|The best rivalry in the National League just got a bit more interesting. The eventual World Series-champion Giants defeated the Phillies in last year's NL Championship Series, and then thwarted the Phillies, among other contenders, by acquiring Carlos Beltran, the best bat on the trade market, two days ago. Philadelphia answered with an outfield upgrade of its own, trading four players—including two of its finest prospects—to Houston for 28-year-old right fielder Hunter Pence, in the midst of a career year for the worst-in-baseball Astros. The Phillies surrendered first baseman Jonathan Singleton and righthander Jarred Cosart, both high Class A Clearwater teammates, as well as Double-A righthander Josh Zeid and a player to be named. The Astros also sent $1 million to the Phillies.
UPDATE: The Astros selected low Class A right fielder Domingo Santana as the player to be named on Aug. 15. Santana ranked No. 9 on the Phillies' preseason prospects list. "All the pieces are there for Santana to be . . . a power hitter who plays above-average defense on an outfield corner," we wrote.
The Giants surrendered one player, promising pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, to the Mets to acquire Beltran, but the Phillies paid a higher price to acquire Pence because he's under club control for two more seasons beyond 2011. In contrast, Beltran can file for free agency this offseason. A clause in his contract stipulates that he cannot be offered arbitration, so the Giants cannot receive draft pick compensation if he departs.
The Phillies and Astros hooked up on a deadline deal last season when Houston sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia for a trio of players. The Astros turned Anthony Gose into current first baseman Brett Wallace, while hanging on to lefty J.A. Happ and shortstop Jonathan Villar.
|Jonathan Singleton, 1b/lf
Age: 19. Position: 1B (45 G), LF (30 G).
Born: Sept. 18, 1991 in Harbor City, Calif.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Millikan HS, Long Beach.
Career Transactions: Selected by Phillies in eighth round of 2009 draft; signed July 17, 2009.
Jonathan Singleton signed for $200,000 as an eighth-round pick in 2009, after an inconsistent amateur career that included a batting average near .300 as a prep senior as well as a home run derby championship at the 2008 Perfect Game national showcase. Once he signed, he immediately jumped toward the front of the Phillies' list of hitting prospects because of his low-maintenance swing and offensive polish. The son of a former Oregon football quarterback, Singleton hit .290/.395/.440 in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, then broke out with a .290/.393/.479 season with low Class A Lakewood in 2010.
With Ryan Howard signed up long-term in Philadelphia, the Phillies tried to play Singleton in left field this season at Clearwater, but he's a well below-average runner who lacks his father's athleticism. He moved back to first base in mid-May and had improved his performance significantly (.701 OPS in left, .860 at first base) since the move. Singleton has a pure stroke with strength in his swing and isn't afraid to go deep in counts to go with above-average raw power. He's more of a hitter than masher at this stage, and will have to identify spin to improve at higher levels, especially against lefthanded pitchers (.189/.339/.232, 0 homers). He's considered a solid defender at first base with good hands but limited range.
|Jarred Cosart, rhp
Born: May 25, 1990 in League City, Texas.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Clear Creek HS, League City, Texas.
Career Transactions: Selected by Phillies in 38th round of 2008 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2008.
Cosart was part of the Phillies' $6.7 million draft class in 2008, as the Missouri recruit signed just before the Aug. 15 deadline for a $550,000 bonus. A Texas prep product, he attended Clear Creek High in League City, which is just about 30 miles southeast of Houston. He broke Jay Buhner's school record for batting average as a senior.
Signed to pitch, Cosart earned a spot in the Futures Game this season after just missing out last year due to injury. Cosart had the best raw arm and pure stuff in the Phillies' loaded Clearwater rotation that also includes Trevor May, who ranks second in the minors in strikeouts; Brody Colvin, the organization's highest-paid pick from the 2009 draft class; and sleeper Jon Pettitbone, who has the best pitchability of that group.
Cosart's fastball reaches 96 mph regularly as a starter, and he has touched 98 mph at times. He has good life on his fastball but needs to improve his fastball command. His curveball is a true power hammer that can be a plus pitch when he commands it, and he has improved his changeup to the point where some scouts consider it superior to his curve. His inability to consistently get ahead of hitters explained his pedestrian 6.58 strikeouts rate per nine innings this season. Phillies officials have questioned Cosart's maturity in the past, and his command issues led others to believe he was likely to wind up in the bullpen. However, Cosart had the best pure arm in the system, and Singleton the best pure stroke. Those are strong players to build a trade around, and they instantly jump to the front of a painfully thin Astros farm system.
|Josh Zeid, rhp
Born: March 24, 1987 in New Haven, Conn.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Phillies in 10th round of 2009 draft; signed June 15, 2009.
Zeid was a highly-recruited prep player who started his college career at Vanderbilt, where he was a teammate of David Price and Mike Minor, but he wound up finishing his career at Tulane. Zeid had a fresh arm as a result, barely throwing 120 innings in four college seasons, and had a strong first full season at low Class A Lakewood, overpowering younger competition with a fastball that reached 94 out of the bullpen and a mid-80s slider that at times touched 87 mph. Zeid also throws a solid power curveball that scraped the low 80s in relief. Zeid's stuff dials back a grade as a starter, though, and his lack of feel for a true offspeed pitch made him hittable this season, when he was promoted to Double-A Reading. Instead of picking on someone his own size, Zeid struggled and was just 2-3, 6.80 in 11 starts to begin the season. Moved back to the bullpen—the role he's best suited to fill—he thrived, with a 24-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 innings to go with 10 hits allowed (including two home runs). Zeid's best-case scenario is as a solid middle reliever, though he'll likely never quite be eighth-inning material.
|Domingo Santana, rf
Age: 19. Position: RF (49 G).
Born: Aug. 5, 1992 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Phillies, March 23, 2009
The 6-foot-5 Santana possesses many of the benchmarks of an impact hitter. His bat is quick; his swing is clean and natural; and he has raw power to all fields. Santana doesn't recognize breaking pitches well at this stage, but he's got youth on his side. He's a fringe-average runner who doesn't record fast times to first base, but that doesn't seem to affect his defensive ability. Santana reads the ball well off the bat and shows strong range in right field, where his arm plays as plus. Houston may have found a permanent replacement for Pence if Santana's tools develop as some scouts project. A best-case scenario: 60 grades for hitting, power, defense and arm.
|Hunter Pence, rf
Age: 28. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Approximately $2.3 million, of which Astros send $1 million ($6.9 million salary for 2011; under club control for 2012-13).
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.