Speaking of Olt:
Profile: Mike Olt, 3B, Rangers.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The situation: Coming off their most dramatic win of the season in comeback fashion against the division-rival Angels, the Rangers made a move to bolster their offense by calling up Mike Olt from Double-A Frisco. In 95 Texas League games, Olt was hitting .288/.398/.579 with 28 home runs in 354 at-bats.
Background:The 49th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of the University of Connecticut, Olt has spent his two years as a pro leaving scouts wondering why he wasn't selected higher. He was in the midst of a breakout year in 2011 during his full-season debut at High-A Myrtle Beach before a broken collarbone cost him the second half of the season. Once healthy again, Olt's stock really exploded when he posted a .349/.433/.764 slash line in the Arizona Fall League while leading the circuit in both home runs (13) and RBIs (43) in just 27 games. He earned a trip to the Futures Game this year, and there were some indications that a call-up was looming when he began to see some playing time at first base and right field during the month of July.
Mike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP Images
Rangers call-up Mike Olt likely won't get much playing time at third base, his natural position, this season, but he also can play first base and the outfield.
What he can do: Olt has some of the best "secondary" skills in all of the minor leagues. His fantastic plate discipline has led to 61 walks this season, and he has homered every 12.6 at-bats. He does not project to be a high-average hitter, however, and has struck out 253 times in 237 career minor league games. He's a tremendous defensive third baseman with great reactions, soft hands and a plus arm. His arm will rarely be on display due to the presence of Adrian Beltre at the hot corner, but Olt also has looked solid with the glove at both first base and in the outfield. He's a below-average runner with just 10 career stolen bases in the minors, six of which came during his pro debut in the Northwest League.
Immediate big league future: Olt likely won't get everyday playing time immediately. Initially, he'll start against left-handers at first base, right field or designated hitter, but he'll earn spot time against right-handers, with the opportunity for more if his play warrants it. So while the bad news is that he won't get many at-bats, the good news is that he does crush southpaws, sporting a 1.020 OPS against them in the minors this year. He's a better hitter than Michael Young at this point, but replacing Young in the lineup and shaking up the Rangers' clubhouse could cause problems. So while he should provide some power, he likely won't have the fantasy impact some might hope for unless he forces the Rangers' hand.
Long-term: The Rangers have refused to move Olt in a trade, and they see him as an important part of their future. He'll likely open 2013 with a more permanent role, and therefore makes for a fantastic long-term pickup.
Ten August trade candidates.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The rules have changed, on this first day in August, and the waiver process greatly impacts the volume of deals that will occur this month.
For example: Woe to the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, who are at the mercy of Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers -- one of the most aggressive waiver-claim executives in baseball history -- because the Diamondbacks currently stand in front of San Francisco and Los Angeles in the waiver-claim pecking order. If the Giants and Dodgers suffer any significant injuries and look to deal for help, Towers can block them, like a great hockey goalie stoning shot attempts.
But teams have already started placing players on waivers, and the first August trade could happen in the next 48 hours. There will be deals this month, there will be players talked about, as they go through the waiver process.
Ten names to watch for possible trades this month:
1. Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros: He was having a good year when he got hurt, and when his name gets passed through waivers, some teams will take a serious look at him. Lowrie is making only $1.25 million, and the Astros have made it clear they'll trade everything, up to and including their last remaining Jimmy Wynn bobbleheads.
2. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies: He's owed about $97 million in his deal, and $87.5 million in the next three seasons, so it's possible -- in fact, almost certain -- that he will pass through waivers because nobody can take on a contract like that in the middle of the season. But if the Phillies choose to revisit any Lee trade talks later this month, they'll have the opportunity.
3. Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins: He's owed about $19 million, and despite questions about his health, somebody will probably put in a claim on Johnson. Miami will have to decide whether to make a deal now or hold onto the right-hander into the winter.
4. Jason Giambi, Colorado Rockies: He's a prototype of the players who usually get moved in August -- an inexpensive, experienced role player. Giambi is currently on the disabled list, but he might be interesting to NL contenders (like the Cincinnati Reds) as a pinch hitter and to AL contenders that need some DH help. Giambi has a .380 on-base percentage this year.
5. Juan Pierre, Phillies: See Giambi, Jason. Inexpensive. Experienced. Role player.
6. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox: Beckett suffered a back spasm during his start Tuesday, and because of concerns about his health and the $36 million he is owed, he likely will clear waivers, giving Boston the chance to at least think about a trade.
7. Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks: Arizona talked to the Oakland Athletics and other teams about Drew, but there simply was not enough information about Drew's condition. He's played in only 25 games since coming off the disabled list with a severe ankle injury and has an OPS of just .518. Drew likely will clear waivers, and if he plays better, he'll draw some interest -- but Arizona may ultimately decide to keep him.
8. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs: He's owed about $40 million, so he'll get through waivers, and the Cubs will continue to try to find a deal for him, while eating a whole lot of money. But Soriano said to me early this year he would not agree to go anyplace he doesn't want to go, which is his right. The Cubs might go into the winter, again, with Soriano on their roster.
9. Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals: He'll get through waivers because he hasn't had a good year, hitting .238, and he's owed about $9.5 million for the rest of this year and for next year. Eventually, K.C. will install Wil Myers in their outfield, and maybe the Royals will be able to find a deal for Francoeur with a contender desperate for an experienced outfielder.
10. Placido Polanco, Phillies: He's on the disabled list, but if he gets off midway through the month and shows he's reasonably healthy, Polanco could be an acceptable short-term fix for a team looking to fill a hole created by injury. Polanco is hitting .255 this year, with little pop, but he's played in a lot of big games and does have the ability to put the ball in play. He'll clear waivers because of his $6.25 million salary and because of his injury history.
