Looking at the July 2012 Astros/Blue Jays Trade

Earlier this week, I looked at what the Astros and Blue Jays each netted as a result of the July 2012 10-player trade that sent Astros RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP David Carpenter and LHP J.A. Happ to the Blue Jays in exchange for major-leaguers RHP Francisco Cordero and OF Ben Francisco, and minor-leaguers RHP Asher Wojciechowski, C Carlos Perez, RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Kevin Comer and LHP David Rollins. From that trade, only Happ remains with the Blue Jays, but not only are the five minor-leaguers still an integral part of the Astros farm system, four of the five appear on Jonathan Mayo’s recently released Astros Top 20 list on MLB.com.

RHP Asher Wojciechowski tops Mayo’s list at #15. He is also the most advanced player on the list, having excelled in his introduction to AA after the trade. In eight starts for AA Corpus Christi, Wojciechowski was 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA and a 1.008 WHIP. According to Mayo, Wojciechowski has a plus fastball and curveball, plus a changeup that is evolving into what may also be an above-average offering. He is projected to be a workhorse and Baseball America puts his ceiling as a #2 starter.

And while Wojciechowski looks to have a promising future, I wondered if he would ultimately prove to be the linchpin of the trade or if one of the other prospects might emerge as a key player in the trade. I discussed this with Mayo last week and got his thoughts on three of the four remaining prospects from the trade.

First we talked about RHP Joe Musgrove and RHP Kevin Comer, two intriguing high school arms drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round in 2011 who are just embarking on their careers. According to Mayo, “They both have tremendous potential and upside. I think that if it comes together for them, they have higher ceilings than Wojciechowski does.”

Comer, who Mayo ranks at #17 in the Astros Top 20 list, signed late in 2011 and did not pitch until 2012. He came to the Astros late in the season as the player to be named later and only pitched six innings for the Appy League Greeneville Astros, but had a respectable first season for Toronto’s rookie league Bluefield team, putting together a 3-3 record with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.177 WHIP. Still very raw, scouts like him for his solid mechanics and repeatable delivery and expect him to, at a minimum, have three average major league pitches.

Musgrove is ranked by Mayo at #19. In 2012, Musgrove was limited to 17 innings pitched due to a muscle strain in his shoulder, but had a solid debut in 2011 with a 4.01 ERA and a 0.987 WHIP in nine games (seven starts). Musgrove at 6’5″ 230# profiles to be a sturdy innings-eater. Add in an above-average fastball, and a curve and splitter that are projected to be at least major league average and you can see why scouts like him.

Mayo went on to talk about the risks and rewards of signing high school pitchers, “Loading up on high ceiling high school arms is the highest risk, but it’s also the highest reward more often than not. Obviously, there are a lot of exceptions, but a lot of the time the guys that end up being the top of the rotation types are those high ceiling high school guys. The nature of development dictates that those kind of young arms are the biggest wild card there is.”

C Carlos Perez is currently ranked by Mayo at #20, “I kept him in the 20 for a reason. There’s enough there to like. Sometimes with catchers, it can take a while. There’s a lot that you’re learning. So I tend to be a little more patient in waiting for catchers to develop. Not everybody’s Buster Posey.”

Mayo continued in his assessment of Perez, “He is at worst a back-up and a good one because not only does he have a good arm, but he also moves well behind the plate. There’s plenty of guys that catch and have strong arms and they can’t do anything else and what good does that do [if] it takes them too long to get rid of the ball and their footwork’s all messed up and things like that. He does all those things well so that will get him to the big leagues. How much he hits will really determine whether or not he’s an everyday guy or a decent back up.” Perez hit .275/.358/.447 in the Low A Midwest League before the trade and .318/.368/.409 in 26 games after the trade with High A Lancaster in the California League.

The final piece of the puzzle is lefty David Rollins. Although Rollins isn’t ranked as a top prospect, he had an impressive season at Low A in his second professional season, putting up a 7-4 record with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.252 WHIP in 24 starts. Since Rollins wasn’t on Mayo’s radar, I contacted Rollins to find out a little more about him and this is what he told me, “My pitch repertoire consists of a fastball (2 and 4 seam), curveball, slider, and my favorite, the circle change. I’d say my changeup is my best pitch. I can command it well and it helps keep hitters off balance. I’ve been working a lot this off season on my curve ball. I stopped throwing it this past season because I lost confidence in it. I’m steadily gaining it back and ready to see it in a game situation. I have been doing a lot of long tossing and band work to get arm strength so I can gain velo. The movement on my fastball and off speed help me get ground outs and pop ups so I just need to learn to command them all to be successful.”

When asked about his strengths as a pitcher as well as what he needs to work on, Rollins stated, “I would have to say I keep the hitters off balance well. I now recognize if the hitter doesn’t hit something well, I’ll go to that pitch. Also I have been working on a pick-off move and it is now in my arsenal of things I have worked the kinks out of. The main thing I need to focus more on and to improve is the command of my pitches and I have been working hard this off season to do that so when I go into spring training I’ll already know the feel for all my pitches.”

It is doubtful that all five of these prospects will end up contributing to the Astros at the major league level some day simply because the odds are against even one prospect making his mark, much less five of them. But I like the talent and potential that GM Jeff Luhnow added to the farm system in this deal – a durable AA righty, two high ceiling high school draftees, a great defensive catcher with a promising bat and an up-and-coming lefty with a plan. Any one of these players could make the Blue Jays rue the day that they agreed to this trade.

Thanks to Jonathan Mayo for taking the time out to talk to me. Mayo’s Prospect Watch for 2013 can be found here. For more on the Astros minor league system, visit What the Heck, Bobby? or follow me on twitter @whattheheck57.

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