It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of the moves that Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has been making. He’s done an outstanding job of turning the organization around despite having almost nothing to work with. Astros fans will not see immediate results at the big league level but the organization – including the front office, scouts, and minor league development staff – have done an amazing job of infusing talent into the system.
Today’s trade with the Toronto Blue Jays will add even more talent to the organization and the 10-player deal (called the most boring 10-player deal ever) is being highly underrated from Houston’s perspective and will no doubt positively impact the club for a long time. Although Luhnow did not acquire an A-level prospect in the deal, he acquired three B-level prospects and a sleeper.
My first impression of this trade is that Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos – referred to as a ninja by many Toronto fans as well as the media for his stealth-like moves – may have made a panic trade and served up too much talent for three so-so pitchers with big league experience.
Let’s breakdown the minor league players involved:
Drafted: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Level: Low-A ball
Pre-Season Top 15 Ranking: Not Ranked
Toronto has chosen to deal Perez while his value is down, which is good news for Houston as he’s already begun to turn things around. Toronto can point to the fact that it has a lot of catching depth with prospects such as Travis d’Arnaud and A.J. Jimenez ahead of the young Venezuelan and Santiago Nessy and Seth Conner coming up behind him but you can never have too much of a good thing and both d’Arnaud and Jimenez are already on the disabled list and likely lost for the 2012 season. On my pre-2010 Toronto Blue Jays prospect ranking, Perez was ranked ninth before moving up to the fifth spot in 2011. He fell off entirely from the pre-2012 list and was forced to repeat A-ball this year while working to improve both his offense and defense. Perez has hit OK in every month but June and currently has a wRC+ of 125. He should be assigned to high-A ball with the Astros organization and could produce some very nice offensive numbers playing for Lancaster in the California League. Perez, 21, is a bat-first catcher but he’s improved enough to project as an average big league defender.
Drafted: 2011 supplemental 1st round
Level: Advanced Rookie
Pre-Season Top 15 Ranking: Just Missed
Musgrove is a beast on the mound at 6’5”, 230 lbs. The 19-year-old was nabbed with the 46th overall selection of the 2011 draft out of a California high school and he was a late-bloomer on the prep prospect landscape. Musgrove’s velocity crept up into the mid-90s last year but his velocity was down in early 2012, causing minor concern among the Jays’ coaching staff. He threw much better in his last game before the trade, though, and continues to battle with shoulder issues. Combined with high ground-ball tendencies, Musgrove’s new-found velocity gives him an impressive pitching repertoire. He’s working to improve his secondary pitches: a breaking ball and changeup. It’s easy to envision him as a durable, No. 3 workhorse. However, if his secondary pitches improve to the point where he has a second plus pitch he could develop into a No. 2 starter. Because he produces good ground-ball numbers, Musgrove is the type of pitcher that could perform well at home in Houston’s park. He’s overshadowed by Toronto’s big three arms in low-A (Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard) and he’s very underrated.
Drafted: 2010 supplemental 1st round
Level: High-A ball
Pre-Season Top 15 Ranking: 13th
Like Perez, Toronto is dealing Wojciechowski while his value is down. He was highly regarded as a 2010 draft pick out of college but Toronto tried to rework his delivery and he completely fell apart in 2011. The right-hander has finally settled into a comfortable delivery now and is back on track while repeating high-A ball in 2012. He had a rough May when his ERA was 6.94 in five starts but it’s been below 2.20 in both June and July. He’s struck out 38 batters with 15 walks during that 46.2 innings stretch. Wojciechowski only produces average ground-ball rates but he’s done a nice job of keeping the ball in the park with three homers allowed this year. The right-hander has nice velocity on his fastball but he struggles with his command and the consistency of his secondary stuff. His control has been above-average. Houston will probably keep him in the starting rotation for now but he could blossom as a high-leverage reliever. He’s probably ready to avoid Lancaster and will likely be assigned to double-A.
Drafted: 2011 24th round
Level: Low-A ball
Pre-Season Top 15 Ranking: Not Ranked
Rollins was a low draft pick but he’s intrigued MLB clubs for a while now and was actually drafted four times as an amateur (also by the Dodgers and twice by the Mariners). The lefty has average stuff but he shows good command and his control is usually good but it’s been a little inconsistent in A-ball. As well, Rollins is an extreme fly-ball pitcher so that may not go over so well in Houston’s home park. The hurler has plenty of time to improve but he currently performs much better against left-handed hitters (.189 average against) than right-handers (.246) suggesting his future may lie in a big league bullpen. Rollins was in a groove in his last four starts (1.50 ERA, 10 hits, 20 Ks in 18 IP) but he has spent the past few weeks on the minor league disabled list.
There is also rumored to be a Player to Be Named Later going from Toronto to Houston. I would gather that the player is one of Toronto’s 2011 draft picks who signed less than a year ago (A player cannot be traded until one year after signing). Possible names that could be on the move include Texas-born prospects RHP Jeremy Gabryszwski, RHP John Stilson, or 3B Matt Dean. Infielder Andrew Burns, who was selected out of the University of Arizona and has intriguing tools, is also a possibility. I would recommend high-A pitcher Marcus Walden, who is in his second year back from Tommy John surgery. He has a good fastball and produces crazy ground-ball rates (3-to-1) and could be an outstanding eighth-inning reliever.
With the recent trades with Toronto and Miami (which netted Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen), as well as an outstanding 2012 draft (Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Rio Ruiz), Houston’s Top 15 prospect list is looking much improved. And the future looks very bright as the organization prepares for a move to the American League West division in 2013.