Prospecting with Jack Cust

July 19, 2011

Welcome to an all-new edition of Prospecting with Jack Cust!

Ah, the Trade Deadline. My least favorite time of year! Now is when many of us prospects, so beloved in February, are cruelly pushed aside for aging veterans as teams look to bolster their rosters for the playoff drive. Sure enough, several guys once thought of can't miss prospects have been left behind by their franchises.

Brian Matusz was drafted an an ineligible prospect in the 3rd Round (#37 overall) by Vancouver in 2010. Why so much love? Matusz was the #4 overall pick in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft, Brian Matusz and prior to the 2010 MLB season he'd been rated the fifth-best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America after going 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in Double-A. Last year, Matusz posted a 4.30 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 32 starts for the Orioles, and the Iron Fist protected him. He's only seen limited duty this season but has pitched well, going 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 12.2 R/9 in five starts (8 BB, 20 K, 1 HR in 28.0 IP). But with OF Adam Jones injured, the Iron Fist had to make a move for an outfielder and Matusz was sent packing in favor of Josh Willingham. Though still just 24 years old, Matusz's numbers for next season aren't too impressive -- he was bombed in six starts for the Orioles (25 ER in 25.2 IP) and then demoted to the minors. But hope springs eternal -- he's posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in four Triple-A starts.

Arkansas said good-bye to Kyle Drabek, the 23-year-old son of the former Austin Outlaws ace. Kyle was drafted as an ineligible prospect in the 13th Round (#175 overall) by the Golden Falcons in 2010; he wasn't eligible for 2011 either, but he was protected this off-season. Kyle
                        Drabek Drabek had more than just his father's name going for him; he went 12-0 with a 1.18 ERA as a high school senior, with 138 Ks in 77 IP, and was taken in the 1st Round (#18 overall) by the Phillies in 2006. His legend grew after being named the centerpiece of the Roy Halladay trade. But so far, Drabek hasn't lived up to the hype, going 4-5 with a 5.70 ERA and 1.80 WHIP for the Blue Jays in 14 starts. A demotion to the minors didn't help as he's been pounded in five Triple-A starts (18 ER, 32 H, 12 BB in 19.2 IP).

The Golden Falcons also cut ties with another former MLB 1st Round pick, Mike Montgomery. The ineligible lefty, taken by the Royals #36 overall in 2008, cemented his prospect status after posting a 2.61 ERA and 1.15 WHIP across three levels in 2010, and Baseball America rated him as the #19 best prospect in the game this year. The Golden Falcons drafted him in the Supplemental Draft (#226 overall) but gave up after seeing him post a 5.14 ERA and 1.43 WHIP so far in Triple-A. The 21-year-old has yet to make his major league debut.

Hillsborough released ineligible P Jarrod Parker, the 2007 1st Round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Parker, 22, was ranked among the top 50 prospects by Baseball America every year between 2008 and 2011, even after missing the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. The Hitmen dumped Parker, taken in the 12th Round (#161 overall), after seeing him walk 44 batters in 86 innings in Double-A this year. He has yet to make his MLB debut.

The Mudcats drafted Dillon Gee in the 13th Round (#169 overall), but immediately released the ineligible prospect. Dillon GeeThe 25-year-old righthander has gone on to have a terrific season with the New York Mets, going 8-3 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, and would likely figure into Carolina's keeper plans if they'd held onto him. After cutting Gee, the Mudcats drafted ineligible prospects Ryan Kalish, Brandon Laird, Rubby de la Rosa and Kyle Gibson, but only de la Rosa (3.74 ERA, 1.31 WHIP in 7 starts) remains with the team.

Another prospect a team might want back is Jason Kipnis. Blue Ridge took the ineligible infielder in the Supplemental Draft (#257 overall) but released him before opening day. The 24-year-old second baseman is having a fine year in Triple-A, hitting .287/.370/.488, and is said to be the top prospect in the Cleveland system. He has yet to make his MLB debut.

Newark drafted the ineligible Ivan Nova in the 15th Round (#209 overall) but dropped him in April, Ivan Novaafter the 24-year-old right-hander posted a 5.82 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in his first four starts of the year. But he's improved dramatically since then, with a 3.58 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in June. The Yankees sent him back to Triple-A, where he's been sensational in two starts (1 BB, 15 K in 14.2 IP). We're sure to see him on somebody's roster next year, but he won't be on a protected list.

Other notable ineligible prospects who were released: Amityville dumped Mat Gamel, Hillsborough dropped Casey Kelly, Marietta released Hank Conger and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Vancouver said aloha to Kila Ka'aihue.

Of course, not every prospect got "red tagged" this season. There's a lot of them still on rosters, including Amityville's Mike Trout, New Jersey's Bryce Harper and Las Vegas's Brandon Belt -- the first three ineligible prospects taken in this year's draft, #18, #20 and #28, respectively.

Jack Cust was drafted four times by four different teams before finally becoming eligible in the DMBL in 2008. He's since played for Newark, Las Vegas and Sardine City. More Prospecting articles can be found in the Prospecting Archives.