Friday, the Braves and Angels agreed to a trade that sent reliever Jordan Walden to Atlanta in exchange for starter Tommy Hanson. Lets take a look at this trade and both players' career paths to this point.
Hanson is a great story as he was a very late draft pick that has successfully made it to the big leagues, selected in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft. In 2006, he didn't disappoint in the Appalachian League playing for the Danville Braves, finishing with a 4-1 record, with a 2.09 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. With that performance, Hanson was gaining attention in the baseball world, as he emerged into a top-ten prospect with the Braves and best pitching prospect in the South Atlantic League. In 2007, Hanson had no problems moving up to Class A with the Rome Braves, pitching to a 2-6 record, with a 2.59 ERA. During that same season, he was promoted to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Class A), but he struggled with that club to the tune of a 4.20 ERA in eleven starts. Perhaps he was just tired to finish the 2007 season, because in his first start with the Pelicans he was outstanding. Hanson threw five no-hit innings, with a career high 13 strikeouts and would only allow 15 hits in 40 innings pitched, utterly dominant.
Hanson was quickly promoted to Double-A with the Mississippi Braves after his great start with the Pelicans and he continued to dominate there as well. Hanson threw a no-hitter in his ninth start with the team and set a new career high in strikeouts with 14 in that game. Hanson had an 8-4 record, with a 3.03 ERA and was named the Atlanta Braves Minor League Pitcher of The Year. He was given the opportunity to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and he dominated there as well, pitching to a 5-0 record, with a minuscule 0.63 ERA. As if that wasn't impressive enough, Hanson had 49 strikeouts in just over 28 innings pitched and was named the 2008 Arizona Fall League MVP for his efforts.
In 2009, Hanson clearly established himself as a top-notch pitching prospect, and he was named the number one prospect in the minor leagues to begin the season. The Braves were one of many teams interested in acquiring Jake Peavy from San Diego, but were not prepared to give up Hanson in order to get him. Hanson would finally get the call from Atlanta, as he took the spot of one Tom Glavine after the Braves cut him loose. It wasn't quite like watching Stephen Strasburg pitch, but I'll never forget the buzz around baseball when this kid finally came up. Everyone was so excited to see the top prospect in baseball get his chance. Although he didn't fare well in his first start, you can probably forgive him based on the circumstances. He finished with six innings pitched, allowing six earned runs and striking out five against Milwaukee. Hanson gave up three home runs in the game, two of which by 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun. Following that start, Hanson tossed six shutout innings against Baltimore and did the same against Boston. With those two starts, Hanson's ERA in the big leagues was a very impressive 0.78.
Everything was going according to plan with Hanson in 2010, as he threw a career high 202.2 innings pitched and finished with a 3.33 ERA. The regression began in 2011 though, as Hanson's season ERA rose to 3.60. In 2012, he was placed on the disabled list with a lower back strain and did not impress many with his performance. Hanson compiled a 4.29 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, plus the batting average against him was a career worst .271.
Here's a look at Hanson's average velocity on all of his pitches, which is trending in the wrong direction.
Fastball- 92.3 MPH
Slider- 82.9 MPH
Curveball- 75.1 MPH
Changeup- 82.9 MPH
Fastball- 92.7 MPH
Slider- 84.2 MPH
Curveball- 76.1 MPH
Changeup- 82.8 MPH
Fastball- 91.2 MPH
Slider- 81.8 MPH
Curveball- 74.3 MPH
Changeup- 81.1 MPH
Fastball- 89.7 MPH
Slider- 80.8 MPH
Curveball- 72.1 MPH
Changeup- 80.1 MPH
Jordan Walden is a different story, he's a guy who can throw incredibly hard but lacks the command needed to be consistent in the major leagues. Walden was originally a starter when the Angels drafted him in 2006. His velocity was very impressive for such a young kid, as he struck out 63 batters in 64 innings with the Orem Owlz (Rookie league). Walden also had a very respectable 3.08 ERA. The people at Baseball America noticed him, as he was named the 81st best prospect in baseball before the 2009 season. Walden would go on to pitch for the Cedar Rapids Kernels and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, where he would finish with a combined 9-8 record, with 2.76 ERA. In 156.5 innings, Walden allowed 122 hits and struck out 141.
During his first appearance with the Angels in a a game against the Rays, Walden's fastball hit 100.5 on the radar gun. His velocity was building as he developed more and more as a pitcher and he became the setup man when Brian Fuentes was traded to Minnesota. He eventually replaced the erratic Fernando Rodney as closer, who had all the stuff you could ever want but just didn't have the command to execute. That changed in 2012, as Rodney signed a small deal with the Rays and established himself as one of the best closers in baseball. As the full time closer with the Angels in 2011, Walden racked up 32 saves, with a 2.98 ERA. Walden's numbers looked good to the eye, but he also had 10 blown saves in 2011. In 2012, Walden assumed the closers role with the Angels, a team that had just brought in Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and would eventually call up Mike Trout. Everyone was excited to see how he would do with such a good team in front of him. To be frank, he struggled. Walden would go on to convert only one save the entire season and he was soon replaced by Scott Downs and then Ernesto Frieri.
The Angels get: A young starting pitcher that could help solidify their rotation if he can bounce back in 2013, Hanson is still only 26 years old and the potential is there for him to be a good number two or three starting pitcher with the Angels.
The Braves get: More bullpen depth, which is pretty scary considering they already have one of the best in baseball. With Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel, its going to be tough for teams to score runs late in the game against Atlanta.
Fantasy Players Impacted: After signing B.J. Upton to a long term deal, the Braves continued their busy off-season acquiring Walden from the Angels. Young arms Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado figure to get an extended look in spring training, as their is now an open spot in the rotation. Atlanta decided to move on without Jair Jurrjens, as he's now a free agent. So it is possible that we could see both Teheran and Delgado in Braves uniforms in 2013. With Walden gone, Madson is expected to assume the closers role with the Angels and Ernesto Frieri will likely be relegated to setup man, if Madson is healthy.
Fantasy Players helped by this deal:
-Julio Teheran, SP, ATL
-Randall Delgado, SP, ATL
-Ryan Madson, RP, LAA
Fantasy Players hurt by this deal:
-Ernesto Frieri, RP, LAA
-Garrett Richards, SP, LAA
-Jerome Williams, SP, LAA