The Washington Nationals pulled off a trade for one of this off-season’s most sought after trade assets, picking up Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland A’s for four prospects, all of whom have legitimate big league potential.
The top prospect in the deal was catcher Derek Norris who is a powerful and patient hitter that can drive balls to all fields and out of the park easily. He has a ton of swing and miss in his game and will never hit for average in any way. Norris will likely walk nearly 100 times a season and could blast 25+ home runs at his peak.
Norris’ defense is still a work in progress, but he has made enough strides that scouts don’t have trouble projecting him to remain behind the plate.
In addition to Norris, the Athletics pulled three pitching prospects, including Brad Peacock, AJ Cole and Tom Milone.
Peacock made his Major League debut in 2011 and could step into the Oakland rotation on Opening Day 2012. Though some scouts have been willing to tag him as a future number two starter, my exposure to Peacock has left me comfortably projecting him as a very nice number three starter. He has a low-90s fastball that he will occasionally ramp up to 97 mph. He compliments the pitch with a hammer 12-6 breaker and a change-up that shows some fade and deception.
Cole has the makings of being anything from a front of the rotation beast to a filthy late inning reliever. He has a long developmental process ahead of him so patience is absolutely necessary when watching Cole. His overall package is highlighted by a fastball that easily sits at 94-95 mph and regularly touches 98. He has a thin, projectable frame and some scouts believe he could add another tick to his average velocity. His curveball is coming along slowly and may require some tweaking. The change-up he throws is completely unrefined and will require a ton of work.
The left-hander and lowest rated prospect in the deal is Milone. His fastball is decidedly below average but he commands it exceptionally well; rarely working above the top of the knees and pinpointing it to either side and off the plate. His change-up is a plus pitch that has earned some grades a touch higher than that. He can throw it in any count and can generate swings and misses with the pitch. His slurvy breaking ball needs refinement. His overall feel for pitching is out of this world. He changes speeds well and locates even better, giving him a chance to be a back of the rotation starter. He will have to make it as a starter to have a viable big league role.
The A’s have been seeking an extremely robust package in exchange for dealing Gonzalez and it appears they received just such a package form the Nationals. Norris, Peacock and Cole were all top ten prospects for the Nats and will fill such slots in the A’s system as well.