Top MLB Prospects Who Could Be Prizes of 2022 Blockbuster Trades
Look alive, everyone. Major League Baseball's Aug. 2 trade deadline is fast approaching, so it's just a matter of time before some of the stars of today change teams.
So too, of course, will some of the stars of tomorrow.
Especially now that Washington Nationals super-duper-star Juan Soto is on the block, there's indeed a higher than usual likelihood that some of the game's very best prospects will be on the move in the near future.
As such, we've speculated on seven of the best and brightest that could potentially be major prizes in blockbuster trades. These prospects all play for parent clubs that are firmly in contention at the major league level. They also seem vaguely or even explicitly expendable for reasons relating to positional surpluses and developmental concerns.
For simplicity's sake, we'll count these guys down in descending order of where they stand on MLB.com's top 100 list. But first, we'll run through a "maybe" pile of top prospects that we're just not sure are going anywhere any time soon.
The Maybe Pile
RHP Daniel Espino and OF George Valera, Cleveland Guardians
At least in theory, these two could help the Guardians land Soto or some other much-needed star hitter. But because this is a small-market team with a small-market payroll, it has extra incentive to keep its homegrown players.
OF Jackson Chourio, Milwaukee Brewers
As he's only 18 and in the middle of a breakout season for Single-A Carolina, Chourio's trade value is rising. Yet the Brewers are another team with financial constraints, and their general need to do something drastic is being diminished as their list of injured players gets shorter.
SS Marco Luciano and LHP Kyle Harrison, San Francisco Giants
The Giants differ from the Guardians and Brewers in that their pockets go very deep, so it's hard not to think about a Soto trade that would probably involve Luciano and/or Harrison. Rather, the hang-up here is how risk-averse Farhan Zaidi has been in building a sustainable foundation in San Francisco.
RHP Taj Bradley, Tampa Bay Rays
Bradley, who's pitched to ERAs under 2.00 in each of the last two seasons, is an ascendant talent who could conceivably be dangled in talks for a big bat. But once again, financial constraints get in the way of dreaming big here.
SS Ronny Mauricio, New York Mets
2022 Stats (AA): 76 G, 328 PA, 16 HR, 11 SB, .247 AVG, .281 OBP, .471 SLG
MLB.com Rank: No. 52
It's hard to fathom the Nationals moving Soto within the National League East, yet Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Bob Nightengale of USA Today aren't the only ones eyeing the New York Mets as a fit for the slugger.
That's one trade that could potentially subtract Ronny Mauricio from the Mets system, but maybe not the only one. Even before Soto landed on the trading block, SNY's Andy Martino (h/t Pat Ragazzo of SI.com) had tabbed the young shortstop as expendable.
Mauricio has a strong arm and plenty of power. The switch-hitter is 6'3" and sturdier than his listed weight of 166 pounds, and his power from the left side goes to all fields.
MLB Pipeline @MLBPipeline
Ronny Mauricio goes oppo for homer No. 16 for <a href="https://twitter.com/RumblePoniesBB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RumblePoniesBB</a>!<br><br>The switch-hitting <a href="https://twitter.com/Mets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Mets</a> prospect has smacked 14 dingers against right-handed pitchers. <a href="https://t.co/XmEgOdGxFZ">pic.twitter.com/XmEgOdGxFZ</a>
As evidenced by the .297 OBP that he has for his professional career, Mauricio's hit tool is more of a question mark. Even despite that, his size, arm strength and power give him a tantalizing Oneil Cruz-ian profile.
Still another reason the Mets might make Mauricio available is the fact that they're committed to Francisco Lindor at shortstop through 2031. By contrast, there isn't much at catcher blocking Francisco Alvarez, who ranks behind only Riley Greene in MLB.com's top 100.
OF Jasson Dominguez, New York Yankees
2022 Stats (A, A+): 77 G, 334 PA, 10 HR, 21 SB, .271 AVG, .377 OBP, .451 SLG
MLB.com Rank: No. 39
Speaking of slugging New York prospects with substantial trade value, there's also Jasson Dominguez in the Yankees system.
