On Wednesday night the Texas Rangers bolstered their pitching staff by acquiring veteran left-hander Cole Hamels and right-handed reliever Jake Diekman from the Philadelphia Phillies. Heading to Pennsylvania are left-hander Matt Harrison and Rangers farm system prospects catcher Jorge Alfaro, right-handed pitchers Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, and Jake Thompson, and outfield prospect Nick Williams.
Here's a quick take on the prospects involved.
Jorge Alfaro, C: Signed out of Colombia in 2010, 22-year-old Alfaro is currently on the disabled list at Double-A Frisco with an ankle injury and will likely miss the rest of the season. He was hitting .253/.314/.432 in 190 at-bats before the injury. Widely-regarded as one of the top catching prospects in baseball, Alfaro draws praise for his arm strength and power potential.
His actual performance has been spotty: he's thrown out 28% of runners the last two years which isn't as many as you'd expect given his arm strength. He is mobile behind the plate but remains prone to mental mistakes and sloppy receiving play, though he'll make some spectacular stops as well. Offensively he has above-average power in the bat but has significant problems with contact and pitch recognition that cut into his production.
Alfaro has the physical tools to be a star but his baseball skills haven't caught up yet.
Alec Asher, RHP: Drafted in the fourth round in 2012 from Polk County Junior College in Florida, Asher is a 23-year-old right-hander who has split 2015 between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. He's combined at the two levels for a 4.43 ERA and a 97/37 K/BB in 108 innings, allowing 110 hits.
Asher has a steady low-90s fastball that he uses aggressively. His slider and change-up are nothing special but he throws strikes and has done a good job eating innings in the minors, throwing 133 innings in 2013 and 154 in 2014 without ill effect. He is viewed as a future number four/five starter or possibly a reliever who can be more dominant in short doses. He'll need to improve his secondary pitches to move beyond that projection.
Jerad Eickhoff, RHP: Eickhoff is a 25-year-old right-hander drafted in the 15th round in 2011 from Olney Central Community College in Illinois. He's been deployed as a starter this year at Triple-A Round Rock, posting a 4.25 ERA in 102 innings with a 93/33 K/BB and 95 hits allowed.
Eickhoff is somewhat similar to Asher in profile, throwing a low-90s fastball with adequate secondary pitches, in his case a curveball and change-up. The curve is ahead of the change at this stage. He will show bursts of better fastball velocity at times, up to 96, and like Asher he could be a useful back-end starter or perhaps a more dominant pitcher in short relief doses.
Jake Thompson, RHP: Thompson was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the second round in 2012 from high school in Heath, Texas. Traded to the Rangers in the 2014 Joakim Soria deal, Thompson has pitched 2015 with Double-A Frisco, posting a 4.72 ERA with a 78/30 K/BB in 88 innings with 94 hits allowed.
Age 21, Thompson has scuffled a bit in the Texas League this year. In the past he's shown sharp command of his low-90s sinker but his location has been off at times this spring and summer. He has a full secondary arsenal with a slider, curve, and change-up, with the slider being the best pitcher of the group. He has a workhorse body and projects as a number three starter if he can regain the touch on his command within the strike zone.
Nick Williams, OF: Williams was drafted by the Rangers in the second round in 2012 from high school in Galveston, Texas. He hit .292/.343/.491 last year for Myrtle Beach in the High-A Carolina League and has retained the productive pace in Double-A this year, hitting .299/.357/.479 through 97 games.
A left-handed hitter and thrower, the 21-year-old Williams presents as a classic right fielder with impressive power plus above-average running speed and arm strength. He has dramatically improved his sense of the strike zone over the last two seasons, doubling his early career walk rates while reducing his strikeouts to reasonable levels. As a result his production has blossomed across the board.