Zack Greinke’s Strange Brew: Prospect Package

The Milwaukee Brewers finally pulled the trigger on the trade that everyone was expecting: The team traded starting pitcher Zack Greinke. In return, the Los Angeles Angels sent a three-prospect package, which middle infielder Jean Segura headlined.

Segura, 22, was recently promoted to the majors for the first time in his pro career and was one of the Angels’ top prospects — if not their best, with the graduation of MVP candidate Mike Trout — but the system is also among the bottom 10 in baseball (and now possibly is one of the five worst). Milwaukee — another bottom-feeder, in terms of their minor league system — moves up a couple of slots with this deal that also included Double-A pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena.

I won’t dwell too long on Segura because I wrote about him earlier this week when the Angels recalled him. The infielder played decent ball in Double-A (114 wRC+) prior to his promotion after missing a good portion of 2011 due to injury. His game is tied around his speed, but he also hits for a decent average and has suprising gap power for his size.

He played a lot of shortstop this year but is probably a long-term second baseman where his play is above-average, as opposed to his average defense at his current position. Even if he struggles a bit during his rookie year, Segura should be a significant upgrade over Cesar Izturis and Cody Ransom (both of whom are filling in for the injured Alex Gonzalez who is on the 60-day DL and a free agent at the end of the year).

I ranked Segura as the fourth-best Angels prospect entering 2012 in part because he was coming off an injury and also because he had played little shortstop at that time. His value has increased since that time when he snuck onto the back end of my Top 100 prospects list at No. 91.

Hellweg is the second most value prospect obtained in the deal. The right-handed hurler stands 6’9” and has the high heat to match – pitching in the mid-to-upper 90s. He also shows a wipeout slider at times. Hellweg has done a much better job of inducing ground-ball outs during his past two seasons after being more of a fly-ball pitcher earlier in his career. The knock on the 22-year-old is his lack of command and control. He struggles to spot his fastball and he’s also wild at times; he’s walked 60 batters in 119 innings so far this year.

Hellweg is still a long way away from realizing his full potential and he needs to develop his changeup if he wants to realize his ceiling of a No. 2 starter. At worst, though, he possesses intrigue as a high-leverage reliever with his dynamic combination of the fastball and slider. Prior to the 2012 season, I ranked Hellweg as the Angels’ sixth-best prospect. He instantly becomes one of the Brewers’ best pitching prospects.

The third player in the deal — and someone who I left off the Angels’ pre-season Top 15 prospect list — is Pena. I’m definitely not as high on him as some prospect analysts. I see him as more of a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever with the potential to spend a little time at the back end of a big-league starting rotation.

The 23-year-old Dominican has a decent fastball that sits between 91 mph and 94 mph, and his slider flashes plus potential at times but is inconsistent. His changeup is rarely used. He has a nifty 2.99 ERA in 114.1 innings but his FIP is a full run higher. His control has been a big issue in the past but Pena’s walk rate has dropped more than one per nine innings in the past year in High-A ball.

Greinke is a free-agent-to-be at the end of the year, but it’s said that the Los Angeles Angels were one of his preferred destinations so the club may have a good shot at signing him at the end of the season (if they have the finances to do it). If he becomes a long-term Angel then this was a fair package. If the club ends up losing him, they will have given up quite a bit for a short-term rental.

If you’re an Angels fan, though, you probably really like the deal; I don’t think the team gave away a player who’s going to end up being a future all-star, although Segura could surprise me.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Dipoto is God and Trout is his prophet.
Dipoto is God and Trout is his prophet.
Dipoto is God and Trout is his prophet.