Each MLB Team's Best Prospect Trade Chip for the Deadline
July has begun, which means there's now less than a month until the non-waiver trade deadline. It also means there's bound to be all sorts of rumors and speculation in the coming weeks as teams become buyers and sellers on the trade market. And, of course, actual trades will be going down and shaking up pennant races and the playoff picture.
While the big leaguers involved in those deals will be the focus because of what they can do for their new clubs over the rest of the 2014 season, there's another side to many trades that deserves some attention too. That would be the prospects included to help land said big leaguers.
That's what this is all about—shedding some light on the youngsters whose names could be bandied about and who even might be swapped between now and July 31. What follows is a rundown of 30 prospects, one from each team, who fit that bill.
Not every team is going to be dealing a piece of its future, of course, but even rebuilding clubs—like the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays, among a few others—might consider trading a prospect who isn't considered a key part of their franchise in 2015 and beyond but who could be tacked on to polish off a deal.
To be clear, these 30 prospects are not necessarily the best in their current organization, but they just might be trade chips for one reason or another. Maybe they're elite talents who would entice just about any suitor, or perhaps their value is at a high at the moment. Or it could be that they're blocked by a player at the same position in the majors.
Ultimately, whether they're in the majors or the low minors right now, these 30 young players all qualify as prospects, meaning they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors. And they could be changing jerseys this month.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Brandon Drury, 3B
Drury came to the Arizona Diamondbacks as something of a throw-in from the Atlanta Braves in the Justin Upton deal, but he's looked like a legitimate prospect ever since. The 21-year-old hit .302/.362/.500 in 2013 and has followed that up with a .293/.357/.513 line at High-A.
Because Arizona also has Jake Lamb, 23, at the hot corner, and he's hitting even better (.315/.387/.563) a level above at Double-A, the Diamondbacks might be better off flipping Drury now that his stock has sprung.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Jose Peraza, SS
Although Andrelton Simmons hasn't taken a step forward like many thought he would in his second full season, he's still locked up long term in Atlanta, which means the shortstop spot is well taken care of through, oh, 2020.
Peraza, 20, had a breakout 2013 in which he hit .288 and stole 64 bases, and he's been even better so far in 2014, with a .345 average and 40 swipes in 77 games between High- and Double-A.
A strong defender too, Peraza eventually could be shifted to second base for the Braves, but he may be more valuable to Atlanta on the trade market, especially because other clubs would line up for a chance at a dynamic athlete who can handle short.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
With Kevin Gausman showing he can pitch in the majors, Dylan Bundy on his way back from Tommy John surgery and Hunter Harvey (last year's No. 22 pick) tearing through A-ball, the Baltimore Orioles have a wealth of young pitching.
That's why they might be willing to move Rodriguez, who is a notch below that trio but still a 21-year-old southpaw currently at Double-A, if it meant making a big move that would push them toward a second postseason in three years.
Boston Red Sox
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Garin Cecchini, 3B/OF
Normally a third baseman, Cecchini has been playing left field at Triple-A because outfield has been such a problem for the Boston Red Sox this year. Plus, rookie Xander Bogaerts might wind up sticking at the hot corner, where he's been since Stephen Drew re-signed.
The 23-year-old Cecchini, a lefty hitter playing at Triple-A Pawtucket, owns a career on-base percentage of .401 and already made a cameo in Boston in early June.
Mookie Betts would be another big chip to play, but he's already up and might be a better fit in Boston long term, especially if he shows he can handle center field defensively and do more on offense than Jackie Bradley Jr. has.
And since the Sox have a loaded system, one or more of right-handers Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster and Matt Barnes could also be trade candidates.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Christian Villanueva, 3B
With their rebuilding process still ongoing, one thing is for sure: The Chicago Cubs are not going to be giving up any impact prospect.
The 23-year-old Villanueva, though, is a couple of tiers down from the likes of fellow infielders Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Kris Bryant. Bryant not only pushed Villanueva back down to Double-A when he was promoted to Iowa last month but also could be the team's third baseman on Opening Day 2015.
