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Top eight prospects who changed hands in July

Posted: Wednesday August 1, 2007 4:05PM; Updated: Wednesday August 1, 2007 4:05PM
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Rajai Davis
Outfielder Rajai Davis can help the Giants right away.
Nick Laham/Getty Images

By Bryan Smith, Special to SI.com

Prospects are often seen as afterthoughts by fans during the trading season, throw-ins used to lure the big names. But often it doesn't take long for these afterthoughts to become stars themselves. Here are the top eight prospects that were traded in July leading up to and including the trade deadline:

Will Inman, RHP, Padres
Acquired via Brewers for Scott Linebrink

One of the most dominant A-ball pitchers in recent memory, Inman had a 1.71 ERA in 189.2 innings in a year and a half, striking out 232 batters while walking 47. All pitchers depend on stuff, command and deception in some degree to create results, but for Inman, the latter two have always played a larger role than the average pitching prospect. Double-A is supposed to weed out the pretenders from the contenders, and Inman will have a difficult environment to deal with in the Texas League. The right-hander may move from one the tutelage of one Maddux brother (Mike) to another (Greg) in Spring Training next year, which is fitting since Inman's career possibilities range from Greg to Mike to Yusmeiro Petit.

Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers
Acquired via Braves for Mark Teixeira

It seems pitching has forever been a weakness in the Rangers organization, and while Rangers fans will need to exercise patience, GM Jon Daniels has done as much in the last 14 months to add pitching to the system as can be done, adding Kasey Kiker and Jacob Brigham in the draft last year, five pitchers in the first three rounds this season, and now Feliz. There's no denying Feliz's tools -- a 6-foot-4 frame with mid-to-upper 90s heat and a developing breaking ball. While he might end up as a reliever, Feliz is the exact kind of arm the Rangers should have been gambling on in each of their major trades the last decade.

Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
Acquired via Braves for Mark Teixeira

Two things excuse lackluster performance in the minor leagues: tools and youth. When those are put together, numbers become an afterthought. Andrus came into the Braves organization gaining praise for his developed defensive skills and mature approach to the plate. However, quickness has been his only discernable strength in two years of full-season ball. Andrus will go from the pitcher's parks that define the Braves system to hitter-friendly environments with Texas, but it's unlikely to make a difference if Andrus doesn't begin hitting the ball in the air with more force. Shortstop Michael Young's presence will give Andrus the proper time to grow in the Rangers system, but there must be concern that, like Joaquin Arias (once acquired for Alex Rodriguez), he will never develop offensively.

Max Ramirez, C/DH, Rangers
Acquired via Indians for Kenny Lofton

The Rangers' biggest haul in July was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a slugging catcher who is slowly developing his defensive skills. In Ramirez the Rangers received a poor man's Saltalamacchia, a catcher with a little less impact in his bat and a little less likely to stay behind the plate. However, Ramirez had a .924 OPS in the Carolina League and has shown positive offensive skills at every stop. Perhaps Ramirez will follow in Salty's footsteps and try his hands at the infield corners, attempting to create something of his defensive shortcomings like Josh Phelps and Eric Munson have tried for years.

Engel Beltre, CF, Rangers
Acquired via Red Sox for Eric Gagne

One of the top talents on the international market a year ago, the Red Sox paid $600,000 (the equivalency of an early second-round draft selection) for Beltre's rights. His debut in professional baseball began this summer in the Gulf Coast League, where he has shown good power potential (11 extra-base hits in 33 games) and lackluster contact skills (42 strikeouts). Beltre has a cocky attitude, and while he has yet to blossom as a prospect, he now represents the highest upside of a position player in the Rangers' system. Learning to develop against southpaws and breaking pitches will ultimately be what separates Beltre from being a star or a bust.

Matt Maloney, LHP, Reds
Acquired via Phillies for Kyle Lohse

A year ago, the Reds acquired Lohse from the Twins for southpaw prospect Zach Ward. After a year of not contending with Lohse, the Reds shipped him out, this time acquiring a better southpaw prospect. Maloney didn't blossom until his junior season at Ole Miss, but he has been on a torrid place since then, with 16 wins and 180 strikeouts in 2006. The lefty has a good three-pitch mix, and while he lacks great fastball command, pitchers of his handedness can succeed with his repertoire. Maloney has much better stuff than Bobby Livingston, for example, who is currently having modest success in the same Cincinnati organization Maloney just joined.

Rajai Davis, CF, Giants
Acquired via Pirates for Matt Morris

Being able to get out of the Morris contract was enough for the Giants; landing Davis in the deal was icing on the cake. Davis has never gained praise for his tools, but with a consistent record of success, he is just as likely to be a successful leadoff man than current Giants outfielder Fred Lewis. Both players would be just as successful as Dave Roberts hitting atop the Giants order today, as Davis has shown good contact skills and a patient approach in the minor leagues. Davis lacks any upside but in an organization about to enter a rebuilding mode, swapping an overpaid Morris for a leadoff hitter-to-be is as good a move as can be made.

David Murphy, OF, Rangers
Acquired via Red Sox for Eric Gagne

The Red Sox selected Murphy in the first round of the 2003 draft for his diverse skills set, ignoring a lack of any particular strength. Murphy has good contact skills, but he has never had a good enough Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) to post a good batting average. He would have enough power for center field, but his footspeed doesn't supply the range for the position. Murphy is now entering an organization that has proper expectations for his future, somewhere between the value they have received from Brad Wilkerson and a far blander fourth outfielder.

Bryan Smith is a freelance writer and a weekly contributor to Baseball Prospectus. His work has also appeared in Baseball America, Baseball Analysts and the Hardball Times.

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