Ranking the 5 MLB Teams with the Top Tradeable Prospects This Offseason
With the World Series set to conclude on Nov. 1 (if necessary), writers and fans alike are slowly shifting their attention to the free-agent market for the 2013 season.
Although most discussions won’t gain steam until after the Fall Classic, there’s already a host of top prospects that should serve as intriguing trade bait this winter.
While some of my predictions may seem both unnecessary and unlikely, I assure you there’s a method to my madness.
5. Leury Garcia, SS, Texas Rangers
Garcia improved in every facet of the game this year as a 21-year-old at Double-A. A 5’7”, 153-pound switch-hitter, he batted .292/.337/.398 with 25 extra-base hits, 31 stolen bases and 79/22 K/BB in 100 games.
Playing second base opposite Jurickson Profar at shortstop, Garcia committed only six errors in 57 games and received playing time at shortstop (39 games) and in center field (four games).
Unfortunately, Garcia ranks as the organization’s third-best shortstop prospect behind Profar and 19-year-old Luis Sardinas. While his size and age limits his projectability, he’s still an impressive up-the-middle prospect who should reach the major leagues by the end of the 2014 season.
However, there’s a realistic chance that the Rangers try to package him and one of their pitching prospects, such as Martin Perez or Cody Buckel, into an offseason trade.
4. DiDi Gregorius, SS, Cincinnati Reds
Since entering the Reds’ system, Gregorius has consistently moved at a two-level-per-year pace, and reached Double-A in 2011 as a 21-year-old. A left-handed hitter, he posted a .717 OPS with 39 extra-base hits (seven home runs), 54 RBI and 80/41 K/BB in 129 games between Double- and Triple-A.
The Reds promoted Gregorius to the major leagues when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1, and the 22-year-old responded favorably by hitting .300 (6-for-20) in eight games. He’ll likely never hit for that high of an average over a full season, but if his hit tool continues to develop as expected, Gregorius could be a .260-.275 hitter in the major leagues.
Defensively, he has excellent tools and actions at shortstop, though his range is only average. While the team’s current shortstop, Zack Cozart, may offer more power and slightly better defense, Gregorius makes considerably more contact and profiles more as a top-of-the-order hitter.
It’s doubtful that the Reds will carry both of them on the active roster in 2013, so expect one of them to be traded this winter. Considering Cozart’s success (kind of) this season as the team’s everyday shortstop, my guess is that they opt to part with Gregorius.
3. C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
The Angels’ first-round draft pick in 2011 (17th-overall), the 6’4”, 235-pound first baseman possessed arguably the best present power in the entire draft class. It was obvious in his full-season debut this past season, as Cron batted .293/.327/.516 with 61 extra-base hits (27 home runs) and 123 RBI in 129 games for High-A Inland Empire.
Despite undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, the 22-year-old’s bat should be big-league-ready by 2014, if not sooner. However, he’s blocked at first base for the foreseeable future by that Pujols guy and physically limited to solely that position.
After Trout’s graduation to the major leagues and moving Jean Segura, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena for Zack Greinke, the Angels’ farm system is rather barren. So, there seemingly would be no ill effect in trading Cron this winter.
2. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
The top pitcher in the minor leagues in 2011, Teheran was a consensus top-10 prospect headed into the 2012 season. But after a rough spring training, the 21-year-old right-hander was unable to turn the corner and ultimately scuffled all year while repeating Triple-A. Overall, Teheran was 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA, 10.0 H/9, 1.2 HR/9, 8.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 131 innings.
Unless he has a phenomenal spring training next season, it’s difficult to envision Teheran breaking camp in the rotation. But rather than presumably open his third-consecutive season at Triple-A Gwinnett, the Braves may try to move the right-hander before his stock plummets any further.
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Reaching the major leagues in is first full professional season, Bauer, the third-overall selection in the 2011 draft, breezed through the minors with a 12-2 record, 2.42 ERA and 10.8 K/9 in 130.1 innings spanning 22 starts between Double- and Triple-A.
However, his success didn’t translate upon reaching the major leagues, as the right-hander registered a 6.06 ERA with 17/13 K/BB over four starts (16.1 innings). Furthermore, his insistence on trying to trick hitters and pick at the strike zone has frustrated Arizona’s front office. And as we all know, GM Kevin Towers isn’t afraid to cash in where he’s sees opportunity.