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August 3, 2011

Future Shock

Top 10 Traded Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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While it took a while to get started, this year's trade deadline saw more than 30 prospects change organizations between Wednesday and Sunday's deadline. More accurately, 30 minor-league players changed organizations, but plenty were very real prospects, as all of the talk (including from yours truly) about teams overvaluing their own young talent went out the window as three teams traded their top pitching prospect for veterans to shore up their teams playoff runs. Here are my top 10 prospects that got moved, and how they fit into their new organization.

1. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Rockies (from Indians)
The first college pitcher selected in the 2010 draft justified the selection in his full-season debut, and should begin his Colorado career at Double-A Tulsa. The 6-foot-5 power southpaw already has two plus big-league pitches—a low- to mid-90s fastball and an outstanding curve—and is on pace for a 2012 big-league debut. But a word of warning: He's a fly-ball pitcher, so he'll need to miss bats to avoid that becoming a problem in Coors.

2. Jarred Cosart: RHP, Astros (from Phillies)
Cosart has as much stuff as nearly any pitching prospect around, but an inability to consistently harness it made his assignment to Double-A Corpus Christi a bit of a surprise—he had not mastered things at High-A Clearwater for Philadelphia. He answered the challenge with six shutout innings on just 73 pitches in his system debut, but up-and-down performances have been the name of Cosart’s game this year, so we'll need to see more. We certainly don't need more time to evaluate his mid-90s fastball that can get up to 97, nor his two quality secondary pitches—those are more than enough to project him at the top of the Houston rotation if he figures everything out.

3. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres (from Rangers)
In what was the most intriguing pitching matchup of the night in the minors, Cosart's six shutout innings came against San Antonio, who got six scoreless frames of their own from Erlin. Erlin’s polish-to-stuff ration might be the exact opposite of Cosart's; while his fastball is only average to a tick above, his ability to locate all three of his pitches is other-worldly at times, as evidenced by a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 129-to-13. His ceiling is that of a third starter, but that's his floor as well.

4. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Mets (from Giants)
Wheeler made his system debut on Monday, giving up four runs over four innings for High-A St. Louis, but he also showed why he was the top pitching prospect in the Giants system prior to the draft by effortlessly sitting in the mid-90s. He's more in the Cosart camp, where the stuff is outstanding but he's still early in his development, so Mets fans might need to exercise patience in waiting for him to reach the big leagues—it could take until 2013. A minority of scouts think he might end up as a closer as opposed to a rotation stalwart, but either way, he has the stuff to dominate.

5. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros (from Phillies)
Singleton, the top hitter to get dealt, has the potential to be a classic first-base masher in the mold of Ryan Howard, the player who had him blocked in his former system through at least 2016. The Phillies tried him briefly in the outfield this year, but first base is his more natural position, and with Brett Wallace getting sent back to the minors after a brutal slump, Singleton's path is more open than it has ever been for him. Going from the Florida State League to the high-octane environment of High-A Lancaster should do wonders for his raw numbers, and he'll likely start the 2012 season in Double-A as a 20-year-old.

6. Alex White, RHP, Rockies (from Indians)
The Indians paid a steep price for Ubaldo Jimenez by sending their top two pitching prospects to Colorado as part of the deal, and it's likely that White would no longer qualify for this list if not for a finger injury that has him sidelined since late May. He's a big league-ready product, and his best pitch is a nasty split fastball that generates plenty of ground balls when contact is made at all. He'd rank higher with a better breaking ball, but his slider has already come leaps and bounds from his college days.

7. Joe Wieland, RHP, Padres (from Rangers)
Wieland, the second extreme strike-thrower sent to San Diego for Mike Adams, has 132 strikeouts and just 15 walks to go with a 1.80 ERA this year. He left the Texas system with a bang by tossing a no-hitter against his new team, San Antonio, in his final start as a Ranger. He has more velocity than Erlin, sitting in the low 90s and touching 94 at times, but his arsenal is not as deep, and both pitchers need to learn that sometimes it's a good idea to deliver a pitch out of the strike zone so hitters have to make pre-swing decisions.

8. Trayvon Robinson, OF, Mariners (from Dodgers)
Robinson was the most baffling part of the deadline-beating Erik Bedard deal. The Dodgers sent the outfielder, who is close to being a big-league regular, to Seattle, and in return received a trio of Red Sox farmhands who do not come close to sniffing this list. Quantity over quality rarely works in prospect land, and with the ability to provide double-digit home runs and stolen bases to go with a fair share of walks, Robinson has more than enough secondary skills to make up what will likely be a lower batting average. That combination should be more than enough to break into a weak Seattle outfield.

9. Brett Oberholtzer, LHP, Astros (from Braves)
When the Astros called up Jordan Lyles and Jose Altuve to the big leagues, it left their minor-league corps nearly empty, but with eight players added during deadline week, they suddenly have a system again. Oberholtzer is hardly sexy, but he's a 230-pound beast built to eat innings with three average pitches that he throws for strikes. He has the potential to reach the big leagues as a fourth starter at some point in 2012.

10. Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF, Mariners (from Red Sox)
Chiang had the best statistics of any player dealt—he was slugging a whopping .340/.402/.648 before becoming one of the keys to the Bedard deal—but despite those numbers, scouts have yet to warm up to him. He doesn't run or throw especially well, so all of his value is wrapped in his bat. The Mariners hope that this year's breakout is for real, pointing to him properly managing his diabetes for the first time in his career. Like Robinson, there is plenty of room for a stick in the Seattle outfield.

Five Who Could Surprise

  • Paul Clemens, RHP, Astros (from Braves): He’s a right-hander with three solid pitches who can start or relieve down the road.
  • Erik Komatsu, OF, Nationals (from Brewers): Komatsu makes up for a lack of size with patience, speed, and a feel for contact, making him a fourth outfielder at the very least.
  • Francisco Martinez, 3B, Mariners (from Tigers): Scouts that believe in Martinez’s power potential would rank him higher, as he's more than handled Double-A pitching as a 20-year-old.
  • Zach Walters, SS, Nationals (from Diamondbacks): This Midwest League All-Star isn't really a shortstop, but has enough stick and defensive versatility to turn into fine utility player.
  • Josh Zied, RHP, Astros (from Phillies): Since moving to the bullpen at Double-A Reading, Zied has exploded with 24 strikeouts over 16 innings. His fastball/slider combination should fit well in a seventh-inning role. 

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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