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August 1, 2016 at 4:55 PM

Trade Analysis: Scouting the Pat Light for Fernando Abad deal

A few hours prior to the trade deadline, the Red Sox announced they had traded right-handed pitcher Pat Light to the Minnesota Twins in return for left-handed pitcher Fernando Abad. The 30-year-old Abad gives the Red Sox another left-handed option and depth in the bullpen, especially once Craig Kimbrel returns from the disabled list.

In 34 innings, Abad has a 2.65 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 29 strikeouts and 14 walks. He has been especially effective against lefties, allowing only eight hits and a triple slash of .163/.192/.265 in 49 at-bats against him this season. Given the returns other relievers have gone for leading up to the deadline, acquiring Abad for just Light seems like a solid deal for the Red Sox.

A 2012 supplemental first-round pick (37th overall), Light ranked as the 13th-best prospect in the SoxProspects rankings at the time of the trade. Light signed for an under-slot deal of $1-million out of the draft, but struggled as a starter over his first few years in the organization. He moved to the bullpen full-time in 2015 and started to turn things around, showing off an intriguing fastball-splitter combination. This year, Light has spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Pawtucket, putting up a 2.32 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP in 31 innings to go along with 17 walks compared to 36 strikeouts. Light has also spent some time with the Red Sox this year, but struggled in two appearances over 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits, eight runs (seven earned), and two home runs.

Over the last five years, I have had the chance to see Light numerous times and when he is on his stuff is tantalizing, but a lack of command and control and overall consistency has held him back. Light has a solid pitcher’s frame, listed at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. The 25-year-old has filled out some since he joined the organization and has minimal remaining projection. He has done a nice job cleaning up his mechanics over the years, but struggles to repeat his delivery and maintain velocity in longer stints. In the bullpen, that is not as much of a concern and he can just air it out using his very live arm. Light throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, working solely from the stretch from the first base side of the rubber. He has effort in his delivery with long arm action behind and lands hard and stiff on his front side. He does not consistently finish his delivery either, which impacts his ability to command his fastball, especially down in the zone.

Light’s fastball will generally sit in the mid-90s, but he will dial it up to the high-90s during some outings, and I have seen him hit 100 mph on an accurate gun. The pitch is straight, especially when up, and only has average life. The biggest issue is his command and control of the offering. Light only has fringe-average control of the pitch and below-average command, often struggling to hit his spots and locate the offering within the strike zone. On velocity alone, the pitch grades as plus-plus, but it does not often play that way in game action.

Light’s primary secondary pitch is a splitter, which he threw in college, but shelved as a professional until 2015 at the team’s request. The pitch will flash plus potential, but, like his fastball, lacks consistency. He throws it at 86-89 mph with deceptive arm speed. It has sharp, late tumbling movement and has the potential to be a true out-pitch at the big league level. In the past, Light has also thrown a slider and changeup, but scrapped both for the most part in 2015 as a reliever, though he will throw the occasional slider at 85-87 mph.

Overall on stuff alone, Light has the potential to be a strong set-up, seventh/eighth-inning relief arm. However, the chances of him reaching that potential are not looking strong at this point. He is already 25 years old and still struggles with command and control. Even with his velocity, the fastball does not miss as many bats as it should and he will not get away with missing location at the big league level given the lack of movement on the pitch. Most likely, Light develops into a sixth-inning reliever, but those type of arms are fungible and can usually be found either on the trade market or in free agency. As a result, though Light does have some upside, he was not likely to be a key piece of the Red Sox bullpen going forward and thus dealing him for a lefty who can help immediately makes sense.

Photo credits: Pat Light by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.