In the offseason, the Braves plucked Jordan Walden from the bullpen of the Los Angeles Angels in the Outfield from Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Being that Walden has worked out so well, the Braves tried their luck again and today acquired Scott Downs from the Angels for minor league pitcher Cory Rasmus. When a player is acquired, I do a Howdy column. When a player leaves, I do a See ya column. When it happens at the same time, it’s CROSSOVER TIME!
I wrote about Downs back on July 23. I didn’t go too far into him because that allows me the opportunity to write more today. Since joining the Angels before 2011 on a 3-year, $15M contract, the left-hander from Kentucky has continued his run as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. Over a career that began in 2000, Downs has limited lefties to a slash line of .207/.273/.295. However, that line is actually warped by early-career struggles. He has been even more dominant since 2010.
Here’s something funny. You have to go back to August 11th, 2011 for the last time a left-handed hitter homered off Downs. Of course, giving up a homer, even a Grand Slam, to Robinson Cano is nothing to be ashamed about.
The domination by Downs against lefties can not be exaggerated. Only three players have limited lefties to a lower batting average since 2010. Getting Downs is a huge lift for the Braves. It allows them to not count on Alex Wood to be an important part of their bullpen and it helps limit the role Luis Avilan has to play for the Braves down the stretch. Downs is not a guy having a nice run. As far as relievers on the market go, very few are better at what they do than Downs.
On the other hand, the loss of Rasmus was a minimal cost for Atlanta. The 38th overall pick of the 2006 draft struggled with his health early in his career, missing all of 2007 and most of 2008. He only appeared in 51.2 innings during 2009 with Danville before finally enjoying some sustained health the following season, pitching a career high 124.1 innings. I saw him on opening day in 2011 for the Lychburg Hillcats and remarked to my wife that he might be a good reliever down the line. He again missed a good portion of the season with injuries.
Having enough of Rasmus as a starter, the Braves sent him to the bullpen to open 2012 with Mississippi. He struck out 62 in 58.1 innings, though he did have some wildness with 32 walks. The Braves saw him as vulnerable in the Rule 5 draft and added him to the 40-man roster in the offseason. In 2013, he took over the closer role in Gwinnett and saved 14 games with them. He also made his major league debut, though he found out hitters at this level can destroy fastballs (4 HR in 6.2 ING).
Rasmus has potential, but you can say that about anyone. There has been little in his numbers to get excited about at this point. He can make hitters miss, but has yet to display the control that makes that ability a tremendous skill. With that said, he’s still young at 25 and can have a good career in the majors.
Regardless of what Rasmus does, this is a win for the Braves. Getting Downs for a minor league reliever who won’t make any top prospect lists is a great pick-up for Wren and the Braves.