Each MLB Contender's Most Untouchable Prospect at 2019 Trade Deadline
With Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, 'tis the season for postseason contenders to sacrifice their best young talent at the altar of October glory.
Yet there are some prospects whom sellers shouldn't waste their time even asking about.
We've pinpointed the most untouchable prospect for all 21 contenders—only 14 of whom are legit World Series contenders worthy of special attention—around MLB. Some are simply their organization's bluest chip. Others are lesser yet still talented players who will be needed in the very near future.
We'll begin with a brief run through seven borderline contenders and then it's on to the proper contenders, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
Note: We've used MLB.com's prospect rankings for consistent reference.
Texas Rangers: RHP Hans Crouse
The Rangers probably never were going to trade Hans Crouse, who's their No. 1 prospect, at any point this season. It's especially unlikely now that the upstart energy they had earlier in the year is fading. Dealing ace lefty Mike Minor and other veterans is much more likely.
Los Angeles Angels: OF Jo Adell
The Angels are a long shot to win the AL West and little more than an also-ran in the AL wild-card race. They certainly won't be moving toolsy outfielder Jo Adell. He ranks as baseball's No. 4 prospect now, and he could be lining up alongside Mike Trout by next season.
Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Mitch Keller
Mitch Keller has let the Pirates down in the three starts he's made for them this year. Yet he's still their No. 1 prospect, and their being involved in underwhelming NL Central and wild-card races is no excuse to cash him in.
Cincinnati Reds: OF Taylor Trammell
The Reds are sort of in the same spot as the Pirates. The difference is that they should focus on selling Yasiel Puig and Tanner Roark rather than shopping Taylor Trammell. He's their top prospect and likely their future center fielder.
Arizona Diamondbacks: SS Jazz Chisholm
Unlike many teams in the NL wild-card hunt, the Diamondbacks are at least over .500. They also have a plus-72 run differential that bodes well for the stretch run. Even still, they should risk trading Jazz Chisholm (their No. 1 prospect) only if they know they're getting, say, Trout back in return.
Colorado Rockies: INF Brendan Rodgers
Given that he just had season-ending shoulder surgery, the Rockies probably couldn't trade Brendan Rodgers even if they wanted to. Throw in how they've quickly been falling behind in the NL wild-card race, and they definitely shouldn't want to move their No. 1 prospect.
San Francisco Giants: C Joey Bart
The Giants have been on a nice run of late, but there's still a snowball's chance in heck of them actually going deep into October. Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith should go. Joey Bart, otherwise known as the club's best prospect and the heir apparent to Buster Posey, should stay.
New York Yankees: RHP Deivi Garcia
Record: 62-33, 1st in AL East
The New York Yankees already boast the best record in the American League, yet adding a high-profile arm or two would help straighten their path to a 28th World Series championship.
To this end, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported nobody in the Yankees farm system is untouchable. However, they should be most hesitant to part with Deivi Garcia.
The 20-year-old right-hander is technically only New York's No. 4 prospect, but that perception is dated by now. Garcia has raised his stock throughout a 15-start rise from High-A to Triple-A in which he's racked up a 3.18 ERA and a staggering 120 strikeouts in 73.2 innings.
He is undersized at 5'9", 163 pounds, but those strikeouts haven't come out of nowhere. He hides the ball well with his delivery, and his high-velocity, high-spin fastball is but one of four above-average pitches in his arsenal.
It's not out of the question that Garcia will help the Yankees this season. But if not, he'll definitely be in line to make an impact in 2020.
Tampa Bay Rays: SS Wander Franco
Record: 56-43, 2nd in AL East
It's not in the Tampa Bay Rays' nature to swap out top prospects for short-term help at the major league level. That trend is likely to continue this season despite their standing in the AL playoff picture.
But if ever there was a no-brainer, it's that Wander Franco won't be going anywhere this summer.
Now that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. have lost their prospect eligibility, Franco reigns as the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He's regarded as an elite hitting talent who also has plus power and speed. He's put these tools to use this season by hitting .327/.397/.524 with nine home runs and 18 stolen bases in 78 games at Single-A and High-A.
Oh, and did we mention he's still only 18 years old?
"He's human," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics told ESPN's Jeff Passan, "but sometimes it's tough to tell."
Granted, Franco's youth means his major league debut isn't imminent. But it may not necessarily be that far away either. At the rate he's going, a 2020 debut is within his reach.
