Nearly a month into the MLB season, weaknesses are being exposed on most 25-man rosters around the league, and baseball writers are already speculating what teams will need to do at the trade deadline. OK, so that was mostly just me.
The point is that the Hot Stove will be heating up very soon with trade talk coming from all directions. With every rumor, you’re going to be hearing a lot about certain prospects that non-contending teams will very likely be seeking in return for major league talent. It doesn’t mean they’ll get them. But it’s worth them asking in any case.
These six prospects won’t necessarily be going anywhere in a July trade. But they will, in my opinion, be the most asked about by the “seller” in any trade talk, and they’re also on teams that could be looking to add an impact player for the stretch drive.
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Considered by many to be the top-hitting prospect in all of baseball, Taveras is not likely to be traded. The 20-year-old could help the Cardinals down the stretch by making a few starts per week, but he has a starting job waiting for him in 2014, and the major league team doesn’t appear to have any major holes to fill.
If they still have problems closing out games in July, it certainly won’t cost a player of Taveras’ caliber to acquire a closer. He’s as close to “untouchable” as any prospect in the game, but it doesn’t mean teams won’t ask about his availability.
The only scenario in which I can see Taveras possibly going is if they lose another starting pitcher or two to injury and the Rays are willing to deal David Price. I discussed a few weeks back what it might cost the Cardinals to acquire Price. Hint: the package was strong, in my opinion, and didn’t even include Taveras.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
As I speculated in my "biggest priority at the trade deadline" article, the O’s probably don’t have enough talent on their roster to make a run deep into October. While Gausman or Dylan Bundy could be the answer to a rotation that doesn't appear to be very strong, it’s unlikely that either rookie would be allowed to pitch late into the year.
The 20-year-old Bundy hasn’t even pitched this year because of a sore elbow and will visit Dr. James Andrews—the guy who normally breaks the bad news to a pitcher that he needs Tommy John surgery—in the near future. The O’s don’t think it’s serious, though, and a late start to his season could actually increase the chance that he pitches into October. Elbow injuries are not to be taken lightly, however, so I wouldn’t count on him either way.
Gausman, on the other hand, is a candidate to join the rotation later in the season. While he did pitch close to 140 innings in 2012 between college and the minors, it’s hard to see a 22-year-old with exactly 21 Double-A innings under his belt at the moment being the difference-maker that gets the O’s deep into the playoffs.
Teams are going to ask for Bundy or Gausman in any deal for an impact player. Both have “ace” potential. My guess is that most teams will prefer the guy who hasn’t been experiencing elbow soreness this season. And if the O’s have the opportunity to acquire a starting pitcher who would be the clear No. 1 on their staff now, they might consider giving up one of their young guns.
Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers
Prospects of Profar’s caliber—the best in the game, according to many—are usually only dealt for impact players in the prime of their career with more than a few months of team control. It just so happens that the Rangers might be looking for an impact player later in the season.
Whether it’s a starting pitcher like David Price or a middle-of-the-order bat like Giancarlo Stanton, the 20-year-old Profar would most likely have to be the centerpiece of the deal. Teammate Mike Olt will also be a popular name on the trade market and might even be more likely to be dealt to a team looking for a long-term answer at the hot corner.
Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox
At just 19 years of age, Bogaerts reached Double-A in 2012, and he more than held his own, posting a .948 OPS in 23 games. He’s repeating the league and once again showing maturity beyond his years with seven hits in his last 14 at-bats, including three triples.
Bogaerts is currently blocked at third base, the position where he’s expected to eventually move. It’s not a given that he can’t handle shortstop, his current position, but defensive whiz Jose Iglesias is likely to be the starter in 2014 and beyond. Bogaerts’ value to the Red Sox could increase even more, however, if third baseman Will Middlebrooks continues to struggle.
If they believe enough in Middlebrooks, Bogaerts’ future in Boston is cloudy, at best. So when they’re looking to add an impact player to their roster in July, and every conversation starts with “we want Bogaerts,” they’ll certainly have to consider it if they feel the return can put them over the top.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsbugh Pirates
Top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole could already be a member of the Pirates rotation by mid-July, so don’t expect him to go anywhere. This could be the year they have to make a splash at the deadline, though. Fortunately, they have another pitching prospect, Jameson Taillon, with top-of-the-rotation potential that some teams might even prefer to Cole.
The 21-year-old is a level behind Cole in Double-A, but his career numbers there (2.65 ERA, 41 IP, 29 H, 10 BB, 41 K) indicate he might not be around very long. If the Pirates had to choose between their first winning season and playoff berth in 21 years and a 2014 rotation that includes both Cole and Taillon, which do you think they’d prefer?
They’ve made trades for veterans players without giving up too much from their farm system the past two seasons. Of course, these players didn’t keep them from falling under .500 and out of the playoff race. If an impact bat became available, I think they’re more likely to pull the trigger this year and deal a top prospect like Taillon or center-field prospect Gregory Polanco.
Adalberto Mondesi, SS, RHP Kansas City Royals
The Royals have the pitching to keep them in the pennant race all season long. Is the offense good enough, though? I’m not sure, but it’s not hard to point out a weak link that could use an upgrade.
I have a sneaky suspicion that the Royals will finally give up on Jeff Francoeur as their starting right fielder at some point during the season and look to acquire a replacement in July. And when they approach teams about acquiring a corner outfielder, the Royals are going to be asked very often about the 17-year-old kid with a familiar last name who’s already playing full-season ball.
Mondesi, the son of former Dodger right fielder Raul Mondesi, is a switch-hitting shortstop who currently has a .762 OPS for Low-A Lexington. He’s also one of the fastest rising prospects in baseball. The Royals might be unwilling to deal another top prospect this soon after dealing away Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi this past offseason. They certainly didn't revamp their pitching staff, however, with the goal of just being a little bit better. The Royals fanbase is badly in need of a playoff run from their team, and dealing another top prospect would probably be acceptable if that happened.
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