The Astros acquired three useful players in exchange for Jed Lowrie.
By sending Lowrie and right-hander Fernando Rodriguez to the A’s, the now divisional-rival Astros netted first baseman and designated hitter Chris Carter, right-hander Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi.
The trade seems fair for both organizations: while the A’s add a switch-hitting, versatile infielder in Lowrie, the hopeful upstart Astros receive a trio of players capable of plugging holes on their 2013 roster.
Chris Carter, 1B/DH/LF
With 106 games in the major leagues under his belt, Carter, 26, technically is no longer a prospect. However, the 6’4” right-handed hitter is fresh off a rookie season with the A’s in which he batted .239/.350/.514 with 16 home runs and 83/39 K/BB in 67 games.
Carter was originally a 15th-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2005, and Monday’s transaction marks the third time he has been traded in his career. Prior to the 2008 season, the White Sox dealt the first baseman to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Carlos Quentin. Nearly two weeks later, the Diamondbacks included him in loaded prospect package to the A’s to land Dan Haren.
Throughout his eight-year minor league career, the right-handed slugger has always showcased impressive power and on-base skills and has batted .283/.378/.535 with 182 home runs and 442 walks in 826 games. However, the power-hitting approach has always resulted in high strikeout rates, as Carter has amassed 857 thus far.
Still, teams continue to be intrigued by his power potential, and more importantly, his ability to mash left-handed pitching. (But of course, Carter posted better numbers against right-handers in the major leagues last season.)
With his new organization, Carter could see a significant playing time at both first base and designated hitter. The Astros already have left-handed hitters Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace in the mix for both positions, so Carter would likely receive the bulk of the at-bats against right-handed pitching.
And given the limited athleticism required to play left field at their home ballpark, it’s conceivable that he’ll also see time in the outfield.
Keep in mind that the organization also recently selected masher Nate Freiman in the Rule 5 Draft, so it’ll be interesting to see how this affects his outlook for the upcoming season. Given Carter’s experience in the major leagues, expect him to be the favorite in any roster battle between the two.
Max Stassi, C
One of the more highly regarded position players in the 2009 draft, Stassi fell to the A’s in the fourth round due to his strong commitment to UCLA. However, they ultimately changed his mind by offering a flattering $1.5 million signing bonus.
Coming out of high school, Stassi was lauded for his defensive ability, though even then there was concern about whether his bat would develop.
The stocky, 5’10”, 205-pound backstop received an aggressive assignment to Low-A Kane County for his full-season debut in 2010, where his raw plate discipline and lack of experience was obvious.
Playing in 110 games, the right-handed hitter batted .229/.310/.380 with 13 home runs and an ugly 141/45 K/BB. Stassi’s defense was as good as advertised, however, as he committed only 10 passed balls and posted a 34-percent caught-stealing rate in 95 games behind the plate.
Unfortunately, a lingering shoulder injury worsened during the 2011 season at High-A Stockton, and ultimately required season-ending surgery. At that time, Stassi was batting .231/.331/.662 with two home runs and 22/16 K/BB through 31 games.
Finally healthy entering the 2012 season, Stassi was once again hampered by injuries, as ankle and oblique issues limited him to only 84 games. However, the 22-year-old still enjoyed the best season of his professional career, as he batted .268/.331/.468 with 15 home runs and 83/27 K/BB for High-A Stockton.
Even though Stassi still showcased advanced blocking and receiving skills in his return, his catch-and-throw skills were rusty, as he posted a 24-percent caught-stealing rate in 65 games.
To make up for time lost due to injury, the A’s decided to send Stassi to the Arizona Fall League to sharpen his skills. And he had a decent showing, batting .271/.314/.396 with four extra-base hits and 12/3 K/BB in 13 games.
Stassi gives the Astros additional depth behind the plate—a position at which they have no long-term solution. As of now, the organization is prepared to open the season with former top prospect Jason Castro and veteran Carlos Corporan.
Beyond that, they have a slew of mediocre minor leagues scattered between High-A and Triple-A. It’s worth noting that of their litter of catching prospects, Stassi is arguably the most projectable.
He won’t contribute in 2013, but if his defense returns to pre-surgery form, the 22-year-old could reach the major leagues at some point the following season.
Brad Peacock, RHP
Drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 41st round in 2006 out of a Florida high school, Peacock was a draft-and-follow—a now extinct draft rule that allowed a team to track a player’s progress the following season before choosing to extend a contract offer.
Therefore, it wasn’t until 2007, after a season a Palm Beach Community College, that Peacock finally signed a professional contract with the Nats.
The 6’1”, 175-pound right-hander pitched well in his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League, as he registered a 3.89 ERA with 34/15 K/BB in 39.1 innings. However, Peacock struggled at both Class-A levels over the next two seasons, posting ERAs in excess of 4.00 and high home-run rates.
Despite registering a 4.50 ERA in 2010, Peacock showed signs of a potential breakthrough by vastly improving his secondary stats (148/47 K/BB), and making seven starts at Double-A Harrisburg to finish the season.
And then, in 2011, Peacock took flight—at least as a prospect. Returning to Double-A to open the season, the then 23-year-old was simply a different pitcher, as he posted a 2.01 ERA with 129/23 K/BB in 98.2 innings.
The right-hander’s performance earned him a midseason promotion to Triple-A Syracuse. Despite the jump to a more advanced level, Peacock continued to deal, as he registered a 3.19 ERA with 48/24 K/BB in 48 innings.
Peacock’s overwhelming success in the minor leagues ultimately earned him a late-season call-up to the majors. Appearing in three games for the Nationals, two of which were starts, he recorded two wins, registered a 0.75 ERA and surrendered only seven hits in 12 innings.
With his stock at an all-time high following the 2011 season, the Nationals shipped Peacock and three other prospects to the A’s in the deal for Gio Gonzalez. However, the right-hander struggled last season with his new organization, registering a 6.01 ERA with 139/66 K/BB in 135 innings for Triple-A Sacramento.
His return to normalcy in 2012 brings up the question of whether his 2011 season with the Nationals was a fluke. Well, for what it’s worth, his stuff was relatively unchanged despite the lack of success.
Peacock’s fastball typically sits 90-95 mph, though he still struggles to consistently throw the pitch on a downhill plane—a major reason he was touched up last season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
His curveball is easily his best secondary offering and will flash plus potential when it’s on and sequenced off a well-located fastball. He’ll also mix in both a slider and changeup, though neither is advanced as his curve.
Besides his 2011 campaign, Peacock’s command has been inconsistent over the course of his career. At the same time, the right-hander deserves credit for being an innings eater who posts favorable strikeout rates.
Although the 25-year-old may contend for a spot at the back end of the Astros’ Opening Day rotation—especially with the uncertainty surrounding their two offseason signings, Phillip Humber and Erik Bedard—it’s a safer bet that he’ll open the year at Triple-A. However, if one of starters falters or sustains an injury, expect Peacock to be the first pitcher recalled.
*All stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com
*All roster projections courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com