MLB Players, Prospects with Most Fantasy Value to Gain at 2014 Trade Deadline
For Major League Baseball teams, the annual trade deadline is a battle between the present and future for executives, managers and players. Every move, regardless of the motive and reasoning, comes with a trickle-down effect on the rest of the organization.
In many cases, the aftermath of blockbusters is felt by young players and prospects. When a losing team moves a veteran, spots often open for less-heralded players to emerge and fill a role for the rest of the season. Similarly, when a contending team sells prospects for veterans, those aforementioned prospects may land in a better situation.
When it comes to fantasy baseball, every real-life decision carries consequences in your leagues. In order to best position your teams for the stretch run of the season, be ready for the value of some players to change dramatically over the next few weeks.
Here are five prospects or current MLB players who could see an increase in fantasy value between now and the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.
Ken Giles, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
In Philadelphia, Ken Giles is a closer waiting to happen. Since arriving to the big leagues in early June, the 23-year-old flame-throwing righty has been as electric as advertised. With a fastball that regularly hits triple digits and a wipeout slider, the rookie has posted 17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings out of manager Ryne Sandberg's bullpen.
As of now, that work has come in a setup role ahead of veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon. As the Phillies fade further from contention in the competitive National League East, the idea of moving Papelbon's contract and personality from the clubhouse will be enticing for Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and the team's front office.
If or when that occurs, Giles will take big strikeout totals and a solid FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 2.17 into save opportunities. Be ready to pounce, fantasy owners.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Blue Jays starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez is a big-time prospect, regardless of which publication or ranking system catches your eye. Prior to the start of the 2014 season, Sanchez ranked in the top 32 of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com's top prospects.
If Toronto were in the midst of a losing season or looking up at the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East standings, perhaps the 22-year-old would already be in the majors and learning at the highest level of competition.
Of course, Toronto isn't in that position. Instead, it is in the midst of a postseason chase and needs consistency and quality on a start-by-start basis. If the team enters the fray for a top-tier starting pitcher, Sanchez could be sacrificed in a deal. At that point, the 2010 first-round pick could immediately garner a major league call-up to his new organization or be on the horizon for a September arrival.
Although a 4.00 ERA and 1.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2014 aren't special, Sanchez has talent. If he gets hot before a trade, this could be a starter worth adding to your fantasy roster in August.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
The New York Mets have assembled a surplus of starting pitching talent at Citi Field so large that manager Terry Collins recently stated top prospect Noah Syndergaard may not make it to the big leagues this summer, per Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Of course, the Mets manager could have said that for many reasons, including Syndergaard's underwhelming performance at Triple-A this season. With a 5.31 ERA across 16 starts for Las Vegas, Baseball America's No. 16 prospect hasn't yet forced a promotion to the big leagues.
If the Mets do sell at the deadline, however, a spot could open for Syndergaard to enter the mix in Collins' rotation. With veterans such as Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon on the roster, the Mets could move one or two established arms to add future assets or impact bats.
Despite Syndergaard's modest results in 2014, focus on his 9.9 SO/9 rate across 373.1 minor league innings. When the big righty arrives to New York, he's worth an add in any league because of major upside and strikeout potential.
Dale Thayer, RHP, San Diego Padres
Unlike Giles, Sanchez and Syndergaard, San Diego Padres relief pitcher Dale Thayer isn't young, emerging as a prospect or on the verge of becoming the key piece in a season-altering trade at the deadline.
Thayer is 33 and the owner of a 3.49 career ERA. When factoring in the three years spent in San Diego's Petco Park, that ERA is only good enough for a 103 ERA+ mark, basically making the veteran just 3 percent better than league average since his 2008 debut.
Yet, if you are in a league where saves are in demand, keep an eye on Thayer. With veteran relievers such as Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit potentially on the trade block in San Diego, Thayer could be next in line to close games for the Padres.
With the right-hander finishing 17 games in 2014, manager Bud Black clearly trusts an arm that has been in his bullpen since 2012. By August, Thayer could have his first chance to emerge as a legitimate closer and fantasy star.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
With apologies to Ken Giles' strikeout rate and Dale Thayer's solid career in San Diego, the player on this list with the most immediate upside in the majors is Baltimore Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Of course, projecting the former No. 4 overall pick would be easier if the team allowed him to stay in the majors.
In the aftermath of each of Gausman's two most recent starts, the 23-year-old was optioned back to the minors in an effort to alleviate a rotation logjam and conserve the rookie's innings for the second half of the season.
At some point soon, the Orioles must make a big decision for the 2014 season. If they truly go for it in an effort to win the AL East and compete with the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics in the postseason, a major trade for an established ace could be in the works. In that event, Gausman could be on the move and straight into a new rotation on a full-time basis.
Or, the more likely scenario, the team could realize how valuable a starter averaging 95.1 mph on his fastball truly can be down the stretch of the season. If given a full-time opportunity in a rotation, Gausman has the potential to dominate.
If there's a roster spot open on your team, he's worth stashing until Baltimore sorts out his short- and long-term future.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs and are accurate entering play on July 10. All contract figures are courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts at Baseball Prospectus.