Soria trade nets Rangers two solid pitching prospects

Closer Joakim Soria was traded to the Detroit Tigers Wednesday.

Jim Cowsert/Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Joakim Soria became a luxury item for a team with 40 wins and going nowhere in 2014.

That, plus a solid season, made him expendable to the Texas Rangers and attractive to suitors.

The Rangers dealt Soria to Detroit for right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. Soria found out about the trade during the lengthy rain delay during Texas’ game at the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

The deal nets an organization that has been ravaged by pitching injuries a pair of top-flight prospects.

Thompson, who was the No. 4 prospect in the Detroit organization according to Baseball Prospectus before the season, was the team’s second-round pick in 2012 out of Rockwall-Heath (Texas) High School.

He’s just 20 years old and has is already pitching at Double-A, going 1-0 in two starts for Erie. For the season, he’s 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA and has 86 strikeouts in 94 innings. The Rangers will send him to Double-A Frisco. He has 208 strikeouts in 205 2/3 minor-league innings since he was drafted.

"Thompson was arguably the best pitching prospect in Detroit’s system," said Jordan Gorosh, who covers the Tigers for Baseball Prospectus. "He features a 90-94 mph fastball, which he can throw either of the two- or four-seam variety. His fastball command is promising for a 20-year-old, only in his second full season of professional baseball, and he can locate to all four quadrants of the strike zone."

Knebel, 22, is also from the Longhorn State and pitched collegiately at the University of Texas. He was a first-round pick last year and has already had two relief stints with Detroit this year. With Detroit he has 11 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings of work to go along with a 6.23 ERA. The Rangers plan to send him to Triple-A Round Rock.

Knebel dominated in both Double-A and Triple-A this year. In 33 1/3 innings, he had 43 strikeouts and limited Triple-A opponents to a .109 batting average in 18 1/3 innings.

"He’s max effort, and a reliever through and through, even though the Tigers intended on starting him when he was selected," Gorosh said. "Knebel is mostly in the mid 90s with his fastball, and it has good life. The fastball command is loose right now, and that may hold him back from reaching his ultimate ceiling. Knebel’s breaking ball is a certifiable hammer, with knee-buckling, sharp break."