Top MLB Prospects Who Could Be Used in Blockbuster Offseason Trades
During the MLB offseason, especially with a thin free-agent class like the one available this winter, prospects become the most valuable currency on the market.
Just look at all the top prospects who were on the move last offseason:
- 2B Yoan Moncada (BOS to CWS, Chris Sale)
- RHP Michael Kopech (BOS to CWS, Chris Sale)
- RHP Lucas Giolito (WAS to CWS, Adam Eaton)
- RHP Reynaldo Lopez (WAS to CWS, Adam Eaton)
- RHP Jose De Leon (LAD to TB, Logan Forsythe)
- RHP Luis Castillo (MIA to CIN, Dan Straily)
- LHP Luiz Gohara (SEA to ATL, Mallex Smith)
- OF Mitch Haniger (ARI to SEA, Taijuan Walker)
- RHP Dane Dunning (WAS to CWS, Adam Eaton)
- RHP Albert Abreu (HOU to NYY, Brian McCann)
- IF Mauricio Dubon (BOS to MIL, Tyler Thornburg)
There's probably not a Chris Sale-level trade coming this year unless the Tampa Bay Rays decide it's time to move Chris Archer, but there could still be plenty of top-tier prospects on the move.
Ahead is a look at seven top prospects who could be used in blockbuster trades.
1B/OF Chris Shaw, San Francisco Giants
2017 Stats (AA/AAA): 514 PA, .292/.346/.525, 60 XBH (24 HR), 79 RBI, 58 R
The San Francisco Giants remain a realistic landing spot for Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton, and it sounds like Chris Shaw could be the prospect centerpiece.
Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network recently wrote: "One source with knowledge of the Marlins' plans believes the team would, in fact, accept an offer of [Joe] Panik, [Tyler] Beede and [Chris] Shaw for Stanton alone—if the Giants committed to paying most of the $295 million left on Stanton's contract, somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million."
A first-round pick in 2015, Shaw slugged 45 home runs the past two years and posted an .858 OPS with 18 home runs in 360 plate appearances in his first taste of Triple-A ball.
His lack of athleticism makes first base his best fit defensively, but he played right field in college and spent the bulk of 2017 manning left field.
While he could be considered an internal option to take over one of the corner spots in San Francisco this coming season, the team has placed an emphasis on improving its outfield defense, as NBCS Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic detailed.
Using the 24-year-old and his legitimate 60-grade power to land an established outfielder who better addresses the team's needs makes sense.
RHP Nick Neidert, Seattle Mariners
2017 Stats (A+/AA): 25 GS, 11-6, 3.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 122 K, 127.2 IP
Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is not afraid to dip into the farm system to facilitate a trade.
A quick list of the notable prospects he's sent packing in his two years with the team: Luiz Gohara, Tyler O'Neill, Alex Jackson, Zack Littell, Brayan Hernandez, Jose Ramirez, Paul Blackburn, Ryan Yarbrough, Drew Jackson and Boog Powell.
Unless an unexpected opportunity to trade for someone like Chris Archer presents itself, it's safe to assume the team's most recent first-round picks—outfielder Kyle Lewis and first baseman Evan White—are untouchable.
Everyone else is on the table, though.
Right-hander Nick Neidert is widely regarded as the No. 3 prospect in the system, and he would be an attractive centerpiece for a controllable mid-level arm or some outfield help, depending on where the team decides to focus.
The 21-year-old has moved quickly through the system since being selected in the second round of the 2015 draft, reaching Double-A for the first time last season. He's undersized at 6'1" and 180 pounds, but he has the tools to develop into a solid MLB starter.
MLB.com writes of the pitcher:
"Neidert's high three-quarters arm slot allows him to create a good downhill angle to the plate, and he generates his velocity with athleticism and arm speed rather than effort. The undersized right-hander faces questions about his durability, but he has the arsenal and command profile to develop into a No. 3 starter in the Major Leagues."
Chances are he won't be ready to debut in the majors until at least the second half of 2019, and with the Mariners looking to win now, flipping him is not out of the question.
1B/OF Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros
2017 Stats (A/A+): 391 PA, .304/.379/.481, 32 XBH (12 HR), 69 RBI, 45 R
The Houston Astros struck gold when they traded reliever Josh Fields to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Cuban defector Yordan Alvarez in August 2016.
Signed for a $2 million bonus just six weeks prior to that trade, Alvarez had not yet begun his pro career when he was already on the move to a different organization.
Alvarez, 20, hit .351 over 125 plate appearances in Cuba's top league when he was only 17, and that experience has been evident in his advanced approach at the plate.
It's easy to dream about the untapped power potential in his 6'5", 225-pound frame, and he's shown passable defensive skills at both first base and in left field.
For the Astros, upgrading the bullpen appears to be the biggest area of need this offseason—particularly on the left side, where Tony Sipp is the only option.
Elite prospects Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley will both be untouchable, and the same is probably true of 2016 first-round pick J.B. Bukauskas.
Would a package built around Alvarez be enough to pry someone like Brad Hand away from the San Diego Padres or Zach Britton away from the Baltimore Orioles?
The Astros could be asking that question this winter.
