Top MLB Prospects Who Could Be Used in Blockbuster Offseason TradesNovember 30, 2018
Top MLB Prospects Who Could Be Used in Blockbuster Offseason Trades
As more and more teams become leery of handing huge free-agent contracts to aging stars, prospect talent has increasingly become the most valuable currency in the game.
Teams are now focused on acquiring prime-aged controllable talent, and that generally means packaging talent from the farm system.
Just look at all the top prospects who were on the move last offseason:
- CF Lewis Brinson (MIL to MIA, Christian Yelich)
- RHP Sandy Alcantara (STL to MIA, Marcell Ozuna)
- OF Monte Harrison (MIL to MIA, Christian Yelich)
- RHP Nick Neidert (SEA to MIA, Dee Gordon)
- RHP Jorge Guzman (NYY to MIA, Giancarlo Stanton)
- 3B Colin Moran (HOU to PIT, Gerrit Cole)
- 2B Isan Diaz (MIL to MIA, Christian Yelich)
- IF Christian Arroyo (SF to TB, Evan Longoria)
- OF Bryan Reynolds (SF to PIT, Andrew McCutchen)
- SS Yairo Munoz (OAK to STL, Stephen Piscotty)
- RHP Kyle Crick (SF to PIT, Andrew McCutchen)
- RHP Enyel De Los Santos (SD to PHI, Freddy Galvis)
- OF Jason Martin (HOU to PIT, Gerrit Cole)
- RHP Jordan Yamamoto (MIL to MIA, Christian Yelich)
With names like Paul Goldschmidt, Madison Bumgarner, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco already making the rounds on the rumor mill, plenty more top-tier prospect talent could be on the move this winter.
Ahead is a look at seven top prospects who could be used in blockbuster trades.
RHP J.B. Bukauskas, Houston Astros
2018 Stats (Rk/A-/A/A+/AA)
14 GS, 4-2, 2.14 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 24 BB, 71 K, 59.0 IP
The Houston Astros will cling tightly to pitching prospect Forrest Whitley and outfielder Kyle Tucker in trade talks this offseason, and the same is probably true of flamethrower Josh James.
However, that won't preclude them from pulling off a blockbuster deal, and J.B. Bukauskas could be the centerpiece.
The No. 15 pick in the 2017 draft after a stellar career at the University of North Carolina, Bukauskas began last season in rookie ball and finished with six innings of one-hit ball in his Double-A debut.
The 22-year-old is a bit undersized at 6'0" and he has some effort to his delivery, which has led some to believe his future is in the bullpen. His upper-90s fastball and lethal slider give him closer upside if that happens. For now, he'll continue to work as a starter, and there's middle-of-the-rotation potential if the pieces fall into place.
While his future looks bright, the Astros have shown a willingness to move him in the past. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, a package of Bukauskas, catcher Garrett Stubbs and one other low-level prospect was what the Astros offered up for Bryce Harper at the trade deadline.
If they were willing to move him for two months of Harper, it stands to reason that he'd be available if another attractive opportunity presents itself this winter.
3B Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox
2018 Stats (A+/AA)
543 PA, .257/.361/.558, 70 XBH (32 HR), 109 RBI, 73 R
There will always be a market for right-handed power hitters, and Bobby Dalbec fits the description.
"Dalbec has the most raw power in the Red Sox system ... thanks to his strength, bat speed, loft in his right-handed stroke and take-no-prisoners approach," MLB.com wrote while assigning him 60-grade power.
The 23-year-old slugged 35 doubles and 32 home runs last season, successfully making the leap to Double-A in the second half where he posted an .836 OPS with eight doubles and six home runs in 29 games.
There are some red flags, though.
He has a considerable amount of swing-and-miss in his game—fanning 176 times at a 32.4 percent clip in 2018—and that raises concerns over whether he'll make enough contact to consistently tap into his power.
That said, he also walked at a 12.2 percent rate for a solid .361 on-base percentage.
As Rafael Devers is blocking him at the MLB level and is Michael Chavis ahead of him on the developmental ladder, the Red Sox could use Dalbec as the centerpiece of a deal to acquire a controllable starter or late-inning relief help.
SS Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals
2018 Stats (A+/AA)
558 PA, .280/.357/.444, 48 XBH (16 HR), 69 RBI, 84 R
The emergence of shortstop prospect Luis Garcia could open the door for the Washington Nationals to deal another shortstop, Carter Kieboom, this offseason.
Garcia, 18, made his full-season debut last year and opened eyes with a .298/.336/.406 line that included 34 extra-base hits and 12 steals in 127 games between Single-A and High-A.
That performance vaulted him into the leaguewide top-100 conversation and turned the middle infield spots into a position of strength for the Nationals.
With speedster Trea Turner already locked in at shortstop and under control through 2022, using either Kieboom or Garcia as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal to address another long-term area of need makes sense.
