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Monday 23rd Oct 2017

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So the contenders addressed a good deal of their needs at the deadline, but what of the prospects that were included or were the principals received on the other ends of the deal? Here are my thoughts.

The Beltran Deal
The Mets wanted a high-end prospect. That was the bottom line for them. Several clubs offered multiple lower-ceiling prospects, but nothing that said “potential ace” or “possible above-average everyday player”. It was the Giants who ultimately paid the price the Mets wanted, trading the highest ceiling prospect at the trade deadline in Zach Wheeler.

Wheeler, who has been assigned to A+ St. Lucie, is a 21-year old right-handed starter with an already plus fastball and also has two potential plus secondary pitches in his curve and changeup. He gets good reviews for his low-effort delivery as well. This season in 17 starts he has pitched 92 innings and produced a 10.0 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9. So the knock on him, if there is one, is that he is young and a bit raw with respect to the development of his aforementioned secondary pitches and with his overall command, control, and the general transition from thrower to pitcher. So label him like many a pitching prospect – high risk/high reward. If he can’t make it as a starter, he has high-end reliever potential too.

The Mariners’ Haul
The Mariners were active in the rebuilding market. While they dealt one of their own prospects in Josh Fields, they acquired five minor leaguers in the Erik Bedard and Doug Fister/David Pauley deals. One of those players is to be named, so I’ll discuss him if he is of note in a later column.

Of greatest note was Trayvon Robinson on whom many NL only leaguers were anxiously awaiting his recall to the Dodgers. Instead, it was not to be and now AL only players will be the ones waiting. Robinson is a good athlete with a nice combination of power, speed, and patience at the plate. His power and speed numbers have been nearly flip-flopped. In 2010 he stole 37 bags while hitting 9 home runs. This season he has stolen only 8 bases while slugging 26 homers. Do not get overly excited by the power. Albuquerque has a lot to do with that production and Tacoma should provide a truer showing of his talents. His one main area of weakness is his ability to make contact. This year he has posted the highest strikeout rate of his career (likely due in part to his home run happy ways given park conditions) of 29%. Despite his speed, he will not be able to maintain a .293 batting average in the Majors given those strikeout rates. However, if he can bring it down to under a quarter of the time, he could be an everyday CF with 20-20 potential. The Mariners’ left field consists of Casper Wells, acquired in this deal, Greg Halman, and Mike Carp. In other words, Robinson could get the call soon.

Also from Detroit, the Mariners acquired third basemen Francisco Martinez and left-handed starter Charlie Furbush. Martinez is the more interesting of the two, but Furbush will have immediate impact. Martinez is a 20-year old third baseman with the raw tools to stay at the position long-term. He still has yet to tap into his power potential, but is holding his own quite well at Double-A given his age, hitting .282 and making contact just under 80% of the time. He already has above average speed and projects to hit for more power, making him a potential 20+ HR/10+ stolen base threat per season. I am not usually a fan of right-handed hitters who lack selectivity, but given his youth I will give him a break for now as he has plenty of time to fill out his frame and improve his baseball skills. At the moment, think of him as a speedy version of Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Furbush is joining the pen and could shortly take a rotation spot to boot. He was having an excellent second season in Triple-A, posting a 10.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, albeit with a .221 BABIP. He’s your crafty lefty with a college background and a strong feel for pitching with four pitches he can throw for strikes. His upside is a back-end of the rotation pitcher.

From the Red Sox, the Mariners received Chih-Hsien Chang. He had been repeating Double-A Portland this season and will stay at that level with the Mariners for now even though he has nothing to left to prove at that level. He is not a high-ceiling prospect, but has increased his power output quite a bit this season with 18 home runs in 358 plate appearances while continuing to make contact 83% of the time as a left-handed hitter. He made better contact in the lower minors, but had not tapped into his power yet of course. If he can translate the power/contact skills up the ladder, he could push his way into a back-up or platoon role or better if the stars align correctly. For now, however, his position is blocked and he could just as easily end up an organization player.

The Dodgers’ Take
The Dodgers made two deals in which they acquired prospects: The Furcal trade with St. Louis and with the Red Sox/Mariners deal for Bedard.

First the Furcal trade. Alex Castellanos is a right-handed hitting outfielder with some power, but rather mediocre plate discipline. He profiles best as a back-up outfielder or organizational player.

Moving on, Juan Rodriguez has a good raw arm and has plenty of velocity and movement on his fastball. That’s about it.  He is more of a thrower than a pitcher and has yet to develop a pitch beyond his fastball really. He is a very typical sort of arm you see packaged into deadline deals. I think of it as the dart approach. If he figures it out, he could be quite the find.  If not, at least you took the chance on his arm.

Tim Federowicz is a defensive minded catcher with single digits per season home run power. He does make fairly good contact and is fairly patient. Still, he strikes me as a back-up at best.