Boston Red Sox: 3B/1B Bobby Dalbec
Record: 53-44, 3rd in AL East
The Boston Red Sox's defense of their magical 2018 season has been a major disappointment, but all isn't lost yet. Even after adding Andrew Cashner, they might still be in the market for another arm.
Because the Red Sox's contention window is wide-open, it's doubtful that anyone in their farm system is truly unavailable. It's also not much of a system anyway: We have it ranked as MLB's worst.
Nevertheless, the Red Sox could be glad they held on to Bobby Dalbec. The 24-year-old is neither a top-100 prospect or even Boston's best prospect. Yet he's only becoming more intriguing as he approaches MLB-readiness.
As evidenced by the 32 homers he hit last year, the 6'4", 225-pounder has tremendous power. He's also addressed a swing-and-miss flaw by cutting his strikeout rate from 32.4 percent in 2018 to 25.4 percent at Double-A this year. He also has an .846 OPS and 19 homers, plus a 17.1 percent walk rate.
This gives Dalbec a hint of a Joey Gallo profile. The Red Sox may benefit from it as soon as next year, when Dalbec could round out an infield that already consists of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Michael Chavis.
Minnesota Twins: OF Alex Kirilloff
Record: 59-36, 1st in AL Central
The Minnesota Twins have had first place to themselves since April 27. The Cleveland Indians have been sneaking up, however, and the Twins generally need more for a serious World Series run.
Per La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune, the Twins may prefer to make additions without giving up any of their three best prospects: shortstop Royce Lewis, outfielder Alex Kirilloff and righty Brusdar Graterol.
If they must choose one who's absolutely not for sale, it should be Kirilloff.
Kirilloff is rated as a lesser prospect (No. 13 overall) than Lewis (No. 7 overall), yet there's little question that the latter has lost value amid his difficult season. Kirilloff, 21, has had a tough time in his own right since injuring his wrist in spring training, but he's rebounded with a .313/.369/.473 line since June 1.
Power is all that's been missing from Kirilloff's season, but that likely has more to do with his wrist injury than anything else. The 20 homers he hit in 2018 accounted for less than a third of his 71 overall extra-base hits.
Barring further injury trouble, Kirilloff might start realizing his massive offensive potential for the Twins as soon as next season.
Cleveland Indians: 3B Nolan Jones
Record: 55-40, 2nd in AL Central
Although the Indians are staring down their fourth straight postseason appearance, they may be just as likely to deal from their major league roster as from their farm system.
General manager Mike Chernoff hinted as much to Zack Meisel of The Athletic:
"I also think we're at a different point organizationally, like we were in the offseason, where a lot more of our guys are maturing on their contracts and so, regardless of our competitive position, you explore different things than you otherwise would have."
This probably means that Nolan Jones is staying put. But just in case, we'll emphasize that he should.
Because right-hander Triston McKenzie is still out with a back strain, Jones is the organization's top prospect by default right now. Furthermore, the 21-year-old third baseman has lived up to his billing as a well-rounded hitter with a .286/.429/.442 batting line in 85 games at High-A and Double-A this season.
Come this time next year, Jones might be manning the hot corner in Cleveland in lieu of Jose Ramirez, who could slide over to second base.
Houston Astros: OF/DH Yordan Alvarez
Record: 61-37, 1st in AL West
Yordan Alvarez hasn't logged 130 at-bats in the majors, so he's yet to lose his eligibility as a rookie. Hence why he still appears as the Houston Astros' No. 3 prospect and the No. 11 prospect in all of MLB.
Of course, all this is neither here nor there for any trade partners the Astros might deal with. There's no way any of them are prying Alvarez loose.
The 22-year-old earned his ticket to the majors with a 1.184 OPS and 23 homers at Triple-A this season. He's kept right on hitting with a 1.085 OPS and nine homers in 26 games with the Astros. That production is rooted in an exceptional knack for loud contact, as his 55.6 hard-hit percentage is second to Nelson Cruz.
"His bat is special," veteran ace Justin Verlander said in June, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. "His pitch recognition, his approach at the plate is so far advanced for his age. It's been impressive to watch from Day 1."
The Astros do have needs to fill in the coming weeks, specifically in their starting rotation. But between outfielder Kyle Tucker and right-handers Forrest Whitley and J.B. Bukauskas, they have plenty of other shiny trade chips besides Alvarez to barter with.