Trade deadline winners and losers
Winner No. 1: The Los Angeles Angels, which got Zack Greinke after landing Ernesto Frieri early in the season.
Winner No. 2: The Dodgers, who bolstered their lineup with Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino. The Dodgers' new ownership walked the talk, as T.J. Simers writes.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Victorino will play left field, a position the Dodgers have struggled to get production from. They've also matched a National League high by starting eight players in left field this season.
Dodgers' left fielders this season (NL rank)
BA: .259 (11th)
Slug pct.: .348 (15th)
OPS: .677 (12th)
HR: 4 (16th)
RBIs: 36 (15th)
Winner No. 3: The Atlanta Braves, which added Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to help their playoff chances. They have plenty to prove after what happened last year, writes Jeff Schultz. Maholm comes on board at a time when the Braves had to put Tommy Hanson on the disabled list.
Winner No. 4: The Pittsburgh Pirates, which got better without blockbusters, but with nice second-tier moves that didn't compromise their blossoming farm system.
Loser No. 1: The Cubs, who were just really unlucky, with Ryan Dempster blocking their deal with the Braves for Randall Delgado and Matt Garza's marketability affected by his late July injury.
That said, an MLB evaluator sent along this view of the main prospect Chicago got from the Texas Rangers in the Dempster deal: "Cubs got strong value for Dempster. Christian Villanueva is a legit sleeper prospect on the cusp of breaking out. Young player with good components. Good stroke, sound defender, down-the-road power and adept baserunner. After Olt and Profar, he was on Rangers' next tier of value."
Dempster got to watch his trade unfold.
Loser No. 2: The Phillies. The Rangers have taken some criticism for not being willing to trade their top position-player prospects for top starting pitchers in the market -- but maybe they wanted to avoid the mess that the Phillies have fallen into, after repeatedly trading prospects and overpaying to keep an accomplished but aging team together. The Phillies dumped Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence and will presumably allow Joe Blanton and Placido Polanco to walk after this season. But a lot of that savings is going to be quickly swallowed up as they work to keep Carlos Ruiz -- and they'll still need to find a third baseman, two outfielders and at least one starting pitcher between now and the start of next season.
The Phillies had a remarkable run from 2008-2011, fielding a team that won one World Series and appeared in a second, but they will be paying off the debt of that splurge for some years to come, given their contracts with Ryan Howard, Lee and others.
Loser No. 3: The Athletics, but not because of anything they necessarily did wrong. While the Angels and Rangers were able to make moves, the Athletics still have a hole at shortstop they need to fill. The market at that position was atrocious, with a whole lot of imperfect options. Like the Cubs, they were unlucky.
The Rangers added Dempster at a time when they knew Neftali Feliz was facing Tommy John surgery. Roy Oswalt is being demoted to the bullpen.
The Giants added Pence, as Henry Schulman writes.
Joel Sherman gives his winners and losers here.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Miami Marlins raised the idea of a Carlos Lee deal with the New York Yankees, and while the Yankees weren't really that interested, they asked the Marlins to make sure that Lee would approve any deal if one was negotiated. And Lee said he wouldn't accept a deal to the Yankees.
With Mark Teixeira dealing with what the team believes to be a minor injury, the Yankees added Casey McGehee.
2. The deadline day was very different for Pirates GM Neal Huntington, writes Gene Collier. The Pirates' front office was not all in, writes Dejan Kovacevic.
3. The Marlins traded off a couple of pieces.
4. Arizona tried to get Garza and wound up adding a reliever and an outfielder instead.
5. The Red Sox added a lefty. The Red Sox stuck with their roster, writes Michael Silverman.
6. Rafael Betancourt is staying with the Colorado Rockies. If the Rockies had traded him, they probably wouldn't have gotten a lot back in return, and they would have immediately been trying to replace him.
7. The Toronto Blue Jays did not get a starter. Alex Anthopoulos worked to get help but wasn't able to do so, writes Richard Griffin.
8. The Baltimore Orioles stood pat at the deadline.
9. Mike Rizzo stuck with his starting pitchers.
10. In the end, the San Diego Padres hung onto third baseman Chase Headley.
11. The Seattle Mariners will wait until the winter to make an impact move, writes Geoff Baker.
12. The St. Louis Cardinals added a reliever.
13. The Detroit Tigers were content at the deadline.
14. The Royals got a couple of minor leaguers for Jonathan Broxton. Greg Holland has taken over as the Royals' closer.
15. The Reds added a big arm.
16. The lack of deals for the Cleveland Indians are a sign of a team adrift, writes Terry Pluto.
Dings and dents
1. Ryan Sweeney is out for the year after suffering a self-inflicted wound.
2. A couple of Washington Nationals are expected back in the lineup today.
3. A couple of Angels went down with injuries.
4. Joey Votto continues to make progress.
5. Evan Longoria is dealing with some soreness.
6. A Minnesota Twins former No. 1 pick apparently needs Tommy John surgery.
7. John Danks is out for the season.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
8: Hits allowed by Stephen Strasburg Tuesday, all against his fastball.
19: Home runs for Albert Pujols on pitches up and out of the zone since 2009, six more than any other player in the league.
53: Curveballs thrown by A.J. Burnett Tuesday, his highest total in the last four seasons.
63: Streak of consecutive starts of at least six innings for Justin Verlander snapped after the Tigers lost in a rain-shortened game Tuesday.
NL West notes
• Wade Miley was The Man for the Diamondbacks.
• Tim Lincecum ended the Giants' losing streak.
NL Central notes
• A.J. Burnett threw a one-hitter but was outwardly perturbed. After Burnett allowed the only hit he surrendered, he appeared to turn and gesture at home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, seemingly unhappy with previous calls.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Burnett shut down the Cubs:
A) Burnett threw 49 percent curveballs, his highest percentage in a start in the last four seasons.
