Before we get into the three pitchers that the Royals got back from New York, I want to quickly revisit what I wrote in June about some trade comparisons for Benintendi:
- Kyle Schwarber traded for Aldo Ramirez
- I doubt Royals fans would be thrilled with this kind of move, but Ramirez is a super advanced 21-year old with a ton of upside. I like it, but I could see GMDM preferring the draft pick to this kind of return. Coin flip in my opinion.
- Cesar Hernandez traded for Konnor Pilkington
- Royals fans got a good look at Pilkington the other day and this should be the absolute floor for Benintendi. Pilkington was a 23-year old tearing up AA last year and looks like a legitimate big league starter. This should probably be the type of return the Royals target.
In hindsight, those are probably the best two trade comparisons from 2021 in relation to what Benintendi is in 2022. A two-month rental having a great season despite some offensive limitations. Schwarber and Hernandez returned one pitcher each. Andrew Benintendi just got the Royals three young pitchers in return for two months of his services. So, on that front alone, you could make the argument that the Royals did pretty good here.
TJ Sikkema, LHP, 24 years old, High-A
Before you react to the age and level, understand that Sikkema wasn’t able to compete in 2020 due to the pandemic and then missed all of 2021 due to a lat injury. He has dominated both levels of A-ball and, if I was the Royals, I’d just go ahead and send him to AA Northwest Arkansas to finish the year because he has to go on the 40-man roster at the end of the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Sikkema’s calling card is phenomenal command of three pitches, but his slider and changeup are lethal, prevent him from having platoon issues, and should help him settle into a big league bullpen at worst in a couple years. His fastball sits in the low-90’s, but he’s got such a funky angle and he mixes his pitches so well that it plays way up. Sikkema has 54 K and just 9 BB so far in 36 innings in 2022, and I don’t anticipate him having any troubles at AA. He might run into some issues at the very highest levels of baseball (who doesn’t?) because guys will eventually just sit on his fastball, but Sikkema commands his sweeping slider so well that it may not ever matter.
A Mizzou kid, Sikkema is from Clinton, Iowa, and should be fun for half of the Royals fanbase to root for. He broke Max Scherzer’s all-time strikeout record before leaving Mizzou and was the 38th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. I know this probably isn’t exactly what Royals fans had in mind when it comes to the return for Andrew Benintendi, but I legitimately believe that the Royals did REALLY well here.
Beck Way, RHP, 22 years old, High-A
Way might wind up being a reliever long-term, but he might wind up being a damn good one at that. He’s got 163 K to just 64 BB so far in his minor league career, and he’s done a great job of cutting down on the walks this year at High-A. Beck’s cutter/slider combination are his calling card, but he’s got a big fastball with good run up in the zone and together he has a chance to remain a starter. He’s also kind of deceptive so he has that going for him, though he is susceptible to lefties at times.
I’ve seen a lot of people talking about Way as the headliner for this trade. While I may not agree with that entirely, I can absolutely see why some people think that and I don’t have an issue with that line of thinking. He is absolutely filthy and, worst case scenario, should make a lethal bullpen option for the Royals in a couple of years. If that should be his final destination, he reminds me a little of Greg Holland as a guy that can dominant one or two innings at a time with just a fastball/slider combo even though he doesn’t throw 100 mph. I think we’d all take that for two months of Benintendi, right?
Chandler Champlain, RHP, 23 years old, Low-A
Another massive human being, Champlain stands 6′ 5″ and has a huge fastball/curveball combination for Royals fans to be excited about. He was the Yankees 9th round pick in 2021, and while he’s certainly the wildcard of this trade, he’s got 94 K to just 19 BB this year and he looks every bit the part of a dominant back end reliever. He hasn’t cracked the Yankees prospect lists just yet, but I think he’ll certainly be on our top-50 list at midseason and has an outside chance of being in the top-30 next preseason if he can get to High-A soon.
On the mound, Champlain is a pretty smooth operator who lets his size do a lot of the heavy lifting. His curveball is a true 12-6 offering and he tunnels his fastball with it really well, especially at the top of the zone. In the limited game action I’ve seen so far, I haven’t noticed another impactful breaking ball, but he does mix in a changeup sometimes, though it needs some work. I think Champlain is likely a reliever, but he could be very Josh Staumont ish at the big league level.
I’m going to give the trade a B+ overall. I would feel much better about it IF…
1. TJ Sikkema had been healthy last year
2. Either Way or Champlain had a better than 50/50 shot at starting long-term
I’m a believer in Sikkema. I think he’s incredibly talented and his “stuff” is sure-fire big league stuff. It’s just that pitchers don’t normally just stop being hurt once they’ve started. So…we’ll see. Overall, they got three crazy talented pitchers for two months of Andrew Benintendi and that’s about all you can ask for. Now we just sit back and see what happens now that they’re in the system.
– Sikkema: Jordan Montgomery
– Way: Greg Holland
– Champlain: Josh Staumont