MLBTradeRumors had an article about another Seattle Mariners potential trade candidate, Roenis Elias. Elias is not a name that’s going to draw tons of attention, but is probably one of the more realistic targets for the Astros at this years’ trade deadline.
Who is Roenis Elias
Elias, a 30 year old (20 days until 31) unheralded left handed pitcher born in Guantanamo, Cuba. After pitching for Guantanamo in the Cuban National Series, Elias defected escaping to Mexico via a 30 hour boat ride, ultimately playing in the Mexican League in hopes of a future in the MLB which culminated in a contract from the Seattle Mariners. This was what John Sickels had to say about him in his article including a snippet from his 2013 prospect book:
“SLEEPER ALERT!! Elias is a Cuban defector signed by the Mariners in 2011. He’s received almost no attention, but he had a really nice year in the California League, not an easy thing to do when pitching for High Desert. He’s a thin lanky lefty with an average fastball, but his curveball is very good, he throws strikes, knows how to pitch, and is said to perform very well under pressure. It remains to be seen if he’s a future fifth starter, relief option, or just a minor league inning soaker, but anyone who survives High Desert with his confidence (and his statistics) intact needs to be watched closely in Double-A, whether or not he shows up on top prospect lists. Grade C but very interesting.”
Elias started off as a starter in the majors, amassing a 4.15 ERA across 297 IP. He’s since shifted to the bullpen being a solid reliever with the ability to go multiple innings. As a reliever for his career, he’s held opponents to a 3.31 ERA. None of the results I’ve listed remotely scream this is a player the Astros MUST target. I completely understand that.
And sure he’s a lefty, and there’s an argument that the Astros need a solid lefty relief option. I mean, the Astros traded for Liriano seemingly due to this belief. But Elias’ career splits don’t show him as the devastating LOOGY type with near equal splits.
But there’s something more hiding under the surface of this lefty, and I don’t just mean the addition to the Astros notorious Cuban Connection.
Let’s take a look at Elias’ arsenal
While Elias’ average velocity of 93.9 is very solid for a lefty, there’s something bigger at play here. The spin rate on his 4-seam fastball is in the top 10% in all of baseball, coming in at #56 out of 657 pitchers. Combining that with a solid spin rate on his curve makes him a very strong fit for the “Strom Model”. Here is where Elias currently throws his fastball:
Having a high spin rate on your fastball gives the “rising” effect due to magnus force. Essentially batters expect the pitch to drop more than it actually does. This is a very positive thing when the pitch is thrown on the higher end of the zone, which as you can see is not how he’s been utilizing his pitches.
To show a video demonstration, here is Elias throwing heat to our own Marwin Gonzalez. I slowed the video down and added short pauses during his swing, you can see Marwin guessed right, timed the pitch correctly, but ended up swinging under the pitch:
Elias has a good differential in the speed of his pitches, with his curveball coming in the mid to high 70’s, with solid spin rate causing above average movement from both a horizontal and a vertical perspective.
So yes, the reason I like Elias as a trade target is that his arsenal aligns well with their proven model and he does add a solid lefty into the bullpen.
Elias is a very Luhnow style grab. He’s not flashy, he’s not the pitcher fans are going to clamor for, he’s under the radar. Failed starters who are solid but unspectacular relievers are a dime a dozen, and despite the fact that he’s club controlled on an affordable contract, he won’t command a huge return in the form of prospects.
What he does do is fit the Astros model and the contractual obligations align well with the Astros needs going forward. Elias could be the lefty “lite” version of Ryan Pressly with 2.5 seasons of control remaining.
Would you want the Astros to trade for Elias?
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