Trade Deadline: Top Pitching Prospect Acquisitions

Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; USA pitcher Phil Bickford throws a pitch during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; USA pitcher Phil Bickford throws a pitch during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Trade Deadline deals in Major League Baseball can be viewed through many different prisms. A lot of analysis focuses on the major league players that are the centerpieces of most trades. However, the sellers in these deals often strengthen their farm systems tremendously with the acquisition of top prospects. In this post, we take a look at the top pitching prospects who changed organizations at this year’s trade deadline.

Phil Bickford – RHP – Milwaukee Brewers (Acquired from San Francisco Giants along with C Andrew Susac for LHP Will Smith)  –  Given his tremendous upside, Bickford was a surprising get by Milwaukee, who received a generous haul for reliever Will Smith. The 21-year-old right-hander has been dominant in every minor league stop to date and has posted an excellent 4.15 K/BB ratio over 115.1 innings. The California native’s fastball touches the high nineties with good movement, but his secondary stuff needs polishing. If everything falls in place, the 2015 first-rounder could pitch atop the Brewers rotation in a few years with fellow prospects Josh Hader and Luis Ortiz.

Anderson Espinoza – RHP – San Diego Padres (Acquired from Boston Red Sox for LHP Drew Pomeranz) – The hype in prospect circles surrounding Espinoza is well-deserved and no trade deadline acquisition possesses a higher ceiling. The Padres are seemingly in agreement and were willing to trade controllable, breakout lefty, Drew Pomeranz early in the trade deadline period for the chance to add Espinoza to their stacked farm system. The 18-year-old Venezuelan got 1.8 million to sign with the Red Sox in 2014 and then breezed through Rookie ball last season and the inevitable Pedro Martinez comps followed quickly. With command of three potential double-plus offerings already, it’s hard not to get excited about Espinoza’s future. The Padres are sure to handle him gingerly, but should he stay healthy, he has the arm and makeup to be an Cy Young-caliber hurler…his upside is that high.

Grant Holmes – RHP – Oakland Athletics (Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with RHP Jharel Cotton and RHP Frankie Montas for OF Josh Reddick and LHP Rich Hill) – Grant Holmes has more than held his own at age 20 in High-A this season, pitching to a 4.02 ERA in 105.1 innings with 100 strikeouts. Holmes possesses electric stuff, highlighted by a mid-nineties fastball with incredible movement and sink, and pairs it with a devastating curveball. Hitters have a hard time elevating the ball against him, as demonstrated by the fact that he has given up just 15 home runs in 257 career minor league innings. He has the a ceiling of a front-of-the-rotation starter and is a good bet to reach it with his plus stuff, great command and advanced pitchability.

Adalberto Mejia – LHP – Minnesota Twins (Acquired from San Francisco Giants for SS Eduardo Nunez) – Acquired straight-up for infielder Eduardo Nunez, Mejia is near-major league ready. He dominated the Double-A Eastern League during the first half of the season, pitching to a 1.94 ERA in 11 starts while allowing just 48 hits in 65 innings. Mejia doesn’t have overly-impressive stuff, but he commands a diverse repertoire well. A solid trade deadline pick-up, the Twins should be able to slot him in the back end of their rotation in short order, where his durable frame will allow him to be a rotation workhorse.

Frankie Montas – RHP – Oakland Athletics (Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with RHP Jharel Cotton and RHP Grant Holmes for OF Josh Reddick and LHP Rich Hill) – Montas will join his fourth organization since 2010 when he was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. The 23-year-old, who has a fastball that touches triple digits, hasn’t pitched since mid-June due to a broken right rib. In addition to his 80 grade fastball, Montas has a plus slider, but quirky mechanics often lead to command issues. He has the arsenal of a dominant closer, but if he could develop a usable changeup he could stick as a starter.

Luis Ortiz – RHP – Milwaukee Brewers (Acquired from the Texas Rangers along with OF Lewis Brinson and a Player To Be Named Later for C Jonathan Lucroy and RHP Jeremy Jeffress) – Ortiz has struggled some upon his promotion to Double-A, but at age 20, his minor league career thus far features a 2.62 ERA in 137.2 innings. The former 2014 first round pick has shown advanced command of an emerging arsenal, albeit with fly ball tendencies. A mid-nineties fastball is his best pitch, but his change-up is developing into a plus offering.  At 230 pounds, Ortiz should be a durable, mid-rotation innings eater with the potential for more and is just the type of high-upside prospect a team likes to get in a trade deadline deal.

Justus Sheffield – LHP  – New York Yankees (Acquired from Cleveland Indians along with OF Clint Frazier, RHP J.P. Feyereisen and RHP Ben Heller for LHP Andrew Miller) – Drafted out of Tullahoma High School  in the compensation round of the 2014 draft, Sheffield was the first-ever high school player from Tennessee to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. With a small, but sturdy frame, he works with a fastball in the low nineties, but good movement and a deceptive delivery help it play up. He possesses some intriguing secondary offerings as well and knows how to pitch low in the zone. Sheffield could easily blossom into a mid-rotation starter and has performed well as a 20-year-old in the Class A-Advanced Carolina League this year.

Dillon Tate – RHP – New York Yankees (Acquired from the Texas Rangers along with RHP Nick Green and RHP Erik Swanson for OF Carlos Beltran) – The fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, Tate has had a forgettable season plagued with injury, lost velocity and poor performance. The Rangers were seemingly quick to give up on his front-line starter upside, but Brian Cashman and the Yankees saw a great buy-low opportunity and have already outlined a plan to fix Tate’s issues. If Tate can get back to throwing his fastball in the high-nineties, he can pair that with his vicious slider and have a nice career as a high-leverage reliever. He has the upside to be much more than that though, and could end up being the steal of this year’s trade deadline.

Others to watch:

Jharel Cotton (Athletics) – Flame-thrower has look of a future closer.

Ben Heller (Yankees) – High-nineties heat will play well as high-leverage reliever.

Pat Light (Twins) – Middle reliever-type who must harness control.

Chris Paddack (Padres) – Headed under the knife for Tommy John surgery.

Michael Santos (Rays) – Athletic and raw, possible mid-rotation starter.