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Breaking down the Zack Greinke trade

7/27/2012

The Angels are in a tight enough spot in the wild-card race that it makes sense for them to add a significant player such as Zack Greinke, who easily could be worth two extra wins to the team from now through the end of the season over the disastrous Ervin Santana. Greinke also gives the team a better fourth starter in October than Jerome Williams, assuming the team reaches the playoffs.

Greinke has changed his approach since his 2009 Cy Young Award-winning season, when he was working primarily fastball/slider and had great success with both pitches. He's now using a broader pitch mix, adding a two-seamer with a little late tail, and a cutter (new this year) with late break down and slightly in toward left-handed hitters, which helps the four-seamer play up a little because hitters can't time the pitch without considering which pitch type it is. His slider -- more like a hard curveball -- has very sharp downward break but not a lot of lateral movement, and lately he seems to prefer throwing his slower mid-70 mph curveball, although in any one game you're likely to see all five of these pitches plus a few changeups. He has outstanding control and above-average command as well as a very good idea of how to set hitters up and change speeds on them. He also has a history of success, including missing bats, in the American League, which I imagine gave the Angels some comfort over acquiring a pitcher who'd never worked in the superior circuit. He helps their club substantially, even though the cost was significant for someone who is just a rental.

The Brewers get three prospects who started the year in the Angels' top 10 in infielder Jean Segura (No. 2 in their system, No. 44 overall), right-handed starter John Hellweg (No. 4 in their system, No. 81 overall) and right-handed starter Ariel Pena (No. 10 in their system and my "sleeper" prospect for the Angels for 2012).

Segura and Hellweg both have seen their stock slip a little this year, although Segura deserves credit for what is, so far, only the second fully healthy season of his pro career. Segura has played shortstop since the start of 2011 and has a chance to stay there despite a thick lower half that limits his lateral quickness; he is an above-average runner and gets good enough reads on the ball for average range right now, with enough arm for the position. At the plate, Segura has a short, direct swing that produces hard line drives, but no power, and he's been impatient this year, with just 20 unintentional walks in more than 400 plate appearances. The best-case scenario for Milwaukee is that Segura becomes a solid, average defender at short who can hit .300 because he makes so much contact. He also could add value through 20 to 30 net steals a year.

Hellweg has top-of-the-rotation stuff with bottom-of-the-rotation command. He seemed to have turned a corner in the second half of last year after returning to the rotation but was very wild again for the first 2 1/2 months of this year. He has walked 13 in his past 47 innings with 37 punchouts and continues to get ground balls, although as I said, we've seen this from him before in short stretches. Hellweg will pitch at 95-98 mph with good life and has a hard curveball at 83-84 with huge, almost slider-like tilt, showing a moderate platoon split because his straight, hard changeup remains a below-average pitch. He is listed at 6-foot-9, 210 pounds, and like many taller pitchers, he has had trouble keeping his delivery together. He's a good prospect to acquire, but his ultimate role could be anywhere from No. 2 starter to closer to Brad Pennington redux.

Pena had the worst outing by any pitcher in the history of the Futures Game this year, although that's probably not the ideal way to judge him. He will pitch at 90-94 mph but has touched 97 and has a hard changeup, 82-86 when I saw him start, with a ton of tailing action. His slider also is in the mid-80s but has taken a step back this year. There's potential for a three-pitch, midrotation starter here if he improves his fastball command and can tighten up the breaking ball. In total, it's only marginally less than the Brewers initially gave up for two years of Greinke, but it has a lot more risk, as all three of the prospects involved have fairly low floors.