MLB scouting notebook: Three under-the-radar trade candidates, and a Julio Rodríguez statistical deep dive

The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching — July 30. In this month’s scouting notebook, we are going to focus on three under the radar trade candidates and their fantasy appeal.

What makes him a trade candidate?

Brandon Lowe is on a team-friendly deal that includes two club options for the 2025 ($10.5M) and 2026 ($11.5M) seasons. While team-friendly deals do a good job of keeping player salaries on the lower side, the 2025 option alone would make Lowe the highest paid position player on the Rays next season. While he’s had several high performing seasons with the team, the past three years he’s shown regression in his stats and his overall playing time due to injury. The Rays may lean towards trading him now to provide more payroll flexibility for next season. That being said, Lowe remains an intriguing candidate for other teams because of his lefty power bat, consistent performance (outside of injuries), and the flexibility in his contract.

Scouting notes and fantasy impact:

Lowe’s at bats can be frustrating to watch at times because he has high miss rates against all pitch types and an aggressive approach, especially early in the count. Lowe’s first pitch swing rate is 20% higher than MLB average, and his contact rate on those pitches is 19% worse than MLB average.

But despite the issues with swing and miss, Lowe has consistently showed power and an ability to walk throughout his career.

He does the most damage against fastballs, specifically cutters, and he is a great option to matchup against pitchers with cutters as their primary fastball. Since the beginning of the 2023 season, Lowe has an elite .729 SLG against cutters (.564 xSLG). Like many hitters, Lowe struggles against breaking and off-speed pitches (.379 SLG / .365 xSLG against).

One thorn in Lowe’s side is his poor playoff performance. In 29 games, Lowe has a .423 OPS, 40% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate. While I would not recommend placing much weight on playoff performance, it spiked my curiosity to look into how Lowe does during the regular season in high leverage situations. If he is to be traded, it is likely to a team with a larger market than Tampa, and therefore one with more pressure from fans and media to perform. Based on TruMedia’s high leverage index, we can compare Lowe’s performance in high leverage to the MLB average:

2022-2024  OPS  K%  BB%  xSLG
Brandon Lowe  .755  26%  11%  .418
MLB Average  .742  22%  10%  .393


Looking at high leverage situations in the regular season from 2022-2024, Lowe has performed better than league average except for strikeout rate. And for strikeout rate, it’s worth noting that Lowe’s strikeout rate regardless of leverage is also at 26%. So, despite the high leverage, his strikeout rate did not spike even further.

The other thing to be aware of with Lowe is his tendency to get hurt. Lowe has missed several games over the past week and a half with a fractured toe and an illness. Even though the fractured toe was due to a hit-by-pitch, Lowe has dealt with several other injuries the past few seasons, including injuries to his back and knee. These injuries have certainly made an impact on his performance and, outside of his toe fracture, he’s been having a rebound 2024 season. Should he be traded, I expect him to maintain an every-day role as a lefty power bat.

What makes him a trade candidate?

Reliable relief pitchers are needed by nearly every team come the trade deadline. García is an above average relief pitcher and will be a free agent at the end of this season. With the Blue Jays being 7.5 games back of a wild card spot, it makes sense for them to explore a possible return for García. The only hang up is his elbow — he was placed on the 15-day IL with a nerve issue in his right elbow on June 17. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday, which went well per Ben Nicholson-Smith. If his next bullpen goes well, he could progress to a rehab game. A team looking to acquire a high-end reliever may not be willing to roll the dice on a pitcher dealing with an arm injury, especially if he is not under team control next season.

Scouting notes and fantasy impact:

García has the ability to be a top of the bullpen pitcher. He features five pitches from a low three-quarters arm slot. His biggest strength is his control and command. He features a better than average walk rate every season since arriving in the majors. He rarely sees 3-0 counts — only 12 out of 970 (1.2%) pitches he’s thrown since 2022 have been in 3-0 counts.

