Christian Villanueva: Still just 22 (though he turns 23 in about a month), Christian is now playing for the Cubs AAA affiliate and was ranked 11th overall in the their system to open 2013’s season. He is considered to be a potentially elite third baseman defensively with a proficient skill set but has collected a huge amount of errors in the minors.
In four seasons he has compiled 82 errors (24 of which came in 2013) culminating in a .936 career fielding percentage; this percentage has to improve for Christian to be considered a reliable defender. The bat has shown decent ability and consistency as Christian has ascended through the minors though.
Each of the last three years Villanueva has walked between 34-37 times (a generally modest amount), hit between 14-19 homeruns, and batted within .017 (ranging between .261 and .278) each year. This year is Villanueva’s first in AAA and he has had a rough time getting adjusted.
His OPS stands at .650 and he has struck out 33 times in just 110 at bats. Still, Villanueva is 3.7 years younger than his teammates on average for his level in the minors so the Cubs will be sure to exercise some patience and allow him to adjust, develop, and grow more polished as a player capable of contributing to a Major League team.
Kyle Hendricks: Taken initially by the Angels in the 39th round of the 2008 draft, Hendricks opted to attend Dartmouth instead. His decision paid off as the Rangers drafted the collegiate arm considerably earlier in the 8th round of the 2011 draft. Since, he has compiled some good numbers and steadily climbed through the Rangers and Cubs respective minor league systems.
Now ranked as the 15th best prospect in the Cubs system according to MLB.com, Hendricks is in his age-24 season and, like Villanueva, a member of the AAA Iowa Cubs. Last year, Hendricks performed well enough to be named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year following a campaign in which he sported a 1.85 ERA to go along with a 3.88 K:BB ratio.
As Hendricks gets closer to the Majors his expected floor and ceiling become further elucidated; his relatively modest velocity and lack of a proficient off speed offering make most consider his ceiling toward the back end of a rotation but his impressive control (69 walks in 391.2 minor league innings) and overall craftiness should allow him to be an asset on a major league team.
Should one of the Cubs rotation members stumble or succumb to the injury bug, Hendricks might find himself in Chicago sooner than later. His respectable ERA (3.64), WHIP (1.262), and K:BB ratio (nearly 4:1) are all decent indicators that he is holding his own and could soon be in line for a chance in the majors.
Verdict: This trade, in my eyes, was a failure simply due to the way the Rangers season ended in 2012. Trade deadline transactions are inherently risky and almost every team that is trading for an asset to push them over the edge (into the postseason) knows that the teams selling talent are looking to do so for a premium especially if the supply is limited. Today, both Villanueva and Hendricks are solid prospects still. They each are at the highest level in the minors and working hard to make the next step.
Regardless, trading away two promising young player will likely have been worth it should the Rangers have held onto their seemingly safe five game lead with nine to play in September 2012. The Rangers return, Ryan Dempster, underperformed in twelve Texas appearances but got healthy run support and won seven games to his credit.
But he never threw a postseason pitch and the purpose of this trade was lost with the Rangers season. As a fan, I believe the front office is obligated to give the team on the field (through drafting, trading, signing, or otherwise) the best chance to win. To compete, risks have to be taken but this risk simply didn’t pan out.