In what’s already shaping up to a busy trade deadline – and maybe not so busy, or at least slightly embarrassing – the Ruben Amaro-piloted Phillies finally found a home for their biggest trade chip, sending ace southpaw Cole Hamels, who’s fresh off of his latest no-hitter, and power-armed reliever Jake Diekman for a plethora a prospects, a move that essentially restocks a less than stellar Philadelphia farm system.
Amaro, who’s been highly criticized for waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more to deal away pieces from his veteran team, couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to deal his former ace: not only is Hamels coming off of arguably the best regular season start of his career – he blanked the Cubs’ potent lineup while posting a 13-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio – but his overall strikeout rate has spiked to the second best tally of his career (9.58 K/9). Throw in the fact that his average fastball velocity, 92.3 mph, is tied for a career high despite being on the wrong side of 30 and it’s easy to see why Philadelphia decided to push their organizational chips to the center of the table.
Texas also acquired mid-90s-throwing southpaw Jake Diekman, who seems like every left-hander relief cliché: great arm, great punch out rates, and absolutely no idea where it’s going.
As for Philly’s haul, well, it’s an interesting collection of high upside prospects (Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, and Jake Thompson), a pair of consistent, underrated minor league performers (Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff), and a former mid-rotation arm who has, admittedly, looked like a shell of his former self but was likely included as part low-risk gamble and a way of balancing out some money issues.
Alfaro, a 22-year-old backstop out of Columbia, has been lauded as one of the better young backstops in the minor leagues – a potential middle-of-the-lineup thumper who won’t kill a team behind the plate. The problem, of course, is that he’s typically hovered slightly above the league average production mark sans a pair of brief performance spikes. He had a 450game stint in short-season A-ball in 2011 when he posted a 129 wRC+ mark and then nearly matched that total two years later in a repeat of Low Class A (128 wRC+). After closing out last season with a solid 26-game showing in the Texas League, Alfaro’s 2015 campaign ended after 49 games due to ankle surgery. He batted a league-average-ish .253/.314/.413.
In my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, I wrote that Alfaro had a chance to be slightly better than average at the big league and so far he’s done nothing to dissuade me of that. I also noted that he’s been more hype than production too, and nothing’s dissuaded me from that as well.
Williams, on the other hand, has taken a dramatic bound forward this season as he’s finally amassed some sort of discipline at the plate; After posting back-to-back walk rates of 3.7% and 4.7% in Low Class A and High Class A, the former first round pick has walked in 7.5% plate appearances in 2015 while shaving off nearly 10-percentage points of his troublesome K-rate. Williams is an incredibly toolsy outfielder who will likely slide over permanently to a corner spot in the future but offers up 20/20 potential. He could – and likely will – be the best prospect acquired in the deal. If, of course, the development proves to be a repeatable skill.
Thompson’s stay in Texas was more like a brief vacation: after being acquired from Detroit as part of the Joakim Soria deal, the former second round pick found himself on the move once again just one season later. I’ve always, always been a big believer in the young right-hander, ranking him as Motown’s #7 prospect two years ago and their second best prospect one year later. Thompson has historically shown a strong feel for the strike zone and missing a fair amount of wood that has the upside as a #3/#4-caliber arm that could end of sliding into a late-inning relief role if needed.
Asher has quietly made stops at four different levels since entering pro ball as a fourth round pick in 2012. The 23-year-old right-hander has always shown fantastic strikeout- and walk-rates but has really stumbled with the long ball during his debut in Class AAA this season; something that’s likely to continue – though not to this degree – given his propensity for the fly ball. He’s not overpowering, but could round out a big league rotation as a true #5 or slide into a middle-relief role.
Eickhoff falls into the same boat as Asher, though he’s a couple years older (25) with less of a track record. The former 15th round pick never missed enough bats during his first three seasons in pro ball, but registered nearly a punch out per inning in Class AA last season and basically maintained status quo as he moved up to Class AAA this season. Solid control, a bit homer-prone, and another #5/middle relief arm.
And, finally, Harrison: the once promising southpaw who’s battled injury issue after injury issue since 2013. He recently made his way back to the big leagues after another setback, but his once low 90s fastball has been sitting in the 86 mph range through a handful of starts this year. Unless he finds his lost velocity – which likely won’t happen – he’s likely done being a useful arm.