Mike Trout is pretty much coasting to RoY honors in 2012
Once again, baseball approaches its trade deadline—where we will undoubtedly see some impact players switch uniforms as teams try to fix their weaknesses and stock up on extra talent for the stretch run and the playoffs. All eyes will likely be on big-name players like Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels and Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke, as well as Cubs righties Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, as these four are widely considered the top prizes of the current market.
However, for every trade that sees a superstar relocate, we also see some potential future stars join new organizations.
Last season it was young righty Drew Pomeranz moving to Colorado in exchange for Ubaldo Jimenez. With Jimenez struggling in Cleveland, you have to assume that the Indians might be regretting cashing in a possible young star for a player that doesn't seem to be able to cut it in the AL. Some might even say that they were crazy to give up Pomeranz, who quickly ascended to the big leagues after less than a year in the minors.
The Angels were struggling at the deadline last year, but luckily for them, they decided to stand their ground and hold on to top prospect Mike Trout, who just one year later is thriving in the majors and on top of Rookie of the Year talk is starting to garner legitimate consideration for AL MVP honors.
How crazy would we have said they were if they had thrown away the guy that's currently leading the league in hitting for a half-year rental?
So, which young studs would teams be crazy to give up at this year's trade deadline?
There are some extremely talented guys down in the minors right now, but there might just be more desperate teams that are clinging to wild card hopes late in July, as the creation of the second wild card has led to over 70 percent of the MLB teams remaining in contention at this point in the season.
So, let's check it out. Which five prospects are just too good for their teams to even think about letting go?
St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller has had some difficulties this season in Triple-A. In 18 starts, he has pitched to a 4-8 record with a bloated 5.79 ERA. Still, there is a bright side to his 2012 campaign, as he has struck out 94 batters in just 82-and-one-third innings while only walking 46—the best strikeout to walk ratio of his professional career.
What has troubled Miller this season is the home run ball. Previously, Miller had only given up as many as seven home runs in a season, when he did so over 24 starts in 2010. This season: 17 home runs over 18 starts, not a good ratio.
So as you can see, once Miller regains his ability to keep it in the yard, he'll be fine, and he'll likely be an integral part of the Cardinals' rotation, one which can't quite seem to keep its aces healthy. Trading Miller for rotation help this season would be a bad move by John Mozeliak.
With him currently pitching in the Yankees organization, we've all heard the hype about left-handed pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Normally, as a Yankees fan, I've learned not to believe the hype that surrounds these young players, but with "Man-Ban", it's getting harder and harder not to believe that he's going to be the real deal.
I mean, even Mariano Rivera said via ESPN that Banuelos was "the best pitching prospect he had ever seen." When one of the best pitchers in the history of the game says he sees something great, people are inclined to believe him.
I mean sure, the best pitching prospect Rivera had seen prior to Banuelos was former first overall pick Brien Taylor, and we all know how that story ended, but that doesn't mean that Taylor couldn't have been great if he'd stayed on the right path.
Banuelos has struggled a bit in Triple-A this season, including his current stint on the DL, but at 20 years old, he has plenty of time to right himself. Would it be nice if he could find his way onto the Yankees roster next year?
Absolutely, but it isn't a necessity yet.
The Yankees can still sign a one-year stopgap starter for 2013 before the 2014 payroll limit kicks in. However, what Brian Cashman has to do this season and next is resist the urge to trade Banuelos for another expensive pitcher or a Justin Upton-type.
After what I've watched in spring training the past two years, when this kid is ready, he's going to be fun to watch in the Bronx.
Cincinnati doesn't currently have a star at the shortstop position, with Zack Cozart currently struggling offensively in 2012, but by as soon as September, they could find themselves with quite the secret weapon out there. His name is Billy Hamilton, and the best comparison I can make right now for him would be ... the next Rickey Henderson.
Yeah, you read that correctly.
You see, Billy Hamilton has been doing some amazing things on the basepaths over the last two seasons, things previously only done by the legs of "the greatest of all time" himself. Last season, Hamilton stole 103 bases in 135 games for Class A Dayton.
This season? He already has 110 in 89 games—just 20 shy of the all-time record of 130 set by Henderson himself in 1982. I'd say Hamilton is a shoe-in to break the record already, barring injury, of course.
Now I'm not going to say Hamilton is going to break into the majors and steal 100 bags, as I'm sure it's a lot easier to steal off minor league pitchers and catchers than it would be in the majors, but the Reds might really have something here, and they would be wise to hold onto their speedy young shortstop for themselves.
So far, it looks like the Pittsburgh Pirates chose the wrong pitcher with their first overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. It's the second overall pick, left-hander Danny Hultzen, chosen by the Seattle Mariners, who is enjoying the more successful season thus far in the minor leagues.
Hultzen started his professional career at Double-A, pitching to an 8-3 record with a 1.19 ERA and 79 strikeouts over 75-and-one-third innings before being promoted to Triple-A, where he has so far put up a 1-1 record with a 3.57 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 23 innings.
In contrast, Cole started at Class-A Advanced, pitching to a 5-1 record with a 2.55 ERA with 69 strikeouts over 67 innings before his promotion to Double-A, the level that Hultzen had just finished dominating.
How has Cole fared thus far? He's gone 2-2 with a 5.17 ERA over 15-and-one-third innings, not great.
Hultzen looks like he'll likely spend the remainder of the season at Triple-A, maybe get a September call-up and have a realistic shot at breaking camp with the Mariners in 2013.
Seattle is currently sitting in last place in the AL West as one of only three AL teams with no shot at the postseason. They wouldn't just be crazy if they traded Hultzen, they would be clinically insane.
Three picks after Gerrit Cole was selected with the first overall pick of the 2011 Draft, and two picks after Danny Hultzen left the board, the Baltimore Orioles selected 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy with the fourth pick of the draft.
Let's just say that, so far, they're pretty happy with their choice.
Three very talented pitchers were chosen before Bundy in Cole, Hultzen and Trevor Bauer, all of whom have enjoyed success in the minors thus far. Bauer has even risen all the way to the majors, albeit struggling so far for the Diamondbacks in 2012.
But it's Bundy, the youngest of the four, fresh out of high school, who is by far the most impressive.
Around four years younger than each of the pitchers selected before him, Bundy is tearing up the minors on an entirely different level. He made his professional debut this season at Class A, and after eight starts and 30 innings without allowing an earned run, he was promoted to Class-A Advanced, where he has posted a 3.11 ERA with 42 strikeouts over 37-and-two-third innings.
Overall? Bundy is 5-3 with a 1.73 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 67-and-two-third innings in 2012.
Now 19 years old, at such a young age the Orioles can feel free to take their time with Bundy, making sure he is completely ready and dominates each level of the minor leagues before reaching the majors. He'd probably prefer to make the leap as soon as possible, but that hasn't served Bauer too well thus far, so this way is probably for the best.
However, the Orioles have a very valuable commodity on their hands in Bundy, and you can bet it is going to be difficult to say no to some of the offers they are likely to receive for the young righty in the following weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
But Orioles' GM Dan Duquette needs to stand his ground and tell all interested clubs, "No, Bundy is untouchable" or he will deeply regret it.