With significant deadline trades, we’re going to attempt to provide an evaluation of the prospects changing teams from both Kiley McDaniel’s scouting perspective and Chris Mitchell’s statistical breakdowns. The numerical breakdown of both players appears below Kiley’s write-ups.
Today, the Houston Astros officially decided to go for it, acquiring Scott Kazmir from the A’s in exchange for for A-Ball prospects RHP Daniel Mengden and C Jacob Nottingham. Both were late cuts from my preseason prospect list list, which by Opening Day, with the Evan Gattis trade and losing Delino DeShields in the Rule 5 draft, included 22 players.
Both players were among the group of six given 35+ FV grades, so they were both in the 23-28 range in Houston’s system entering the year. I don’t have inside info on how the negotiations went down, but I’m guessing Kazmir was long a target for Houston (as they took a run at him this offseason) and Oakland was holding out for a top 10 prospect in the Astros organization. Based on the preseason rankings, this will look like a light return, but given Nottingham’s breakout season, they did indeed land a guy who would have ranked in the Astros top 10 if the list was re-done today.
Coming into the season, Nottingham was an offensive-minded catcher with the body and tools to be a high-level prospect, but there were some questions relating to his contact and defensive skills. He’s emphatically answered the offensive concerns this year, and that makes the defensive questions less important. A scout I spoke to today answered the “Will he be a catcher?” question with “Yes, not elite defensively, but will hit enough to make it work.” There’s still some typical A-Ball stuff to work on for him, as another scout told me today that Nottingham gets a little too high or low on himself based on offensive results, and there are some mechanical issues to work out behind the plate, but this is normal for a 20 year old.
That said, there’s above average raw power potential and arm strength, with a chance to hit .260 or better; if it all works out, Nottingham could be an above average everyday catcher. He’s 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds at 20 years old, while remaining athletic and performing against older competition. He may have enough bat to play everyday at any corner position, so it’s hard to not be excited from Oakland’s perspective, as there’s a lot to like here. I would have Nottingham in the 6-10 area of the Astros list as a 50 FV, even with Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman and Daz Cameron entering the system from the recent draft, since they’re basically just taking the place of Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez in the top 10 of the org list.
As a 50 FV, Nottingham would be in the (roughly) 85-150 area of my top 200 using last year’s list as a guide, but I’ll have a more specific answer after I go through the entire research process this off-season. Nottingham should spend all of next year in the minors and probably most, if not all of 2017, in part because catchers take longer to learn the small things than any other position and he’s still pretty raw back there. I could see the A’s holding onto him like Franklin Barreto, as a potential up the middle impact type that was the prize of a trade, or spinning him into a more MLB-ready piece(s) before next April if the right offer comes along and their 2016 plan comes more into focus.
Mengden only missed the list due to some back issues which he now looks to be mostly past, so I’d slide him up to the 40 FV group. He isn’t big and doesn’t have a plus pitch, but has good feel, three solid average pitches and athleticism — he was also a pretty good hitter as a a two-way guy in college at Texas A&M — so you’re looking at a lower risk, possibly quick-moving back-end starter type. A scout I talked to said Mengden’s stuff has been more fringy to average this year and he looks like a middle reliever or long man on some days, then like a solid back-end starter on others. He’s a A’s-type pickup in that he doesn’t blow you away with stuff or size but has the ability to eat 180 innings at somewhere around a league average level if things work out.
Using his 2015 numbers, KATOH forecasts Mendgden for a weak 0.7 WAR through age-28. Although he’s turned in respectable numbers this year, he’s done so as a 22-year-old in A-Ball, which isn’t overly impressive in KATOH’s eyes. His Mahalanobis comps based on his 2015 performance are similarly pessimistic. There are very few successful pitchers in the bunch.
|Rank||Mah||Name||IP thru 28||WAR thru 28|
*Pitchers who have yet to play their age-28 season.
Nottingham, a 6th round pick back in 2013, has raked to the tune of .326/.383/.558 as a 20-year-old in A-Ball this year. Most impressive has been his .233 isolated power. Based on his numbers from Low-A and High-A this season, KATOH projects him for 3.0 WAR through age-28, which would have placed him 167th overall on KATOH’s preseason list. That’s not an excellent outlook, but it’s not a terrible one either. Based purely on the numbers, he looks like a future big leaguer, at least. On to the comps.
|Rank||Mah||Name||PA thru 28||WAR thru 28|
*Batters who have yet to play their age-28 season.
Seeing David Ortiz’s name near the top is obviously encouraging, and there are a few other successful hitters sprinkled in as well. The catchers of the group — J.R. House, John Roskos, Javier Valentin and Brook Fordyce — weren’t overly successful in the major leagues, but each of them managed some sort of big league career.
Nottingham seems like the potential prize here, with more upside that this might indicate if his 2015 breakout is sustained going forward. If he keeps mashing, KATOH will be a lot higher on him next year. Despite their late draft selections, both players have achieved a good amount of success in the low minors. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare in the upper levels of the A’s system.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.