That leaves little room for Villanueva, who's played all but a handful of games at third, to factor into things on the North Side in the future. But he's close enough to the bigs to be a why-not add-on who gets thrown in to put the finishing touches on a trade.
Chicago White Sox
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Carlos Sanchez, INF
Sanchez's fate may ultimately be tied to the fact that he looks like a utility player type in a franchise that has the likes of Conor Gillaspie and Marcus Semien to fill those roles. The White Sox also have speedster Micah Johnson to take over at second base at some point next season.
Sanchez, 22, doesn't offer much on offense aside from some speed and decent contact skills, but he's versatile and already has played more than 200 games at Triple-A. He could be a cheap backup infielder almost immediately for a team that acquires him.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Ben Lively, RHP
This is a franchise that's loaded with quality pitching, from the current five-man of Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon to recently injured Tony Cingrani to high-end young right-hander Robert Stephenson.
Lively has had a breakout campaign that began in the pitcher-unfriendly California League—10-1, 2.28 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 10.8 at High-A—but those numbers belie the 22-year-old's profile, which is more of a back-of-the-rotation type.
That said, Lively, who was just pushed up to Double-A, would make for an appealing get for a suitor who could help the Cincinnati Reds out at either shortstop or left field.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Tyler Naquin, OF
The Cleveland Indians ain't tradin' Francisco Lindor, who'll be their starting shortstop next season, so don't even go there. Tyler Naquin, though? That might be a possibility.
Don't misunderstand: The 23-year-old is in his second year at Double-A, knows how to put bat on ball, has enough speed and can handle center field. But despite being the 15th overall selection in 2012, Naquin may be more of a backup/fill-in than a starter at the big league level because he lacks pop.
With left, center and right pretty much taken care of in Cleveland thanks to Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and David Murphy or Nick Swisher—three of the four are signed long term—Naquin might be more useful to the Indians as a piece to bring in a pitcher.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Ryan McMahon, 3B
Since he's blocked out by Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, Trevor Story also fits as a candidate to be moved, but he's more likely to take to second base—long a black hole for the Colorado Rockies.
McMahon, a 19-year-old in A-ball, is behind Nolan Arenado on the organizational depth chart, which doesn't exactly make his path to Coors easy, either.
The Rockies have fallen out of the playoff picture, so trading a piece of the future like McMahon isn't likely. But his 27 doubles, 11 homers and .507 slugging percentage are enticing.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Devon Travis, 2B
As a perennial contender always looking toward a title run, the Detroit Tigers and general manager Dave Dombrowski tend to be active around the deadline. Exhibit A: Their trade for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante in 2012. Exhibit B: The deal for Jose Iglesias at the 2013 deadline.
That approach, as well as the fact that second baseman Ian Kinsler has three years on his contract after this one (four if his $10 million option for 2018 is picked up), means we could see Travis—a 23-year-old who can hit but is limited to the keystone—swapped for an upgrade at shortstop or, say, in the bullpen.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Nolan Fontana, INF
The Houston Astros are playing for 2015, or even 2016 and beyond, so any deal they make won't compromise that future.
Fontana, though, could be a possibility because he is more of a tweener who lacks punch on offense and the chops to handle shortstop in the majors. That makes the 23-year-old at Double-A more of a utility man. Not to mention, the Astros are pretty set with MLB hits leader Jose Altuve at second.
Fontana's lefty bat, strong plate discipline (.427 OBP) and passable defensive versatility would make him a useful and reasonable player to ask for as a secondary part in a trade.
Kansas City Royals
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Orlando Calixte, SS
Alcides Escobar is holding down the fort at short in Kansas City, and top prospect Raul A. Mondesi—yes, he's the son of the former big leaguer by the same name—is still only 18 and already in the High-A Carolina League.
Meanwhile, second base is occupied by Omar Infante, and his contract could be around through 2018 if his club option is activated. All of which is to say this: There's really no way to fit Calixte into the picture.
MLB teams do like them some young, athletic infielders who have the ability to stick at shortstop, so someone would be happy to get a return that featured the 22-year-old Calixte, who is repeating Double-A.