B) Seven of Burnett's eight strikeouts were with his curveball, and he didn't allow a hit with it.
C) Burnett started 24 of 31 hitters (77 percent) with a first-pitch strike, his second-highest percentage of the season.
D) Three hitters put the first pitch in play, meaning Burnett started 21 hitters ahead 0-1. He retired all 21 of those hitters, and all eight of his strikeouts came when he started ahead 0-1. Of the six hitters who were started ahead 1-0 (Burnett hit one batter on the first pitch), three reached base.
Most curveball strikeouts this season
Adam Wainwright: 64
Wandy Rodriguez: 52
Gio Gonzalez: 49
Longest no-hit bids this season (not including no-hitters)
May 18: Verlander, 8 1/3 innings
July 31: Burnett, 7 2/3 innings
June 26: Bronson Arroyo, 7 1/3 innings
June 4: Jarrod Parker, seven innings
April 8: Jason Hammel, seven innings
Burnett is the first pitcher in the majors to have a no-hit bid of at least five innings since July 3, when Wei-Yin Chen made it through 6 1/3 innings without allowing a hit. The 28-day gap between five-inning no-hit bids was the longest in the last four years; the previous longest was 15 days, between May 2 and May 17 of this season.
NL Central notes
• My god, the Astros have been awful.
• The St. Louis Cardinals beat up the Rockies, writes Derrick Goold.
• Ryan Ludwick is red-hot, and the Reds never lose.
• The Milwaukee Brewers cruised.
NL East notes
• Matt Harvey pitched effectively, but the New York Mets lost.
• The Marlins continue to struggle.
• Strasburg really struggled against the Phillies.
• Lee and the Phillies had a day like they often had in the past.
AL East notes
• Chris Davis put an incredible swing on the grand slam he hit against the Yankees, and now the Orioles have climbed to within 5 1/2 games of first place, as Eduardo Encina writes.
• The big question about James Shields before the trade deadline was: How good is he, exactly? And on Tuesday night, he showed how good he is.
• The Red Sox won a rain-shortened game against the best pitcher on the planet.
AL Central notes
• The Tigers lost a game under unusual circumstances, but Jim Leyland wasn't making any excuses.
• Derek Lowe was hit hard.
• Francisco Liriano shut down his old teammates.
AL West notes
• The Angels are turning up the heat on the Rangers and thumped them, as Bill Plunkett writes.
• Derek Holland couldn't keep up with the Angels.
• The Athletics were shut down.
• You can't stop the Mariners, you only hope to contain them.
Ranking all the traded prospects.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While it wasn't exactly a star-studded trade deadline, it was certainly a busy one, with 10 trades featuring a total of 15 prospects on the final day alone. All in all, 43 prospects (as defined by Rookie of the Year eligibility) changed hands in the month of July, and people like rankings, so after consults with scouts and front office personnel, here's how I line up the prospects on the move.
1. Jacob Turner, RHP, Marlins (from Tigers)
Scouting Profile: 21-year-old with big frame and the potential for three average-to-plus pitches in 91-95 mph fastball and advanced curve/changeup combination for age. Good delivery but occasional control issues. Ceiling as good No. 3 starter, but that might also be floor.
Path With New Club: Turner goes to a Miami team that is suddenly in no rush, so he'll get back on a more reasonable development path while still being very young for the Triple-A level. A good run at New Orleans could give him a needed run of statistical success, as he was expedited through the Detroit system and thus rarely dominated. He could get a look in September and should compete for a rotation job next spring.
2. Jean Segura, SS, Brewers (from Angels)
Scouting Profile: This 22-year-old Dominican is a compact athlete with impressive tools. Plus hitter, plus speed and could be an impact player if he can stay at shortstop, where there is debate about his instincts and range. Surprising pop for his size and could end up a .280 hitter with 10-15 home runs and 30-plus stolen bases annually, which would even have value at second base.
Path With New Club: Shortstop was a black hole of a position for Milwaukee, both at the big league level and within the organization, so Segura is a perfect fit, and he'll get every chance to stay at shortstop while getting a long look next spring.
3. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Cubs (from Braves)
Scouting Profile: A 21 year-old Dominican who dominated at times last year out of the big league bullpen. Tommy John surgery in spring, back for spring 2013. Undersized, with violent delivery, but stuff plays up out of the bullpen with a fastball that sits at 96 and touches 98, as well as a plus power breaking ball. Closer potential.
Path With New Club: The Cubs have plenty of room for their prospects, and once fully healthy and rehabbed, Vizcaino could assume a role in the back of the Cubs bullpen as a closer-in-training while Carlos Marmol plays out the last year of his contract.
4. Johnny Hellweg, RHP, Brewers (from Angels)
Scouting Profile: Hellweg, 23, has physical similarities to a right-handed Randy Johnson, at 6-foot-9 with difficult angles adding to a mid-90s fastball that can touch 98. Curveball and changeup are average. Long limbs create control issues, but while it's still below-average, he's made significant progress. Could become anything from a No. 2 starter to a No. 5 starter to a closer depending on development.
Path With New Club: Starters are certainly more valuable than relievers, so Hellweg will stay in that role until there's a good reason to move him. With Zack Greinke gone and Shaun Marcum not long for Milwaukee, there should be plenty of opportunities with the Brewers.
5. Robbie Grossman, OF, Astros (from Pirates)
Scouting Profile: Outfielder with outstanding plate discipline with average tools across the board. Numbers hurt by slow start. Average runner, but enough speed to be acceptable in center field with high on-base percentage and 15 home runs and stolen bases per year. Can get through slumps with consistent on-base ability.
Path With New Club: There's no such thing as being blocked in Houston right now, and Jordan Schafer is clearly not a long-term solution. Grossman will likely begin next year at Triple-A and could get a look in the second half.
