is 14.02, while he has limited his BB/9 to 2.47. Even more impressive is his 0.82 ERA. He has instantly become one of the best relievers at Chattanooga, similar to Nick Burdi when healthy, or John Curtiss before his promotion.

Baseball America rated Moya as the “best change-up” in the Diamondbacks system prior to this season. 2080 Baseball projected him being a solid middle-relief option as early as the 2018 season. He is also only 22 years old. Over at AZ Snake Pit, they considered this a good deal, because left-handed relief prospects is a position of strength for them, but acknowledged just how amazing Moya’s numbers have been.

The last new addition, Anthony Recker, is organizational depth at catcher; but could fill in at the MLB level for an injury situation without blocking a prospect. Stu already addressed his most notable feature, so I will just leave it at that. I would consider Recker for Murphy to basically be an even swap.

After all the dust has settled, the Twins went from buyers to sellers in about four days flat, but seem to be winning the trade deadline anyway. They have added three pitchers who could be very good, and are all potentially within two years of a MLB debut. In order to do so they gave up next to nothing. This is “One Red Paperclip” level trading. Chalk it up in the win column for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.

Oh, and there’s still another 22-ish hours to go.


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