Of course, if the Royals are thinking bigger—remember, this is a franchise that traded away Wil Myers—then Jorge Bonifacio, who is a highly regarded corner outfield prospect and the younger brother of Emilio, could bring a heftier return as the club tries for its first postseason berth since 1985.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Taylor Lindsey, 2B
The Los Angeles Angels have arguably the worst farm system in baseball, but that doesn't mean they're sans intriguing names that could be shopped to bring in a shutdown closer or third baseman.
Lindsey is one such name. A 22-year-old at Triple-A Salt Lake, the lefty hitter entered 2014 as perhaps the organization's No. 1 prospect. What he's not, though, is a youngster the Angels should feel too bad about using wisely on the trade market, particularly because they're in the thick of the race for October and might be the second-best team in the AL behind the Oakland A's.
Not only is Lindsey having a down year (.234/.322/.387), his upside is limited. Besides, Alex Yarbrough is at second base only one level below, and he's having a better 2014 (.296/.328/.430).
Los Angeles Dodgers
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Joc Pederson, OF
Depending on how big the Los Angeles Dodgers want to go, this could just as easily be infielder Corey Seager or lefty phenom Julio Urias—who's 17 and already at High-A—but Pederson is the pick for now.
Although the 22-year-old currently is out with a separated shoulder at the moment, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, the injury isn't expected to be serious. And as you've probably noticed, the Dodgers already are beyond the brim with outfielders.
Granted, they'd probably prefer to trade one of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford in order to make room for Pederson, who has been conquering the hitter-friendly PCL (1.005 OPS) and would be a heck of a lot cheaper going forward.
But unless the Dodgers are prepared to eat scores of millions to unload one of those three, they may be stuck with 'em, which makes Pederson a name to inquire about for teams looking to score a big league-ready talent.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Justin Nicolino, LHP
If there's one thing the Miami Marlins aren't lacking for it's young, club-controlled pitching. From Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi to Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani, the Fish are full of arms.
Part of the blockbuster deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to Canada in November 2012, Nicolino is the lone prospect from that massive 11-player deal who's yet to make his MLB debut.
That could come with Miami, a club also known for pushing its young talent. Then again, although Nicolino owns a 3.07 ERA and 1.06 WHIP at Double-A this year, the southpaw's upside is diminished by his finesse repertoire that has his walk rate at an excellent 0.9 but his strikeout rate at an awful 4.0 per nine.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Mitch Haniger, OF
The Milwaukee Brewers don't have much on the farm, so Haniger is both one of their better prospects and yet not one to get overly excited about, either.
Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun and Khris Davis look like the present and the future in the outfield, which leaves nowhere for Haniger, a 23-year-old former 38th overall draft pick (2012), to play.
Given how much of a surprise the NL Central-leading Brewers have been, they'll be looking to plug holes (first base?) in order to stay atop the division, and Haniger could be the main chip in such a swap.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF
First off, the Minnesota Twins almost certainly won't be trading any youngsters given their current building-for-the-future status. But Eddie Rosario hasn't done himself any favors within the organization of late.
Over the winter, the 22-year-old earned himself a 50-game suspension at the outset of 2014 for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Hence the reason he's only played 30 games so far this year.
While the Twins try to figure out if Rosario is a second baseman or outfielder—he's been playing mostly the latter at Double-A this season—Brian Dozier looks like the real deal at second.
There are others in the infield (Danny Santana, Jorge Polanco) and outfield (Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia) who could turn Rosario into excess baggage.
New York Mets
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Steve Matz, LHP
The New York Mets have so much young pitching that Matz could be moved without the franchise really even feeling it. Besides, there's a need for some more position-player prospects, particularly in the infield, and trading from an armory of arms could help achieve that.
Drafted in the second round back in 2009, the hard-throwing southpaw battled through injuries and surgeries before making his professional debut—get this—three years later. Now 23 and only just getting to Double-A after a June promotion, Matz has been developed as a starter but might be better off fast-tracked as a reliever while his arm is still attached.
Remember, the Mets are still in rebuild mode, so this is the caliber of prospect—one who is flawed for some reason or another—they might be open to unloading, if any.
