MLB Prospects Most Likely to Be Traded This Season
Prospects are like the cardiovascular system of a Major League Baseball franchise. They make everything that you want to do possible, either when you call them up to take their place on the big league roster or use them as trade bait to improve your team.
As much as we would like to see every prospect stay with the team that drafted him, the reality of the situation is that being able to deal them is a huge part of their value.
Considering the rate of attrition for prospects in baseball, we know that a vast majority of them are not going to reach the lofty-ceiling that you see written about them before and right after they get drafted.
Teams are more reluctant than ever to part with prospects in trades because of the value they have. A club knows it has six years of cost control over a player coming up through their system, as well as the upside they offer. Instead of throwing a lot of money at a free agent, which comes with its own risks, you can save cash by betting on a youngster in your system.
So, as we start to see where some teams are at, as well as the depth in the systems around baseball, here are some notable prospects who could be dealt before the trade deadline this July.
Note: All stats courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted. These are all just speculation on my part, based on team needs and what is currently on the big league roster.
Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers
At some point, you have to start feeling bad for Mike Olt. His name has been bantered about in trade rumors and speculation for nearly a full calendar year.
The Rangers ultimately decided to keep the third baseman last July, even giving him a call-up in August, but now could be the time for the team to start thinking about the future for Olt, once again.
Olt has gotten off to a dreadful start at Triple-A. He is hitting just .139/.235/.236 with one home run and 32 strikeouts in 72 at-bats. It is still early, and strikeouts have always been a part of his game, so it is hardly time to panic.
Slow start notwithstanding, Olt is a player capable of turning it on in a hurry. He has always worked deep counts, drawn more than his share of walks and brings plus-power. The last two times I saw him—at the Futures Game last July and spring training—you couldn't help but admire how far he can hit a ball.
During BP at the Futures Game in Kansas City, he was driving the ball to the batter's eye in dead-center field. In the spring training game I saw, he drove a ball way out of the park to right-center field.
In addition to his offensive prowess, Olt is also a very good defender at third base. His arm is strong and accurate, and he reads the ball off the bat so well that he can react in an instant.
Olt is currently blocked at third base by the best all-around player at the position, Adrian Beltre, who is signed through 2015. There was some thought that the Rangers would just move Olt to first base, but that is a bad idea for two reasons.
First, it takes away a big part of Olt's value as a good defensive third baseman. Second, the Rangers are going to have to shuffle their infield at some point, presumably by moving Ian Kinsler to first base, so Jurickson Profar can take over second base. (Unless the team decides to try Profar in center field.)
If the Rangers want to fill a potential hole in their starting rotation, Olt is the best bargaining chip they have. (For the record, I don't see the front office trading Profar, so that's why he isn't on the list.)
Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks, as everyone knows, changed a lot of their philosophy coming into the 2013 season as a way to closer-emulate the San Francisco Giants.
One of the biggest changes came in the type of player the Diamondbacks want to build their offense around. They felt like they had too many players who struck out far too often, so they traded Chris Young and Justin Upton for players who are contact-type hitters without the home run pop those two had.
Adding Martin Prado from Atlanta wasn't necessarily a bad move, but it was curious, considering they gave up three years of control with Upton in exchange for the third baseman with just one year left on his deal. (Prado's extension isn't included because that was a separate deal after the trade.)
The point of this is to say that Matt Davidson, who is a good prospect with a solid offensive upside, doesn't really fit the mold of a player like Prado or other contact-oriented hitters the Diamondbacks want.
Davidson is a hitter who is going to work deep counts, draw a fair amount of walks and hit 20-25 home runs. But he is also going to strike out 130-140 times a season because his swing can get long and he has the propensity to take a lot of pitches, thus limiting his ability to hit for average.
As a defensive player, Davidson still needs work. He made 28 errors in Double-A last season, but he does profile to be average over there with a strong arm and good glove.
With Prado, who has the versatility to play multiple positions, locked into third base through 2016, the Diamondbacks might find there is good value in trading Davidson.
Tyler Matzek, LHP, Colorado Rockies
When Tyler Matzek was making his way through the high school ranks, he was regarded as one of the top amateur arms in the country and also a potential top-of-the-rotation star thanks to a plus fastball velocity from the left side.
His fastball isn't as strong as it used to be, sitting more in the low 90s, but he does have an above-average curveball to pair it with.
It was because of that ceiling the Rockies made him the No. 11 pick in the 2009 draft and gave him almost $4 million to give up a commitment to the University of Oregon.
In the three-plus years since Matzek was drafted, his career has fallen off the rails, and he is still in the process of trying to rebuild it. No longer regarded as a top prospect, at least he has been able to salvage something of a career.
Throwing strikes has always been Matzek's biggest weakness. He walked 191 hitters in 2011 and 2012 combined, though he also recorded 264 strikeouts in 239.1 innings. If he can find a way to cut that walk rate down by even 20 percent, he would have a future as a big league reliever.
The Rockies have tried to work with Matzek in order to fix his mechanics, though the results so far have been middling. He has a 25-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31 innings in Double-A this season.
There is no way that Matzek would be the centerpiece to a deal anymore, but if the Rockies were to strike a deal and a team asked for the lefty as a throw-in to serve as a reclamation project, he could be an interesting player to keep an eye on.
At some point, Colorado has to cut its losses and realize this isn't going to work out. Matzek is just 22-years-old, so perhaps now might not be the time. But if things don't improve, it could come sooner rather than later.
