Hearing that the Astros and Mets have recently been engaged in trade talks. Houston has shown interest in Seth Lugo and New York has been doing some background work on Astros minor leaguers. Unclear if talk has gained traction.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) December 29, 2018
Obviously, this doesn’t mean much, but with an Astros front office that rarely even elicits smoke from the rumor mill, it seemed well worth the deep dive to see if Lugo may be a fit for us.
Here's that Seth Lugo curveball that made Hunter Pence look silly. At 2,982 RPMs, it was actually a below-average spin rate for him. pic.twitter.com/kODJhuflWJ— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) June 24, 2017
Who is Seth Lugo
Lugo, 29, is a 6’4 225 lb righty for the New York Mets. He was an unheralded prospect, being chosen in the 34th round, pick number 1,032 overall in 2011. Lugo didn’t break into the top 20 prospects for the Mets, but luckily John Sickel’s posted a snippet from his 2016 prospect book in a MLB Rookie Report: ( https://www.minorleagueball.com/2016/7/7/12118654/mlb-rookie-report-seth-lugo-rhp-new-york-mets )
“Seth Lugo, RHP, New York Mets
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 185 DOB: November 17, 1989
Lugo was a 34th round pick in 2011 from Centenary College in Louisiana. His career was almost ruined by a serious back injury but he’s worked his way back over the last two seasons with consistent performance in the high minors, including five solid starts in the PCL late in 2015. He could see the majors in 2016. Lugo features a low-90s fastball and a decent curve, his stuff playing up because of sharp control. He has been durable since the back problem was resolved and has some chance to be an inning-eating number four/five starter or a bullpen option that you can stretch out a bit. Grade C.”
On the personal side, Lugo goes by the nickname “Quarterrican”. He played in the 2017 World Baseball classic alongside Correa.
In 2016, Seth Lugo broke into the majors gaining some immediate fanfare. His sparkling 5-2 record with a 2.67 ERA had to make people drool wondering if they had found a diamond in the rough.
Unfortunately, a deeper look into those stats showed that they were somewhat of an illusion. The peripherals of 6.33 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, .230 BABIP, 85.7% strand rate (75% is roughly league average) all lead to a somewhat disheartening 4.33 FIP.
In 2017, fans were despondent, with Lugo’s results coming crashing back down to earth. From the surface, his 4.71 ERA across 101.1 IP looked like a failure, which many believed the drop was due to his transition to being a full-time starting pitcher (starting 18 of his 19 games vs 8 of 17 the previous year). More importantly, his season was also off course due to a few notable injuries that we’ll talk about below. This time though, the advanced statistics told a different story. Lugo raised his K/9 (7.55), lowered his BB/9 (2.22), and had some bad luck to the tune of .325 BABIP and a 68.5% Strand Rate resulting in a FIP just under 4.
In 2018, The Mets moved Lugo back to the bullpen, only making 5 starts in his 54 appearances, resulting in an identical 101.1 IP with a return to the sparkling 2.66 ERA. This time though, the advanced stats told a much rosier story. His K/9 continued to increase (9.15), his BB/9 regressed slightly (2.49), but his BABIP (.269) and LOB (76.2%) were not too out of line, resulting in a 3.17 FIP.
Let’s take a look at Lugo’s arsenal
#Mets Seth Lugo 2018 Pitch Quality— MLB Quality of Pitch (@qopbaseball) December 23, 2018
Curveball 5.63 QOPA (Top 2% MLB)
Location (Top 10% MLB)
Late Break (Top 10% MLB)
Horizontal Break (Top 24% MLB)
Velocity (Top 33% MLB)@seth_lugo @BallengeeGroup pic.twitter.com/KE2XzhYURb
Curve – 31.9% of pitches, 79.9 MPH, 3,174 RPM, .229 xWOBA, 25.3% Whiff
4-Seamer- 25.1% of pitches, 94.3 MPH, 2,218 RPM, .195 xWOBA, 25.4% Whiff
Sinker- 23.7% of pitches, 93.3 MPH, 2,258 RPM, .375 xWOBA, 14.3% Whiff
Slider- 11.7% of pitches, 87.8 MPH, 2,414 RPM, .385 xWOBA, 29% Whiff
Change-Up– 7.6% of pitches, 87 MPH, 1,824 RPM, .274 xWOBA, 24.1% Whiff
Before I go into the detail on curveball, I want to note a few things, 2018 was the highest curveball usage of his career. It should be noted that throughout his career, Lugo’s sinker has been an under-performing pitch, and his results could further be expanded with reduced usage. It’s high xWOBA and low whiff rate means there could be improvement through pitch selection, and he seems to be another pitcher who would thrive under Strom tutelage.