New York Yankees
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Gary Sanchez, C
Let's see, catcher Brian McCann is inked through 2018, and the New York Yankees also have the likes of J.R. Murphy, Austin Romine and Peter O'Brien as youngsters in the upper minors who can at least play behind the dish.
Sanchez, 21, is a well-known name because he was a big-bonus international signing and has been the Yankees' top prospect for years. But the righty-hitting slugger, who is batting a so-so .261/.332/.427 in his first full year at Double-A, also has had questions raised about his makeup and whether he can stay at catcher.
With desperation likely to seep in sooner rather than later as the club faces the possibility of a second straight October-less campaign—and in Derek Jeter's final season, no less—expect general manager Brian Cashman to do some rockin' and rollin', as he told Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger. Sanchez could be one piece that gets rocked and/or rolled.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Renato Nunez, 3B
The Venezuelan-born Renato Nunez pulled in more than $2 million as an international signing by the Oakland Athletics in 2010. That means the frugal franchise is invested in the 20-year-old, but it doesn't mean he couldn't be dealt.
Nunez has big power in his righty bat, as he's sporting a .533 slugging percentage and is on his way to surpassing his 27 doubles and 19 home runs from last year, his first in full-season ball. Of course, he's doing this in the hitter-friendly Cal League, which takes away from the numbers just a bit, even if they're still enough to possibly catch the eye of a tempted exec.
The still-raw Nunez has had his issues defensively at the hot corner, however, and that spot is taken up by the late-blooming revelation that is Josh Donaldson. Plus, A's general manager Billy Beane isn't afraid to go big, and the club is in it to win it yet again in 2014.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Aaron Altherr, OF
This franchise isn't easy to evaluate from a trade front when it comes to prospects, in no small part because GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is so unpredictable.
That said, the Philadelphia Phillies have what looks to be a glut of young outfielders in Roman Quinn (formerly a shortstop), Carlos Tocci, Kelly Dugan and Cord Sandberg. Any one of those could be bait, as could Altherr, a 23-year-old at Double-A.
Altherr is the closest of that bunch to the majors—he actually made a blink-and-you-missed-it big league cameo in June—which could make him a prospect of some interest as a secondary part of a trade along with, say, Marlon Byrd or Jimmy Rollins as the main get.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Josh Bell, OF
After Josh Bell fell to the second round in the 2011 draft because teams figured the University of Texas commit wouldn't sign, he did just that by inking with the Pittsburgh Pirates for $5 million—a record bonus for a player drafted outside the first and supplemental rounds.
Slowed by injury that cost him almost all of his first pro season, Bell has been making up ground and is triple-slashing .328/.375/.505 at High-A as a 21-year-old.
That kind of switch-hitting power bat is what gets teams drooling, and the Pirates, who have one of the very best collection of prospects around—not to mention an outfield for years of Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte—could dangle Bell to see just how much he could bring back.
Spoiler alert: It would be a lot.
Harold Ramirez, 19 years old and hitting .305 in A-ball, could also be in play for Pittsburgh, again because he's an outfielder.
San Diego Padres
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Keyvius Sampson, RHP
The San Diego Padres are deep in pitching prospects, what with Matt Wisler, Max Fried, Joe Ross, Burch Smith and even Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland still around and trying to get healthy.
Once a promising young starter, the 23-year-old Sampson has been converted to relief after struggling mightily in the high minors, as his 7.10 ERA across parts of two seasons in the PCL shows.
He could, though, be a useful middle-inning arm capable of pitching in the majors before the 2014 season is up. A team targeting closer Huston Street or setup man Joaquin Benoit in a deal clearly needs bullpen help already, so Sampson might also make sense.
San Francisco Giants
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Kyle Crick, RHP
The San Francisco Giants have traded their top pitching prospect before during a season in which they were contenders. Back in July 2011, they swapped Zack Wheeler, another young, hard-throwing right-hander with control issues, to the New York Mets for Carlos Beltran.
Crick, 21, is cut from a similar cloth, but he has had injury issues and is more erratic and inconsistent than Wheeler ever was, which raises questions about whether he's a reliever long term. To wit, his ERA at Double-A is 3.22, and he's striking out 10.0 per nine, but his WHIP is 1.50 thanks to a ludicrous 6.1 walks per nine.
