The trade sending Jesse Crain to the Tampa Bay Rays has now been officially completed. The White Sox receive LHP Sean Bierman, INF Ben Kline and cash. Considering Crain didn’t pitch for the Rays due to injury, and the Sox got some salary relief, any return on the trade is a bonus. Let’s take a look at these two new acquisitions.
Sean Bierman was the Rays’ 10th round pick in 2012 out of Tampa, and will turn 25 on Sunday. In his draft year he skipped rookie ball to split time between Hudson Valley (Short Season A ball) and Bowling Green (Class A), and in 13 games (all starts) he posted a 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .290 AvgA, and 45 K vs 9 BB in 61.2 IP. This season between A and A+, his ERA (2.55), WHIP (0.99) and K rate (6.9/9) all improved, and he continued to show very good control (1.4 BB/9).
Bierman is a Tommy John survivor (2011), but was still given a solid-for-round $125,000 signing bonus. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats, and his fastball struggles to touch 90. But he does induce ground balls at a nice clip (GO/AO rates north of 2 in MiLB), keeps the ball down, and actually gets righties and lefties out at a similar clip. The pitch repertoire also includes a curve and a change, though none of his pitches stand out in scouting reports. He’ll be 25 for the 2014 season, and certainly isn’t a high end prospect, but the control and ground ball rates make him a guy to keep an eye on. Tough to say if he continues to start, or moves to the pen. The lefty should begin 2014 at High A Winston-Salem or AA Birmingham, depending on how the Sox see his readiness.
Ben Kline takes the term Utility Man to a new level. This 2012 32nd round pick out of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University has, in his two years in the Rays’ system, played every position on the field except catcher, and even pitched twice this season (2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K). In his draft year he hit very well for average in 135 PA in the GCL (.347/.393/.419), then had a brief 9 game stint in A ball (.281/.343/.438) to end that season as a 23 year old. This past season he posted a .246/.311/.288 line across three levels of A ball. He does show good contact skills, but no power (5 2B, no 3B or HR in 2013), and after stealing 10 bags in 2012 he didn’t steal any this year.
It should be noted that Kline only played in 40 games in 2013 after staying in extended spring training, and he only got in full time play late in the season. Going into 2014 as a 25 year old with just 19 games at A+, he’s likely an org guy who has the flexibility to play whatever positions are needed.
The overall return on Crain is nothing to get excited about, but that was to be expected. Bierman is worth monitoring, and Kline fills an organizational need.