The final player received in the Bedard deal was Stephen Fife. He is a 24-year old right-handed starter who was repeating Double-A this year where he produced a 6.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. In other words, Fife is a pretty borderline MLB starter who tries to pitch to contact and induce ground balls with his sinker. He will need better command for that. He has back end of the rotation potential.

In the end, I am not seeing enough on the Dodgers’ end to justify the dealing of a player with Trayvon Robinson’s upside. It is quite possible none of the players acquired by the Dodgers will see significant playing time in the Majors at all.

Boston’s Former First Round Pick
Not only did the Red Sox acquire Erik Bedard, but they also acquired former first round pick Josh Fields – as part of the bargain. He has a 9.0 K/9 at two stops, indicative of his first round stuff, but has spent much of his time since 2008 either injured or simply not throwing strikes. His career minor league BB/9 stands at 6.5. He’s a project to say the least.

Outfield Depth
The promotion by the Indians of Jason Kipnis to their pennant run made Orlando Cabrera available to other contenders and therefore allowed the Indians to add some farm depth. Thomas Neal’s star has dimmed a little bit due to a sub-par season and injuries. He is an aggressive right-handed hitter who has shown upper teens to low-twenties per season home run power and good contact making skills in his past. I’ve compared him to the Giant’s Nate Schierholtz previously. This year, he is striking much more frequently at a 5th of the time while hitting only 2 homers and has a lot of work to do now if he is to be a MLB starter in the long run. Right now I am thinking he is more of a platoon or bench player until he proves otherwise.

The Astros Restock
The Astros gave up the most in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn and at least made the Phillies pay for the privilege of Pence’s company. Not so much the Braves for Bourn though. The Pence deal did, however, pave the way for the promotion of one of Houston’s top prospects.

J.D. Martinez was the player promoted and is worth inclusion here even though the Astros didn’t have to acquire him. He is not a high ceiling player, but he is a very disciplined hitter who makes consistent contact. In Double-A he was htting .338 .414 .5446 while making contact 85% of the time and walking 11% of the time. While he has hit 13 home runs this year, his upside is to the low-twenties per season. Despite the two-level jump, Martinez has enough skills to make an immediate impact at the MLB level.

The Bourn trade trio was Juan Abreu, Paul Clemens, and Brett Oberholtzer. In other words, not a very inspiring deal at all. The Braves are a team stocked with starting pitching prospects and perhaps instead of this package, they should have focused on a single upper end pitcher like the Mets. Actually, in retrospect, the Mets were probably offered a similar, if not exact package for Beltran, and they refused to give in to it. Oberholtzer is the best of the bunch. He is a left-handed starter who was working in Double-A, posting a 6.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. He changes speeds well and throws fairly hard for a lefty, but needs to learn to spin the ball better to add to his strikeout rates. A 6.6 K/9 at Double-A is not that encouraging, so I think of him as more of a back-end of the rotation starter at the moment.  As for Juan Abreu, my Juan Rodriguez comments generally apply, though Abreu is a better bet as he actually has a second good pitch, though it would be nice to see if he learned to command either of his pitches. The Astros could give him a look in the near future given a 12.8 K/9 in Triple-A this year. Paul Clemens has actually exceeded expectations this year, staying in the rotation for 20 starts even and producing a 7.7 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. I still think his power fastball/curve combo makes him a better bet as a reliever, but time will tell.

The more exciting trio was that of Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, and Josh Zeid from the Phillies. The Astros will also be acquiring another player to be named in the future too. Singleton, 19, is already in A+ ball and performing phenomenally considering his age with a .288 .385 .411 line. He is very strong and projects as a potential 30+ HR hitter. He is highly disciplined and does makes pretty good contact for a potential slugger. Given his age, it is unsurprising that he has not yet truly tapped into his power potential, so what for that. Also, he will need to show he can hit lefties.

The Astros immediately promoted Jarred Cosart to Double-A upon his acquisition. In A+ ball, his peripheral numbers are nothing special at a 6.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9, but keep in mind that this is a 21-year old with three pitches that have plus potential. Like Wheeler, he is no sure things as he has to refine the command of his pitches, but one cannot put him near the same level as Wheeler until
Cosart’s stuff translates into good strikeout rates of his own.

Josh Zeid is a right-handed pitcher who is moving towards a career in full-time relief. His changeup has gotten mixed reviews, but when he works as a reliever he gains velocity on his fastball and has a good slider to go along with it. He could be a setup man in the long run or a right-handed specialist reliever.

