Image credit: Zack Greinke (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Coming into the season, the Astros could realistically hope that between Corbin Martin, J.B. Bukauskas and Forrest Whitley, one of their top pitching prospects would step in to fill a spot in the starting rotation behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
It didn’t happen thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, so the Astros made an aggressive move at the deadline, trading away Martin and Bukauskas, as well as outfielder/first baseman Seth Beer and versatile utilityman Josh Rojas to land righthander Zack Greinke.
The deal has a chance to provide a significant impact for the D-Backs pitching staff long term, as Martin and Bukauskas are two of the more talented young arms to get dealt at the deadline while Beer is a very nice third piece in the trade.
Corbin Martin, RHP
The Astros gave Martin a shot to fill their fifth starter role early this season. It proved to be a little too soon for the club’s 2017 second-round pick as the above-average control he generally shows in the minors didn’t translate to the big league level. He was effective in a return to Triple-A, but went down in mid-June with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. That surgery will likely sideline him until late in the 2020 season. Before the injury, Martin had a chance for three plus pitches thanks to a 93-97 mph fastball, a hard, sharp 83-86 mph slider and a promising changeup. Martin ranked fourth on the Astros Midseason Top 30 Prospects list.
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP
If Bukauskas was throwing consistent strikes, he’d likely be in Houston right now instead of joining a new organization. But the quality of his slider and changeup mean that if he can regain even average control and command of his fastball, he has a chance to be a very useful part of either the D-Backs rotation or bullpen. Most likely his future is as a dominant reliever who could close. Bukauskas continues to have one of the better sliders in the minors and his changeup has improved to the point where it is an above-average pitch as well. But he’s struggled so much to locate his fastball this year that hitters have been able to feast on it. Since his slider is more of a late-count weapon, he hasn’t gotten to use it enough this year. Bukauskas has pitched better since heading off the Futures Game, but this has largely proven to be a lost year so far. Bukauskas ranked fifth on the Astros Midseason Top 30.
Seth Beer, OF/1B
Coming out of Clemson, Beer was considered one of the better bats in the 2018 draft, but concerns about his defense and his lack of success with a wood bat caused him to fall to the 28th pick. As a pro, Beer has helped to eliminate any concerns about whether he could hit with wood, while reinforcing the concerns that he’s going to struggle to play first base or left field well enough to stay out there on a regular basis. Beer is a very selective hitter who draws plenty of walks, and he sorts through pitches off the plate until he finds a pitch to drive. There are some concerns about how well he handles premium velocity. Beer ranked eighth on the Astros Midseason Top 30 Prospects list.
Josh Rojas, 2B
A late-round (26th) pick of the Astros in 2017 out of Hawaii, Rojas has been one of the surprise breakout prospects of the 2019 season for Houston. He squared up seemingly everything in a return to Double-A Corpus Christi to start the season and has kept hitting night after night after being promoted to Triple-A Round Rock. Rojas, who ranked 16th on the Astros Midseason Top 30 Prospects list, has excellent bat-to-ball skills and has proven hard to strike out. Defensively, he’s not plus anywhere, but he can play passable defense all around the field. This year he’s played every infield spot and both corner outfield spots. Rojas projects as a versatile utilityman with potentially a plus hit tool.
Zack Greinke, RHP
The Astros are not a team that will pay much attention to a pitcher’s win-loss record, but in adding Greinke to a staff that already includes Justin Verlander, Houston now has two of the three winningest active pitchers. Verlander has 218 wins (trailing only CC Sabathia) while Greinke is closing in on 200 wins with 197 currently. Greinke doesn’t throw as hard as he once did, but he varied his velocity by six to eight mph in his prime. With his four pitches and ability to toy with hitters, he’s better equipped than most to handle a loss of stuff. That’s been evident this year as he’s been one of the toughest pitchers in the National League to square up (his 0.94 WHIP leads the NL). Greinke is owed the remainder of his $34 million contract for this year and is owed $70 million over the next two seasons. But considering how well he’s pitching right now, he may earn every penny of the final two years in that deal.