6. Ariel Pena, RHP, Brewers (from Angels)
Scouting Profile: A 23 year-old classic power righty. Low 90s fastball that can touch 95 mph. Gets ahead in the count to set up plus slider, his best pitch. Changeup is a tick below average and needs work. Clean delivery and carries velocity deep into games. Future No. 3 or 4 starter.
Path With New Club: While Pena doesn't have Hellweg's upside, he is the more polished product of the two, and he's closer to the big leagues because of it. Both have 2013 ETAs, but Pena will likely be the first to get a look.
7. Tommy Joseph, C, Phillies (from Giants)
Scouting Profile: A 21 year-old catcher with a unique collection of strengths and weaknesses. The kind of big raw power that is rare to find in a backstop, but undoes himself with poor approach and pull-happy swing. Cuts down the running game with strong arm and quick release, but is below-average receiver who does not block well or frame pitches effectively. Could be star catcher, could be solid regular or could be backup if development doesn't occur.
Path With New Club: While Carlos Ruiz is having a career year that makes his 2013 option at $5 million an absolute bargain, he'll be a free agent prior to the 2014 season while also turning 35 that January. That could lead to an ugly overpay, and the Phillies would love to see Joseph at least give them something to think about.
8. Christian Villanueva, 3B, Cubs (from Rangers)
Scouting Profile: A 21-year-old whose greatest strength is a lack of weaknesses. Sound approach with good bat speed and the potential for average power once he fills out. Plus defender with plus arm and athletic with at least average speed. Projects as a solid, average starting third baseman with some chance at a higher ceiling.
Path With New Club: Villanueva is behind Josh Vitters on the Cubs' depth chart, but he's also behind him in terms of development, as Villanueva is slated to begin the 2013 season in Double-A, while Vitters will get a long look for the big league job. Villanueva's picture gets more clouded if the Cubs' top prospect, Javier Baez, slides from shortstop to the hot corner down the road.
9. Rudy Owens, LHP, Astros (from Pirates)
Scouting Profile: High ranking mostly because he's already at his floor and ready to pitch in big leagues. Not a stuff guy at 88-92 mph with average breaking ball and changeup. Absolutely pounds the strike zone and always gets ahead of hitters. No. 4 or 5 starter ceiling, but already there.
Path With New Club: Owens will likely make his Astros debut at some point during the second half and open the 2013 season as a permanent part of the Houston rotation.
10. Donnie Joseph, RHP, Royals (from Reds)
Scouting Profile: This 24-year-old is among the best southpaw relief prospects in the game. Two bat-missing pitches with low-to-mid 90s fastball and nasty slider. Inconsistent control is only real issue, but ability to throw strikes has completely disappeared at times in the past.
Path With New Club: Some scouts believe Joseph could be in the big leagues right now and be every bit as good as Broxton. He has the ceiling of a good setup man, with stuff that falls just short of being closer-worthy.
11. Ethan Martin, RHP, Phillies (from Dodgers)
Former first-round pick has bounced back due to improved command; athleticism, fastball and curveball were always there.
12. Rob Brantly, C, Marlins (from Tigers)
Solid defender has the ability to hit for average, but lacks power and patience.
13. Marc Krauss, OF, Astros (from Diamondbacks)
The anti-Brantly with plus power and tons of walks, but has no defensive value and questions about the hit tool.
14. Joseph Musgrove, RHP, Astros (from Blue Jays)
This 2011 supplemental first-round pick has a good starting point for development with big body and good velocity.
15. Jacob Brigham, RHP, Cubs (from Texas)
Slow-to-develop starter has back-end starting potential with good command of low 90s fastball and solid breaking ball.
16. Matt Dominguez, 3B, Astros (from Marlins)
Former first-round pick is a potential Gold Glove third baseman who still has big questions about his bat.
17. Zack Cox, 3B, Marlins (from Cardinals)
Has not lived up to expectations of big bonus out of 2009 draft, as power has not developed and plate discipline has dwindled.
18. J.C. Sulbaran, RHP, Royals (from Reds)
Inconsistent velocity, inconsistent secondaries, inconsistent command, but when he puts it all together, he looks like a big league starter.
19. D.J. Mitchell, RHP, Mariners (from Yankees)
Ground ball machine might work as No. 5 starter, but more likely will turn into valuable middle-relief piece.
20. Carlos Perez, C, Astros (from Blue Jays)
Athletic for a catcher with good approach and contact skills, but little power and inconsistent defense.
21. Colton Cain, RHP, Astros (from Pirates)
Big left-hander has lost some velocity since high school, but has command of three-pitch mix.
22. Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Astros (from Blue Jays)
Big right-hander projects betters as reliever with decent fastball and good slider.
23. Pedro Hernandez, LHP, Twins (from White Sox)
Undersized lefty throws strikes and has a plus changeup, but scouts don't see the stuff or frame for rotation work.
24. Scott McGough, RHP, Marlins (from Dodgers)
Might be the best sleeper on the list with the ability to pitch late innings if he can refine his slider that goes with mid-90s heat.
25. Logan Bawcom, RHP, Mariners (from Dodgers)
A safe bet to reach the big leagues, and maybe quickly, but no more than a middle-relief ceiling.
26. Bobby Borchering, OF, Astros (from Diamondbacks)
Former first-round pick is a switch-hitter who still shows plus power, but has been undone by swing-at-everything style.
27. Matt Heidenreich, RHP, Astros (from White Sox)
Second sleeper on the list has size, plus sinker and enough strike-throwing ability to give some dreams as a No. 5 starter.
28. Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Astros (from Marlins)
Short lefty has solid stuff and command, but no potential to make an impact beyond a bullpen role.
29. Gorkys Hernandez, OF, Marlins (from Pirates)
Outstanding defender with plus speed, but a card-carrying member of the Future Fourth Outfielders Club due to lack of secondary skills.