Now on to that curveball. In both 2017 and 2018, Lugo had the second highest average spin rate on his curveball in baseball. (of players who threw the pitch at least 200 times). Both times he was beat out by some player named Ryan Pressly.
Taking that a step further, Lugo actually has the highest recorded spin rate on a curveball of all time. Resulting in MLB.com writing an article about him, here is a great snippet from MLB.com on when it occurred:
“Highest average curveball spin, 2015-16, minimum 50 pitches (326 qualified pitchers)
1. 3,337 rpm -- Lugo
2. 3,100 rpm -- Richards
3. 3,000 rpm -- Jesse Hahn
4. 2,970 rpm -- Charlie Morton
5. 2,953 rpm -- Scott Oberg”
“How about highest individual curves? You can see the full leaderboard here, because Lugo has dominated it so fully that to actually reproduce the entire list in this article would be far lengthier than anyone wants to read. Not only does he have the highest-spin curve, he’s got seven of the top 10, and 18 of the top 25, and 32 of the top 50, and… you get the point.”
It’s interesting to me, Lugo was highlighted a few times in the articles that I read that Lugo has been solid since his back injury. From looking at this from a mile high level, that didn’t appear to be the case for me so I just wanted to highlight some of the injuries and what they were.
In 2012, Lugo suffered from Spondylolisthesis.
For those of you like me who have no idea what that is (which includes me), here is the wikipedia take on what caused him to bed ridden for 3 months and threatened to potentially never let him play baseball again:
“Spondylolisthesis is the displacement of one vertebra compared to another. Medical dictionaries define spondylolisthesis specifically as the forward or anterior displacement of a vertebra over the vertebra inferior to it (or the sacrum). However, it is often defined in medical textbooks as displacement in any direction”
In 2017, Lugo suffered a Partial Tear of his UCL.
Most baseball fans know this injury well. It’s generally the precursor to Tommy John Surgery. Lugo on the other hand went a different route, using PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections, the same procedure that failed with Garrett Richards. This does not mean it would fail for Lugo, but it definitely has not had the same success rate as TJ.
Later in 2017, Lugo was placed on the DL for Shoulder Impingement.
An item of note on the positive side, Lugo did not miss any time in 2018, and his injuries do seem to be behind him. With that said, these are all serious issues that I believe need to be factored in when looking at him as a player.
I don’t know much about the Tommy John twist, so if any of our readers feel confident enough to talk about it and analyze it, please tell us more in the comment section below. Here is a link to the article about it by Chris O’Leary who posted it.
Depth Charts projects Lugo back in the bullpen for 2019, with a 4-4 record and 3.74 ERA, resulting in a 0.6 WAR
What would it take?
As always, figuring out the cost of a trade is as much art as science. With that said, it’s extremely tough to predict someone like Lugo’s value, both due to the early volatility of his career (and of non-ace caliber relievers in general), and his role being more of the Peacock-McHugh versatility than value built on one side of the coin. If he’s a starter and continued to perform at a similar level, his value skyrockets. It’s important to recognize that his velocity jumped significantly with a move to the bullpen, and I believe you’d have to assume that it would regress if moved to the rotation.
I think people will initially balk at what it would take to acquire Lugo? Why? Well 4 seasons of a cost controlled player has significant value. Normally, I would attempt to do a projection of value based on WAR, number of seasons, and value of war minus his projected salary. But considering both are extremely variable at this point, I think that you could logically end up on 2 distinct ends of the spectrum and the analysis would provide little to no value.
