The Legacy of Cole Hamels

Missanelli: He won us a World Series — yet always left us wanting more.

Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Photo | Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Photo | Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Hamels is finally gone from the Phillies, a victim of several recent years of organizational incompetency.

Let’s face it, if you are building a major league team the right way, the executives in charge don’t allow for a dead-battery period like the Philadelphia Phillies have suffered through the last three years. Instead, they HAD to trade a pitcher like Hamels, who otherwise would be young enough to still be the ace of a starting pitching staff that could be playoff contenders every year

Unfortunately for Hamels and the Phillies, the left-handed pitcher was biggest trading commodity they had, the only piece that could somewhat replenish a bone-barren farm system. From the Texas Rangers, they got at least five better prospects then they currently have in their system. At least two of the prospects can in a short time be projected as starters at positions of need – catcher and leftfielder. In the deal, the Phillies have nabbed the Rangers third-, fourth- and fifth-ranked prospects in their entire organization. And that ain’t bad.

This morning, I received an e-mail from a guy named Paul Hembekides, an ESPN stat analyst who deals solely with numbers and projections of minor league prospects. Hembekides says that three of the prospects the Phils got from the Rangers – 21-year old right-handed pitcher Jake Thompson, 22-year old catcher Jorge Alfaro, and 21-year old outfielder Nick Williams – have “all-star upside.” Now who knows if that will ever come into play. In most deals like this, teams are fortunate to get ONE solid starting player who will play with the big league club for multi-years.

But it is worth exploring their assets.

Thompson was the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect starting the season, according to Baseball America. He tops out at 95 MPH on the fastball, with a plus-slider who some scouts, I kid you not, have described as “pornographic.” His ceiling is a No. 2 starter on a staff.

Alfaro was the Rangers number No. 3 coming into this year. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, he is the best catching prospect in all of the minor leagues. On a grading scale from 20 to 80, Alfaro scores 80’s in raw power and throwing arm. He will miss the rest of the minor league season (he was in double-A) with an ankle tendon injury. But he projects as a 10-year starting catcher in the big leagues.

Williams was the Rangers’ No. 5 prospect. He’s a double-A outfielder with above-average raw power. He can be a 25 home run guy at a corner outfield position. He’s hit 13 so far this season while hitting .300. Think a left-handed Jayson Werth.

Alec Asher, a 23-year old right-hander pitcher, and Jared Eickhoff, a 25-year old righty, are stock inventory, with marginal upsides. Both are likely to be middle relief pitchers if they reach the big leagues.

Meanwhile, the readymade starter the Phils got is Matt Harrison, who is owed about $27 million over the next two years. That’s no big bargain; since the left-handed pitcher has has two back surgeries over the last three seasons. But the Phils had to take something off the Rangers’ hands.

So what does Cole Hamels leave as a legacy? He was the Phillies best home grown pitcher in 50 years and on my list of greats, occupies fourth place behind Robin Roberts, Steve Carlton and Curt Schilling. Hamels didn’t win as many games as a Phillie as we thought we would. But he was always a victim of anemic run support. His playoff performances during the wonderful 2008 season were THE main reason the Phillies won the World Championship.

You can’t ever take that away. But for me, with Hamels, there was always the slightest thing missing that prevented him from true greatness. When the Phillies scored two runs in a game, a guy like Schilling was on that mound knowing he HAD to hold the opposition to one run. If the Phils scored one, Schilling had it in his head he needed to pitch a complete game shutout.

We got something close to that with Cole Hamels. It was good. He was an athlete in whom we took pride. And now he goes. Another victim of organizational incompetence.

Follow Mike Missanelli on Twitter.