On December 22, the Washington Nationals acquired lefty hurler Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Robert Gilliam from the Oakland A's for four prospects, including three of their top-10 according to Baseball America. Pitchers Brad Peacock (#3), A.J. Cole (#4) and Tommy Milone were sent back to Oakland along with catcher Derek Norris (#9).
Let's take a closer look at the players that may be relevant to us this year.
The Nationals obviously coveted the 26-year old Gonzalez and it was for good reason. Gio has thrown for just over 200 innings each of the past two seasons with an ERA of 3.23 and 3.12. He also strikes out batters at a clip of almost one per inning (his career K/9 is 8.6).
The biggest issue with Gonzalez is his command. While it has improved since he entered the league (6.6! and 5.1 BB/9 in 2008 and 2009, respectively), he has walked 4.1 batters per nine innings in each of the last two seasons. The result is an un-sexy 1.31 WHIP. Gonzalez is entering his prime so perhaps there is hope that his control can improve a bit, but I wouldn't bank on it.
As I said about former teammate Trevor Cahill, you can expect an improvement in a pitcher's ratios with a move from the AL to the NL because of the lack of a DH.
Gonzalez should still be a bargain on draft day as the name recognition still isn't there, as is the case with a lot of AL West players. He should perform as a top-20 starting pitcher this year without that kind of price tag.
Peacock, a 41st-round draft pick in 2006, seemingly came out of nowhere last year to dominate the high minors. In 146 2/3 innings in AA and AAA, Peacock sported a 2.39 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and a strikeout ratio of 10.9. Those are numbers to get excited about! His success continued for the big club as he only gave up one run and 13 baserunners in 12 innings.
Peacock certainly won't be drafted in mixed leagues but he's worth keeping an eye on. The A's have depleted their rotation recently and Peacock could earn a spot in it with a good spring training, much like Michael Pineda did with the Mariners last year.
Milone, like Peacock, could also be in the mix to be in the A's starting rotation in 2012. The lefty progressed nicely through the Nationals' farm system, spending exactly one season at A+ Potamoc, AA Harrisburg and AAA Syracuse. Milone has a sterling walk rate (1.3 in 2010 and 1.0 in 2011) and has managed to strike out nearly a batter per inning (8.8 K/9 in 2010 and 9.4 in 2011) while keeping an ERA around 3.00.
Norris, almost 23, was Baseball America's 38th ranked prospect in 2010 before falling to No. 72 in their rankings before the 2011 season. He strikes out with the worst of them (117 times in 334 at bats last year) but he also has some pop (20 home runs).
Don't be surprised to see Norris up with the A's at some point this season. They will surely be out of the playoff mix pretty early and it's not like Kurt Suzuki is going to do too much to block him. Think of Norris as a J.P. Arencibia-type player. He will destroy your average but provide some nice power from the catcher position. It just may not happen until 2013.
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