RHP Mitchell White, Los Angeles Dodgers
2017 Stats (Rk/A+/AA): 19 GS, 3-2, 2.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 88 K, 73.2 IP
Walker Buehler is the consensus top prospect in the Dodgers system, one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball and untouchable playing for an organization that has clung tightly to its upper-echelon prospects in recent years.
Outfielder Alex Verdugo is also a safe bet to be staying put after he hit .314/.389/.436 in a full season with Triple-A Oklahoma City at the age of 21.
From there, opinions are varied when it comes to which player belongs next on the organizational prospect list.
Hard-throwing Yadier Alvarez was a popular name at this time last year, but after pitching to a 4.68 ERA while seeing his walk rate spike from 3.2 to 4.9 BB/9 in his first taste of upper-level competition, some of his luster has faded.
Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith both rank among the top catching prospects in baseball with the tools to be everyday guys at the highest level. The Dodgers might not be ready to part with either player, though.
Big-ticket international signings Yusniel Diaz and Starling Heredia still have huge upside, 2017 first-round pick Jeren Kendall was a steal at No. 23 overall and right-hander Dustin May is a name to watch.
In other words, there were plenty of guys we could have highlighted here for the Dodgers, but we will go with right-hander Mitchell White.
If Buehler and Verdugo are off-limits, there's a good chance White would be the next name out of team's mouth in any major trade talks this winter.
With a strong 6'4" frame, a polished four-pitch repertoire and impressive results in 2017—including a .172 opponents' batting average and 10.8 K/9—he will be knocking on the door of top-100 prospect lists. There's no question he has the upside to be a blockbuster centerpiece.
IF Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies
2017 Stats (AA/AAA): 519 PA, .355/.403/.583, 63 XBH (20 HR), 88 RBI, 74 R
According to Morosi, the Colorado Rockies are "pursuing various options" to address the closer's role, including free agent Wade Davis and trade target Zach Britton.
If they do wind up swinging a trade, especially for Britton, they could use Ryan McMahon as the primary trade chip.
McMahon, 22, bounced back from a disappointing 2016 season to reclaim his standing as a top-100 prospect by posting a .986 OPS with 63 extra-base hits in 519 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A.
With some defensive versatility and nothing left to prove in the minors, he could break camp in a utility role, serving as a left-handed hitting complement to Ian Desmond at first base while also backing up second and third base.
However, he may be better utilized as a trade chip.
McMahon's natural position is third base, and the Orioles last season toyed with the idea of moving Manny Machado back to shortstop to replace the departed J.J. Hardy, so there's a potential vacancy at the hot corner in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, with fellow top prospect Brendan Rodgers also expected to arrive in short order, the infield situation will remain crowded in Colorado for the foreseeable future, and McMahon may simply never have a clear path to everyday playing time.
3B Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox
2017 Stats (A+/AA): 524 PA, .282/.347/.563, 68 XBH (31 HR), 94 RBI, 89 R
Michael Chavis has always possessed tremendous offensive potential. Ut just took him longer to tap into it than some might have hoped.
However, the 22-year-old started the 2017 season with High-A Salem and quickly proved too good for that level, as he posted a 1.029 OPS with 17 doubles and 17 home runs in 250 plate appearances.
His numbers dipped following a promotion to Double-A, but he still more than held his own against upper-level pitching to finish the season with 35 doubles, 31 home runs and 94 RBI.
So why would a Red Sox team with a thinned-out farm system consider trading a budding star?
Aside from 15 games at shortstop during rookie ball, Chavis has played exclusively third base as a pro, and he's firmly blocked there long term by Rafael Devers.
MLB.com notes that there are "some scouts who think he could become a second baseman in the Dan Uggla mold." The incumbent, Dustin Pedroia, isn't getting any younger.
Still, the team's best move might be to sell high this winter, provided the right blockbuster trade opportunity presents itself.
RHP Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
2017 Stats (AA/AAA): 25 GS, 14-4, 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 147 K, 148.2 IP
No one should be convinced the St. Louis Cardinals would entertain the idea of moving Alex Reyes, even in a deal for Stanton.
And frankly, they shouldn't have to.
If Stanton does prove willing to waive his no-trade clause—a big "if"—a package built around right-hander Jack Flaherty, another of the team's highly regarded pitching prospects like Sandy Alcantara or Jordan Hicks and outfielder Randal Grichuk, would easily top the Morosi-reported offer on the table from the Giants.
Flaherty, 22, had been steadily climbing the organizational ladder with good-not-great results since going in the first round of the 2014 draft, before breaking out with a dominant 2017 season.
He opened the year with his Double-A debut and went 7-2 with a 1.42 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 10 starts before earning a promotion to Triple-A and eventually to the majors, where he struggled to a 6.33 ERA in five starts and one relief appearances.
His future remains incredibly bright, though.
He's seen an uptick in velocity, as his 6'4" frame has filled out. He backs his mid-90s fastball with a 60-grade changeup and a good slider, and he's always had good command of the strike zone, with just 2.6 BB/9 for his minor league career.
Flaherty could immediately step into an MLB rotation and carve out a spot as a good middle-of-the-rotation starter for the next decade. And there's potential for a bit more if his stuff continues to improve.
That's enough to make him an elite trade chip in what figures to be a busy offseason for the Cardinals.