With the trades of both Dan Haren and Nick Swisher, the Atheltics have completely revamped what looked to be a pretty weak farm system.
Though one can argue the Athletics did not acquire one "sure prospect" in either of the trades, they have acquired a number of talented players, many of which have the ability to make a difference at the major league level. Let's take a look at each of the nine players the A's have acquired in their (possibly first two) big trades of the winter:
Carlos Gonzalez (acquired in Haren trade): The immensely talented 22-year old had a very solid 2007 season split between AA and AAA hitting .288/.336/.478 with 17 homers in an even 500 at-bats. You'd like to see a bit more plate discipline from a corner outfielder (Gonzalez took only 38 walks last season), but his upside is outstanding. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus notes that his tools rate as outstanding and he even makes a Hanley Ramirez comparison claiming that Gonzalez might be ready to produce in the majors despite the fact his previous minor league season wasn't dominant by statistical standards. It's also worth noting Gonzalez has played centerfield before and while he's probably no future gold glove winner, he won't make a fool out of himself out there either.
Brett Anderson (acquired in Haren trade): A former second-round pick, Anderson's first professional season went well as he posted a 3.07 ERA and 125/21 strikeout to walk ratio in 120.1 innings split between two levels of A-ball. Though he's more of a lefty command pitcher without nearly as much upside as the recently acquired Gonzalez or De Los Santos, Goldstein argues he's one the finest pitching prospect in the Oakland system citing his breaking ball and changeup as both plus pitches. It'll be interesting to see how Anderson performs at higher levels of play, but Oakland's got a good one here.
Chris Carter (acquired in Haren trade): I've written of Carter in the past:
He had a monster season at A-ball last year as a 20-year old hitting .291/.383/.522 with 55 extra base hits (25 of which went out of the ballpark). He can hit, that's not much of a question, but his speed on the base paths and defense at first base both rate as below average. Possibly the most intriguing aspect of Carter's presence is the pressure he places on Daric Barton. Barton figures to start at first base for the A's come Opening Day, but if his power development continues to stall, Carter may find himself in Oakland's future plans quite soon.
Aaron Cunningham (acquired in Haren trade): Scouts have generally given Cunningham lukewarm reviews due to the fact he doesn't really have a single skill that stands out, but he's a very interesting player on a statistical level. As a 21-year old, Cunningham had a very strong 2007 season hitting .308/.375/.509 in 493 at-bats between A+ and AA. He hit 16 home runs, but added in 31 doubles and 10 triples. Before the season began, PECOTA saw some upside listing Lastings Milledge, Nick Markakis, Matt Kemp and Jeff Francoeur as comparable players.
Dana Eveland (acquired in Haren trade): A possible sleeper in the Haren deal, Eveland hasn't had much success at the major league level, but he boasts career 8.84 K/9 and 2.61 ERA marks in the minors. Eveland has above average stuff for a left-handed pitcher as he can get his fastball in the mid-nineties and usually showcases a pretty good breaking ball. Not likely to start, he could be a pretty effective relief pitcher out of the Arizona bullpen health permitting.
Greg Smith (acquired in Haren trade): I haven't read too many scouting reports on Smith, but from a statistical perspective, it seems he's more of a control lefty that's generally done a good job keeping the ball in the ballpark. That might be a bit fluky however, seeing as his groundball rates aren't very eye-popping. He didn't place on Goldstein's top 11 prospects list, so I'm assuming we have nothing special on our hands.
Faustino de los Santos (acquired in Swisher trade): In my opinion, the finest pitching prospect the Athletics have acquired this winter. As a 21-year old, De Los Santos was brilliant at both levels of A-Ball posting a 2.65 ERA and 153/43 strikeout to walk ratio in 122.1 innings. Equally brilliant are his scouting reports as Kevin Goldstein named him the finest prospect in the White Sox system before the trade. His fastball and curve both rate as plus pitches with excellent movement and the development of his changeup is crucial as he moves up to higher levels of play. Goldstein notes that many scouts are torn as to whether his major league future is in the starting rotation or bullpen, but whatever the case, he's a damn good pitching prospect with star potential.
Gio Gonzalez (acquired in Swisher trade): Goldstein placed Gonzalez right behind Los Santos on his White Sox Top Prospects list and it's easy to see why. As a 21-year old in his second season at AA, he pitched very well posting a 3.18 ERA and 185/57 strikeout to walk ratio in 150 innings. Goldstein mentions that while his changeup is still a work in progress, his fastball and curveball both rate as plus pitches, his curve possibly being one of the best pitches in all of the minor leagues. On the downside he's a flyball pitcher that was having his second go-round at the AA level. Like Los Santos, Gonzalez might eventually end up in the bullpen, but for now he'll remain a starter and he could very well make his first major league start next season.
Ryan Sweeney (acquired in Swisher trade): Sweeney has always had the skills scouts love, but the production, particularly in the power department, just hasn't emerged yet even after two stops at AAA. At 22 years old, he's still plenty young and may just be a late bloomer, but many are having their doubts especially after he hit .270/.347/.398 in his second try at AAA. Things wouldn't look so bleak if he could play centerfield, but his defensive abilities truly limit him to a corner spot.
As a whole, that's an impressive bunch of young players even when you consider the fact they have traded arguably their finest starting pitcher and finest offensive position player.
For better or for worse, Billy Beane has a plan and he's certainly showing that he has the guts to carry it out this winter.