The Houston Astros traded right-handed starter Bud Norris to the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon. In exchange, the Astros receive outfield prospect L.J. Hoes, pitching prospect Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance draft pick. The Orioles will also receive an international bonus pool slot worth $213,000.
Here is my take on the new talent entering the Houston system.
Josh Hader, LHP: Hader was a local find for the Orioles, drafted in the 19th round last year out of high school in Millersville, Maryland. An under-developed lefty when drafted, he signed for just $40,000 but immediately established himself as a huge bargain, posting a 1.88 ERA with a 48/9 K/BB in 29 innings last summer in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues. He's remained effective this spring, posting a 2.65 ERA with a 79/42 K/BB in 85 innings for Delmarva in the South Atlantic League, allowing just 69 hits.
Hader is listed at 6-3, 160, but has gained size and strength since signing, boosting his fastball from 84-87 in high school to 88-94 in pro ball. His changeup is ahead of his slider and curveball at this point, but he's deceptive and he's made a huge amount of progress in the last 13 months. He still needs to sharpen up his command, but he's got a shot at being a mid-rotation starter if he refines his breaking pitches and control.. Even if that doesn't work out, his ability to cross-up lefties could be useful in the pen; he's held them to a .138 average this year.
L.J. Hoes, OF: Like Hader, Hoes was a local kid for the Orioles, drafted in the third round in 2008 from high school in Washington, DC. He's made slow but steady progress through the farm system, reaching Triple-A and the majors briefly last year and again this year. In 2012 he hit .300/.374/.397 for Norfolk; this year he's at .304/.406/.403. He is 0-for-4 in three major league contests.
Hoes is a 6-0, 190 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 5, 1990. He is a contact hitter with good strike zone judgment; he doesn't strike out much and his walk rate has steadily increased as he's gained experience. He posted a 65/76 BB/K in 513 at-bats last year and is at 58/56 in 365 this season; more walks than strikeouts is always good.
He runs well but is not an efficient stealer, 27-for-46 in steal attempts in his Triple-A career. He's also not much of a home run hitter; he's no weakling physically, but his line drive stroke doesn't result in over-the-fence power. He is an effective defender at either corner and can play center field in a pinch.
Hoes would be a fine fourth outfielder and platoon option if he hit left-handed, but alas he's something of a tweener at this point. That said, his ability to make contact, hit for average, and get on base has remained consistent at every level, and at age 23 it isn't impossible for him to find more power.
More from Minor League Ball:
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- Minor League Ball Gameday, July 30
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- Philadelphia Phillies Top 20 2013 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review