Like with Mauricio, Dominguez's listed size of 5'10", 190 pounds seems conservative. "The Martian," as he's known, is built like a tank, and anyone who watched the Futures Game will know that he boasts impressive power.
With fellow large-bodied slugger Aaron Judge now just months away from free agency, the Yankees should arguably keep Dominguez as an heir apparent for right field in The Bronx. But with Soto available and the club's first World Series since 2009 already within reach, the Yankees should frankly be all-in on the present.
Further, there's a whole 'nother argument that it's a good time to sell high on Dominguez.
Though he has been hot since May 18—he has a .440 OBP and nearly as many walks (40) as strikeouts (46)—the hype surrounding him has faded somewhat since the Yankees signed him in 2019. Though concerns about his future are hardly universal, Baseball America is notably so skeptical that it has Dominguez rated as the Yankees' No. 7 prospect.
OF Robert Hassell III, San Diego Padres
2022 Stats (A+): 68 G, 309 PA, 9 HR, 19 SB, .314 AVG, .392 OBP, .483 SLG
MLB.com Rank: No. 23
The San Diego Padres have hit just 79 home runs as a team, second-fewest among NL clubs. So even with Fernando Tatis Jr.'s long-awaited return on the horizon, they should be eyeing Soto and really any offensive upgrades they can get their hands on.
Unless the Friars are willing to move ascendant left-hander MacKenzie Gore, Robert Hassell III is the best prospect they can offer the Nationals and other teams with bats to deal.
He's different from Mauricio and Dominguez in that his hit tool is his best tool. He's a .307 hitter in two seasons since going to San Diego at No. 8 overall in the 2020 draft, and this year he's balancing 34 walks against only 56 strikeouts.
This is not to say that Hassell doesn't also have other skills. He's an above-average defender with a solid arm, and he should develop more power as he adds to his 6'2", 195-pound frame.
MLB Pipeline @MLBPipeline
Hassell hammer!<br><br>No. 1 <a href="https://twitter.com/Padres?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Padres</a> prospect Robert Hassell III swats a game-tying homer for the <a href="https://twitter.com/TinCaps?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TinCaps</a>: <a href="https://t.co/KMflx9jxQC">pic.twitter.com/KMflx9jxQC</a>
As much as the Padres could use a guy like Hassell in their outfield right now, he's likely at least a year away from being major league-ready. Between now and then, the Padres have to do what they can to prepare for a deep playoff run.
SS Noelvi Marte, Seattle Mariners
2022 Stats (A+): 80 G, 370 PA, 15 HR, 11 SB, .272 AVG, .365 OBP, .466 SLG
MLB.com Rank: No. 19
The Seattle Mariners are yet another early favorite for Soto, and why not given that they're riding high after winning 22 out of 25 and 14 in a row to finish off the first half?
Whether it's for Soto or the pitching that general manager Jerry Dipoto says he's focused on, Noelvi Marte is the best trade chip among Seattle's stack. He's seen as having both plus speed and plus power, with average or better grades for his hit, throwing and fielding tools.
MLB Pipeline @MLBPipeline
Blink and you might miss it!<br><br>Top <a href="https://twitter.com/Mariners?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Mariners</a> prospect Noelvi Marte sends a laser out to left to open the scoring for the <a href="https://twitter.com/EverettAquaSox?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EverettAquaSox</a>. <a href="https://t.co/S10KKT5AT4">pic.twitter.com/S10KKT5AT4</a>
One complication with Marte's future with the Mariners, however, is that the club is committed to Gold Glover J.P. Crawford at shortstop through 2026. In the person of Edwin Arroyo, it also has another talented shortstop prospect in addition to Marte.
Not that it's a one or the other situation, but Arroyo might be the better long-term bet.
Whereas Marte's returns have generally diminished as he's risen up the minor league ranks, Arroyo has been a revelation for Single-A Modesto in 2022. He's batting .315/.385/.509 with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases, and all before his 19th birthday on Aug. 25.
