MLB Trade Rumors: 7 Top Prospects Ready to Replace Their Team's Trade Bait

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2012

MLB Trade Rumors: 7 Top Prospects Ready to Replace Their Team's Trade Bait

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    We've already seen one top prospect push an established veteran out the door in Boston this season, as Will Middlebrooks' arrival resulted in fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis being shipped off to the Chicago White Sox.

    By no means is Youk the only veteran who will see his playing time be impacted by an up-and-coming youngster. Around the league, a number of highly-touted prospects are making it incredibly difficult for general managers to justify keeping them down on the farm.

    Who could be the next to join Youkilis in becoming a displaced veteran, soon to be playing for another team?

    Let's take a look.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Ryan Wheeler, 3B

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    Triple-A Stats: 80 G, .364/.402/.585, 13 HR, 82 RBI

    Sure, it's the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but there is no denying that Ryan Wheeler can hit the ball—his .364 average places him third in the league while his 82 RBI finds him atop the leaderboard, 12 RBI ahead of his closest competitor.

    Trade Bait He's Ready to Replace

    While there hasn't been much in the way of trade rumors involving Arizona's incumbent third basemen Josh Bell (21 G, 173/.232/.269, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and Ryan Roberts (69 G, .230/.280/.356, 6 HR, 32 RBI), it's obvious that neither player is capable of getting the job done for the D-Backs in 2012.

    Bell has been a disappointment with what is now his third team, while Roberts, who threatened to have a 20/20 season in 2011 with 19 home runs and 18 stolen bases, has been a liability at the plate.

Chicago Cubs: Brett Jackson, OF

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    Triple-A Stats: 81 G, .258/.337/.494, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 18 2B, 10 3B, 18-for-22 SB

    He's not hitting for a high average, but aside from that, there's nothing that Brett Jackson can't do at the plate.

    He has speed to burn and the ability to play all three outfield positions. There are multiple veterans that Jackson, who is clearly a big part of the future in Chicago, could displace.

    Trade Bait He's Ready to Replace

    Either Alfonso Soriano or David DeJesus.

    The Cubs haven't hidden the fact that they are willing to eat a ridiculous amount of the money remaining on Soriano's contract—and if what Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reported at the end of May is still accurate, the Cubs shouldn't have much of an issue in moving the former superstar:

    Not surprisingly, Cubs are telling teams they will eat almost all of Soriano $$ (maybe all but $3 mill) if they can dump him.

    — DKnobler (@DKnobler) May 31, 2012

    Both players can still hit, as evidenced by their numbers thus far in 2012: Soriano is hitting .269 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI, while DeJesus sports a .272 average with two home runs and 21 RBI.

    While Soriano is best suited for an American League team where he can serve as a designated hitter, keeping his questionable defense off of the field, DeJesus can play all three outfield positions fairly well—and owed significantly less money than Soriano, he could be the more attractive option for a contending team looking to upgrade its outfield.

    Whichever player the Cubs ultimately decide to move, Jackson is waiting in the wings to replace him.

Kansas City Royals: Wil Myers, OF

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    Triple-A Stats: .317/.403/.653, 14 HR, 41 RBI, 23 BB, 38 K (44 G)

    Royals' general manager Dayton Moore has indicated that it's the team's preference to keep Wil Myers in Triple-A through at least the end of the 2012 season, if not to start the 2013 campaign as well in an effort to keep Myers' service-time clock from starting (via

    The problem, of course, is that Myers continues to crush minor league pitching—between Double-A and Triple-A this season, he has a .331/.411/.685 batting line with 27 home runs and 71 RBI in 80 games.

    Tommy Gregg, a nine-year MLB veteran and current hitting coach for Myers in Triple-A Omaha, has compared Myers to a former two-time MVP winner (via above link):

    I was going to say, like, Dale Murphy...because he (also) made the switch from catcher to center field. (Myers) has the same quick hands and (is) slender but strong. Golly, I mean, same thing with Wil. He's just some kind of strong.

    Myers is ready to help the Royals now, and getting him major league experience this year will only make him a better player next year. From a baseball standpoint, the Royals, who are out of contention, have nothing to lose.

    Trade Bait He's Ready to Replace

    Veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur, whom the Royals signed to a reasonable two-year, $13.5 million contract this past winter.

