With the Rule 5 Draft in the rearview mirror, the Angels were able to complete their half of the deal that sent Tommy La Stella to Los Angeles/Anaheim:
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) December 13, 2018
In exchange for Tommy La Stella, the Cubs are getting 26-year-old left-handed minor league reliever Conor Lilis-White. Originally taken by the Angels in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft, Lilis-White has spent his entire career in their Minor League organization.
But don’t let his age (or lack of pedigree) fool you – there’s a useful arm in there somewhere. Lilis-White began the 2018 season at Double-A, where he finished his 2017 campaign, and recorded excellent results and peripherals across 34.2 innings pitched (3.12 ERA, 2.56 FIP). His 31.7% strikeout rate, in particular, stands out, even if he was older than the average player there. Keep in mind, he has limited professional experience.
Upon moving to Triple-A for the remaining 37.1 innings of his season, White took a modest step backwards in terms of his results (3.86 ERA), but maintained an excellent 31.5% strikeout rate while dropping his walk rate down to 9.7%. If I had to guess, part of Lilis-White’s appeal to the Cubs is that, as a strikeout pitcher, he offers the Cubs’ system – which is otherwise full of contact managers – a bit of a different look. On top of that, we know the Cubs are looking for power lefty relievers and at 6’4″ and 220 lbs, White figures to be just that.
I wouldn’t necessarily expect Lilis-White to break camp with the Cubs right away, but he could have a shot given the outlook of the bullpen at the moment. But even if doesn’t, the Cubs can stash him in Triple-A and hope he’s able to support the big league pen on an as-needed basis (that was obviously quite important and crucial to the Cubs’ bullpen success last season, so we’ll see if they can recreate the magic with a few fresh arms).
Ultimately, this is nothing more than a modest return for a modest bench piece in Tommy La Stella. Hopefully, White has something to show at the big league level (or the Cubs have higher hopes for him), because you’d otherwise hate to lose a good bench bat like La Stella for nothing.