C Diego Cartaya, Los Angeles Dodgers
2022 Stats (A, A+): 64 G, 309 PA, 15 HR, 0 SB, .273 AVG, .411 OBP, .538 SLG
MLB.com Rank: No. 13
If the Los Angeles Dodgers make a play for Soto, you can take it from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that Diego Cartaya should be on the table.
Though this is perhaps the most likely scenario in which Cartaya leaves the Dodgers system, it's potentially not the only one given that the club already has an exceptional young catcher. Will Smith, who's 27 and under club control through 2025, is one of the game's best backstops.
One thing that's for sure is that there's no shortage of rival clubs that would love to sink their hooks into Cartaya. Between his sturdy build, strong arm and prodigious power, he rightfully earns comparisons to Salvador Perez.
Minor League Baseball @MiLB
"I'll tell ya, that was over those mountains"<br><br>Uncle Rico approves of Diego Cartaya's homer 🤣🤣🤣<a href="https://twitter.com/greatlakesloons?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@greatlakesloons</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Dodgers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dodgers</a> <a href="https://t.co/mAA0kkm3MC">pic.twitter.com/mAA0kkm3MC</a>
If there's any volatility to be found in Cartaya's profile, it's that his hit tool comes with some swing and miss. He's struck out in 25.3 percent of his career minor league plate appearances, with a 28.2 K% in 30 games since he got the bump to High-A Great Lakes.
All the same, this is unlikely to stop sellers from inquiring on Cartaya...and maybe not the Dodgers from giving in if the return is right.
3B Jordan Walker, St. Louis Cardinals
2022 Stats (AA): 74 G, 339 PA, 8 HR, 15 SB, .302 AVG, .392 OBP, .486 SLG
MLB.com Rank: No. 7
The St. Louis Cardinals were flying high for a while there, but they had some trouble on both sides of the ball as they lost 17 out of 30 to finish the first half.
Though Jordan Walker obviously looms as a major part of the Cardinals' future, in the present he might serve the team better as a centerpiece in a deal for Soto or an impact hurler who could help Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas carry a battered and bruised rotation.
At 6'5", 220 pounds, Walker is first and foremost a big dude with big power.
MLB Pipeline @MLBPipeline
Save some for L.A.!<br><br>Before he heads to the Futures Game this weekend, top-ranked <a href="https://twitter.com/Cardinals?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Cardinals</a> prospect Jordan Walker crushes a homer for the <a href="https://twitter.com/Sgf_Cardinals?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Sgf_Cardinals</a>. <a href="https://t.co/XxeExx6H8K">pic.twitter.com/XxeExx6H8K</a>
Far from a one-note talent, however, Walker is at least an above-average hitter. Even though he's playing against much older competition, he has a respectable 22.5 K% for Double-A Springfield. So even if he eventually has to move across the diamond to first base, he should still be a standout offensive performer.
If the Cardinals do end up trading Walker, it'll be some consolation that they're set on the infield with Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman and Nolan Gorman all controlled through at least 2024.
C Gabriel Moreno, Toronto Blue Jays
2022 Stats (AAA): 41 G, 174 PA, 1 HR, 4 SB, .321 AVG, .385 OBP, .410 SLG
MLB.com Rank: No. 6
The Toronto Blue Jays have gotten an MLB-low 33 home runs from the left side of the plate since the start of last season, so it's hard to blame All-Star infielder Santiago Espinal for wanting Soto to come north of the border:
This is surely one trade possibility that could require the Jays to make Gabriel Moreno available, yet he would seem expendable even in a vacuum.
You can never have too much good catching, but Toronto is perhaps the only team in MLB that has enough of it. Between 23-year-old All-Star Alejandro Kirk and 27-year-old Danny Jansen, the Jays comfortably lead the majors with 3.6 rWAR from the catching position.
As for Moreno, don't let the .593 OPS that he posted in 18 games with the big club fool you. He's in the running for the best hitting prospect at any position, which makes him more valuable than a mixture of gold, silver, vibranium and adamantium as a catcher.
Factor in Moreno's obvious MLB readiness, and he's debatably the shiniest trade chip in the minor leagues right now.