Top MLB Prospects Who Could Move During the 2017 Winter Meetings Frenzy
Earlier in December, we highlighted a few top prospects who could be on the move this offseason.
Here's a quick refresher of who made that list:
- 1B/OF Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros
- 3B Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox
- RHP Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
- IF Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies
- RHP Nick Neidert, Seattle Mariners
- 1B/OF Chris Shaw, San Francisco Giants
- RHP Mitchell White, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sure enough, one of those guys has already moved, as the Seattle Mariners sent Neidert to the Miami Marlins in the Dee Gordon deal.
With the winter meetings set to kick off Monday in Orlando, Florida, it is the perfect time to expand on that list with a few more prospects worth keeping an eye on during the upcoming week's frenzy of activity.
SS Aramis Ademan, Chicago Cubs
2017 Stats (A-/A): 317 PA, .267/.324/.427, 27 XBH (7 HR), 42 RBI, 36 R, 14 SB
After an active past couple of years on the trade market, the Chicago Cubs are without a top-tier prospect to headline the farm system.
Pitchers Oscar De La Cruz, Jose Albertos and Adbert Alzolay all offer significant upside, and catcher Victor Caratini took a nice step forward last year. But the player to watch is shortstop Aramis Ademan.
Young middle infielders who produce ahead of the developmental curve are among the most valuable assets in the game, and the Cubs have seen that firsthand through trading Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman two years ago and Isaac Paredes in the Justin Wilson-Alex Avila deal this past summer.
Ademan, 19, split the 2017 season between Low-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, where he flashed an intriguing mix of power and speed with an advanced approach at the plate.
The team had high hopes for his future when he was given a $2 million bonus as part of the 2015 international free-agent class, and he's quickly delivered on that potential.
MLB.com writes of his offensive upside:
"An advanced left-handed hitter with a mature approach, Ademan already recognizes pitches well and uses the whole field. He lacks size and strength but understands his limitations, focusing on stroking line drives and not worrying about driving the ball. With his hitting ability and bat speed, he could grow into double-digit home run power while providing high batting averages and on-base percentages."
The Cubs' middle infield situation is no less crowded than it was when they pulled the trigger on trading Torres and Paredes, so don't be surprised if Ademan is next.
3B Colton Welker, Colorado Rockies
2017 Stats (A): 279 PA, .350/.401/.500, 25 XBH (6 HR), 33 RBI, 32 R
We already touched on Ryan McMahon as a potential trade chip for the Colorado Rockies in our previous prospect article. He's not the only third base prospect who could draw interest from rival clubs.
While McMahon will turn 23 on Thursday and looks best suited playing first base at the next level, Colton Welker will be 20 for the entirety of the 2018 season, and he's made a smooth transition to the hot corner after playing shortstop as a prep.
His high ceiling as a former fourth-round pick has scouts excited, as MLB.com explained:
"He reminds the Rockies of another third-base prospect who didn't get a lot of hype coming out of high school: Nolan Arenado. They're not saying that Welker will blossom into perhaps the best all-around player in the big leagues, but he has a similar build, knack for making hard contact and instincts that allow him to play well above his below-average speed at the hot corner."
Welker already has 67 games at the Single-A level under his belt, and a late-2019 arrival in the big leagues is not out of the question given how advanced his all-around game has proved to be.
Arenado's presence and the team's need for significant bullpen help after Greg Holland, Jake McGee and Pat Neshe's departures could make Welker the centerpiece of a trade in Orlando.
The Rockies might prefer to offer up McMahon in trade talks, but if an opposing team counters with Welker, he's by no means untouchable in a farm system that's loaded with infield talent.
RHP Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals
2017 Stats (A/A+): 19 GS, 8-3, 2.74 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 95 K, 105 IP
Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty and late-season graduate Luke Weaver have been the headliners of the St. Louis Cardinals farm system on the pitching side of things, and the team has an incredibly deep crop of talented arms behind that trio.
One player who has popped up in trade talks this offseason is right-hander Jordan Hicks.
In discussing the specifics of the Cardinals' offer to the Miami Marlins when they were trying to land Giancarlo Stanton, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that "the Cardinals wanted to keep Jordan Hicks and Alex Reyes out of the deal" and were likely building the offer around Sandy Alcantara or Jack Flaherty.
Is that one report enough to think Hicks is untouchable?
It's an interesting development when you consider Flaherty finished the 2017 season ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the system and No. 48 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. Hicks, meanwhile, checked in as the team's No. 14 prospect, well off the top prospect radar.
If it warranted mentioning that the Cardinals wanted to keep Hicks out of the deal, it probably means teams are asking about him. And even after missing out on Stanton, a major trade could still be in the works in St. Louis.
Flaherty and Alcantara will still be names to watch on the trade market, but Hicks belongs in that conversation as well.
3B Colin Moran, Houston Astros
2017 Stats (A/AAA): 350 PA, .301/.369/.532, 35 XBH (18 HR), 65 RBI, 53 R
Colin Moran is a former No. 6 overall pick coming off a stellar season in Triple-A who is without any semblance of a path to playing time at the MLB level.
Sounds like the perfect trade chip.
The 25-year-old has nothing left to prove in the minors after hitting .308/.373/.543 with 15 doubles and 18 home runs in 338 plate appearances with Triple-A Fresno, and he even performed well in his brief MLB action last season, going 4-for-11 with a triple and a home run.
