Jesus Montero and the Top 10 Prospects Traded This Offseason
The Mariners farm system got a huge boost early this morning when the Yankees and M's reached an agreement that sends top prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle in exchange for flame-throwing right-hander Michael Pineda.
Montero has been one of the hottest names on the market for a few years now and was almost included in several deals, including one that would have brought him to Seattle in exchange for Cliff Lee back in 2010.
Montero is just one of several big-name prospects that has been moved this offseason, and he's surely not going to be the last as several teams are still looking to acquire the pieces that will allow them to compete in 2012.
Let's take a quick look at the top 10 guys who have been dealt so far.
Jesus Montero, C, Seattle Mariners
Montero was dealt to Seattle from New York, where he struggled to crack the lineup despite having one of the best bats of any minor league prospect.
In Seattle, he'll be given the opportunity to not only play everyday, but to likely try his hand at catcher. Montero's defensive ability has been questioned by just about everyone over the past few seasons, but considering he hits .300 and has 30-homer capability at the plate, it's likely that the M's will at least give him a try behind the plate.
Montero hit .328 with four homers and 12 RBI in 18 games late last season. In the minors he was a career .308 hitter who hit slugged at least 17 home runs four consecutive seasons (2008-11).
Jarrod Parker, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Parker was Arizona's top pitching prospect for three years, despite the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009.
Parker flashed premium velocity and two potential above-average secondary pitches before his surgery. Despite struggling with control issues after returning to the mound in 2011, he managed to finish the season incredibly strong.
He made his big-league debut in September, tossing five shutout innings.
Parker was deemed expendable when the Diamondbacks selected two pitchers in the top seven picks of the 2011 draft (Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley), both of whom have arguably a higher ceiling than the 23-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Parker instantly gives credibility to an Oakland farm system that has been lacking depth on the mound ever since graduating Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson to the majors.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo went through quite the ringer this winter. After being practically handed the Padres' first base job for 2012, he was dealt a blow to his confidence when San Diego acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from Cincinnati.
Weeks later, he was dealt to Chicago in exchange for reliever Andrew Cashner.
The move reunites Rizzo with the GM who drafted him back in 2007, Theo Epstein. Both men were in Boston back then, and the trade makes you think that maybe Epstein regretted the deal that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston back in 2010.
Rizzo won't immediately be rushed to the majors, instead getting some more seasoning at Triple-A at the behest of former Padres assistant GM Jed Hoyer, who like Rizzo, made the move from Boston to San Diego a few years ago.
Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres
The Padres made quite the move dealing starter Mat Latos to Cincinnati. In return they received two of the game's top prospects at their respective positions: catcher Yasmani Grandal and first baseman Yonder Alonso.
For a while after the trade it was assumed that Alonso would have to continue to try to learn the nuances of the outfield. After all, San Diego already had a franchise first baseman in former Red Sox Anthony Rizzo. The Padres solved that problem by dealing Rizzo to Chicago, opening up the door for Alonso to come in and win the first base job.
Alonso had little left to prove in Cincinnati, proving himself to be one of the best hitters in the minor leagues, while complementing his all-around game with some of the best plate discipline as well.
No longer blocked for the first time in his career (Joey Votto in Cincinnati, Rizzo in San Diego), Alonso will finally be given the opportunity to shine.
Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego Padres
The Reds clearly thought highly enough of Grandal's skills that they had no qualms about handing him a multi-million-dollar bonus and a big-league contract in 2010, despite the fact that they had Devin Mesoraco in the pipeline.
Two years later, Mesoraco is on the verge of winning the big-league job in Cincinnati and Grandal has been dealt to San Diego in exchange for right-hander Mat Latos, who solidifies a promising young Reds rotation.
Grandal not only offers solid offensive potential, but he's one of the top defenders in the game behind the plate. He should have no problem reaching the majors in San Diego and there's a chance he could be the franchise catcher they've been looking for for years.
A.J. Cole, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Cole wasn't one of the biggest names involved in the blockbuster deal that sent Gio Gonzalez to Washington in exchange for Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Derek Norris, but there's no doubt that if he reaches his ceiling, he's got the potential to surpass each of the players he was packaged with.
Cole was one of the top high school arms available in 2010, but he slipped all the way to the fourth round due to concerns about his signability.
The Nationals, who are widely considered more friendly towards drafting high-schoolers than the A's, had no doubts about pulling the trigger on the lanky right-hander.
Cole showed some fine form last season in Low-A ball, posting a 108-to-24 K:BB ratio in 89 innings. Furthermore, he showed arm strength that neither Peacock or Milone has, touching 95-96 mph with his fastball with regularity.
Brad Peacock, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Peacock was the headliner of the Nats-A's deal for Gio Gonzalez, and it makes sense.
Peacock is a seasoned right-hander who had one of the finest seasons of any pitching prospect in 2011. He won 15 games and posted a 2.39 ERA and a 177-to-47 K:BB ratio splitting time between Double- and Triple-A. He was rewarded for his dominance with a late-season call-up to Washington, where he went 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three appearances.
He likely would have challenged for a spot at the back of the Nats rotation in 2012, and now finds himself as a candidate to start at the top of the A's.
Peacock doesn't have frontline stuff like his former teammate in Washington, A.J. Cole, who was also dealt to Oakland, but he has the ability to be a number two or three starter.
Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics
Norris has long held the reputation of being one of the top hitting catchers in baseball, despite that fact that he has failed to hit above .235 since 2009.
Power has always been his calling card, and business was good in 2011. Norris crossed the 20-homer plateau for the second time in his career and managed to maintain a solid 77-to-117 BB:K ratio, something that almost certainly interests the A's.
On defense, Norris has shown flashes and, despite his burly build, he has consistently posted some of the best caught-stealing rates in the minors. He threw out a remarkable 51 percent of attempted base-stealers in 2010 and caught 40 percent last year.
Norris spent all of 2010 at Double-A, which means he'll likely be headed to Triple-A with Oakland.
Simon Castro, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Castro has long been one of the top arms in a weak San Diego system.
He's a big guy (6'5", 210 pounds) who makes his mark by throwing hard and racking up strikeouts. Unfortunately, he's coming off the worst season of his career (5.63 ERA, 14 home runs allowed), making him a relatively easy player to let go in a trade.
Still, the White Sox will likely find something salvageable in Castro. He could pitch at the back of their rotation as early as this year, and he could slot in as the number three guy for years to come.
Raul Alcantara, RHP, Oakland Athletics
The 2011 Gulf Coast League pitcher of the year, Alcantara was reluctantly included in the deal that sent Andrew Bailey to Oakland in exchange for Josh Reddick.
The lanky right-hander had quietly emerged as one of the Red Sox' top young pitchers and showed considerable poise and talent in the GCL. He struck out 36 batters and walked just six in 48 innings, spanning nine starts. He got hit a bit harder after a promotion to the New York-Penn League, but that did little to dent his potential in the eyes of the Sox.
Baseball America's Jim Callis believes in Alcantara enough to have called his ceiling one of the highest in the Boston system. He offers a low- to mid-90s fastball and a slider that Callis calls a potential plus pitch.