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January 27, 2015 at 9:18 PM

Trade Analysis: Scouting Anthony Ranaudo

Tuesday night, the Red Sox announced the trade of right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (pictured) to the Texas Rangers for left-hander Robbie Ross. Similar to the Wade Miley trade the Red Sox dealt from a position of depth, with the surplus of arms they have built up in the upper minors. In Ross, the Red Sox acquire a player with a longer big league track record than Ranaudo and someone who has been successful out of a bullpen role, with plus velocity from the left side.

Ranaudo was a supplemental first-round pick in 2010 after a disappointing junior season at LSU. Ranaudo entered the season as a potential top-five pick, but suffered through a combination of injuries and poor performance. After the draft, he pitched in the Cape Cod League and excelled, striking out 31 and walking eight in 29 1/3 scoreless innings. He signed just before the midnight signing deadline on August 16 for a $2.55 million bonus, the highest given by the organization that year and one of the ten-highest bonuses given out to any pick. With the Red Sox he has progressed steadily, but he has not developed into the potential ace he once seemed he could become, now projecting as either a number five starter or reliever.

Ranaudo has a strong starter’s build, looking all of his 6-foot-7, 230-pound frame. He has long levers and is maxed out physically. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot with a delivery that has required tinkering since he entered the system. He has had trouble repeating his delivery in the past, but made a small mechanical adjustment in the second half of this year, minimizing movement from the windup and more closely mirroring his delivery from the stretch. This change allowed him to keep his line to the plate and better command his fastball.

That fastball, which grades out as average, generally works in the 90-92 mph range, topping out at around 95 mph. In the past he has shown more velocity, dialing it up to the high 90s, but he has not shown that kind of in-game velocity recently. The pitch is relatively straight, and Ranaudo still needs to improve his fastball command, with it presently grading fringe-average. He struggles finishing his delivery, which exacerbates his lack of fastball movement and makes it very hittable when he leaves it up. Ranaudo does not have the velocity to get away with that and big league hitters punished him in 2014, hitting 10 home runs in his only 39 1/3 innings. Whether he is in the majors in Texas, or in the minors in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, the hitting environment is not going to help this problem.

Ranaudo’s primary secondary pitch and best pitch overall is his curveball. He throws it at 77-79 mph with hard break and tight rotation, and he has shown the ability to throw it for strikes or bury it down and out of the zone for swings-and-misses when ahead in the count. The pitch has plus potential and could become a true out pitch. Ranaudo’s third pitch, his 81-84 mph changeup, is less developed and still shows fringe-average, at best. The pitch has the tendency to flatten out and he struggles to finish it consistently. The pitch has improved since he entered the system, but is still not even an average third pitch, and he uses it significantly less often than the curve. In 2014, Ranaudo started throwing a slider in the mid-80s, but threw the pitch very rarely. Without significant repetition and improvement, it does not look to be a part of his arsenal long-term.

With one plus secondary pitch and the potential for a slight uptick in velocity in short bursts—he could probably sit in the 93-94 mph range—Ranaudo is probably best suited for the bullpen long-term. There, he could get away with lacking a third offering and having fringy fastball command. However, if his changeup continues to improve and/or his slider takes a step forward, along with refined command, there is a chance that Ranaudo could develop into a back-end starter.

Other takeaways: Prior to the Ranaudo trade, even after the trade of Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa to Arizona, there were too many pitchers slated for the Pawtucket rotation, to the degree there is such a thing. The situation is now a lot clearer, with Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, Matt Barnes and Edwin Escobar the likeliest Pawtucket rotation, assuming health. … The Ross acquisition puts into further doubt Drake Britton’s 40-man roster spot. After a promising big league debut in 2013, Britton really struggled in 2014 with Pawtucket and was seemingly passed by former minor league free agent Tommy Layne. Britton’s velocity ticked down and his slider was not as sharp as he showed in past seasons. With the acquisition of Ross, along with Craig Breslow resigning and Layne still around, Britton’s lack of options puts his 40-man spot in doubt should the Red Sox need the spot for another acquisition. Although Ross does have reverse splits, so does prior preseason acquisition Anthony Varvaro, a right-hander, which would seem to balance that fact.

Photo credits: Anthony Ranaudo by Kelly O'Connor
Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.