30. Leon Landry, OF, Mariners (from Dodgers)
Left-handed stick who can run and play all three outfielder positions, but a free-swinger with little power.
31. Danny Farquhar, RHP, Mariners (from Yankees)
Unique reliever who changes arm angles from three-quarters to sidearm, but it hampers command.
32. Steven Wright, RHP, Red Sox (from Indians)
Knuckleballer has great numbers at Double-A, but he's 27 and walks too many.
33. Lars Anderson, 1B, Indians (Red Sox)
Former highly-regarded prospect has a great approach, but his bat his slowed and power never blossomed.
34. Charlie Culberson, 2B, Rockies (from Giants)
Good pop for a middle infielder, but not enough speed to play shortstop and not enough bat to play second base.
35. Seth Rosin, RHP, Phillies (from Giants)
Strike-throwing reliever with slightly above-average fastball and no other true plus offering.
36. Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Cubs (from Rangers)
Extreme command, but very fringy stuff with 86-90 mph fastball and no notable secondary pitch.
37. Blair Walters, LHP, Astros (from White Sox)
Strike-throwing sinker specialist with some relief possibilities.
38. Todd Redmond, RHP, Reds (from Braves)
This 27-year-old has been a consistent solid performer at the upper-level, but that's based far more on command than stuff.
39. Jaye Chapman, RHP, Cubs (from Braves)
Minor league veteran has outstanding changeup, but few believe his trick will work in big leagues without another good pitch.
40. Brian Flynn, LHP, Marlins (from Tigers)
This 6-foot-8 southpaw has an imposing mound presence, but has lost velocity since college and has unrefined arsenal.
41. David Rollins, LHP, Astros (from Blue Jays)
Decent numbers in the Midwest League, but older for the level and gets by as lefty with a decent slider.
42. Tyler Bortnick, 2B, Diamondbacks (from Rays)
A 25-year-old at Double-A with good feel for strike zone and some speed, but not enough bat, and he can't play on the left side.
43. Kyle Kaminska, RHP, Pirates (from Marlins)
Throw-in prospect is big reliever who can't get Double-A hitters out.
Biggest trade deadline gains.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Baseball's trade deadline passed Monday afternoon, not with a bang but with a whimper as 4 p.m. ET quietly passed and many of the biggest names floating in rumors stayed in their current uniforms. But even though Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Justin Upton and Matt Garza, among others, may have remained right where they were, a handful of teams still managed to make significant additions in recent weeks.
Looking at it through the lens of this year's pennant race, who did the best? To get an idea, I ran simulations of a million seasons using the ZiPS projection system and a Monte Carlo simulator, both to get an idea of how each trade in isolation likely affects each team's playoff odds, and to get an overall estimation on how the pennant race has changed (if at all).
The following dozen trades are ranked by the projected change in playoff odds in percentage points, with all trades involving an improvement of 1 percentage point or better.
1. Zack Greinke to Los Angeles Angels (+10.8 percent)
The Angels may eventually regret the loss of shortstop/second baseman Jean Segura, arguably the team's top prospect now that Mike Trout devotes his days to humiliating AL pitchers. But if you have to trade a top prospect, this is the way to do it, as the Angels had an obvious need standing at three games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West and possessing only two starting pitchers clearly better than league average this season.
Greinke was the best player who was realistically acquirable (looking at you, King Felix), so there's not much to complain about here. If the Angels' desire to retain Greinke is real -- and reports indicate that it is -- they have the financial firepower to make it happen.
2. Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit Tigers (+10.5 percent)
Neither Infante nor Sanchez are big-name stars, but in a tight divisional race and a need in the rotation and a gaping chasm at second base, this move gets the job done for the Tigers. Even with Max Scherzer's ERA slowly improving to match his excellent strikeout rate, another arm in the middle of the rotation significantly helps Detroit's odds against the Chicago White Sox and nobody is going to mourn the removal of Ramon Santiago or Ryan Raburn from the starting lineup.
Jacob Turner, gone to the Miami Marlins, is too young and talented to write off at this point, but a pitcher striking out fewer than six batters per nine innings in Triple-A is likely too far off in the horizon for a win-now team like the Tigers.
3. Hanley Ramirez to Los Angeles Dodgers (+10.2 percent)
Yes, Ramirez has been a disappointment the past few years and he's less valuable at third, especially as his defense hasn't improved much. But whether it's been Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy or Elian Herrera, the Dodgers have received very little production at the hot corner.
Trade deadline playoff effect
How playoff odds for every team shifted due to the July trade activity (according to ZiPS).
Team Playoff odds
Los Angeles Dodgers +15.4%
Los Angeles Angels +8.5%
Detroit Tigers +4.9%
Chicago White Sox +4.0%
Pittsburgh Pirates +1.8%
Atlanta Braves +0.9%
Texas Rangers +0.3%
Chicago Cubs 0.0%
Colorado Rockies 0.0%
Houston Astros 0.0%
Kansas City Royals 0.0%
Minnesota Twins 0.0%
San Diego Padres 0.0%
Seattle Mariners -0.1%
Milwaukee Brewers -0.4%
New York Yankees -0.4%
New York Mets -0.4%
Philadelphia Phillies -0.5%
San Francisco Giants -0.7%
Miami Marlins -0.8%
Washington Nationals -1.2%
Baltimore Orioles -1.5%
Cincinnati Reds -1.6%
Toronto Blue Jays -2.1%
Cleveland Indians -2.2%
Oakland Athletics -3.1%
Boston Red Sox -3.5%
Tampa Bay Rays -4.8%
St. Louis Cardinals -6.0%
Arizona Diamondbacks -6.5%
As a result, even if Hanley's current performance is his new normal, it represents a major upgrade to both a position and a lineup that sorely needed it.
