For the second time in a few weeks, the Cubs managed to trade a young pitcher who’d been designated for assignment. Not that you don’t ever see that – it’s always one of the possible DFA outcomes – but it’s just that we haven’t seen it very often. Moreover, for the second time in a few weeks, the Cubs managed to acquire a really interesting prospect in the deal.
After sending Duane Underwood, Jr. to the Pirates for hulking first base prospect Shendrik Apostel, today the Cubs sent reliever James Norwood to the Padres for righty Dauris Valdez, who is also enormous.
Valdez, 25, is a true relief prospect who did not appear with the Padres last year, so his last game action was in 2019 at Double-A in his age 23 season. There, he threw 55.1 innings with a solid 27.5% K rate and a 4.23 ERA … but he also posted an 11.3% BB rate (his best walk rate in three years) and gave up a whopping 1.79 homers per nine. So I’m thinking there are some control issues. This looks to be a scouting play, which is particularly interesting given how much the Cubs would’ve been scouring the Padres’ system recently in the Yu Darvish trade talks.
Oh, and what’s the “scouting play” on Valdez? Well, pretty simple to guess: he’s 6’8″ and throws 100+ mph. Just a huge, huge dude. He participated in instructional ball this past fall, so the Cubs would’ve had eyes on him there, too, when he was going over 100 mph:
Dauris Valdez was one of the hardest throwers across all instructional league play.
His fastball topped out at 102 mph 🔥
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 18, 2021
Last summer, according to this YouTube video, Valdez hit 103 mph:
We’ll have to get more on Valdez soon.
In the meantime, Norwood moves on to the Padres – to be fair, he also brings the ability to throw 100 mph – and maybe he’ll have more luck sticking there. The pitches are clearly big-league caliber, with a fastball that sits 97-99 mph, and one of the best split-changes you’ll see (when executed well). The command and control never came along with the Cubs, though, and as an up-down-guy, they decided it wasn’t going to happen on their watch. He could be a breakout candidate in another organization.