MLB Trade Speculation: All 30 Teams' Prospect Who'll Be Sweating out July 31
With the July 31 trade deadline less than a week away, there already have been multiple unexpected moves within the last two days. It seems that as the week's progressed, nearly every team has been in the mix of rumors at some point, and it surely won't be the last we hear of them.
Every organization has diligently prepared for this week, noting which prospects are off-limits, up for grabs and only available if offered the right deal. Until the trade deadline ends next week, there's essentially no prospect who is completely untouchable. Teams are busy fielding inquiries on all of their players and, despite what they might say, listening to every offer.
Because every organization has at least a few young players they may be willing to deal, here's my speculative look at each team's prospect who'll be sweating it out until July 31.
New York Yankees: RHP Dellin Betances
A local prep product selected in the eighth round of the 2006 first-year player draft, Betances continues to experience massive control problems. Remaining steadfast in their development of the 6'8" right-hander as a starter, he was demoted to Double-A after a dismal start to the 2012 season at Triple-A.
Now 24 years old, it's gotten to the point where the Yankees have to decide whether to relegate him to a bullpen role or try to cash in on what remains.
Baltimore Orioles: 3B Jonathan Schoop
Since the Orioles are highly unlikely to trade their two top prospects, RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado, Schoop is basically their best trade bait by default. Even though he's had a disappointing season at Double-A, his power seems to be emerging, and he's able to play both left-sides of the infield positions.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Chris Archer
Each of the Rays' top pitching prospects has had control problems this season. Amazingly, Archer has been able to harness his wildness (at least by his standards) and even had success during a brief stint in the major leagues: 11.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, .186 BAA, 14 SO and 2 BB in two starts. The right-hander has a lightning-quick arm and filthy arsenal to match, and surely turned plenty of heads with those two starts.
Toronto Blue Jays: OF Anthony Gose
Headed into the season, most scouts believed Gose would inevitably replace a struggling Colby Rasmus in center field. However, Rasmus' resurgence has halted that plan. With fellow (and more impressive) Blue Jays outfield prospect Jake Marisnick now at Double-A, it seems as though Gose may be the odd man out. He's big-league ready with a set of impressive tools and could serve as a key player in a larger deal.
Boston Red Sox: C Ryan Lavarnway
After reaching the major leagues in 2011 and hitting a pair of crucial home runs at Fenway Park, Lavarnway has spent the entire season at Triple-A blocked behind Jason Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach. That hasn't stopped him from raking in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, though. If a team is looking to add a backup catcher at the trade deadline, especially one with considerable power and a knack for mashing left-handed pitching, Lavarnway may be an affordable (and not entirely desperate) option.
Detroit Tigers: LHP Casey Crosby
After trading two of their top prospects—RHP Jacob Turner and C Rob Brantly—to the Miami Marlins on Monday afternoon, the Tigers don't have much to offer beyond their young left-handed pitchers. Although Drew Smyly may hold more value given his success in the major leagues this season, I believe that they would prefer to instead deal Casey Crosby.
Chicago White Sox: Of Keenyn Walker
So the White Sox are in on the Zack Greinke sweepstakes. Yet, they don't have the deep farm system that will be required for an acquisition of that magnitude. The prospect with the highest ceiling (and therefore the most current value) is outfielder Keenyn Walker, a raw and toolsy outfielder selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. While strikeouts remain a problem, Walker has bridged the gap between his athleticism and baseball skills this season, and recently received a promotion to High-A.
Cleveland Indians: SS Ronny Rodriguez
With Asdrubal Cabrera signed through the 2014 season when the organization's top prospect, shortstop Francisco Lindor, will hopefully be ready to take over, it's hard to see where Rodriguez fits in the big picture. A highly athletic ballplayer with a surprising amount of pop in his bat, the right-handed hitter has plenty of upside. His defense—more so, his throws—can be erratic, but it's hard to overlook that type of production from an up-the-middle talent.
Kansas City Royals: LHP Mike Montgomery
After emerging as one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball between 2008 and 2010, Montgomery has fallen off over the last two seasons—both at Triple-A Omaha. His high strikeout totals have nearly vanished, while his walks-per-nine has steadily increased. He's continually struggled to keep the ball down in the zone this season and was finally demoted to Double-A in mid-July. The Royals would be dealing him at his lowest career value, but of their expendable prospects, he may command the best return.