4. Kevin Youkilis to White Sox (+8.7 percent)
This trade actually happened in late June, but we're including it here as the unofficial opening of trading season.
It's unlikely that Youkilis, now 33, will ever put up another season that fits well with his 2008-2010 peak. But after seeing Brent Morel (.177/.225/.195), Orlando Hudson (.178/.245/.277 in Chicago) and Eduardo Escobar (.207/.281/.276) attempt to man third base this year, the White Sox just needed to stop using Band-Aids to heal a gunshot wound.
Youkilis still has something left in his bat, and so far he has stopped the bleeding and is doing his best to show the Boston Red Sox that they dumped him prematurely.
5. Shane Victorino to Dodgers (+7.8 percent)
Third base wasn't the only hole in Dodgerland, and even a mediocre performance would represent an improvement, as Dodgers left fielders have combined to hit (if you can use that word) a woeful .256/.326/.345 in 2012. Victorino will likely play left field for the Dodgers, but he could spend some time in center, giving Matt Kemp and his sore legs an easier time down the stretch.
6. Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh Pirates (+4.6 percent)
Rodriguez is not Justin Upton, but he replaces one of the team's weaker links in Kevin Correia. The Pirates didn't make any major addition, but with some smaller upside moves, they still improved their odds of making the playoffs for the first time since 1992 and also retained their top prospects.
7. Paul Maholm to Atlanta Braves (+4.1 percent)
The Braves started the season with impressive pitching depth, but they needed even more with so many players either being ineffective or requiring Tommy John surgery. Maholm is unlikely to ever have a star season, but with the other recent addition, Ben Sheets, having a poor health history, all the Braves needed here is a pitcher who can throw some league-average innings and avoid trips to see Frank Jobe or James Andrews.
Maholm can do that. Reed Johnson, also acquired in the Maholm trade, gives Atlanta a little more outfield depth.
8. Marco Scutaro to San Francisco Giants (+3.9 percent)
Scutaro doesn't have a lot left in his tank at 36, and his stats this year are inflated by Coors Field. But with Pablo Sandoval limping at the moment, there was a risk of the Axis of Awful, consisting of San Francisco's middle infielders, annexing third base. Once Panda's healthy, Scutaro becomes the team's best middle infielder, assuming the Giants care to use him. For now, Joaquin Arias' invasion of third base has been thwarted.
9. Gaby Sanchez to Pirates (+3.9 percent)
This is the sneaky high-upside move I was referring to a few paragraphs ago. Sanchez has had a nightmare of a season, hitting .202/.250/.306 in 196 plate appearances and has been written off by the Marlins. But he's also just 28 and coming off two seasons of a .269/.346/.437 line in 1,304 total plate appearances, and the Pirates are in a position to benefit from Sanchez returning to adequacy.
10. Hunter Pence to Giants (+3.2 percent)
Thanks to a 2011 season that was likely his career year, Pence's talent level has become overrated around the league. Outside of 2011, he's essentially been an average-hitting outfielder, his 109 OPS+ this year being right in line with the 112, 116 and 105 he put up in the three years before 2011. He's a useful player, but he's not a star, and Phillies fans shouldn't be too disappointed that they didn't get a gigantic package in return -- the Giants don't care what GM Ruben Amaro paid for Pence a year ago.
11. Brandon League to Dodgers (+1.3 percent)
League's strikeout rate is fairly ugly, but additional depth in the bullpen never hurt anybody. An incremental upgrade rather than a big addition.
12. Ryan Dempster to Rangers (+1.0 percent)
Why so low? In this case, the Rangers already had overwhelmingly high playoff odds with the second-best record in the AL. If we ranked these trades by divisional odds rather than playoff odds, this would rank higher, which is important to take into consideration given how much more valuable a divisional crown is relative to a wild-card spot with the modified playoff system debuting this fall.
The other thing that keeps this trade fairly low in the rankings is that Dempster's really not an ace going forward. His ERA stands at 2.25, but he's not pitching like a 2.25 ERA, with a FIP more than a run higher at 3.42. Looking at his xFIP, which normalizes home run rates, his 3.71 is right in line with his 3.70, 3.74, 3.76 and 3.69 in the previous four seasons, respectively. Dempster's a fly-ball pitcher, and Arlington's going to do him no favors in helping him keep his 0.78 HR/9 this year. This move improves the rotation, but the benefits can easily be overstated.
Five offensive surprises.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Plenty of weak-hitting players from baseball's past and present have gotten by on good gloves alone. Most big league benches boast a part-timer or two whose sole strength is an ability to play capable defense at premium positions. But despite Brendan Ryan's best efforts, relatively few players become stars unless they can combine good gloves with big bats.
Fortunately, not every good-fielding, no-hitting player is destined to stay that way. Legendary glove man Ozzie Smith was a good player who turned into a great one when he learned how to hit in his late 20s. Defensive players of Smith's caliber are rare, but some of today's finest fielders could follow a similar trajectory.
The following five defense-first players entered 2012 with reputations as easy outs but have become much better at the plate. The question is, are these gains for real, or are they just single-season anomalies?
Jeff Mathis, C, Toronto Blue Jays
Before this season, Mathis had been one of the worst hitters in baseball for the better part of a decade: From 2005 to 2011, only one player (Humberto Quintero) made a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances with a true average (TAv) worse than Mathis' .207. But Mathis' former manager, Mike Scioscia, valued his defense so highly that he often played him instead of superior hitters (meaning anyone else).
This season, Mathis hasn't just hit better than he ever has before, he's hit better than the average catcher. He hasn't played enough to make a major impact, but in just 35 games and 110 plate appearances, Mathis has contributed half a win to Toronto, according to WARP. That makes this the first season in which he's played above replacement level, which doesn't capture all of his defensive contributions. His plate discipline stats and walk, strikeout and batted-ball rates don't look much different, and his BABIP is well above its usual norm, which would seem to suggest that his small-sample success is a fluke.
