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D-backs land Hellickson for two prospects

Right-hander named AL's top rookie in 2011; coming off injury-shortened season
MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

PHOENIX -- In his first trade, D-backs general manager Dave Stewart filled one of his team's biggest holes by acquiring right-hander Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays in exchange for a pair of prospects.

Stewart, who was hired as GM last month, made adding to the Arizona rotation his top priority this offseason and rumors of his interest in Hellickson made news at this past week's General Managers Meetings.

PHOENIX -- In his first trade, D-backs general manager Dave Stewart filled one of his team's biggest holes by acquiring right-hander Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays in exchange for a pair of prospects.

Stewart, who was hired as GM last month, made adding to the Arizona rotation his top priority this offseason and rumors of his interest in Hellickson made news at this past week's General Managers Meetings.

Prospects acquired by Rays
Andrew Velazquez, INF: Velazquez jumped on the radar when he set a Minor League record in 2014, reaching base in 74 consecutive games during his first taste of full-season ball. The high-energy middle infielder hails from Fordham Prep in New York City and started to put things together in 2014. His improved approach at the plate was key to his success this past season. He's a much more disciplined hitter, though he still strikes out at a fairly high rate. He has solid bat speed and can spray line drives to all fields, though he's never going to be a big power guy. His best tool is his speed, which he put to better use with his improved on-base skills, stealing 50 bases in 2014. An outfielder in high school, he's still getting used to his surroundings in the middle infield, though he has the tools, range and arm, to profile well there.
Justin Williams, OF: When the D-backs took Williams in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, he was one of the youngest players in the class. He's been moved cautiously as a result, holding his own at every level. He has tremendous raw power, though he's still learning how to tap into it. He has a big, physical frame, but his approach at the plate still needs to be refined. He is capable of showing that power to all fields and, in time, he should be able to hit the ball out to any part of a ballpark. A middle infielder in high school, he was moved to the outfield immediately upon becoming a pro, seeing most of his time in left field, his likely home long term.
Top 20 Prospects: Rays | D-backs
-- Jonathan Mayo

"In just about every deal that we're going to do, I'm going to try and get as much information as I can, first of all," Stewart said when asked what he liked about Hellickson. "I touched base with a lot of people to find out about him, people who had seen him pitch and people who know him. One, they said he was competitive. And I've seen him pitch on a couple of occasions and he commands his fastball and throws to both sides of the plate, he pitches inside well and he changes speeds well, which is the definition of a pitcher."

Hellickson won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 when he went 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA in 29 starts and he had a 3.10 ERA the following year and a 5.17 mark in 2013.

This past season, Hellickson was 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA in 13 starts. The 27-year-old did not make his season debut until July 8 after recovering from elbow surgery, and he struck out 54 and walked 21 in 63 2/3 innings.

In landing Hellickson, the D-backs parted with outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velazquez.

"When I look at what he's capable of doing for our rotation, he's got a track record of winning," Stewart said. "His last year or two have not been quite what he's wanted to be, but I believe that's just a byproduct of the bone chips that he had in his elbow."

Williams, who was ranked as MLB.com's No. 14 prospect for the D-backs, hit .351/.403/.467 this year while splitting time at Rookie-level Missoula and Class A South Bend. The 19-year-old was selected in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Velazquez, 20, gained attention this past season when he reached base safely in 74 straight games from April 22-July 16. Ranked as the D-backs' No. 12 prospect by MLB.com, Velazquez hit .290/.367/.428 with 50 stolen bases for South Bend in 2014.

Shortstop is an area of strength in the Arizona system with Chris Owings, Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius and Nick Ahmed all seeing time at the position this year in the big leagues.

"I didn't really think about the shortstop situation, because [Velazquez is] so far away," Stewart said. "He played low-A ball last year. He's probably three, four years away, and Williams is probably four, five years away, and I looked at it more that way than the fact that I was trading from a position of strength."

With ace Patrick Corbin and right-hander Bronson Arroyo set to start 2015 on the disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the D-backs entered the offseason with really only a pair of pitchers -- Wade Miley and Josh Collmenter -- considered locks for the rotation.

After that the D-backs were left to pick from a group that included Chase Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vidal Nuno. Top prospect Archie Bradley could also be a candidate for next year's rotation, while the team could shift Daniel Hudson, who is coming off two Tommy John surgeries, back into the rotation from the bullpen, where he finished this year.

The acquisition of Hellickson gives the D-backs more depth and could allow them to not rush a prospect, like Bradley.

And as the offseason continues, so will Stewart's search for more pitching.

"I'm hoping to not be done," Stewart said. "I might get shut out, but it is my hope that I can acquire more pitching."

One name to keep an eye on is free agent Chad Billingsley, who was represented by Stewart when Stewart was a player agent.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Jeremy Hellickson