"There may have been no better bet to hit in the 2013 draft than Moran," wrote MLB.com.
That's the same draft that featured a power hitter from the University of San Diego by the name of Kris Bryant.
With only 16 games and 37 plate appearances to his credit in the majors, Moran hasn't gotten a chance in Houston. And with Alex Bregman blocking his path, that's unlikely to change in 2018.
The free-agent market for third basemen is deep this season, with Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez all set to secure multiyear deals and starting gigs. For a team looking to get a bit more creative and cost-effective at the hot corner, Moran is someone capable of making an immediate impact.
Might he be of interest to a team like the Baltimore Orioles?
With talks of Manny Machado potentially returning to shortstop and the team needing to use all its available financial resources to shore up the pitching staff, Moran could be an interesting solution at third base.
It's no secret the Astros need lefty bullpen help and that they were after Orioles closer Zach Britton at the trade deadline before settling on Francisco Liriano.
This is purely speculation, but it looks like a fit.
CF Jahmai Jones, Los Angeles Angels
2017 Stats (A/A+): 578 PA, .282/.348/.446, 50 XBH (14 HR), 47 RBI, 86 R, 27 SB
It's already been a busy offseason for the Los Angeles Angels, as they re-signed Justin Upton to a five-year, $106 million deal shortly after the conclusion of the World Series before winning the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes.
Chances are they are not finished, either.
Superstar Mike Trout is under contract for three more seasons, and with Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson off the books, they have the resources to be aggressive.
While the farm system is among the thinnest in baseball, there is some intriguing talent at the top, including outfielder Jahmai Jones.
Jones, 20, was a second-round pick in the 2015 draft, and MLB.com had plenty of good things to say about both his development and his future upside:
"Jones' game has vastly improved across the board since he began his pro career. ... He has quickly translated his plus athleticism to performance on the diamond. His baseball IQ is off the charts on both sides of the ball. He'll use a refined up-the-middle approach and he's already starting to grow into his power, showing the ability to backspin balls into the right-center field gap. His plus speed is an asset and he maximizes it by being a smart baserunner and by improving his reads and routes in center field, where he has the potential to stay long term."
If the Angels are all-in on winning in the next three years, Jones doesn't factor into those plans because the outfield situation is crowded and he has yet to play above the High-A level.
Second base and third base are both areas of need, as well as the bullpen, and making a run at a controllable starting pitcher is also not out of the question.
Given the state of the farm system, Jones would undoubtedly be one of the first names brought up by other teams in any potential blockbuster discussions.
RHP Yadier Alvarez, Los Angeles Dodgers
2017 Stats (A+/AA): 18 GS, 4-6, 4.68 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 97 K, 92.1 IP
The Los Angeles Dodgers flagged Yadier Alvarez as untouchable last offseason—along with Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler—according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, eventually shipping out right-hander Jose De Leon to acquire Logan Forsythe.
It wasn't difficult to see why.
After signing for a $16 million bonus and matching tax penalty out of Cuba in 2015, Alvarez made his pro debut in 2016 and pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while striking out 81 hitters in 59.1 innings.
MLB.com writes of his electric arm:
"Alvarez has so much arm speed and athleticism that he delivers overpowering fastballs with ease, sitting at 94-97 mph for innings at a time and peaking in the triple digits. He utilizes three secondary pitches that show the potential to become plus offerings, though they lack consistency and he doesn't command them well yet. His mid-80s slider can be a wipeout pitch at times, he has begun working on a low-80s curveball and his changeup can throw hitters off balance when at its best."
There's no ignoring his stuff, but the 21-year-old didn't enjoy the same success this past season, posting a 4.68 ERA and 1.52 WHIP between High-A and Double-A while watching his walk rate climb from 3.2 to 4.9 BB/9.
With other pitching prospects like Mitchell White, Dustin May and Dennis Santana on the rise and Buehler still headlining the farm system, the Dodgers might be willing to change their tune on Alvarez this winter.
CF Brett Phillips, Milwaukee Brewers
2017 Stats (AAA): 432 PA, .305/.377/.567, 52 XBH (19 HR), 78 RBI, 79 R
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently reported that the Milwaukee Brewers were "getting hits" on all of their outfielders and that there's plenty of them for other teams to choose from.
Domingo Santana, Ryan Braun and Keon Broxton were the team's starting outfielders this past season, while prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips are both knocking on the door. Corey Ray and Monte Harrison also offer a significant upside in the lower levels of the system.
Let's focus on Phillips.
The 23-year-old joined the organization in the trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros at the deadline in 2015.
After a huge 2015 season, he kicked off 2016 as the No. 57 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America.
However, he fell flat in a full season at the Double-A level, hitting just .229 while striking out 154 times at a 29.8 percent clip.
That didn't stop the Brewers from bumping him up to Triple-A, and he responded by righting the ship with a .305/.377/.567 line—albeit with a nearly identical 29.9 percent strikeout rate.
With the glove to stick in center field and the offensive skills to be a perennial 20/20 threat, there should be plenty of teams interested in acquiring his services.
The Brewers have the feel of a team that's waiting in the weeds before making a big splash this offseason, and Phillips could one the chips they use to do it.