Regardless, this is the kind of high-upside arm that teams covet, and there's just enough volatility that the suddenly struggling Giants might do well to trade Crick for help in 2014.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Victor Sanchez, RHP
With Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and now Taijuan Walker, one thing the Seattle Mariners have is right-handed pitching. While Sanchez isn't exactly superfluous, he's yet another northpaw, which means he could be peddled, especially if he helps bring back a shortstop or outfield help to Seattle.
Because the M's have pushed him aggressively, Sanchez would be a nice get as a 19-year-old who has already shown flashes at Double-A (4.61 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.4 K/9), but he's also a big boy at 6'0" and 255 pounds. There's less projection here than there is with most other pitchers at Sanchez's development stage.
St. Louis Cardinals
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Oscar Taveras, OF
Look, more than likely, the St. Louis Cardinals won't be trading the recently recalled Taveras, who is not only their top prospect but one of the very best in all of baseball.
But if they want to get back to October and make another World Series run while they're at it, they may need to be willing to surrender Taveras, 22, in order to get one of the biggest names expected to be available (read: David Price).
As great as the Cards are at developing young talent, much of theirs is already in the big leagues, like right-hander Carlos Martinez, first baseman Matt Adams and second baseman Kolten Wong. If St. Louis doesn't give up Taveras, one or more of those players almost certainly would be involved in any big-time deal.
Tampa Bay Rays
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Nate Karns, RHP
At 26, Karns is up there in age to be considered a prospect much longer, but after coming over from the Washington Nationals in a trade last February, he still qualifies, and his stuff, when on, remains quality. His numbers this year, though, aren't: 6.08 ERA, 1.46 WHIP but still a 9.8 K/9.
Although they've won six of their past seven, the Tampa Bay Rays are still last in the AL East and should be sellers this month.
They won't be giving up any young player deemed part of 2015 and beyond, but Karns at least would have some value in a trade because he's ready to pitch in the majors right now as either a spot starter or long man out of the pen.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Luis Sardinas, SS
The Texas Rangers remain overloaded at middle infield, what with second basemen Jurickson Profar (out with a shoulder injury) and rookie Rougned Odor, as well as shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is signed through—wait for it—2022. Sardinas, then, doesn't seem to have much of a future with this franchise.
Known for his stellar work with the leather and enough speed to disrupt when he gets on, the 21-year-old has seen time at second, short and third with the Rangers this season, but all in very limited capacity, even for a team that's had as many injuries as Texas has.
He profiles best as a utility infielder because he's a slap hitter, but if another club sees him as a potential starting shortstop for his glove and range, then the return could be worth it.
Toronto Blue Jays
Top Prospect Trade Chip: Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Even though Aaron Sanchez didn't quite conquer Double-A with a 3.82 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 7.8 K/9, the Toronto Blue Jays pushed him to Triple-A in June. Perhaps they're trying to showcase the just-turned-22-year-old, whose big problem remains efficiency and control (5.5 BB/9), leading up to the deadline?
The Jays are in position to win an AL East that is as wide-open as it has been in more than a decade. While it might be painful to surrender their top prospect, it also might be a good gamble to bring aboard someone like Jeff Samardzija from the sure-to-be-sellers Chicago Cubs to give Toronto the front-of-the-rotation arm it lacks and so badly needs.
Top Prospect Trade Chip: A.J. Cole, RHP
The Washington Nationals have traded righty A.J. Cole before—as part of the package that landed Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics back in December 2011—so why wouldn't they again? Especially when they already have a pitching staff in place that's as deep as any in the game.
Just promoted to Triple-A, the 22-year-old throws in the mid-90s and has started to figure things out over the past year with a 2.63 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in the 21 starts he made at Double-A. He has good control (2.1 BB/9 career), but he's always been hittable (8.9 H/9 career) without a legitimate put-away breaking ball.
There isn't a glaring position of weakness in Washington at the moment, but should something be exposed over the next few weeks, Cole is the kind of good-not-great prospect who could address a need that arises as the Nats make a run at an NL East title over the second half.
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