Ranking The Top Prospects Who Were Traded
CHICAGO—Choices at the top of the draft are so valuable that it's harder to pry one loose than it is to get the Democrats and Republicans to agree on the debt ceiling. Before this summer, it had been nine years since a club had traded a top-six-overall pick before promoting him to the big leagues.
The last such deal, which sent Justin Wayne (No. 5 overall, 2000) from the Expos to the Marlins in a seven-player swap in July 2002, did little for Montreal but helped Florida win the World Series the following year. While Wayne didn't contribute, Carl Pavano, another piece of the Cliff Floyd trade, won 18 regular-season games and two more in the postseason.
This July, two teams broke from tradition and relinquished recent premium draft picks. The Giants, who develop pitching as well as anyone and are well-stocked on the mound in the majors, decided they could afford to give up Zack Wheeler to the Mets in order to bolster their lineup with Carlos Beltran and their chances of defending their 2010 World Series championship.
The Indians, who weren't expected to contend in the American League Central this year, decided to go all-in and send three of their best pitching prospects to the Rockies as part of a four-player package for Ubaldo Jimenez. The headliner surrendered by Cleveland was lefthander Drew Pomeranz, who might be a better version of Jimenez in a couple of years.
Wheeler, the No. 6 pick in the 2009 draft, and Pomeranz, the No. 5 choice in 2010, were the two best prospects to change addresses in trades made just prior to the July 31 deadline for deals without waivers. Here's how we rank the Top 10:
1. Zack Wheeler, rhp, Mets.
Beltran may make the Giants a better team today, though they may rue losing Wheeler down the road. He's 21 and still figuring out consistency and command like a lot of young pitchers, but he also throws 90-96 mph with a loose, easy delivery. Secondary offerings? Both his curveball and changeup are potential plus pitches. He just needs time to mature into a frontline starter.
2. Drew Pomeranz, lhp, Rockies.
Pomeranz has a pair of strikeout pitches in his 91-95 mph fastball, which he can throw up in the zone or sink at the knees, and his hammer curveball. That stuff stands out even more because he's lefthanded, and his changeup isn't bad either. Some scouts don't love his arm action, but there are others who wonder about Jimenez's long-term health because the veteran's fastball velocity has been down this season. Pomeranz can't officially become a Rockie until Aug. 16, the one-year anniversary of his signing.
3. Jonathan Singleton, 1b/of, Astros.
The Phillies won the Hunter Pence sweepstakes in return for two blue-chip prospects (Singleton, Jared Cosart), reliever Josh Zeid and a player to be named. Only 19, Singleton has the bat speed, strength and mature approach to produce for both power and average. With Singleton now on board, Houston probably wishes it had held onto center fielder Anthony Gose rather than flipping him to the Blue Jays for Brett Wallace after the Roy Oswalt deal a year ago.
4, Jarred Cosart, rhp, Astros.
Cosart was one of the more impressive pitchers at the Futures Game, pitching at 96-97 mph with his fastball and registering strikeouts with his curveball and changeup in one inning of work. He has had shoulder and elbow issues since signing, and inconsistent command has meant that he hasn't dominated as much as his stuff says he should. Still, it's difficult to deny his upside.
5. Robbie Erlin, lhp, Padres.
In return for the top reliever who got traded (Mike Adams), the Rangers gave up Erlin and Joe Wieland. Erlin is an undersized lefthander whose stuff plays up because he has exceptional command (his 123-12 K-BB ratio ranks third in the minors). He can work the corners with an 88-92 mph fastball, change a hitter's eye-level with an 11-to-7 curveball or confound him with a changeup.
6. Alex White, rhp, Rockies.
Along with Pomeranz, Colorado also acquired White, righthander Joe Gardner and first baseman Matt McBride for Jimenez. The 15th overall pick in 2009, White reached the majors in April but hasn't pitched since May with a finger injury. His best pitches are a 91-94 mph fastball and his splitter, though his lack of a reliable breaking ball may make him a reliever in the long run.
7. Joe Wieland, rhp, Padres.
Wieland is a taller, righthander version of Erlin and ranks right behind him (fourth overall) with a 132-15 K-BB ratio. Wieland lives on the corners with an 88-92 mph fastball and mixes in a curveball, newly developed slider and a changeup.
8. Francisco Martinez, 3b, Mariners.
To upgrade its pitching staff with Doug Fister and David Pauley, the Tigers shipped Martinez, lefthander Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells and a player to be named (reportedly an early 2010 draft pick, either righty Chance Ruffin or lefty Drew Smyly) to Seattle. Martinez, who's playing in Double-A at age 20, has the highest ceiling of anyone involved in the deal. He has solid tools across the board, should tap into his power potential once he adds more strength and loft to his swing and runs better than most third basemen.
9. Brett Oberholtzer, lhp, Astros.
In exchange for a center fielder with leadoff skills and Gold Glove defense (Michael Bourn), Houston somehow failed to get an upper-tier prospect. Oberholtzer is the best part of a package that also included righthanders Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu and outfielder Jordan Schaefer. Oberholtzer profiles as a No. 3 or 4 starter as a lefty with three solid-to-plus pitches in a 90-92 mph fastball, slider and changeup.
10. Trayvon Robinson, of, Mariners.
Robinson is a quality athlete putting up the best numbers of his career (.293/.375/.563), albeit in an extremely hitter-friendly environment at Triple-A Albuquerque and in the Pacific Coast League. A switch-hitting center fielder with average power and plus speed, he's potentially a regular and at least a fourth outfielder. It's unclear what the Dodgers' motivation was for turning Robinson into catcher Tim Fedorowicz and righthanders Stephen Fife and Juan Rodriguez in a seven-player, three-team deal that sent Erik Bedard from Seattle to Boston.