Minnesota Twins: OF Joe Benson
It's been a tough year for Joe Benson. Even though he's spent time on the disabled list this season and continues to be hampered by a nagging wrist injury, the simple truth is that Benson hasn't hit. His approach has considerably regressed, as he's struck out more than usual while chasing pitches out of the zone and making too much weak contact. Once he's healthy, Benson will still have the 20/20 potential that made him one of the Twins' top prospects.
Texas Rangers: 3B Mike Olt
Perhaps the biggest name that may be on the move,—not to mention arguably the most coveted—Olt could yield a significant return if traded to the right team. However, the 23-year-old is blocked by Adrian Beltre at third base in Arlington through the 2013 season. But if he's traded to a team with no one in his path, Olt should be ready to contribute in the major leagues this season.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Dan Straily
Well, I was going to suggest Michael Choice. However, the slugging outfielder's season prematurely ended on Saturday when an errant pitch broke his wrist. Therefore, the only prospect who may draw interest is right-hander Dan Straily—but you may know him better as the minor league strikeout leader (171 in 132 innings).
Personally, I'd prefer the A's to trade either Bartolo Colon, A.J. Griffin or Brad Peacock and give him a chance to crack the rotation. Sure, he has zero major league experience. But with impressive command of a three-pitch mix, all of which are at least above-average offerings, Straily could provide a cheap boost to the back end of a starting rotation.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP John Hellweg
A notoriously slow starter, there's a lot to like about the 6'9" right-hander. Featuring an arsenal of power pitches that are incredibly difficult to barrel, Hellweg, 23, is nearly big-league-ready and could be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in his prime. If the Angels do land a big-name starter to bolster their rotation, the deal will likely include Hellweg—the Angels' best pitching prospect.
Seattle Mariners: LHP James Paxton
With LHP Danny Hultzen and RHP Taijuan Walker poised to anchor the Mariners rotation for years to come, and Nick Franklin slated to become the team's everyday shortstop, their best trade bait is 6'4" southpaw James Paxton.
He missed all of June with a knee injury, but appears as strong as ever since returning from the disabled list on July 3. Possessing a plus fastball with easy velocity, a hammer breaking ball and a changeup that's immensely improved over the last year, he still struggles with consistently spotting up, but has been significantly better since his stint on the disabled list.
Washington Nationals: RHP Alex Meyer
After trading the house for Gio Gonzalez last season, the Nationals system isn't as deep as it once was. With top prospect Anthony Rendon slowly recovering from a broken ankle, their best secondary trade bait is 6'9" right-hander Alex Meyer. With 134 strikeouts and only 35 walks in 96 innings, the 22-year-old recently was promoted to High-A Potomac, and his ascent through the Nationals' system is sure to continue. But if the team is still targeting a quality starting pitcher, as it was first reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, they may have to part with their hard-throwing 2011 first-rounder.
Atlanta Braves: RHP Randall Delgado
So it turns out that Delgado wasn't traded to the Cubs for Ryan Dempster after all. Oh well. However, that clearly indicates that the 22-year-old right-hander is still available. The Braves haven't backed off in their pursuit of a top-notch starting pitcher, so if it goes down, Delgado's inclusion is imminent.
New York Mets: 3B Wilmer Flores
Although he's still only 20 years old, the 6'3", 190-pound third baseman hasn't developed as hoped. After reaching a full-season level (Low-A) as a 16-year-old in 2008, Flores wasn't promoted to Double-A until June 21 of this year. His .799 OPS this season is his highest since breaking into professional baseball in 2008. It's doubtful that the Mets will make any moves by the deadline,—don't worry, Zack Wheeler's safe—but if they do, Flores could be offered as part of a larger package.
Miami Marlins: C Jacob (J.T.) Realmuto
Tough call with this one; the Marlins are selling and apparently are listening to absolutely every offer. I just wonder if the acquisition of Rob Brantly from the Tigers has made J.T. Realmuto, a catching prospect at High-A, expendable. It really depends on how convinced the team is that Brantly is their guy moving forward. A ridiculous athlete who is still new to catching, Realmuto's thrown out 38 percent of baserunners over the last two seasons. Don't let his mediocre stats fool you, all the ingredients for a breakout prospect are there.
Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Trevor May
Entering the season as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect, May enjoyed a red-hot start, posting a 5-0 record, 2.40 ERA, .196 BAA, 33 SO and eight BB in his first five starts. Since then, it's been utterly downhill: His command deteriorated the following month and is yet to stabilize. Perhaps the early-season success is the result of a power pitcher dominating in cold weather. Either way, he's been passed on the organization's depth chart by left-hander Jesse Biddle, who is developing nicely.
Cincinnati Reds: SS Didi Gregorius
The Reds' system is loaded in up-the-middle talent, with Zack Cozart in the midst of his rookie season in Cincinnati and the fastest man in baseball, Billy Hamilton, now at Double-A.
Gregorius, who's playing at Triple-A after a promotion last week, is a left-handed hitter with top-of-the-order potential and could help a team in a reserve role during the final months of the season.
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Starling Marte
I've never been as sold on Marte as others seem to be. Yes, his stats look nice, but the toolsy outfielder still has holes in his game.
On Wednesday evening, news broke (report here via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that Marte would be called up prior to the Pirates' game on Thursday. I don't understand why the team would become overly experimental when they have a legitimate chance at a playoff berth. This makes me wonder, are the Pirates showcasing Marte for the week in anticipation of an upcoming trade?
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Shelby Miller
One of the top pitching prospects in baseball headed into the 2012 season, Miller’s performance at Triple-A has been frustrating—to say the least. His velocity is down a few ticks, and he's not aggressively attacking hitters as he did so well in 2011. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed 95 hits (17 HR) and 46 walks in 88.1 innings, frequently leaving his fastball up in the zone and inducing a dangerous amount of fly balls. It's time for the Cardinals to decide whether they intend to use him in the major leagues or as a chip to acquire needed major league talent.
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Tyler Thornburg
Drafted by the Brewers in 2010, Thornburg has skyrocketed through the system to the major leagues in less than two years. He's flashed an above-average overall arsenal is his three outings, although his command will need extra seasoning. In my opinion, he's become their best pitching prospect and could return significant value.
Chicago Cubs: 3B Josh Vitters
Much like the Marlins, the Cubs are engaged in a serious rebuilding effort—and doing it tastefully. If they are looking to clear out some old faces, Vitters is enjoying his best professional season to date and may receive a long-awaited September call-up. His stock is at an all-time high—well, except for that year or two after he was drafted—and could yield a younger player in return.
Houston Astros: RHP Jarred Cosart
Up until the 2011 season, it appeared as though Cosart might develop into the rare pitcher who records an ideal blend of strikeouts and ground-ball outs. However, while the favorable ground-ball rates remain a major part of his approach, the right-hander's strikeout and walk totals have been converging.
San Francisco Giants: RHP Heath Hembree
Another system devoid of projectable prospects, the Giants traded top prospect RHP Zack Wheeler to the Mets to rent Carlos Beltran in late 2011. Unlikely to do the same thing this season, I think it's OK to assume that OF Gary Brown won't be moved. However, they do have Heath Hembree—the 2011 minor league saves leader, with 38—working his way back from a stint on the disabled list.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Zach Lee
At this rate, I think we should expect Lee to be moved within the next week. He's already been directly mentioned in trade rumors—more specifically, a deal that would send him to the Cubs for Matt Garza, as reported by Jim Bowden of ESPN. The Dodgers are throwing all their chips in the pot this week with little care about the ramifications on their farm system. He's their top trade chip, and if the organization needs to make an acquisition, expect Lee to be on the move—quickly.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Anthony Meo
Meo continues to fly under the radar; he's trapped behind the hype of fellow pitching prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs. His command is still raw, but the 6'2" right-hander's pure stuff is only getting better. With a plus fastball-slider combination, cutter and developing changeup, he could have four above-average pitches by the time he reaches the major leagues.
Colorado Rockies: LHP Edwar Cabrera
Given the state of the Rockies' big-league team, they can't exactly be handing out prospects. One of the top strikeout artists in the minor leagues, the 25-year-old left-hander received his first taste of the major leagues this season. Although he's dominated in the minors, Cabrera received a rude greeting to the Show when he was tagged for seven earned runs on nine hits and seven walks in two starts spanning 5.2 innings.
San Diego Padres: Of Rymer Liriano
One of the better farm systems in all of baseball, it's doubtful that the Padres would be willing to part with any of the highly touted prospects. They have a core of pitching prospects nearing arrival and a slew of impressive hitters who could work their way into the starting lineup before the end of the season. Already on the Padres' 40-man roster, Liriano possesses plus speed and improving power, but his hit tool remains suspect.
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