Scouting the Prospects in the Hamels Trade

In case you missed it, I’ve broken down the prospects in the Tyler Clippard (A’s to Mets) deal, the Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies to Blue Jays) trade and in one post yesterday covered the prospects in the deals of Ben Zobrist (A’s to Royals), Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies to Nationals), David DeJesus (Rays to Angels), and David Murphy (Indians to Angels) trades. It sounds like there’s still a few more deals to come, but last night’s huge deal sending Cole Hamels to the Rangers has plenty of interesting young players to cover.

In short, scouts were surprised that the Phillies sent Hamels to Texas without getting 3B Joey Gallo, RHP Alex Gonzalez or RF Nomar Mazara, but by paying down Hamels and taking Matt Harrison’s contract, Philly got three prospects from Texas’ top tier, which makes it a nice trade for both teams at this point. You can see Eno’s take on the deal from a big-league perspective and also see my preseason reports on the Rangers deep system and my preseason Top 200 for more notes/context on these players.


Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies, FV: 55

Alfaro has always been a tough evaluation. He has 65 or 70 raw power (enough for up to 30 homers annually) and a 70 arm, with some scouts going higher on both grades, along with good bat speed, the tools to be an above-average receiver and good speed for his size/position. He’s always had terrible plate discipline and has been raw/unrefined in almost all aspects of the game, in part because he has such big tools and plays such a premium position that he hasn’t been forced to make the adjustments and likely never would with the bar so low for catchers offensively.

I talked to some scouts right after the trade was announced that have seen Texas’ system the last few years and both agreed that Alfaro has made progress in multiple phases this season. His at-bats were of better quality, he was swinging at the right pitches and his crazy pop times (throws to second base) in warmups started to show up in games (around 1.80, which is a 70 time to match his 70 arm). It doesn’t show up in his stat line this year and his season was cut short by ankle surgery, so there’s some risk for Philly that a catcher coming off ankle surgery could take a little longer to develop, but the arrow appeared to be pointing up for Alfaro, with every scout I talked to said he is the best player in this deal. Alfaro will probably be higher than 53rd on the Top 200 this coming offseason and should spend most if not all of next year in the upper levels of the minors, and get a big league look by September 2016.

*****


Nick Williams, LF, Philadelphia Phillies, FV: 55

Williams is another interesting prospect, and among the most polarizing young players in the minors entering the year, but his improved performance has most scouts with whom I spoke on the same page regarding him. The headline tools here at 70 raw power (potential for 30 homers) from the left side, huge bat speed and 55 foot speed, along with an advanced feel to square the ball up. Williams’ problem is that he’s been so physically talented for so long that he hasn’t needed to have better at-bats and see more pitches, because he could still make consistent contact in the minors, have good numbers and get promoted doing what he was doing. Essentially, he could make a big strikeout rate (29% in High-A last year) work in the minors because he would put up a huge BABIP (.391 last year), but those solid minor-league lines (.292/.343/.491 last year) would degrade as the BABIP dropped in the big leagues against better pitching and defenses.

Then, his strikeout rate dropped from 29% to 19% this year and people got excited that he had turned a corner — a possibility supported by comments made by Williams himself about how he’s changed his approach. Scouts are less enthusiastic about Williams’ statistical changes, still complaining that he’s too aggressive and is swinging at the wrong pitches, saying his adjustments are more subtle. Scouts say he’s more likely to get to his power in games now, but he hasn’t become a superstar overnight because Double-A pitchers have gone from making him look silly to merely average for the league.

Williams is limited to left field since his speed is fringy for center and his instincts have always been bad defensively, with a below-average arm also contributing. Left field also raises the bar for offensive expectations: the scouts I talked to last night suggested Williams projects as a solid everyday player with upside for more. I rated him as a 50 FV and ranked him 136th in baseball before the season and now I’ll slide him up to a 55 FV, but toward the back end. That tier went as low as 79th overall on my list last year and no one I talked to yesterday said that they would put him in an overall top-50.

*****


Jake Thompson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies, FV: 55

While it sounds as though the industry likes Alfaro the most of this haul, some preferred Thompson to Williams for the second slot in this group, so call these two basically a tie as far as rankings go. The 6-foot-4/235-pound Thompson slipped to the second round out of high school in 2012 because his stuff was mostly average, but would tick up at times. That was the book on him until the middle of 2014 at High-A Lakeland for Detroit, when he’d start games at 90-92, hitting 93-95 at times, and then dip to 88-91 later in the game with a solid average three-pitch mix. In the Florida State League All-Star Game last year, Thompson sat 93-96 in a one-inning appearance and his slider was at least a 60, though it was by means of a higher effort delivery than he’d use as a starter.