A package built around Kieboom has thus far not been enough to pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins.
That said, whether they pivot to another trade target or sweeten the pot, Kieboom still looks like the most likely top Nationals prospect this winter.
RHP Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres
2018 Stats (A+/AA)
17 GS, 7-3, 2.10 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 8 BB, 120 K, 90.0 IP
If the San Diego Padres want to acquire a top-tier starting pitcher this offseason, including Chris Paddack in trade talks might be unavoidable.
Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is untouchable, and the same is likely true of high-ceiling left-hander MacKenzie Gore and presumptive starting second baseman Luis Urias.
That could mean Paddack is the first name out of opposing GM's mouths in any blockbuster trade talks.
The 22-year-old missed the entire 2017 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery but returned with a vengeance to shoot up the organizational rankings in a loaded San Diego system.
While he had a 90-inning cap, he still racked up a ridiculous 120-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He didn't miss a beat following a midseason promotion to Double-A, and he has the stuff to continue to dominate against upper-level competition, as Baseball America explained:
"Paddack excels with a darting 90-95 mph fastball that explodes late through the zone, a plus-plus mid-80s changeup and elite control. His fastball-changeup combination is his bread-and-butter, but his mid-70s curveball has gradually improved to a usable pitch with 12-to-6 shape and decent depth as he's become more consistent with his release point."
Health is the only question mark, and his upside is significant enough that rival teams will happily roll the dice.
CF Everson Pereira, New York Yankees
2018 Stats (Rk)
183 PA, .263/.322/.389, 13 XBH (3 HR), 26 RBI, 21 R
Hot take: Outfielder Everson Pereira has a chance to be just as good—if not better—than fellow New York Yankees farmhand Estevan Florial.
After Pereira held his own as the youngest player in the Appalachian League, Yankees vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring had the following to say about the precocious outfielder while taking with George King of Baseball America: "He is interesting. He hits third in the lineup and is 17 in a league where the average age is (20). What makes him interesting is that a lot of young players have tools, but (in his case) it is fun to watch his baseball IQ. His routes and angles in the outfield are very good. He looks like he is 20 instead of 17."
It's fair to say that while Florial has a higher ceiling, Pereira is more polished and is a safer bet to deliver on his significant upside.
So while he doesn't carry the same name value, Pereira might be the preferred centerpiece by rival front offices in any significant trades the Yankees explore this winter.
Either way, he's one to watch in 2019.
SS Luis Rengifo, Los Angeles Angels
2018 Stats (A+/AA/AAA)
590 PA, .299/.399/.452, 50 XBH (7 HR), 64 RBI, 109 R, 41 SB
The Los Angeles Angels have worked hard to build up a farm system that was far and away the worst in baseball just a few years ago.
An excellent job of drafting has played a big part in that resurgence, but they've also made some astute trades, including the deal that sent C.J. Cron to the Tampa Bay Rays for infielder Luis Rengifo last offseason.
Rengifo, 21, was well off the top prospect radar at the time of the deal.
He tallied 44 extra-base hits and 34 steals in his Single-A debut in 2017, but hit an uninspired .250/.316/.397 in the process. Still, the Angels saw something, and he rewarded them with a breakout campaign.
A solid hit tool and plus speed give him a chance to be an offensive catalyst, and he has the glove to stick at shortstop or move into a super-utility role.
That said, with Andrelton Simmons manning shortstop at the MLB level and fellow prospects Jahmai Jones, Taylor Ward and 2018 rookie David Fletcher also in the infield mix, Rengifo could be viewed as expendable in the team's search for starting pitching help.
He's an underrated prospect who's ready for a shot at the big leagues.
RHP Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves
2018 Stats (AA/AAA)
27 G, 24 GS, 8-9, 3.46 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 51 BB, 133 K, 138.0 IP
The Atlanta Braves have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to high-ceiling pitching prospects.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked the team's top 20 prospects last month while handing out marks. An "A" grade is for elite prospects capable of becoming stars, and a "B" grade is for prospects who have a good chance of enjoying successful careers.
Most teams have a small handful of players—pitchers or otherwise—who fall into either of those two categories. Here's a look at just the pitching prospects who did for the Braves:
- Ian Anderson (A-)
- Mike Soroka (A-/B+)
- Touki Toussaint (B+)
- Kyle Wright (B+)
- Kolby Allard (B+)
- Luiz Gohara (B+)
- Bryse Wilson (B+)
- Kyle Muller (B)
- Joey Wentz (B)
- Tristan Beck (B/B-)
Consolidating some of that minor league talent to acquire a proven top-tier starter would help the Braves, and there's plenty here that will appeal to other teams.
Why Kyle Wright as the most likely to be traded?
His mix of current polish and remaining upside give him the best chance of developing into an impact starter, so he's the speculative pick to garner the most interest from opposing teams.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.