Grant Green, 2B, Oakland Athletics
Grant Green is one of those tweener-type players that teams don't really know what to do with.
He doesn't have enough range to profile as a better-than-average defensive second baseman. Even though he has also played in the outfield, his bat isn't good enough to profile in a corner spot.
At 25-years-old, with a full season at Triple-A already under his belt, Green is really just biding his time before getting a shot in the big leagues. Yet, whenever an opening comes up on the A's roster, he never gets the call.
So far, four players have been used at second base for Oakland this season. Scott Sizemore blew out his knee in the first week of April, Eric Sogard has a .580 OPS and Adam Rosales is a nearly 30-year-old journeyman playing everyday right now.
Meanwhile, Green sits in Triple-A hitting .308/.372/.462 with four home runs, six doubles and a 22-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It is strange that the A's have had so many issues at second base this season without bringing Green up.
His offense won't be quite that good in the big leagues, but he uses a compact, line-drive swing to hit the ball into gaps, spray the ball all over the field and work counts. He is an average runner with good baserunning skills.
If the A's don't plan on using Green, they can use him in a trade to upgrade an offense that has a lot of players who strike out a lot, or plug a hole in their starting rotation by acquiring a low-ceiling back-end pitcher who can succeed in the spacious O.co Coliseum.
Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
When you boast the strongest farm system in all of baseball, as well as one of the deepest major league rosters in the sport, you have the luxury of being able to play with a few things in order to immediately upgrade your roster.
St. Louis keeps churning out talent year after year, which explains why the team is always in contention for division titles and World Series appearances so often.
Looking at the first base situation the Cardinals have right now, the oft-injured Allen Craig is the star of the show. He took over the everyday job last season after Albert Pujols bolted for Los Angeles and hit .307/.354/.522 with 22 home runs in just 119 games.
But because of Craig's injury history, the Cardinals always have to keep a good back-up plan in place. That is where Adams comes in. He isn't a great prospect, but his swing generates a ton of power because of the controlled movement in it.
Adams is ready for a chance to play everyday in the big leagues. He is battling an oblique injury and on a rehab assignment right now, but there is not a lot left for him to show in the minors. The 24-year-old spent all of 2011 in Double-A with an OPS of .923 and most of 2012 in Triple-A with a .986 OPS.
The Cardinals, despite having the best record in baseball right now, have needs in the bullpen, and Adams could fetch a solid return. I am not in favor of trading an everyday player for a reliever, but it does happen.
It's also not like St. Louis would be putting a huge dent in its farm system by taking 80-cents on the dollar by trading Adams for a late-inning reliever.
Alex Colome, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
If there is one thing we know about the Tampa Bay Rays, it is that trading young pitching that comes cost-controlled for the first six years of their career is not something they do.
Sure, Wade Davis was included in the James Shields-to-Kansas City trade last year. But that was a special circumstance to get a premium position player prospect in Wil Myers. The Rays also got a solid young pitcher back in Jake Odorizzi and a reclamation project in Mike Montgomery.
So, the idea that the Rays would even entertain the idea of trading Alex Colome, the 24-year-old right-hander currently in Triple-A, is a little out there. But there are a few reasons that it makes sense for the franchise.
First, the Rays have more pitching depth than they know what to do with. We always say to beware when you think you have too much pitching because something will inevitably happen when you suddenly don't have enough. (Case-in-point: The Dodgers before the season started.)
But David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson are all, to varying degrees, successful major league starters. Price may not be around for too much longer, though it would be a shock to see him dealt before the end of this year.
Second, there are a lot of arms in this system on the verge of the big leagues. In addition to Colome, the Rays have Odorizzi and Chris Archer in Triple-A just waiting for their shot.
Third, Tampa Bay can upgrade its offense by including a pitcher like Colome, who has a plus fastball-curveball combination and is throwing more strikes with all his pitches, in a deal. He has a 40-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.1 innings this season.
Myers is the player everyone is focused on to improve the Rays offense when he comes up, but one hitter alone doesn't change an entire lineup. This team can get more impact and depth by including one of its top-starters in a trade later this summer.
Colome doesn't have the upside of Archer and comes with a little more risk than Odorizzi, so it makes sense that he would be the one the Rays decided to part with if it comes to pass.
Matt Skole, 3B, Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals are in a very unique position, both in the big leagues and down on the farm, when it comes to third base.
Ryan Zimmerman is locked into a huge six-year, $100 million contract that doesn't even start until the 2014 season. That deal looks really bad when you consider that his throwing arm is shot, due to injuries, and will eventually push him to first base.
Anthony Rendon is the top prospect in Washington's system and has the potential to be an above-average or better everyday third baseman. He has the ability to hit for average and power with plus-defense.
But Rendon has had his share of injuries, both in college and one-plus years in professional baseball. He was limited to a DH role during his junior year at Rice two years ago because of an ankle injury.
Then, during his debut season with the Nationals, Rendon once again suffered an ankle injury that limited him to 43 games.
Matt Skole doesn't have the injury problems that Zimmerman and Rendon have had throughout their careers, but he also doesn't have their upside. He is a solid hitter with above-average power and on-base skills without any real defensive value at third base, due to very stiff actions and just an average throwing arm.
The Nationals could end up moving Skole across the diamond, but they would have to figure out what to do with Zimmerman in that case.
Given Skole's ability to hit, the Nationals could attempt to flip him, either to fill a need in the lineup at another position or go after more pitching. It all depends on what the future holds for Zimmerman and Rendon that will determine what happens with the 23-year-old.