Without a guaranteed spot on the Diamondbacks' 2014 infield, shortstop Chris Owings could serve as intriguing trade bait this offseason.
With the 2013 Major League Baseball season now in the books, speculation regarding this year’s free-agent class and the developing trade market is beginning to heat up.
Last winter, several of the game’s top-ranked prospects were dealt in exchange for established, veteran talent.
The Royals decided to trade phenom Wil Myers, who is likely to be named the AL Rookie of the Year in the near future, right-hander Jake Odorizzi and two additional prospects to Tampa Bay in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis.
Then, just eight days later, another prospect-based, blockbuster deal transpired as the Blue Jays dealt highly regarded right-hander Noah Syndergaard, top-ranked catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and two other players to the Mets in exchange for 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas.
While this year’s offseason is just beginning, it’s a safe bet that numerous big-name prospects will be wearing different uniforms by the start of the 2014 season.
Although Cecchini blew out his knee as a high school senior and was unable to take the field, it didn’t deter the Red Sox from nabbing him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and subsequently signing him to an above-slot $1.31 million bonus.
Making his professional debut in the Short Season New York-Penn League the following year, Cecchini posted an .898 OPS and led the league with 12 doubles through his first 32 games before an errant pitch resulted in a broken wrist and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Despite his lack of experience and worrisome medical history, the organization moved Cecchini up to Low-A Greenville for his full-season debut in 2012. The left-handed hitter responded to the challenge by batting .305/.394/.433 with 84 runs, 46 extra-base hits (38 doubles) and 51 stolen bases in 118 games.
This year, Cecchini managed to avoid the disabled list and, as a result, enjoyed a breakout season at the plate between two advanced levels. The 22-year-old batted .322/.443/.471 with 47 extra-base hits (33 doules), 23 stolen bases and stellar 86/94 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 129 games between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.
Even though Cecchini boasts one of the best combinations of hit-tool projection and plate discipline among all minor leaguers, it’s difficult to envision him getting the nod over one of Boston’s talented infielders anytime soon.
Furthermore, Cecchini lacks the power commonly associated with a big league third baseman, and any chance he had at shifting across the infield to second base was squashed when the Red Sox signed Dustin Pedroia to a handsome extension.
Without a path to consistent playing time in the major leagues, Cecchini is arguably the organization’s top trade chip heading into the offseason.
After acquiring Didi Gregorius and Nick Ahmed in the offseason, the Diamondbacks promoted Owings to Triple-A Reno to open the 2013 season despite his struggles at Double-A Mobile in 2012. Well, in the face of those concerns, he thrived as one of the younger everyday players at the level and quietly emerged as one of the better up-the-middle prospects in the minors.
Owings posted video-game numbers this year at Reno, batting .330/.359/.482 with 180 hits, 51 extra-base hits (12 home runs), 81 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 125 games. As a result of his overwhelming success, the 22-year-old was named both the Rookie of the Year and MVP of the Pacific Coast League and was subsequently called up to the major leagues by the Diamondbacks.
Appearing in 20 games over the final month of the regular season—most of his playing time came once the team was eliminated from the playoff race—Owings held his own with a .742 OPS, five doubles and 10/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 plate appearances.
Despite his lack of a plus attribute, the 22-year-old has the potential for five average or better tools at maturity. And while his numbers in the Pacific Coast League are obviously inflated, Owings is much more than a product of hitter-friendly parks.
At 5’10”, 180 pounds, Owings, a right-handed hitter, has a direct bat path and knack for barreling the ball. The power potential may be the most surprising aspect of his game, with impressive extension after contact that enables him to generate considerable backspin carry. However, his approach is still too aggressive and has the potential to be exploited against advanced pitching.
Now the only question is what role he’ll serve moving forward with Gregorious at shortstop and Aaron Hill at the keystone. With that being said, don’t be surprised if Owings’ name comes up in trade rumors during the offseason.
After posting a .913 OPS with 18 home runs and 26 stolen bases for High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2012, Joc Pederson improved his prospect stock in a big way this past season with a strong follow-up showing at Double-A Chattanooga.
Previously viewed as a potential fourth outfielder, Pederson’s performance this season in the Southern League makes me believe he can be an everyday guy.
Heading into the season, there was concern that the outfielder’s production wouldn’t translate outside the hitter-friendly California League.
Suffice it to say the 21-year-old silenced his skeptics by ranking third in both OPS (.878) and stolen bases (31) among all qualified hitters in the Southern League.
A left-handed hitter, Pederson has the potential for an above-average-to-plus hit tool, and he already knows how to control the strike zone and get the barrel to the ball. The fact that his power has translated at Double-A continues to be a pleasant surprise and suggests the potential for above-average power at maturity.
Pederson receiving consistent playing time in the major leagues next season would most likely be a result of an injury to one of the Dodgers’ everyday outfielders. Though he represents a nice safety valve for the organization, he would also carry tremendous trade value this offseason given his proximity to the major leagues.
Any conversation about breakout prospects should begin with Tyler Glasnow, the Pittsburgh Pirates' fifth-round pick from the 2011 draft.
While he was limited to only 38.1 innings during his professional debut between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues, Glasnow showed huge potential with a 1.88 ERA, .168 BAA and 44 strikeouts. As a result, the Pirates felt comfortable bumping the 6’7” right-hander up to Low-A West Virginia this year for his full-season debut.
To say that Glasnow responded favorably would be a gross understatement. The 20-year-old was utterly dominant in the South Atlantic League this season, as he led the league in ERA (2.18), opponent batting average (.142), strikeouts (164) and K/9 (13.26). More significantly, the right-hander emerged as a consensus top-50 overall prospect.
With a heavy fastball that works easily in the mid-90s with late life, a sharp curveball that flashes plus potential and a changeup that will need serious refinement moving forward, Glasnow has the ceiling of at least a mid-rotation starter.
However, with such a large gap between his present ability and future potential, the Pirates may decide to deal Glasnow this offseason with his value at an all-time high.
Selected out of high school with the No. 37 overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Los Angeles Angels initially took their time developing Taylor Lindsey, assigning him to the rookie-level Pioneer League for his first full season in 2011. The left-handed-hitting second baseman rewarded the organization by quickly emerging as the league’s top hitter, as he batted .362/.394/.593 with 43 extra-base hits in 63 games.
Bumped up to High-A for his full-season debut in 2012, Lindsey had a solid campaign in the hitter-friendly California League but didn’t take a significant step forward in his development as expected. Overall, he batted .289/.328/.408 with 41 extra-base hits in 134 games.
This past season, however, Lindsey turned in the breakout performance that many expected in 2012. Moved up to Double-A Arkansas, the 21-year-old posted a career-low .274 batting average in 134 games, but he also set career highs in home runs (17) and walks (48).
Lindsey has excellent hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills that allow him to make consistent hard contact. The left-handed hitter sets up with his hands low around the torso only to elevate them as part of his timing mechanism and surprisingly doesn’t struggle to turn around quality velocity.
While he had always shown plenty of gap power with the ability to barrel the ball to all fields, Lindsey showcased improved over-the-fence pop this past season at Double-A and could develop more as he continues to rise toward the major leagues.
However, with Howie Kendrick signed through the 2015 season, Lindsey’s potential emergence as the team’s second baseman is still at least two years away. And while the Angels have expressed interest in shopping the 30-year-old this season in exchange for young pitching, it may make more sense for them to move Lindsey—perhaps as part of a larger, prospect-based package.