    Frenchy still has one of the great throwing arms in the game, and while his offensive numbers aren't earth-shattering (.252/.292/.382, 7 HR, 24 RBI), he should have value to a contending team looking to add another bat to their lineup.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Alex Castellanos, 2B/OF

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    Triple-A Stats: 42 G, .360/.448/.677, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 11-for-16 SB

    Alex Castellanos already got a taste of the majors earlier this season, hitting .143 with two RBI over 21 at-bats before being sent back to Triple-A.

    But don't let that small sample size fool you. There's a reason most pundits believe Castellanos is the best hitting prospect in the Dodgers' organization—the kid can flat-out rake with the bat.

    While the Dodgers are in the midst of a heated battle with the San Francisco Giants for NL West supremacy and may not want to put too much pressure on Castellanos, calling him up allows them to move Jerry Hairston Jr., who can play multiple positions, to either third base to replace the underachieving Juan Uribe or first base where he can supplant incumbent James Loney.

    Trade Bait He's Ready to Replace

    Adam Kennedy, while an erstwhile veteran, has struggled in 58 games this season, hitting .220 with no discernible power.

    Kennedy could be of interest for a contender looking to add a veteran middle infielder to their bench for the stretch run as more of a defensive replacement than anything else.

Oakland A's: Derek Norris, C

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    MLB Stats: 8 G, .333/.375/.533, 2 HR, 6 RBI

    Norris has already arrived on the scene in Oakland, though he technically is the backup to incumbent starter Kurt Suzuki.

    One of the pieces that the A's received from the Washington Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade this past winter, Norris has already shown that he has the ability to not only hit major league pitching but handle a major league pitching staff behind the plate as well.

    Trade Bait He's Ready to Replace

    Suzuki, who is set to make at least $7 million through the 2014 season—and nearly $15 million if his 2014 option is picked up. The 28-year-old has struggled with the bat this season, posting a .210/.247/.258 batting line with no home runs and 16 RBI.

    MLB Network's Peter Gammons believes that Suzuki would make sense for a number of teams, including the Marlins, Mets and Rays:

    Derek Norris up, Suzuki .215 w/$6.45M '13...sense for Marlins, Mets or Rays

    — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) June 22, 2012

Seattle Mariners: Danny Hultzen, LHP

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    Triple-A Stats: 3 GS, 1-1, 5.25 ERA, 2.17 WHIP, 12 IP, 12 BB, 14 K

    Don't let his Triple-A stats fool you—Danny Hultzen is probably the most major league ready pitching prospect in the minors now that Trevor Bauer has joined the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation.

    The Mariners' first-round pick in last year's draft, Hultzen has started 16 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season, going a combined 9-4 with a 1.75 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 44 walks and 94 strikeouts over 87.1 innings pitched.

    Trade Bait He's Ready to Replace

    Left-handed starter Jason Vargas, who is under team control through the 2013 season.

    With Hultzen and his fellow prospects James Paxton and Taijuan Walker all expected to be a part of Seattle's starting rotation as early as next season, Vargas becomes expendable for a Seattle team that isn't yet ready to compete for a playoff spot.

    Vargas, 29, has value to contending teams as a solid back-of-the-rotation arm who can eat innings and keep his team in games—and with the Mariners' offense continuing to be unimpressive, moving Vargas could bring Seattle back some much-needed help to the lineup.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Starling Marte, of

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    Triple-A Stats: 79 G, .290/.350/.494, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 17-for-29 SB

    Aside from not wanting to start the clock running on his service time, the only feasible reason for the Pirates to keep Marte down on the farm is that they'd like to see better plate discipline from him—he has only 22 walks against 70 strikeouts in 345 plate appearances this season.

    That being said, there's not much that Marte can't do on the field, and with Pittsburgh not getting much out of their leadoff hitter these days, it stands to reason that Marte could be a much better option.

    Trade Bait He's Ready to Replace

    Alex Presley, the underachieving leadoff hitter in Pittsburgh who isn't exactly getting on base regularly, posting a .242/.276/.395 batting line with six home runs and 13 RBI.

    Presley, 26, is a left-handed bat whose ceiling very well may be that of a fourth outfielder on a good team. That being said, were the Pirates to make him available, a number of teams are likely to show interest.