The Oakland Athletics continued their rebuilding project on Thursday when they dealt Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals for four highly-regarded prospects. While you may not know their names, A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone and Derek Norris all figure to play a big role in the Athletics' organization.
Here is a brief scouting report on each player from SB Nation's own Minor League Ball:
A.J. Cole, RHP: A 19-year-old right-hander, Cole was drafted in the fourth round in 2010 from high school in Oviedo, Florida. Tall and lean at 6-4, 180, Cole has a mid-90s fastball and made progress refining his mechanics and command this year. His curve and change are works in progress, but improving, and he has the upside of a number one or two starter.
Milone fights the skepticism of radar-wielding scouts, but he locates his below-average fastball and adequate curve with precision. His changeup and deceptive action give hitters fits, and so far no one has been able to figure out how to defeat him consistently. Milone has a small margin for error, but has clearly earned a major league trial and could end up being a very solid fourth starter.
A 22-year-old catcher, he hit just .210 this year for Double-A Harrisburg, but with 20 homers and 77 walks. He's developed into a solid defensive catcher, throwing out 40% of runners in '11 while steadily improving his blocking and receiving skills. Norris isn't going to hit for average, but his power, plate discipline, and glovework should make him a productive regular.
Peacock has always had a good arm, hitting 92-94 MPH, topping at 96-97, but was mediocre in the past due to command issues with his secondary pitches. He polished up his mechanics this year and developed better location with his plus curveball and improving changeup.
All four players were given a 'B' grade of some kind by Sickels, which is an impressive haul for Oakland. Others such as Keith Law and Baseball America also viewed the A's return as a good one, with the potential for all four players to be regulars in Oakland within a season or two.