While there haven’t been many trades this offseason that involved high-profile prospects, teams have been quietly filling holes on their respective 25- and 40-man rosters with under-the-radar deals for displaced prospects.
This past season, Burns, a switch-hitter, was named the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year after batting .315/.425/.383 with 96 runs scored, nine triples, 74 stolen bases in 81 attempts and a stellar 54-72 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 540 plate appearances between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
Jackson, 25, came up through the St. Louis Cardinals system and actually saw time in the majors, albeit briefly, during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. But he struggled to demonstrate value as reserve infielder, batting a combined .083 with five strikeouts in 25 plate appearances between both years.
Still, Jackson batted .275/.343/.371 with 42 doubles, 13 home runs and a 166-95 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last two season at Triple-A Memphis. He also showed the ability to play three infield positions during that span, even logging seven games in left field last season. So it’s not a surprise that the Padres, a team that needs more infield depth, took a flier on the 25-year-old.
Here’s a look at two more under-the-radar prospects who could impact the trade market this winter.
Jordan Lennerton, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Although it took Jordan Lennerton four seasons to graduate from A-ball, the 27-year-old may find himself in the major leagues at some point next year.
This past season, the left-handed-hitting first baseman batted .278/.382/.430 with 17 home runs and a 133-84 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 607 plate appearances at Triple-A Toledo. In 2012, he hit a career-high 21 home runs with Double-A Erie. In July, Lennerton was selected to play for the World Team in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
Lennerton has average power potential with enough bat speed to handle good velocity, but he struggles against quality secondary pitches. However, his knack for mashing right-handed pitching suggests he has value in a platoon role. This past season, he batted .286/.381/.438 with 14 home runs and a 107-62 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 406 at-bats against righties.
With Miguel Cabrera moving across the infield from third to first base next season, Lennerton’s best chance at reaching the majors with Detroit will come as a reserve. At the same time, he could be an attractive platoon option for an American League team that has a right-handed-hitting first baseman or designated hitter.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Cleveland Indians
Like Lennerton, Jesus Aguilar is first base-only prospect whose future in the major leagues is entirely dependent on the utility of his power.
The 23-year-old held his own at Double-A Akron over parts of the 2012 and 2013 season, combining to bat .277/.356/.436 with 19 home runs, 118 RBI and a 131-69 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 654 plate appearances (150 games).
The Indians decided not to add Aguilar to their 40-man roster following the 2012 season, and he luckily went unselected in the Rule 5 draft. The organization wasn’t willing to take the same risk this year, adding him to the 40-man roster next month.
Aguilar has posted monster numbers this offseason playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, and it’s hard to imagine he hasn’t caught the attention of other teams, with a .996 OPS and 17 home runs through 54 games.
Surprisingly, Aguilar fares better against same-sided pitching than he does left-handers, as he batted .285/.354/.461 with 22 doubles and 13 home runs against righties in 2013. So don’t go labeling him as a platoon-only player just yet.
With Nick Swisher likely to open the 2014 season as the Indians’ first baseman, the displaced Aguilar could be an interesting trade target for a team needing right-hander pop at first base or DH.
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