In perhaps the most analyzed deal in recent memory, the Toronto Blue Jays dealt former Cy Young award winner - and life-long Jays hurler - Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies in a set of trades that involved four teams. With the dust now settling, the club has received back three solid prospects: Right-handed starter Kyle Drabek, corner infielder Brett Wallace, and catcher Travis D'Arnaud.
You may or may not have seen my analysis of the trade at www.fangraphs.com. If not, feel free to click the link. I broke down the deal before the news that outfielder Michael Taylor would be flipped to Oakland for Wallace, so I'll break down Wallace below. As well, I thought I'd take a look at how the impending prospects impact those already in the system, as well as when/where the new players will fit in at the MLB level.
Wallace was originally drafted by the Jays out of high school in the 42th round of the 2006 draft. The club made a run at signing him, but he was a second-to-fourth round talent at the time and he had slipped in the draft due to signability concerns thanks to a strong commitment to Arizona State University. The club had interest in Wallace again in '08, but the Cardinals nabbed him with the 13th overall pick and Toronto settled for first baseman David Cooper with the 17th selection.
Wallace has shown the ability to hit .300 over the past two seasons in the minors. He also hits southpaws extremely well, so there is no threat of a platoon. His career line against left-handers is .357/.441/.476, compared to his numbers against right-handers at .284/.359/.478. There have been some questions about just how much home-run power he possesses, but the left-handed hitter slugged 20 homers in '09 while playing for three clubs (one double-A, two triple-A). He was one of the key pieces of the mid-season trade of Matt Holliday from St. Louis to Oakland.
Defensively, Wallace has seen a lot of time at third base where he shows good hands and he converts almost everything he gets to. Unfortunately, his range is limited by a thick lower half, which will necessitate a move to first base. Oakland could afford to move Wallace for the more athletic Taylor due to the presence of first base prospect Chris Carter, who has massive power potential, and the organization's strong need for outfield depth.
Wallace should be ready to contribute in Toronto by mid-to-late 2010, depending on when incumbent first baseman Lyle Overbay packs his bags. The prospect has the potential to be an impact hitter at the MLB level; he just needs to get a little more loft in his swing (52.8% career ground-ball rate).
Here is how the first base depth looks in the system now:
1. Brett Wallace (AAA)
2. Brian Dopirak (AAA)
3. David Cooper (AA)
4. Michael McDade (A-)
5. Sean Ochinko (SS)
Wallace is definitely the cream of the crop, although Dopirak and Cooper definitely have potential, as well. Randy Ruiz is also still in the picture, but he's limited defensively and basically projects as a designated hitter. McDade is still a ways away from the Majors so he has plenty of time to develop. Ochinko, an '09 draft pick, has seen time behind the dish but he's struggled defensively and should move to first base full time in the near future.
Here is the new catching depth in the system:
1. J.P. Arencibia (AAA)
2. Travis D'Arnaud (A-)
3. Carlos Perez (R)
4. Brian Jeroloman (AA)
5. A.J. Jimenez (A-)
The signings of both John Buck and Ramon Castro, MLB veteran backstops, will buy all the minor-league catchers some more development time. After a breakout '08 season, Arencibia struggled mightily thanks to his approach at the plate (lack of patience... walk rate of 5.3%). He still has a ton of potential with above-average power and improved defensive skills, but he needs to make some adjustments. Hopefully the addition of D'Arnaud into the system will serve as a wake-up call. Perez is loaded with potential, but he's probably about four years away. Jeroloman is a gifted defensive catcher, but he took two steps backward in '09 with a significant offensive regression. D'Arnaud should be ready to challenge Arencibia for playing time in late 2011 or 2012.
The top (starting) pitching prospects:
1. Kyle Drabek, RHP (AA)
2. Zach Stewart, RHP (AAA)
3. Henderson Alvarez, RHP (A-)
4. Brad Mills, LHP (AAA)
5. Luis Perez, LHP (AA)
The injury woes at the MLB level in '09 significantly reduced the quantity and quality of pitching prospects. The grads included: Ricky Romero, Marc Rzepczynski, Scott Richmond, and Brett Cecil. Drabek immediately jumps to the top of the Jays' depth chart, followed by another import: Stewart, who could also end up in the bullpen. Alvarez has a nice combination of fastball velo and ground-ball rate, but he's about three to four years away from the Majors. Both Mills and Perez are left-handers with back-of-the-rotation potential. Drabek, who has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter should be ready to help out at the MLB level in the second half of 2010, or early 2011.
Baseball America recently released its Top 10 prospect list with Stewart at No. 1. Both Drabek (No. 1) and Wallace (No. 2) should move ahead of Stewart (No. 3) now.