Top MLB Prospects Who Could Move During the 2018 Winter Meetings Frenzy

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2018

Top MLB Prospects Who Could Move During the 2018 Winter Meetings Frenzy

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The 2018 MLB winter meetings kicked off Sunday in Las Vegas. Major trades will almost surely be consummated in the coming days. 

    Marquee players will change uniforms and grab headlines. But top prospects may also switch affiliations, and that deserves our attention as well.

    Here's a look at eight of the highest-rated MiLB chips (based on MLB.com's top-50 ranked names) who could plausibly move during the Vegas conclave.

    This is based on recent rumors, the needs and perceived buyer/seller status of each club and a healthy dollop of gut feeling.

OF Estevan Florial, New York Yankees

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Prospect Rank: No. 45

    The New York Yankees are in the market for starting pitching, even after acquiring James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners for a package headlined by top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield.

    The Yanks could get right-hander Trevor Bauer from the Cleveland Indians for a "bargain price" if they're willing to take on second baseman Jason Kipnis and the minimum $17.2 million he's owed through 2020, per SNY's John Harper

    If the Yanks don't want to burden themselves with the 31-year-old Kipnis, who hit a scant .230 last season, they could dangle an enticing prospect such as outfielder Estevan Florial.

    The 21-year-old has an enviable combination of speed and power that should pique Cleveland's interest. Losing him would sting, but Bauer posted a 2.21 ERA with 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018 and would instantly bolster New York's starting corps. 

OF Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Prospect Rank: No. 42

    The Houston Astros addressed their catching deficiency by signing Robinson Chirinos to a one-year deal and pairing him with Max Stassi. 

    They still need starting pitching, however, with Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton on the market and Lance McCullers Jr. lost to Tommy John surgery.

    The 'Stros could go the trade route and seek an arm such as the Indians' Trevor Bauer or, say, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Robbie Ray. If so, they're unlikely to dangle top position-player prospect Kyle Tucker or top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley.

    Instead, Houston could build a package around powerful Cuban Yordan Alvarez, who posted a .904 OPS in the minors last season and ascended as high as Triple-A.

    Alvarez should be moved only for a top-of-the-rotation arm, but he's an enticing-yet-expendable chip.

RHP Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Prospect Rank: No. 34

    The Atlanta Braves blossomed ahead of schedule and won the National League East in 2018. They've got tons of young talent at the big league level and one of the best farm systems in the game.

    In other words: They're in a premium position to improve the big league roster and vault from up-and-comer to the NL's elite. 

    The Braves could use a postseason-tested ace such as the San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner, assuming San Francisco makes him available. In exchange, they could offer a host of scintillating minor league hurlers, including right-hander Ian Anderson. 

    In 24 starts between High-A and Double-A, Anderson posted a 2.49 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 119.1 innings and held opponents to a .199 average. Like another Atlanta pitching prospect we'll discuss shortly, he's got ace-level potential. 

OF Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Prospect Rank: No. 32

    The Los Angeles Dodgers retained ace Clayton Kershaw and boast a deep starting rotation. But you can never have too much pitching. 

    L.A. also has a crowded outfield depth chart and is a perfect fit for top free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper. 

    Add it up, and you've got a logical trade piece: outfielder Alex Verdugo. 

    Verdugo hit .329 at Triple-A and slashed .260/.329/.377 during a 37-game MLB audition in 2018. The 22-year-old would be a prime target for any number of clubs seeking controllable talent. 

    Bradford Doolittle of ESPN.com suggested Verdugo could be sent to San Francisco for Madison Bumgarner. That's far-fetched given the two clubs' bitter rivalry, even with former Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi now serving as the Giants' president of baseball operations. 

    But if the Dodgers are going to cash in a high-level prospect in Las Vegas, it may well be Verdugo.

2B Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Prospect Rank: No. 30

    The Milwaukee Brewers might be in the market for an ace after their starting rotation posted a ho-hum 3.92 ERA in 2018. And they might be looking for a catcher, too. 

    As The Athletic's Jim Bowden reported, the Brewers are in on Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who emerged as arguably the best backstop in the game last season.

    If Milwaukee wants to make a serious play for Realmuto or a top-tier arm, it will have to cough up second baseman and top prospect Keston Hiura. 

    The 22-year-old hit .293 with an .821 OPS between High-A and Double-A last year, and he possesses plus bat speed and solid defensive ability at the keystone sack. 

    He probably wouldn't be enough by himself to net Realmuto or a Trevor Bauer-type pitcher, but he'd be a great starting point. 

RHP Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Prospect Rank: No. 29

    As mentioned, the Braves should be on the hunt for a bona fide No. 1 starting pitcher as well as possible reinforcements in the bullpen and outfield.

    Right-hander Kyle Wright might be the club's highest-upside pitching prospect and should be moved only in a game-changing blockbuster.

    The 23-year-old rose to Triple-A Gwinnett last season, where he posted a 2.51 ERA, and he made his MLB debut in September. With a fastball that touches the high 90s and a plus curveball and power slider, he's got the repertoire of a future ace.

    Again, Atlanta should only consider trading him for a massive haul, but all chips should be on the table for the burgeoning Braves. 

C Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Prospect Rank: No. 26

    The San Diego Padres are a rebuilding team with sights set on the future. So it makes little sense to trade elite prospects...right?

    Maybe. But the Padres have reportedly kicked the tires on top trade targets, including New York Mets right-hander and Norse god lookalike Noah Syndergaard, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. 

    The Mets' recent acquisition of veteran second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners seemingly lowers the chances of New York dealing Syndergaard. But the Padres' reported interest shows they're willing to trade from a loaded farm system that Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked No. 1 in the game.

    It's nearly impossible to imagine San Diego swapping shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. or southpaw Mackenzie Gore. That said, they could consider trading catcher Francisco Mejia.

    Mejia, whom the Friars acquired from the Cleveland Indians at the 2018 trade deadline for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, would only be in play for a Syndergaard-level piece. 

    He hit .293 with an .809 OPS between the Padres' and Indians' Triple-A affiliates last season and has dipped his toe into the MLB waters in 32 games spread over 2017 and 2018. He's also theoretically blocked behind the dish by 26-year-old Austin Hedges.

    The Pads shouldn't trade Mejia unless the return is rich, but they could entertain the notion for the right price.

RHP Sixto Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Tom E. Puskar/Associated Press

    Prospect Rank: No. 21

    The Philadelphia Phillies have ample young talent at the MLB and MiLB level. They've shown their willingness to deal by acquiring All-Star shortstop Jean Segura and others from the Seattle Mariners. 

    They also have payroll flexibility, meaning their next play could be to sign a marquee free agent such as infielder Manny Machado. 

    Or, they could go the trade route to buttress the starting rotation, infield or another area of need.

    If that's the option they choose, they may roll out top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who can tickle triple digits with his fastball and posted a 2.51 ERA at High-A in 2018.

    According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, the Phils "briefly discussed" Sanchez with the Mariners before settling on a package headlined by infielder J.P. Crawford. 

    That doesn't mean Sanchez will be traded, but it means he's not on Philadelphia's no-fly list.

            

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and MLB.com.