Instead, I figured I would look at the Ryan Pressly trade. Why? Well, they are similar pitchers in some regards. Pressly has a higher pedigree, and arguably more success even at the time of the trade, but obviously came with 2 years less control (despite being the same age at the time of the trade). So let’s look at what we traded for Pressly:
The Astros traded Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino to the Twins. Celestino was ranked as the Astros #10 prospect, and Alcala coming in at #19. Here was John Sickels snippets on them in the 2018 top 20 prospects.
“10) Gilberto Celestino, OF, Grade B-: Age 18, signed for $2,500,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2015; hit .268/.331/.379 with 10 steals, 22 walks, 59 strikeouts in 235 at-bats in Appalachian League; athleticism and defense overcome any scout resistance to his hits-right/throws-left profile; glove is excellent and he uses speed well on the bases; main question is power development but he should be good to the gaps at least; Midwest League in 2018 will be most illuminating. ETA 2021.”
19) Jorge Alcala, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014, posted 3.05 ERA in 109 innings between Low-A and High-A with 95/45 K/BB, 71 hits allowed; mid-90s fastball with reliable reports of 98-100 MPH peaks; good slider, change-up coming along, needs to lower walks but tough for hitters to square up; breakthrough candidate although it remains to be seen if he starts or relieves in the long run; ETA late 2020.”
Both were high-upside potential type players, but fairly far from the majors. I think that would be slightly light in value considering the 4 years of control, but it can give us a general starting point for trade discussions. I’d hope that the Astros would be able to use one of our “roster crunch” players who also hold value but don’t have an open spot on the field with the Astros.
Here is a trade proposals I saw as I searched online:
The Sports Daily : “Who could the Mets get away with asking for? Would Yordan Alvarez (#42 ranked prospect) be shooting for the moon? How about Seth Beer and Jake Marisnick (who isn’t that great but at least he could play center field), and perhaps a reliever off the major league roster?”
Seth Lugo, Curveball (release/spin/low angle) pic.twitter.com/oMnCBswacH— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 14, 2018
When I first heard the rumors that we were interested in Seth Lugo, I was excited (immediately asking to be the one to write up this article), simply due to his spin rate. I’ll be honest, his injury history scares me. I know he did not have any re-occurrence with injuries last year, but the injuries he has had are significant, and opting for PRP vs TJ Surgery is terrifying to me based on the results I’ve seen.
But putting that spin rate under Strom’s tutelage is enticing. You don’t have to look past Ryan Pressly to see the realm we could be talking about. I don’t know if the Astros would be pursuing him as a McHugh style replacement in the bullpen, especially as they look towards 2020 and beyond with a large amount of our bullpen depth being at risk (in addition to our rotation). But I have seen it rumored that the Astros are interested in him as a SP.
I have never wanted anything more than Seth Lugo working with the Astros coaching/nerd staff. https://t.co/Gi2q4piTNQ— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) December 29, 2018
The idea that the Mets are looking to trade him seems curious as well. After some clear “Win Now” style moves, including Cano, Ramos, Familia and Diaz, trading him away seems counter-intuitive. I guess Brodie Van Wagenen may believe he has enough bullpen depth with the Familiar and Diaz additions, but considering their bullpen struggles last year, it does not elicit a ton of confidence as a top bullpen yet. MLBTR lists their remaining 3 needs as who’s playing CF, Improved Bench/Depth, and trading away a Catcher.
Overall, I’d love to have Seth Lugo, and would definitely trust Luhnow’s ability to evaluate the health risks considering his history in that regard. I’m curious as to where the Mets mindset may be, as obviously the closer to the majors the players are, the less they would get ceiling wise. We do have some excellent components that could match up well in JD Davis (3B), Kemp (depth), and some intriguing names that could interest them without hurting our future value too much.
So tell me, what are your thoughts? Would you want the Astros to pursue Lugo? What would you offer for him if you were Luhnow?
Should the Astros pursue Seth Lugo?
This poll is closed
Editors note: I have left the following comments intact as an example of how NOT to conduct discourse on this website. Avoid name calling, casting aspersions on the characters of those with whom you disagree, and all forms of nastiness, anger or hate. Rather, “let us sit down and reason together.”