Phillies: Breaking Down the Cole Hamels’ Return


Breaking down the Phillies‘ return for Cole Hamels. 

After what seemed like endless a fairly endless run of trade rumors, the Philadelphia Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers last night.

The Texas Rangers’ system features two top 10 prospects in Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara. While both are very good, and most demanded they be a part of the trade, that was not the case. Instead, the Phillies traded Hamels, Jake Diekman and cash to the Rangers for Outfielder Nick Williams, Catcher Jorge Alfaro, left-handed starter Matt Harrison and minor-league pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff.

This is a blockbuster trade for both organizations. The Rangers set themselves up for 2016 and beyond. The Phillies added even more youth to their system and off-set some money with Matt Harrison, who is signed through 2017 for $13.2 million per season. This deal may not feature Gallo or Mazara, but the Phillies got the haul they needed to make it worth parting with their second best left-handed pitcher ever.

When the Phillies and Rangers first engaged in talks, I was on record saying that I needed Nomar Mazara in the deal. As most know, Mazara has been rising on most prospects lists, and rightfully so. The 20-year old is a legit four-to-five tool player and projects to be a very good outfielder at the next level. As news broke throughout talks that Texas had labeled Mazara untouchable, I moved my focus to Nick Williams.

Williams is a 6’3, 185-pound outfielder who has refined his plate approach this season. Williams is 21-years-old, and slashing .302/.359/.483 in Double-A. I’m not too high on minor-league stat lines, but Williams’ has been impressive. The big concern for Williams is his plate approach. In 2014, Williams struck out 117 times in Hi-A ball. An equally big concern was his just nine walks in 377 at-bats. To this point, Williams has corrected some of those issues which has raised his stock. He will need to continue that trend to excel at the next levels. As far as his defense, that remains a question mark. When writing his top-200, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel wrote that Williams has a below-average arm and seemed disinterested in defense.

Personally, I like Nick Williams and believe that he could be a good piece to this Phillies rebuild. Williams will slot in as a top five prospect in the Phillies system, and if his new approach sticks, he becomes even more interesting because other in-game tools could increase.

The Phillies seemed fixated with acquiring a catcher for Cole Hamels. It all started with the Red Sox’ Blake Swihart, who was untouchable in trade talks between the two teams. The Phillies also asked about Padres’ prospect Austin Hedges, but that deal did not get done. Finally, the club acquired catcher Jorge Alfaro in the deal for Hamels.

Alfaro is very raw and that is a huge key with his acquisition. There is a lot of risk associated with him. The raw power is there, but his plate approach needs work. The high strikeout rate in the minors is a concern for starters. Prior to his season-ending ankle surgery, Alfaro had 61 strikeouts to just nine walks. That is not a good split at all. The raw power seems to be a bet the Phillies are willing to take because of Alfaro’s plus-tools behind the plate–including a plus-arm. There will be some concern with Alfaro’s return from injury, and there will be no doubt that Phillies fans get anxious because of the Tommy Joseph situation (concussions, not ankle), but Alfaro should be fine when he returns. This is a risky prospect with a lot of raw potential, which should also slide him into the Phillies’ top five prospects.

For the record, Alfaro will not play the remainder of the 2015 season.

The third big piece to the trade is 6’4, 235-pound right-handed pitcher Jake Thompson. In their mid-season review, Baseball America ranked Thompson higher than both Williams and Alfaro. Thompson’s scouting reports have really fluctuated throughout the past year, but the book on him is that he typically throws 92-94 mph and occasionally can hit 96 mph. Some believe that Thompson will stick as a starter while some believe that he could end up in the bullpen. Fangraphs Kiley McDaniel notes this:

"In the Florida State League All-Star Game, Thompson sat 93-96 in a one-inning appearance and his slider was at least a 60, though it was a higher effort delivery he didn’t use when starting. Thompson was dealt to the Rangers mid-season in the Joakim Soria trade and scouts that saw him in the Texas League reported he was 92-96 mph with a 60 slider that is sometimes a 70 in short stints. There’s an average change and impact stuff as a starter, but there’s also some effort to the delivery, so the fit may be in the bullpen."

As McDaniel states, there is a shot that Thompson could end up in the bullpen or in the rotation. Thompson will also slide into the Phillies’ top five prospects.

The other two pitchers in the deal for Hamels are lower profile, but nothing to overlook. Alec Asher is a 23-year old, who will turn 24 this October. Asher is currently in Triple-A, where he is sporting a 4.73 ERA in 64.2 innings pitched. I wouldn’t recommend looking too far into that because they are minor league numbers. As a prospect, I don’t see Asher cracking the top 10 for the Phillies. His ceiling is most likely a back-end starter at this point. His fastball will sit at 92-94 mph and he features a slider and change-up. Josh Leventhal of Baseball America covered one of Asher’s Carolina League starts and stated:

"Asher was certainly among a group of five to eight players who were in the running for the final few spots on the list. He opened the season as Myrtle Beach’s fifth starter and stuck around to finish it as the No. 1 starter. He definitely got better as the year went on and closed out the season on a 24-inning scoreless streak. He runs his fastball up to around 92-94 mph. His changeup, which he throws with good deception, is ahead of his curveball right now."

That is not a bad scouting report at all, especially when he wasn’t one of the top-three players in the deal. I would expect Asher to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

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The final prospect is Jerad Eickhoff, who was also throwing in Triple-A. Eickhoff has seen his struggles this season, especially with his walk rate–which is currently sitting at just over three per nine innings pitched. Eickhoff is listed at 6’4, 240-pounds which is a pretty large frame. On the mound he will sit in the low-90’s, but Kiley McDaniel stated that Eickhoff has touched 97. That remains to be seen, but is certainly something to look forward to.

In my brief watching of Eickhoff, there appears to be a lot of effort in his delivery, especially at the end. I would say his finish is pretty violent–like Ken Giles. The Phillies are building a lot of depth in the minor-leagues with pitching so there is no telling on whether or not Eickhoff sticks as a starter.

The haul for Hamels is a good one, and one that fans should be excited about. The Phillies are building a very sound minor-league system, which is what helped them get to their reign of dominance in the late 2000’s. Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco have reached the show. J.P Crawford and Aaron Altherr are showing a ton of promise at the lower levels. The Phillies should see Altherr this season and Crawford next. The young Cornelius Randolph adds a dynamic and well-hyped bat to the Phillies system, too. If you add Williams, Alfaro and Thompson, the Phillies’ system is in great shape. Next season, this system could realistically end up with five-to-six top-100 prospects. That is a crazy fast turn around considering where most ranked the system to start the year.

Next: Cole Hamels' Top Five Moments