MINNEAPOLIS – Travis Demeritte was so hot at the plate lately, Braves general manager John Coppolella was starting to think there was no way they’d be able to finalize a trade for the power-hitting Rangers prospect.
But after Lucas Harrell pitched six scoreless innings of four-hit ball against the Twins on Tuesday night, his third strong performance in five starts for the Braves, interest rose again from Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, and he and “Coppy” finalized a deal Wednesday afternoon.
Harrell and left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez, a pair of well-traveled veterans who’d been waived in May by the Tigers and Mets, respectively, got their careers back on track with the Braves and were traded to the Rangers in exchange for Demeritte, 21, a former first-round draft pick from Winder, Ga.
Demeritte has hit .272 with 25 home runs, a .352 OBP and .935 OPS in 88 games this season for advanced Single-A High Desert in the California League, with 41 walks and 125 strikeouts in 378 plate appearances.
“I’ve been talked to J.D. (Daniels) probably for a week, almost 10 days,” Coppolella said Wednesday afternoon at Target Field, minutes after the Braves announced the deal. “And following the great start Lucas had last night they showed a little more interest than they had (recently) and we were able to get this done really over the past couple of hours. …
“It’s a great credit to our pro scouting staff, it’s a great credit to our coaching staff, that we were able to get these players (Harrell and Alvarez) who weren’t with the Braves nine weeks ago and put them in spots to where they had a lot of success. To be able to get back someone who we think becomes one of our best hitting prospects, that’s very satisfying.”
Demeritte, listed at 6 feet and 180 pounds, was the 30th overall pick of the 2013 draft out of Winder-Barrow High School. He has a .244 average, .341 OBP and .479 slugging percentage (.820 OPS) in 298 games over parts of four minor league seasons, with 59 homers, 147 walks and a whopping 425 strikeouts in 1,063 at-bats.
But he’s really come into his own this season, earning a spot on the U.S. team in the All-Star Futures Game three weeks ago — he was the starting second baseman, playing alongside Braves shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson – and putting together a 10-game hitting streak through Tuesday that saw him bat .390 (16-for-41) with three doubles, five homers, 16 RBIs, three walks and 16 strikeouts.
“He’s about 6 feet, 6-1, kind of like a Ron Gant, wiry strong, really quick bat,” Coppolella said. “He’s been on fire lately. Each day as we talked through (trade proposals) it seemed like he hit a home run each game. I thought, we are never going to get this guy.
“And I think because of the way Lucas pitched last night we were able to get him, and that’s really exciting.”
Demeritte was slapped with an 80-game suspension in 2015 for using performance-enhancing drugs. In 2014, his first full minor league season, he hit .211 with 25 homers and 171 strikeouts in 118 games for Single-A Hickory in the South Atlantic League.
“We’re trying to find right-handed power everywhere we can, and he obviously fits that,” Coppolella said. “He’s a great kid. We’ve done a lot of (scouting) work on him for a long time. He’s from this area and we’re very excited to add him to the Braves organization.”
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