Monday’s surprising Oakland/Houston trade has generated a lot of buzz in baseball circles. While most of the discussion centered around Jed Lowrie and Chris Carter, one interesting name headed out of the Bay Area is Brad Peacock, former Nationals blue-chipper who was moved to Oakland last offseason in the Gio Gonzalez deal. Many may remember there was a fair amount of sleeper buzz last spring surrounding Washington’s former number one prospect, even after he was slated to start the season in Triple-A. Unfortunately, he just never seemed to put it together. Peacock, who seemed to be a candidate to be the first recall after the Athletics broke camp, eventually struggled to a 6.01 ERA for the Sacramento River Cats, never getting the call to make the trip short trip west down I-80.
If you’re just staring at his 2012 stats and grimacing, there is a degree of “caveat emptor.” Sacramento plays in the Pacific Coast League, a league notorious for horrendously inflated offense. His BABIP was a rather high .340 meaning his 4.26 FIP was more than a run and a half lower than his ERA. Further, he struck out more than a batter an inning, registering a 22.8% K%. This and his gaudy 2011 minor league K% are positives, especially since they stand in contrast to some scouting reports which don’t consider his raw stuff overpowering. More troubling was his 10.8% BB%. No one would confuse him with Greg Maddux, but Peacock’s BB% sat around 6-8% in the low minors, a number that would translate much more favorably to the big league level. North of 10% is just too high, especially when he lacks the swing-and-miss pitches of guys who work around high walk rates like Yu Darvish. The walks might only be a relatively recent phenomenon, but the levels where he has shown weaker control are AAA and the majors (during his brief stint with the Nationals in 2011), so this is something to keep an eye on.
Looking forward, an immediate issue facing Peacock is the park effects from his new digs. In terms of pure run-scoring, the ballpark formerly known as Enron Field is actually — contrary to popular belief — not that much worse for pitchers than the O.co Coliseum. One area there is a big discrepancy, however, is home runs. Oakland is in the top five big league stadiums for home run suppression with Minute Maid on the opposite side of the spectrum (bottom ten). This is especially concerning for Peacock, who has exhibited a growing proclivity to give up flyballs as he has worked his way up the ladder (minor league GO/FO the last four years: 1.35, 1.13, 0.75, 0.62). Playing in Oakland would have gone a long way towards masking this but “The Juice Box” might not be so kind to his HR/FB%, and correspondingly, his ERA.
As far as opportunity, Peacock should have a better shot locking down a full-time rotation slot in Houston. Beyond Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell the rotation race seems wide open, with youngster Jordan Lyles, one-hit wonder Phil Humber, perennially injured Erik Bedard, and mediocre-at-best Dallas Keuchel the main guys ahead of him on the depth chart.
Should he win a job out of spring training, he is probably worth a last-round or $1 flier in deeper redraft leagues in case he can hold the elevated K% and shave the walks, although owners should remember the ‘Stros aren’t in the National League Central anymore. Peacock’s keeper value is a little higher but with him now 25, there are fewer people around baseball who believe he has untapped top-of-the-rotation talent. If you don’t need him in your 2013 campaign, this makes him a less appealing option than a pitcher who might need a bit more minor league seasoning, but has a higher long-term ceiling looking 2014 and beyond. Now that he’s out of the PCL and can crack a big league rotation in his mid-20’s, he’s still worth a shot at the right price, but unlike the last couple years, he’s not going to be quite as high on my target list when I’m scouring my cheat sheet for potential breakthrough talent.