The Value of Ziegler
Brad Ziegler’s value is more than I ever knew as it netted the A’s two players in Brandon Allen and Jordan Noberto, one of whom they could plug in as their everyday first basemen right now and could potentially get more value than the Astros did for Hunter Pence. However, the A’s have elected to continue with Conor Jackson as their everyday first basemen for the time being, so once again Brandon Allen will have to bid his time. Allen, 25, has hit 21 homeruns between Triple-A and the Majors this year while showing excellent patience at the plate. The key factor with Allen will be his ability to translate his minor league contact rates (high 70’s) to the Majors. Over the small samples of his multiple big-league promotions, he has struck more than a third of the time.  If the A’s can be patient with him when he is eventually given his promotion and if he can show a sub 25% strikeout rate, The A’s could have their first basemen for quite a while.

Jordan Noberto, meanwhile, has taken Ziegler’s spot in the bullpen. He is a loogy with a history of good strikeout rates and a decent arm. He won’t be a fantasy factor, but could be a useful part in a specialist role for the A’s.

Paying a Premium for Relief
The Rangers did acquire a high-end reliever with closer skills in Mike Adams and the Padres made them pay a price worthy of those skills. Robbie Erlin, 20, is a left-hander with middle or better of the rotation potential. Despite his age, he is more than holding his own in the Texas League with an 8.2 K/9 and sub 1.0 BB/9 and is known for his ability to already mix his fastball, curve, and change with great success. Moving to Petco will only help him given an 0.68 GB/FB ratio and obvious fly-ball tendencies. He may not have the upside of a Wheeler or even a Cosart, but his polish could lead to the quickest promotion/best career of these three.

Joe Wieland is on a path to join Erlin in the Padres’ long-term rotation in the future. He is 20-year old, 6’3” right-hander also already in Double-A where has produced a 7.4 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Like Erlin, he is not a power pitcher, but he is indeed a pitcher whose secondary pitches exceed his fastball in potential with the ability to mix and match and command them for strikes. He profiles best as a third or fourth starter at the moment.

The Fukudome Deal
The Cubs received, as you would expect, two middling prospects in return for Kosuke Fukudome in Carlton Smith and Abner Abreu. Abreu has the better tools as an outfielder with some power and speed. However a .244 .297 .429 line while striking out nearly a third of the time and being right-handed, is not likely an everyday player’s skill set. He will turn 22 after the season. Over the course four-year minor league career he hasn’t shown any improvement in his plate discipline skills.

Carlton Smith could be up with the Cubs quickly. He was performing well as a reliever in Triple-A with a 9+ K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. I think he has a chance to be a middle reliever in the Majors.

The Derrek Lee deal netted Aaron Baker. Baker is also a first basemen, though his potential is that of a platoon player. He has the requisite power (15 homers already on the season), walks a bit, and actually makes contact about 80% of the time. However, he is almost 24-years of age and is still in A+ ball. He needs to be advanced more aggressively to see what he can really do.

Two Aces for One?
In trading their 27-year old “ace” the Rockies required a heavy price even with his drop off in velocity this year. Headling the deal for the Rockies were two potential upper end of the rotation pitchers Alex White  and Drew Pomeranz (the worst kept secret as a player to be named), as well as Joseph Gardner and Matt McBride, both of whom have early-round amateur draft section pedigrees too.

White was in the Indians’ rotation earlier this season prior to going down with a non-long-term concern injury. He has three quality pitches and generates ground balls fairly well with both his two-seamer and his split finger fastball. He profiles as a #2 or #3 starter.  Not quite an ace, but if both he and Pomeranz both work out it could be a very good 1-2 punch.

Pomeranz was a first round pick in last year’s amateur draft. He is a power-pitching left-hander who has already reached Double-A and is performing well there to boot, translating his K/9 (11.0). His control, thus far, though has been mediocre (3.8 BB/9). He profiles as a #2 or #3 starter. While his fastball does have some sink, he has not been a dominant ground-ball pitcher and remains to be seen how he will perform in Colorado considering that and his slightly erratic, though not awful by any means, command.

Gardner was made for Colorado sporting excellent ground-ball tendencies. (Over 3:1 GB/FB last year). However, he reminds me a little bit then of another Jimenez who pitched in Colorado – Jose. All Jose had was his sinker. He was a one trick pony. Gardner really does not have a pitch beyond that heavy sinker either. To best utilize such a pitch your command has to be spot on and Gardner does not have that either with walk per nines around 4.0. I think Gardner follows in Jose Jimenez’s footsteps as a reliever.

Matt McBride was the one hitter acquired in this trade. However, he is also the least of the prospects in this trade and is considered a failure given his high draft selection. He’s an outfielder/1B with mediocre power and plate patience. He does make pretty good contact and he posted a .297 .359 .529 in Double-A, but when you consider he is doing that as a 26-year old, it’s not too impressive. Organizational player.

The Hairston Deal
The Nationals deal Jerry Hairston Jr. to the Brewers and as one would expect, did not get anything tremendous in return. Erik Komatsu is an organizational type of player. He has some speed and is a very well-disciplined hitter who often walks more than he strikes out, but lacks power. He is a fourth outfielder type at best.


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