But the improvement isn't all batting average-based, the result of a few more bloops and bleeders. In the previous seven seasons, 68 percent of Mathis' hits were singles. This season, only 48 percent are. And his fly balls have left the park almost four times as frequently as they did from 2010-2011.
Some of that can be explained by his move from Angel Stadium, a hard place to hit right-handed homers, to Rogers Centre, a far more favorable offensive environment. But there might be more to it. Shortly after Mathis' move, former catcher Gregg Zaun claimed that Mathis had better power than was generally believed and speculated that his hitting would improve once he was free from Scioscia's single-minded emphasis on defense. If a new mindset has played a role in Mathis' surprising success, he might manage to retain more of his gains at the plate than we would expect from the typical one-season wonder.
Craig Gentry, CF, Texas Rangers
In May, I called Gentry the Rangers' secret weapon, but by now, the secret is out. Since the start of the 2011 season, Gentry has recorded putouts on 11.1 percent of the batted balls allowed by Rangers pitchers -- the highest percentage of balls in play caught by any center fielder with at least 300 innings at the position in the same span. With Gentry in center, Rangers' opponents from 2011-2012 have reached base at a .287 clip and slugged .354. With anyone other than Gentry in center, Rangers' opponents have reached base at a .302 clip and slugged .380. Over hundreds of plate appearances, a difference of 15 points of OBP and 26 points of slugging leads to a lot of runs saved. Gentry is a fly ball pitcher's best friend.
However, Gentry generally hasn't been an asset on the other side of the ball. The 28-year-old entered this season with a career .222 TAv for Texas -- the same as Neifi Perez. Outfielders who hit like Perez don't play much since they make more outs at the plate than they can possibly make up for in the field. Even in late April, Ron Washington saw Gentry as a defensive replacement who might make some starts against southpaws.
Things have changed since then. Overall, Gentry has posted a .294 TAv, the seventh-highest figure among center fielders with at least 200 PAs, and his hot hitting during Josh Hamilton's extended slump has earned him the start in center in 18 of the Rangers' last 25 games. Despite his part-time play early on, Gentry's 1.8 WARP makes him the Rangers' third-most valuable player. He has the eighth-highest BABIP of any hitter with at least 200 PA, which suggests that he won't hit this well for long, but even with an average bat, his glove would make him an asset. If the Rangers beat out the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West, Gentry will have been a big reason why.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
Andrus has been one of the two Rangers worth more to Texas than Gentry, and he owes much of his 2012 value to improved performance at the plate. Among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances from 2010-2011, only Juan Pierre, Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter hit singles as a higher percentage of their hits. But Andrus has shown a bit more power this season and could further improve. His TAv is .264 this year, which is up from .258 last year and .243 in 2010. That's a promising trend.
He's always been young for his league, and even in Andrus' fourth year with the Rangers, he's only 23. In the field, he's consistently rated above average, and he's racked up more than two wins on the basepaths since his big league debut. As he approaches his prime, the Rangers will have to decide what to do with Andrus, as top prospect Jurickson Profar isn't too far away.
Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals
Advanced stats suggest that Escobar might have slipped some on defense this season, though a steady supply of flashy plays ensures that his reputation for having a great glove remains intact. However, even when his defensive stats matched his scouting reports, Escobar's below-average bat prevented him from making much of a contribution.
He rarely strikes out, and he batted .315 in two Double-A seasons, so there was some evidence to suggest that the .245 average he recorded in his first two full big league seasons might not have reflected his future potential. At age 25, that potential is peeking through, as he's hitting .307. Escobar will probably always hit for a pretty empty average, but as long as that average is high, his glove should make him good enough to start for a contending Royals team.
Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
Gomez has always had speed, and the advice for speedy players who've never shown much in-game power is always the same: hit the ball on the ground. Gomez doesn't draw walks, and as one of many New York Mets who were rushed to the big leagues under Omar Minaya, it seemed as if his only chance of contributing on offense was to slap the ball the other way, beat it out and try to steal a base. Once in a while, the approach paid off. During his rookie and sophomore seasons, only four players converted a higher percentage of their grounders into infield hits.
But Gomez doesn't look like a slap hitter: He's listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, and at 26, he has the strength to do something different. He made some strides at the plate last season but remained a below-average batter. This season, he's added even more power and become an above-average batter, not just by center-field standards but overall, slugging .469.
Gomez is no longer hitting the ball on the ground as often. In the previous three seasons, 50.5 percent of Gomez's balls in play were grounders. This season, only 38.8 percent have been classified as such. Gomez remains an excellent fielder and baserunner who ranks just a few spots below Gentry on the center-field catch percentage list and leads the Brewers in EqBRR. By fulfilling his power potential, he's set himself up for an impressive prime.
Second Look: Austin and Marisnick.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Level: High Class-A Tampa
Law's midseason ranking: 45
Tyler Austin was temporarily sidelined early in my coverage of Single-A Tampa but got back on the field late last week. Most teams get too many looks at showcase fixtures from the Atlanta area, but Austin flew under the radar, signing for $130,000 as an inconsistent prep catcher in the 2010 draft. Austin has since moved to right field and this season announced himself as one of the top hitting prospects in baseball.
Here's a glimpse at the players we have covered -- and will be covering -- in our Second Look series in order of their spot on Keith Law's midseason top 50.
