Baseball Prospectus has a feature they do whenever important trades or signings go down. For years I’ve used their Transaction Analysis articles as a quick way to get the lowdown on the who, what, where, and when of a free agent signing or trade. They do this for affiliated baseball and having written a few of these articles for them I figured the format would work well for unaffiliated baseball as well. That’s what you’re reading now, the very first Transaction Analysis article. There will be no set schedule to these, but when I think an unaffiliated team has signed a free agent or teams have completed a trade that is worth writing about I’ll give you the skinny of the who, what, where, and when of it all.
The Milwaukee Milkmen (American Association) acquired 2B/SS-R Aaron Hill from the Lake Erie Crushers (Frontier League) for 3B/OF-R José Rosario.
For the Milkmen this trade is very, very simple. The 2018 season saw the Milkmen struggle with contact, getting on base, and a decided lack of speed on the basepaths. Hill gives the Milkmen a boost in every single one of those categories. He’s only two years into a professional career where he has already shown the ability to make contact, get on base, and generate plenty of speed.
In 2018 Hill was named FRON Rookie of the Year and in 2019 he took big steps forward in every category but positional flexibility. He slashed .269/.390/.465 with 12 home runs and 28 doubles. He did strike out 108 times in 421 plate appearances, but he also walked 58 times and added an additional 13 hit-by-pitches to his on-base totals. 26 stolen bases to only 6 times caught stealing are decent numbers for a top of the order bat. He plays average defense at short and above average at second base.
The Milkmen now have a guy they can slot one or two in the order to give them all the elements they were desperately lacking in their inaugural AA season. There is the question of whether Hill will be able to adapt and continue his quality of play in a higher level league. I’ve only been able to see Hill a couple of times, but I’ve seen very little to suggest he won’t help the Milkmen scrape their way out of the AA cellar in 2020.
The Lake Erie Crushers (Frontier League) acquired 3B/OF-R José Rosario from the Milwaukee Milkmen (American Association) for 2B/SS-R Aaron Hill.
Rosario was supposed to be a steadying presence in a Milkmen lineup that was low on experienced bats. Instead, Rosario spent most of the season swinging for the fences and missing. Regularly attending Milkmen games it was a very common sight to see Rosario come up in a big spot and head back to the dugout after a rather demonstrative strikeout. Why would the Crushers trade for someone who struggled as much as Rosario did in 2019?
League difference is the biggest reason the Crushers decided to take a chance on Rosario. Hill was going to leave Lake Erie at some point and the Crushers made the choice to get something back before he could leave. In Rosario, they’ve gone for a bat that could potentially wreak havoc on the slightly lesser pitching of the FRON.
A slash line of .246/.289/.362 with 77 strikeouts and only 17 walks in 353 plate appearances isn’t going to cut it for Lake Erie. They’re hoping that a change of scenery and will help Rosario to turn his strikeouts into contact. In order for Rosario to pan out, he will need to turn that contact into loud contact. If he can’t improve his power numbers, only 14 doubles and 8 home runs in 2019, then the Crushers will have lost what they are clearly viewing as a challenge trade.