Thompson was dealt to the Rangers a year ago in the Joakim Soria trade and scouts who saw him in the Texas League after the trade said he was 92-96 mph with a 60 slider that is sometimes a 70 in short stints, appearing to consolidate his gains in the Tigers system. There’s an average changeup and impact stuff as a starter, but there’s also some effort to the delivery, so the fit may be in the bullpen. This year, the stuff has sat more towards the lower end of the 2014-stuff scale for Thompson, with some scouts not completely sold on him as a starter and the velocity at times more in the 90-94 mph range with the slider more 55 than 60 — a result of having dialed it down some to give him a better chance to start. A scout I talked to this morning said he’s a 3rd/4th starter for him.

Given that Thompson appears to be the rare example (like Joba Chamberlain or Jonathan Papelbon) where the stuff ticks up a lot in relief rather than just one tick, he may be best suited as a closer, but you’d be foolish to not see if Thompson can be a 200-inning mid-rotation workhorse. There’s #3 starter upside, he’s 21 and should head to Triple-A soon, so I’d imagine Thompson gets a big-league look in the second half of 2016. I had him 29th on the Top 200 last year and the top 55 FV player; he’ll likely slide down the list a decent amount to the 50-70 range (around where Williams will be) since the explosive easy plus stuff didn’t hold up as a starter, but there’s still plenty of stuff to like here.

*****


Jerad Eickhoff, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies, FV: 45

The 6-foot-4/240-pound righty was 15th rounder from an Illinois junior college in 2011 and he forced his way into prospect status at Double-A in 2014 with above-average stuff to match his performance. He’s done more of the same this year and projects essentially the same as I had him before the season: a potential 4th/5th starter who, if something doesn’t hold up, could be a nice middle reliever. Eickhoff sits 90-94 mph and hits 97, working in a 55 curveball and a fringy slider and changeup. He flashes average command and throws strikes, so having just turned 25 and starting 16 games in Triple-A this year, Eickhoff is ready for a big-league look sooner than later, but doesn’t have the sexy upside of the three guys ranked ahead of him and is near the lower end of the 45 FV group, as a 5th starter is a 45 FV and his upside is only a little higher than that.

*****


Alec Asher, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies, FV: 35+

Asher had some buzz early last season as a potential 3rd/4th starter when he hit 96 mph with a slider that flashed plus, but the stuff backed up by midseason and hasn’t recovered yet, with two scouts I talked to last night calling him an “extra guy,” meaning a maybe 5th starter who’s more of an inventory arm. He still has an above-average fastball but the secondary stuff and command really comes and goes. He’s 23 and putting up decent numbers as a starter in Triple-A, so he’s worth calling up late this year or early next year to see what he can do in the big leagues. There’s always some hope the plus stuff may come back, but that version of Asher has likely passed, with the possible 5th starter or decent middle reliever the most likely outcome.





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.

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Norm
8 years ago

How far off from the TEX haul would the Cubs be:
Billy McKinney
Willson Contreras
Duane Underwood
Pierce Johnson

Bobbo
8 years ago
Reply to  Norm

Way too far to make it work without adding substantial pieces

brian
8 years ago
Reply to  Norm

No one with Alfaro’s ceiling in that group. Underwood is a nice arm, but quite far away yet and hurt. Pierce has a lot of injury and control issues himself. So you’re likely missing the top end ceiling and falling short as far as proximity to the majors.

Not sure the Cubs had a package to put together with the close to the MLB talent equivalent without including Baez (or guys currently on the 25 man). Which, i know he’ll probably bust/disappoint, but I still wouldn’t have wanted them to do and not sure RAJ wanted him anyway.

Norm
8 years ago
Reply to  brian

Kiley has Alfaro as a 55 FV – no clue where he’d put Willson today, but he’s on the verge of Top 100 which is FV 50ish.

Kiley is low man on McKinney, but other folks have him higher than N.Williams.

I know the Cubs people are short of the TEX offer, but I don’t think it’s FAR off, especially if the 3rd, 4th, and 5th players can be a bit more potential