6. Taijuan Walker, Mariners
11. Jameson Taillon, Pirates
12. Christian Yelich, Marlins
18. Byron Buxton, Twins
19. Julio Teheran, Braves
20. Carlos Correa, Astros
21. Mason Williams, Yankees
24. Danny Hultzen, Mariners
27. Billy Hamilton, Reds
28. Gary Sanchez, Yankees
32. Jacob Marisnick, Blue Jays
33. Hak Ju Lee, Rays
34. Matt Davidson, Diamondbacks
42. Jose Fernandez, Marlins
45. Tyler Austin, Yankees
49. Zach Lee, Dodgers
Austin isn't the kind of athlete that jumps off the field at you. He's a below-average runner with choppy steps and some thickness to a 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. Austin's arm is slightly above-average, so he can play right field, and he's quick enough to stay there for now but may ultimately fit best at first base down the road. As a right-right player whose value is tied up in his bat, Austin is backed into a corner, with regard to profile and value. While he isn't a supreme toolshed, he brought plenty to the plate to impress me.
I saw Austin in a few games for Charleston earlier in the year, and while he was a little rusty fresh off the DL last week, he was back to his old self within a few games. Austin starts his hands out high, but in his load, he drops them into a good hitting position. His hands get deep to maximize power, and he's got the bat speed to cover this distance. There is a risk for barring his lead arm and/or a loopy path in how he moves his hands, but Austin has good enough feel for his swing that this hasn't been a problem in games I've seen.
Austin's strength, bat speed and hips combine to create above-average to plus raw power that is most natural to the opposite gap, an encouraging sign for power showing up in games and translating at higher levels. He brings a good approach to the plate, and pitchers often challenge him inside, a pitch I've seen him turn on and put a charge into regularly without hooking the ball.
The separator for Austin is his advanced plan, feel and plate coverage that is fueled by his quick hands and allows him to tap into his raw power in games. Austin has a tough profile and little margin for error, but he's got a good chance to reach his ceiling of .275-.280 average with 25 homers. That should be enough to crack the formidable Yankees lineup at any position.
Level: Double-A New Hampshire
Law's midseason ranking: 32
Blue Jays center-field prospect Jacob Marisnick was a third-round pick out of Riverside Poly (Calif.) High School in the 2009 draft and signed for an over-slot $1 million bonus. A projectable athlete with power, the concern was about how his bat would play and if he would outgrow center field. Thus far in his career, neither is really a concern.
As opposed to Austin, Marisnick is one of those guys who stands out on the field, even to the untrained eye. He's a 6-foot-4, 200-pound wide receiver-looking athlete who is the fastest guy on his team (65 runner on the 20-80 scale), the best hitter on the team, flashes raw power and plays a good center field. His instincts are good in center and on the bases, so even if he fills out more and loses a step, you're likely looking at a plus runner who could be an above-average center fielder. Marisnick also has a plus arm.
That leaves his bat, and while Marisnick is just 21, already in Double-A and has plenty of hitting tools, he still has some things to work on at the plate. He keeps his hands in a good place pre-pitch, with enough distance from the ball to create power but not so far as to make his swing long. His wide base, leverage and direct bat path enhance his natural strength and bat speed. Marisnick's raw power is average to slightly above-average now, with a chance for a little more down the road, so a 20-20 season is a real possibility.
Marisnick got to two strikes in almost every at bat I saw, a byproduct of a patient, sometimes almost passive approach early in the count that would force him into pitchers' counts. His pitch recognition and plate discipline are better than his 26 walks and 55 strikeouts in 266 High Class-A at-bats indicate, as he doesn't swing and miss much and shows a good feel with two strikes.
But an improved early at-bat approach could propel him to the big leagues in short order, as Marisnick shows more feel at the plate than most tooled-up kids do at his age. As a bigger guy with longer arms that will hit for some power, Marisnick will be a .270-.275 batting average guy at his peak; with walks and steals in center field, that's easy All-Star upside.
Others of note
• Slade Heathcott is coming off his second shoulder surgery and was just starting to play in the field as Austin got back in the lineup. Heathcott was a first-round pick and shows big tools with above-average left-handed power and above-average speed that makes for a potentially enticing center-field package. I've had trouble getting a feel for him at the plate, and other scouts have echoed these sentiments, saying they can't accurately predict what he'll be with any confidence this soon after surgery. While he is pain-free, it looks like Heathcott is still favoring his shoulder at times in his swing. There's some swing-and-miss in his game, and he's had some trouble staying direct to pitches away, but there are definitely tools here to monitor.
• Ramon Flores is getting attention as a 20-year-old left-handed hitter batting .300 in High Class-A. While those are all good signs, for me, Flores has limited upside and is a fourth outfielder at best. He's a squat 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, a below-average runner who's better under way. He also possesses a fringy arm, so it's a left-field profile for him. While he has some bat speed and flashes feel for the bat head, he has below-average power and doesn't have a body that looks like it will add more strength. His age and hitting ability are encouraging, and he'll hit his way at least to a cup of coffee, but the tools are short for big league impact.
• While focusing on Tampa this week, Palm Beach righty reliever Zach Russell made the scouts around me sit up when he sat at 94-97 mph for two innings and flashed an above-average curveball. The scout sitting behind me saw Russell earlier in the year and said he was mostly in the upper-80s with a cutter, so this velocity spike was borderline miraculous. There are still some command issues, and he had trouble staying on top of his curveball, but there's definitely something to build on from a pitcher scouts had pegged as an organization guy.
• After a dominating season debut in the Northwest League, Blue Jays righty Roberto Osuna has created some buzz, and I saw him face fellow bonus baby, Pirates righty Luis Heredia in extended spring training earlier this year.
Osuna worked 89-92 mph with occasional cut, an 80-82 mph slider that flashed average and a 77-80 mph changeup that was plus with late dive that Osuna had good feel for. Osuna isn't incredibly projectable but has a smooth delivery and advanced feel, just about all you can ask for at this age. Heredia was 90-92 mph, touching 93 mph with a 74-75 mph 12-to-6 curveball with late bite that flashed above-average potential. I've seen Heredia with crisper stuff in the past, and he has the big projectable frame and clean arm that you can dream on for more.