CHICAGO—Maybe last July served as a cautionary tale.
The Giants sent righthander Zack Wheeler, the No. 6 choice in 2009, to the Mets for Carlos Beltran. The Indians dispatched Drew Pomeranz, the No. 5 selection in 2010, to the Rockies in a four-player package for Ubaldo Jimenez. Both clubs failed to make the playoffs and have buyer’s remorse that will linger for a while.
Maybe teams were less willing to give up prized prospects now that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement provides no compensation for free agents who depart in the same season they were traded.
Maybe rising major league salaries make young talent more of a bargain than ever.
Whatever the reason, the quality of prospects who changed addresses in July was underwhelming. The stock of the best prospect traded has taken a downturn. The third-best won’t even pitch this season after having Tommy John surgery in March.
Here’s how we stack up the 10 best prospects dealt in the month before the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers:
1. Jacob Turner, rhp, Marlins. Detroit gave Turner a $4.7 million contract as the No. 9 overall pick in 2009, then gave him just six big league starts over two seasons before sending him, catcher Rob Brantly, lefthander Brian Flynn to the Marlins for Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and a swap of competitive-balance lottery picks. Turner hasn’t hit 93-95 mph as often or missed as many bats this year as he had in the past, leading to concern that he’s headed down the same path Rick Porcello took with the Tigers. He throws strikes and shows the makings of three possible plus pitches, so there’s still hope he can become a No. 2 starter.
2. Jean Segura, ss, Brewers. Milwaukee hopes that Segura, the headliner in the Zack Greinke trade with the Angels, can fill the shortstop void created when it sent Alcides Escobar to the Royals to get Greinke in December 2010. Segura isn’t especially rangy at shortstop but gets the job done, and he has plenty of offensive upside with his average power and plus speed.
3. Arodys Vizcaino, rhp, Cubs. Chicago has very little advanced young pitching, so it was willing to take the sidelined Vizcaino and throw-in Jaye Chapman from the Braves in exchange for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. Considered untouchable a year ago, Vizcaino had a mid-90s fastball and sharp curveball before blowing out his elbow this spring. If he’s not durable enough to start, he has the stuff to close.
4. Tommy Joseph, c, Phillies. After giving up three quality youngsters (Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Domingo Santana) to get Hunter Pence from the Astros last July, the Phillies got just one back (Joseph, along with Nate Schierholtz and righthander Seth Rosin) when they spun Pence to San Francisco. One of the game’s top catching prospects, Joseph has power to all fields and has cleaned up his defense in three years as a pro.
5. Christian Villanueva, 3b, Cubs. For Ryan Dempster, Chicago got Villanueva and righthander Kyle Hendricks from the Rangers. Stuck behind Adrian Beltre and Mike Olt in Texas, Villanueva has a broad base of tools: solid bat, potential average power, average baserunning, soft hands, strong arm.
6. Rob Brantly, c, Marlins. Though Brantly doesn’t have a tool that jumps out and was blocked by Alex Avila in Detroit, he can start behind the plate in the major leagues. With his line-drive bat and average catch-and-throw skills, he could take over in Miami at some point in 2013.
7. Johnny Hellweg, rhp, Brewers. Hellweg intimidates hitters with his 6-foot-9 frame, 94-96 mph fastball and hard curveball. He’s still figuring out how to repeat his delivery and control his pitches, and his ability to do so will determine whether his future is in the rotation or bullpen.
8. Ethan Martin, rhp, Phillies. The first high school pitcher drafted (15th overall) in 2008, Martin looked like a lost cause while posting a 6.68 ERA in high Class A in 2010-11. He has looked like a different pitcher since moving to Double-A last June, working at 92-97 mph and throwing more strikes, though he’s probably destined for the bullpen. Philadelphia picked up him and Josh Lindblom for Shane Victorino.
9. Ariel Pena, rhp, Brewers. The third piece of the Greinke package, Pena is better than he showed during a horrific Futures Game appearance (eight runs in one-third of an inning). He has a low-90s fastball, hard slider and average command, and he may have a better chance to start than Hellweg.
10. Zack Cox, 3b, Marlins. The Cardinals gave Cox a $3.2 million contract after taking him 25th overall in 2010, when scouts considered him the best pure hitter in the draft. David Freese’s emergence and Cox’ horrible start this year in Triple-A led St. Louis to give him away for Edward Mujica. Though Cox has lost some luster, he still has the short stroke, bat-on-ball skills and strength to hit for a solid average and at least average power.