The deadline for trades without waivers passed yesterday, and we have plenty of coverage. Trade Central breaks down all of the deals in detail, and I just posted a column ranking the best prospects to change addresses . Below, we'll discuss how trades have reshaped the Mets and Astros farm systems.
The next big date on the baseball calendar is Aug. 15, the last day to sign 2011 draft picks. One interesting connection to note between the two deadlines: Each of the top six prospects mentioned in my column were signed out of the draft to over-slot bonuses. Yet another reason to focus on talent and not worry about MLB's out-of-touch bonus guidelines.
With the Futures Game, our Midwest League best tools list, the trade deadline and draft signings occupying much of my time in July, I really hadn't thought about our Minor League Player of the Year Award until I got this question. With about a month remaining in the minor league season, it's time to start doing so.
In case you're wondering, we select our winner based on a balance of performance and prospect status. I don't want to speak for everyone on the Baseball America staff, but I personally lean toward the elite prospect having a terrific year over the good prospect having the best numbers.
If the Nationals had left Bryce Harper in low Class A and let him hit .318/.423/.554 all year in low Class A as an 18-year-old, he would have been the easy choice. Similarly, if the Angels had kept Mike Trout in Double-A all year and he continued to bat .324/.415/.534 at age 19, he would have been an obvious pick. But both players have cooled off after two-level jumps, so the MLPOY race remains wide open.
Harper and Trout are still in it, as is Lawrie. Lawrie's candidacy could be hurt if the Jays promote him to the big leaguers in the near future. He missed a month earlier in the year with a broken bone in his left hand, and he may not play more than half a season in the minors.
The top candidates among pitchers are Rays lefthander Matt Moore (9-3, 2.03 with 151 strikeouts in 115 innings between Double-A and Triple-A at age 22) and Braves righthander Julio Teheran (12-1, 1.90 with 99 whiffs in 114 frames in Triple-A at age 20), who also are the two best pitching prospects in baseball. My sleeper candidate is Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar (.284/.390/.505 in low Class A at age 18).
It's too close to call at this point. If the season ended today, I'd vote for Trout, but how these guys perform in the final month will determine who wins the award.
Most teams would be unwilling to trade an elite pitching prospect, but the Giants' desire to make the strongest defense possible of their World Series championship and their confidence in their ability to develop arms led them to deal Wheeler for two months of Beltran. The sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler is a 21-year-old righthander who easily delivers fastball in the mid-90s while also showing the potential for a plus curveball and changeup. Like a lot of young pitchers, he needs better command and consistency, but his upside as a frontline starter is undeniable.
Getting Wheeler was a coup for an organization that hasn't had much go right in recent years. One player alone doesn't make a farm system, but the trade for Wheeler is just one of several positives for the Mets on the minor league side. Others include a successful pro debut for 2010 first-rounder Matt Harvey, significant steps forward for Jeurys Familia and Jordany Valdespin, continued strong play from Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the drafting of Brandon Nimmo and Michael Fulmer. Assuming Nimmo signs as expected, I'd predict that the Mets would rank in the 11-15 range when we unveil our farm system rankings in the 2012 Prospect Handbook.
Including Nimmo, who probably won't turn pro until the day of the Aug. 15 signing deadline, here's how I'd update the Mets Top 10:
1. Zack Wheeler, rhp
Not an easy call, but I'm taking Wheeler over Harvey because he has a higher ceiling.
2. Matt Harvey, rhp
Tore up high Class A, has struggled in Double-A during his first pro season.
3. Brandon Nimmo, of
Highest pick ever from Wyoming (No. 13) was one of draft's best athletes.
4. Jeurys Familia, rhp
Still throwing in mid-90s, has improved command after rough 2010 season.
5. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, of
Not fair to call him an overachiever when he keeps producing everywhere he goes.
6. Jennry Mejia, rhp
System's No. 1 prospect entering 2011 had Tommy John surgery in May.
7. Cesar Puello, of
Having inconsistent year in high Class A, but still has five-tool potential.
8. Michael Fulmer, rhp
Fastball jumped to mid-90s, slider to mid-80s during high school senior year.
9. Jordany Valdespin, ss/2b
Enjoying breakout year with bat in Double-A, needs more defensive consistency.
10. Wilmer Flores, ss
Left field is best-case defensive scenario, and scouts are losing enthusiasm for his bat.
With the inclusion of Springer, who should sign by the Aug. 15 deadline, and the exclusion of current big leaguers Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez, the updated Astros Top 10 below doesn't include a single prospect who was in the organization at the start of 2010.
Houston received Singleton, Cosart and Jonathan Villar in the Pence and Roy Oswalt trades with the Phillies; Brett Oberholtzer and Paul Clemens in the Bourn deal with the Braves; and Jimmy Paredes (not to mention big league closer Mark Melancon) in the Lance Berkman trade with the Yankees. The Astros also selected Springer, Mike Foltynewicz and Delino DeShields Jr. in the first round of the last two drafts and signed Ariel Ovando out of the Dominican in 2010.
Houston still is recovering from a series of bad drafts and inactivity in Latin America that left it with the game's thinnest farm system, but at least the team finally recognizes that a complete overhaul will be necessary to one day return to contention.
1. Jonathan Singleton, 1b/of
Should hit for power and average, has higher ceiling than Brett Wallace.
2. Jarred Cosart, rhp
Showed a 96-97 mph fastball, good secondary stuff during Futures Game.
3. George Springer, of
One of the best college athletes to come out of the draft in years.
4. Jonathan Villar, ss
Has plus-plus speed and arm strength, must tone down swing and approach.
5. Brett Oberholtzer, lhp
With three solid-to-plus pitches, profiles as a No. 3 or 4 starter.
6. Paul Clemens, rhp
Has 93-96 mph fastball with sink, may fit best as late-inning reliever.
7. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp
Runs his fastball up to 96 mph, needs better curve to become frontline starter.
8. Delino DeShields Jr., 2b
Loaded with speed and athleticism, but still very raw at age 18.
9. Jimmy Paredes, 2b/3b
Another speedy athlete who needs to refine his approach at the plate.
10. Ariel Ovando, of
His bat and power potential earned him a franchise-record $2.6 million bonus.