As reported early this morning on Puckett’s Pond, the Minnesota Twins struck a deal with the New York Yankees to trade recently-acquired starter Jaime Garcia to the New York Yankees in exchange for two minor league starters, left-hander Dietrich Enns and right-hander Zack Littell.
Here’s a bit on the guys the Twins got back.
Littell was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 11th round in 2013 out of high school. The Mariners traded him to the Yankees for James Pazos in November of 2016.
Littell was young for his draft class, not turning 18 until October of his draft season, and his youth showed in his first attempt in pro ball, where he got hit around a bit in the Arizona Rookie League to the tune of a 5.94 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, posting a 8.6% walk rate and 18.% strikeout rate.
He was moved up to the advanced rookie Appalachian League in 2014, where he threw 69 2/3 innings, with a 4.52 ERA, but a 1.25 WHIP, 4% walk rate, and 21.5% strikeout rate.
Littell went to the Midwest League in 2015 and posted a 3.91 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.2% walk rate, and 17.4% strikeout rate over 112 2/3 innings. Seattle sent him back to Clinton to open 2016, but he moved up to high-A roughly halfway through the season, finishing the year with a combined total of 165 2/3 innings with a 2.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 5.1% walk rate, and a 23.3% strikeout rate.
This season, Littell opened the season in the Yankees system with Tampa in the Florida State League before being promoted to AA Trenton. Overall, he’s produced a 14-1 record over 115 1/3 innings, with a 1.87 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 5% walk rate, and 23.9% strikeout rate.
Littell works with a fastball that sits 91-93 and can touch 96 with excellent rise and late wiggle. His best pitch has become his curve, which is a plus pitch at this point with excellent location for a breaking pitch. His change gets excellent action and is devastating on left-handed hitters. What really makes his stuff play up is his fringe-plus command and control. He’s able to not only pound the zone but nail his spots with all three pitches.
He’s probably not a future ace in pure stuff, but his tremendous control and sequencing will allow him to be able to work very well in the middle of a rotation and likely very quickly, probably getting a look during the 2018 season and settling in during the 2019 season.
Enns was originally drafted as a reliever out of Central Michigan in the 19th round of the 2012 draft by the Yankees. He pitched in relief only in his draft season for Staten Island in the New York-Penn League, throwing 42 2/3 innings, with a 2.11 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 8.6% walk rate, and 18.9% strikeout rate.
In 2013, Enns worked as a long reliever for low-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League as the Yankees stretched him out to start him in high-A Tampa in the Florida State League later in the season. Overall, he made 28 appearances, 8 of them starts, throwing 82 2/3 innings with a 2.94 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10.2% walk rate, and 32.7% strikeout rate.
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Enns fought through injury the next two seasons, both spent at high-A Tampa. In 2014, he threw only 25 1/3 innings, with a 1.42 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 10.1% walk rate, and 26.3% strikeout rate. In 2015, he threw 58 2/3 innings with an outstanding 0.61 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.6% walk rate, and a 23.7% strikeout rate.
In 2016, Enns really turned heads as he was moved up to AA with the Yankees, and threw so well that he was bumped up to AAA, spending roughly equal time at both levels. He threw 135 total innings, with a 1.73 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 10.4% walk rate, and 23% strikeout rate.
This season, Enns was hurt early in the season and is just returning, having only made 8 total appearances on the season with 45 1/3 innings thrown, a 1.99 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 5.6% walk rate, and 26.4% strikeout rate.
Enns is a guy who relies on the movement of his stuff, with a fastball that works in the upper-80s to low-90s, a change, a slider, and a curve. None of the four pitches is a plus pitch, and it could be argued that only the slider is an above-average pitch, but the slight deception in his delivery and his sequencing of his arsenal allows Enns to generate good strikeout numbers for a guy with less-than-ideal velocity.
He may end up as a 5th starter, but Enns would be an excellent guy out of the bullpen in a multiple-inning lefty role, something few teams have the luxury of being able to play. He has stuff to work against lefties in short relief and the pitch mix to go multiple innings as needed.
Together, these two pitchers probably bring the Minnesota Twins much more value than one Huascar Ynoa did to the system, though Ynoa’s upside was certainly higher than either Enns or Littell. The Twins have depth in low-minors, high-upside arms that allowed Ynoa to be expendable, but with the youth of their lineup, they need rotation arms that are ready now, or at least very soon, and Enns and Littell made more sense for the Twins. All in all, a rare trade where the Braves got a guy that fits their system well and the Twins got a return that fits theirs well as well.