Baseball America recently released their midseason top 25 prospects list. Notably missing was Jordan Lyles, but he may have been just off, and barring a continued collapse, I fully expect him to make the top 25 at the end of the year. But Lyles isn't my topic for discussion. Instead, I want to talk about what elite impact prospects the Astros could plausibly target in a Roy Oswalt trade.
To compile this list, I went down Baseball America's top 25 and, in the order they ranked them, picked out the prospects with even a chance at being traded to the Astros. Most of these are long shots; getting back any prospect on this list would be a coup for the Astros front office. But if they do eventually get back an impact prospect like they clearly desire, you might find him on the below list.
Obviously, prospects in the organizations of non-contenders, organizations with no interest in Oswalt, or organizations we already know he would veto a trade to are out of the question. That still leaves the ten below. Which of the following prospects most interest you?4. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (Rays). Hellickson has done nothing but produce throughout his minor league career, with a career 2.62 ERA in six seasons. He's major league ready now, but has no home in the Rays' rotation. He doesn't have the stuff of most ace pitchers, but it's good enough that he's likely at least a future no. 2 starter... and you never know. There are some concerns about his mechanics, but to my eye, they appear to be overblown. The Rays have been scouting Oswalt and could use a veteran top of the rotation starter with postseason experience, but they need offense more, and taking back so much salary would be uncharacteristic for them. Still, it's within the realm of possibility, albeit very unlikely.
5. Jesus Montero, C/DH (Yankees). Jesus Montero is one of the youngest players in AAA, and while he's having a bit of a down year there, he's posted great numbers in his minor league career. He has tons of offensive potential, and profiles as a middle of the order hitter with the ability to hit for both average and power. He will almost certainly move to first base or left field from catcher, where his defense is poor. The Yankees were on the verge of dealing him for Cliff Lee, so if they are still in the market for pitching, they might be willing to include him in a similar package for Oswalt.
6. Julio Teheran, RHP (Braves). With great stuff and good command, Teheran has, according to Baseball America, "the highest upside of any pitcher in the minors". He's a little farther away from being MLB-ready than a guy like Hellickson, but could emerge around the same time as Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel. There are questions about his health, too. Perhaps most importantly, the Braves don't need pitching. Oswalt would be willing to play there, but would they have any interest in adding him? Probably only if the Astros took back Derek Lowe's bad contract in return, which while remotely possible, is not likely.
9. Aaron Hicks, CF (Twins). The Twins are rumored to have offered Hicks along with another good prospect for Cliff Lee, and they are also one of the teams we know to be focusing strongly on acquiring Oswalt. Hicks has great potential, being a true five-tool player, and his production hasn't been bad. Scouts believe he will do much more in the future. Don't think of him as another T.J. Steele, though, because unlike Steele, Hicks has great patience and the ability to provide value with his bat without actually swinging it. He could be a future All-Star, but won't see time in the majors for at least a couple more years.
14. Aroldis Chapman, LHP (Reds). I don't really need to say much about Chapman, do I? His plus-plus lefthanded fastball has been covered extensively, touching the triple digits and sitting in the high 90s. He also has a good slider, but struggles with command and other secondary pitches. However, Chapman may be the unlikeliest prospect on this list to be traded, because a trade with the Reds would be very unusual by the Astros' standards (even if Oswalt would accept a trade there), and trading their best prospect just acquired before the season started would be very odd. Don't expect to see this one happen.
17. Simon Castro, RHP (Padres). The Padres are rumored to be looking for both pitching and offense, and Castro is their best piece for acquiring either one. There really isn't much not to like about him; he has good stuff, a good frame, he strikes out plenty of hitters, and he doesn't walk many. He has both floor and upside. The trouble is, the Padres never run with much payroll; they have the ability to add players at the trade deadline, but that ability is likely limited, and Oswalt's large contract may be beyond what they are willing to spend. A deal with them remains possible nonetheless because we don't know how much salary the Astros' front office is willing to eat, but it's a long shot. Perhaps Brett Myers would be a better fit with San Diego?
20. Freddie Freeman, 1B (Braves). After a slow start to his season, Freeman finally picked things up, and his numbers are now very good as one of the youngest players in AAA. If the Astros traded for him, he'd instantly become the first baseman of the future. The Braves may be less inclined to give him up than some of their pitchers, unfortunately, and the problems mentioned for Teheran remain for any discussion about Freeman: They simply don't need another major league starting pitcher, unless somebody takes Derek Lowe off their hands or they have a serious injury in the rotation.
21. Tyler Matzek, LHP (Rockies). Matzek has great stuff and a solid repertoire, but he has control problems and is still far from the majors. The Rockies are also typically unwilling to part with their best prospects in trades. Beyond those issues, Oswalt may be unwilling to accept a trade to Coors Field's hitter-friendly confines. Still, he's pitched well there over his career, and it would be a good idea for the Rockies to be buyers. View it as a possibility, but an unlikely one.
22. Kyle Gibson, RHP (Twins). Gibson has a plus fastball, slider, and a changeup with potential, and he's performing very well in his first full season with the Twins organization, already at Class AA and close to the majors. If that's not enough, he keeps the walks down and has good command. If there is a trade with the Twins, the Astros may ask for him, but it's unknown whether they would be willing to part with Gibson.
24. Casey Kelly, RHP (Red Sox). Although he has struggled at Class AA to the tune of 5+ ERA, Kelly is young for his level, and some of his struggles have been driven by poor luck. His strikeout/walk ratio there is not far removed from his excellent career levels. The Red Sox are very banged up, but as with the Yankees, they are perpetually buyers, and you can never rule them out for any big name player. If Oswalt would accept a trade there, they could be a possibility, but they need offense more than they need pitching, so they haven't been involved in rumors about the Astros ace.