Based on his heat maps, you can see how intentional he is about commanding his pitches:

Garcia pitch locations

Helped by his arm slot, the primary movement characteristic of his pitches is horizontal, and all of his pitches have above average horizontal movement. His fourseam also features above average velocity (97 mph) and ride, both of which play up from the lower slot. Compared to MLB average, García’s four-seam fastball gets higher miss and chase, and a lower xSLG against:

2024 — 4-seam  Miss Rate  Chase Rate  xSLG
Yimi García  36%  35%  .239
MLB Average  22%  23%  .420

Looking again at the heat maps above, we can see that García has a mix to right-handed hitters that provides him options to throw both inner and outer half, as well as up to change eye level. García does extremely well against righties — from 2022 to present, he has an elite 1.85 FIP, 46% strikeout rate, and 2% walk rate against them.

Against left-handed hitters, however, García stays mostly outer half. While this can be exploited by opposing batters (they can crowd the plate and anticipate location), García still does much better than MLB average:

2022-24 vs LHH  FIP  K%  BB%
García  3.83  30%  7%
MLB Avg  4.38  23%  11%

*MLB average reflects right-handed relievers facing left-handed hitters

Even if García is not traded, he is still highly likely to be used in save opportunities for the Blue Jays.

Will Warren, RHP, NYY

What makes him a trade candidate?

As a top starting pitching prospect in the Yankees organization, Warren is valuable not only due to his pitch mix, but also due to his team control and roster flexibility. Warren is 25 years old and is in his second season at the Triple-A level. A trade involving Warren would yield the Yankees a generous return that could bolster their MLB team immediately.

Scouting notes and fantasy impact:

Warren has five pitches: sinker, four-seam fastball, change-up, slider, and cutter. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, and just like with Yimi García, this helps generate horizontal movement on Warren’s pitches. His above average control and command allow him to limit walks and place his pitches effectively in-zone.

Warren’s sinker has average velocity (~93 mph), but is an above average pitch in terms of movement, as it has above average sink and plus run in on right-handed hitters. It pairs well with his 86 mph sweepy slider, which moves away to right-handed hitters. He throws both pitches for strikes, and they generate high ground ball rates (greater than 60%).

Warren vs RHH

Against left-handed hitters, Warren throws his 92 mph four-seam as his primary fastball to the upper half, but also rarely mixes his 88 mph cutter up and in. The 88 mph change-up serves as an off-speed option to the lower, outer half that moves away from lefty hitters with plus fade. The changeup generates a high 71% ground ball rate in Triple-A.

Warren vs LHH

Overall, Warren is much stronger against right-handed hitters:

2023-24 Triple A  FIP  K%  BB%
Vs LHH  5.83  23%  12%
Vs RHH  3.14  30%  8%

While I don’t think this automatically puts Warren in a bullpen role, it is something that needs to be improved to secure a spot in the back of the rotation.

While Warren may get more opportunities to start at the MLB level if he is traded, he is primarily a weak contact and ground ball pitcher, and therefore may not be a great fit for leagues that value strikeouts.

Miscellaneous notes:

Just adding in two recent player evaluations, which explored whether Connor Wong can maintain his success and the factors that may be contributing to Julio Rodríguez’s down year.

Red Sox catcher Connor Wong is having an incredible season. In the video below, I explored whether he can maintain this pace or if there is some regression on the horizon:

Since the video, there has been no change in Wong’s performance. He is maintaining his successful performance.

I also dove into some reasons why Mariners’ outfielder Julio Rodríguez has been off to a rocky start this season in the following video:

He went from two consecutive all-star level seasons to a well below average .624 OPS in 2024. The main takeaway from the video is that Rodríguez is being pitched more to his weaknesses this season, with his weaknesses being breaking and off-speed pitchers. He is specifically seeing these pitch types in counts where he used to do most of his damage, like first pitch and hitters counts. Since he does not see these pitch types as well as fastballs, he is falling behind more frequently and having trouble adapting. As a result, his surface stats have fallen.

(Top photo of Julio Rodríguez: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY)

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