Michael Choice has the potential to put up big numbers at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Major League Baseball’s winter meetings came to an end on Thursday without a major trade involving a top-ranked prospect.
It’s generally been quiet on the prospect front this offseason, though that was expected after the blockbuster trades involving prospects that transpired last winter.
There obviously is still plenty of time left for a headline-grabbing, star-for-prospects trade to occur—and it probably will when the Rays decide to deal David Price. However, so far, there have been only a few prospects on the move that have a realistic future in the major leagues.
Here’s a look at the top MLB prospects traded this offseason.
The Trade (via MLB.com)
Pirates acquire RHP Miles Mikolas and OF Jaff Decker
Padres acquire OF/1B Alex Dickerson
Selected by the Pirates in the third round of the 2011 draft out Indiana University, Alex Dickerson was viewed as one of the more advanced hitters in his class, and his .886 OPS with 20 extra-base hits in 173 plate appearances in the New York-Penn League after signing only strengthened that belief.
Promoted directly from the short-season level to High-A Bradenton in 2012, Dickerson impressed with his ability to make quick adjustments at the plate and began to tap into his above-average raw power.
Overall, Dickerson surpassed expectations with his success in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. The left-handed hitter was named as the FSL’s Most Valuable Player following the season after posting a .295/.353/.451 batting line with 47 extra-base hits (13 home runs) and 90 RBI in 541 plate appearances.
The 23-year-old continued to improve his prospect stock this past season at Double-A Altoona, batting .288/.337/.494 with 56 extra-base hits and a tolerable 89-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 491 plate appearances.
While it was his first exposure against Double-A pitching, Dickerson continued to realize his offensive potential and set new career highs in several statistical categories: doubles (36), home runs (17), slugging percentage (.494) and total bases (223).
Even though his walk rate has declined steadily while moving up the minor league ladder, Dickerson’s strikeout rate hasn’t increased at the higher levels.
A 6’3”, 235-pound left-handed hitter, Dickerson had always drawn positive reviews for his feel for the strike zone and ability to drive the ball from line to line. However, over the past two seasons, the 23-year-old has learned to consistently turn around inner-half offerings without sacrificing his overall approach.
At Double-A this past season, 15 of his 17 home runs were to the pull side.
The Padres have been desperately searching for a power-hitting first baseman since they traded Adrian Gonzalez prior to the 2011 season. Dickerson played the outfield exclusively last season, but he spent the first two years of his pro career as a first baseman.
It will be interesting to track where the Padres deploy Dickerson defensively next season, as his position will likely influence his arrival in the major leagues.
The Trade (via ESPN Dallas)
Athletics acquire OF Craig Gentry, RHP Josh Lindblom
Rangers acquire OF Michael Choice, 2B Chris Bostick
The No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 draft, Michael Choice probably would already be in the major leagues had he not suffered a season-ending injury in 2012.
Assigned to High-A Stockton in 2011 for his full-season debut, Choice showcased his monster potential by batting .285/.376/.542 with 30 home runs in 542 plate appearances.
After a sluggish start at Double-A Midland in 2012, Choice finally appeared to be turning the corner when an errant pitch broke his hand in July. The outfielder finished the season with a disappointing .779 OPS and 10 home runs in 402 plate appearances.
The 24-year-old moved up to Triple-A Sacramento in 2013 and enjoyed a solid bounce-back season in the Pacific Coast League. Playing in 132 games, Choice batted .302/.390/.445 with 14 home runs and 89 RBI in 600 plate appearances.
While he didn’t showcase the robust light-tower power that he did during his full-season debut in 2011, Choice made noticeable improvements at the plate by employing a more consistent approach. Even though he fanned 115 times in 132 games this past season, the outfielder actually improved both his strikeout and walk rates.
Choice ultimately reached the major leagues as a September call-up, and he looked good despite limited playing time. Appearing in nine games over the final month of the regular season, Choice collected five hits and struck out six times in 19 plate appearances.
The acquisition of Choice this offseason was a great, low-risk move for the Rangers. The 24-year-old is under team control through the 2019 season and has the potential to be a source of cheap, 20-30 home run power for years to come.
While he can play all three outfield positions, Choice is expected to see a majority of time at both corner spots in deference to Leonys Martin in center field.
Unless Texas signs or trades for another outfielder, it’s hard not to like Choice’s chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. While he’s sure to struggle and go in and out of slumps like any young hitter, Choice also has the potential to put up some big numbers in that ballpark.
The Trade (Associated Press via ESPN)
Rays acquire RHP Heath Bell (from Diamondbacks); C Ryan Hanigan (from Reds)
Reds acquire LHP David Holmberg (from Diamondbacks)
Diamondbacks acquire RHP Justin Choate; PTBNL
Selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft out of a Florida high school, David Holmberg struggled in back-to-back years at the rookie levels before a mid-summer trade to the Diamondbacks in 2010 helped jumpstart his career.
Holmberg turned in a breakout performance during his full-season debut in 2011, registering a 3.44 ERA and 157-48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 154.1 innings between Low-A South Bend and High-A Visalia.
The left-hander put himself on the major league radar the following year by posting a 3.32 ERA and 153-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 173.1 innings between Visalia and Double-A Mobile.
Assigned back to Mobile to begin the 2013 season, Holmberg continued to impress against older hitters in the Southern League. Making 26 starts on the year, he registered a 2.75 ERA and 116-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 157.1 innings.
Holmberg ultimately earned an audition in the major leagues in late August when the Diamondbacks were in need of a spot starter. Getting the start at home against the Padres, Holmberg allowed three earned runs on six hits and three walks in 3.2 innings.
A 6’3”, 225-pound left-hander, Holmberg’s arsenal doesn’t feature the power that his sheer size suggests. However, what the 22-year-old lacks in stuff, he makes up for with advanced command of a deep arsenal and plus pitchability.
Holmberg’s fastball works in the 88-91 mph range with moderate sinking action, and the pitch tends to play up thanks to his aggressive command to both sides of the plate. The southpaw also throws an average cutter that registers a few ticks slower and helps him work inside against right-handed hitters.
Holmberg’s change is his best secondary offering, thrown in the low-80s with late fading action and fastball-like arm speed. He also showcases a legitimate feel for both a curveball and slider, though neither pitch is as advanced as his fastball-changeup combo.
Overall, Holmberg’s strong command profile and potential for four (or five) average-or-better offerings at maturity makes him more of a high-floor than high-ceiling prospect.
Holmberg obviously was a notable prospect with the Diamondbacks. However, he still had promising arms such as Archie Bradley and Zeke Spruill ahead of him on the organizational depth chart.
Upon joining the Reds last week, Holmberg immediately ranked as the organization’s top left-handed pitching prospect. Considering Tony Cingrani is the Reds' only southpaw starter, there’s a realistic chance Holmberg spends a significant portion of the 2014 season in the major leagues.