Last week, the Phillies and Astros very nearly came to terms on a trade that would send Wilton Lopez to Philadelphia in exchange for prospects (presumably, Tyler Cloyd and Sebastian Valle). That deal fell through, presumably because the Phillies saw something they didn’t like in Lopez’s physical.
Today, however, the Rockies and Astros came to terms on a deal that sends Wilton to Colorado. The Astros will receive Alex White and Alex Gillingham in return.
On Houston’s side, White is the “get” in this trade. A first rounder (15th overall) out of UNC-Chapel Hill by Cleveland in 2009, he was considered a top ten Indians prospect in 2011 when he was sent to Colorado as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal.
White pitched parts of the last two seasons in the majors. He turned 24 years old in August, and won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2015.
Though his success has been limited in the big leagues so far, White has a decent ceiling. He comes with a heavy sinker in the low 90s, a splitter, and a slider, all of which he can throw for strikes. He’s also got a changeup, which seems designed more to set up his other stuff than anything else. He’s shown some control issues, walking 3.83 batters per 9 innings in the minors while striking out just 6.45. He’ll no doubt learn to pitch to contact a little better, and his 51.4% ground ball rate should play in Minute Maid Park.
Getting out of Coors Field should have the effect of reducing his HR/9 rate, as well, which he already reduced from 2.63 in 2011 to 1.19 in 2012. In none of his five stops in the minors did he allow as many as 1 home run per nine; nor did he post an ERA over 3 at any of them until 2012 in Colorado Springs, where his walk rate spiked. It doesn’t look like an issue that can’t be controlled.
Gillingham was an 11th rounder in 2011 out of Loyola Marymount University right here in sunny Los Angeles. He’s thrown just under 185 innings between Rookie and A-ball. Though his strikeout rates aren’t impressive by themselves, he does strike out about three batters for every walk one he walks.
His 2012 looks particularly good: 123.0 IP, 6-8, 83 K, 28 BB, 5 HR, 1.22 WHIP, 3.66 ERA. For the record, that’s 0.37 home runs per 9 innings pitched. He turned 23 in October, so it’s iffy whether he’ll go straight to Corpus Christi or spend some time in Lancaster; I suspect the latter, but we’ll see.
If he can continue to keep his groundball rate high and his HR/9 low, he could be a real quality piece for the Astros.
Initial reports of this trade had Parker Frazier coming to Houston, but that idea was eliminated. Frazier is, however, available in the Rule 5 draft. So we’ll see if he ends up in Houston’s bullpen in Spring Training, anyway.