Oakland Athletics: LHP Jesus Luzardo
Record: 55-42, 2nd in AL West
The Oakland Athletics have slowly but surely recaptured their mojo from last season's 97-win campaign. And while they could still use some pitching help, it's frankly uncertain whether they'll shop for it.
They've already traded for veteran righty Homer Bailey. Meanwhile, ace left-hander Sean Manaea is on track to return from shoulder surgery in August, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
If they aren't all the help the A's need in their starting rotation, Jesus Luzardo might get his shot.
This is assuming the 21-year-old lefty can stay healthy, which would be a break from the trend that's defined his season. He was sidelined by a shoulder strain until June 11, and he's now missing in action with a lat strain.
On the bright side, Luzardo has shown why he's Oakland's best prospect when he's been able to pitch over the last two seasons. He has plus command of a fastball, curveball and changeup that are all above average. With these tools, he's racked up 154 strikeouts against only 32 walks in the minors since 2018.
If Luzardo doesn't help the A's this year, he certainly will in 2020.
Atlanta Braves: OF Cristian Pache
Record: 58-40, 1st in NL East
The Atlanta Braves have a real chance of winning their first World Series since 1995, so, frankly, there shouldn't be anyone in their outstanding farm system who's truly untouchable.
Save for maybe Cristian Pache.
Although Atlanta's farm system is mainly known for its pitching depth, Pache is a 20-year-old outfielder who looms over the rest of the organization's prospects. He's a talented hitter who also happens to be an elite speedster and a defender with both range and arm strength in his tool belt.
Pache has also been adding power to his list of credentials. He hit zero home runs in his first two professional seasons. He's hit 20 over the last two, including 11 in 89 games at Double-A this season.
"He's got some zip in his bat, but really he's figuring things out as we go here," Mississippi Braves manager Chris Maloney said in June, per MiLB.com's Rob Terranova.
If they aren't already, the Braves should be dreaming of having Pache, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley in their outfield. Such a thing could come to fruition as soon as 2020.
Washington Nationals: INF Carter Kieboom
Record: 51-44, 2nd in NL East
The Washington Nationals couldn't stop losing games earlier in the season. Now they can't stop winning them. They're on a 32-13 run that dates back to May 24.
Nonetheless, the Nationals might approach the trade deadline with caution and simply pursue bullpen depth underneath ace closer Sean Doolittle. That pursuit should cost them neither an arm nor a leg.
All the more reason not to give up their top prospect, Carter Kieboom.
Since 2016, the 21-year-old shortstop's stock has risen on an annual basis as he's established himself as a rare offensive weapon at shortstop. It's certainly peaked this year: He's dominated Triple-A to the tune of a .313/.417/.553 batting line and 14 homers in 74 games.
Kieboom failed to make an impression in 11 games with the Nationals in April and May before getting sent back down. But with third baseman Anthony Rendon and second baseman Brian Dozier slated for free agency at year's end, Kieboom is looking at two potential avenues to a full-time gig in 2020.
Philadelphia Phillies: 3B Alec Bohm
Record: 50-47, 3rd in NL East
The Philadelphia Phillies are hanging in a crowded NL wild-card race, but it's no wonder club president Andy MacPhail doesn't think "we're one trade away from the World Series."
"So, as a result, you're going to have to be more judicious with your playing talent," he continued to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. "It doesn't mean you can't make a different type of deal, doesn't mean you can't make a deal where a component is taking on somebody's salary.”
This can be translated to mean that the Phillies won't be dealing their top prospect, Alec Bohm.
The Phillies' decision to draft Bohm with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft is already looking like a wise one. The 22-year-old has tackled his first full professional season with a .326/.392/.537 batting line and 12 homers in 83 games across three levels, including Double-A.
Bohm still needs to prove he can stick at the hot corner defensively, but he can rest easy knowing the bar for entry at the position in Philadelphia isn't too high. Led primarily by Maikel Franco, Phillies third basemen have combined for only 0.4 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.
If all goes well, Bohm might be a solution to that problem by next season.
Chicago Cubs: SS Nico Hoerner
Record: 52-44, 1st in NL Central
Once the Chicago Cubs signed Craig Kimbrel in June, they seemed to have everything they needed for the stretch run. The ensuing weeks have made it clear this isn't the case.
The Cubs should be willing to do whatever it takes to solidify their position atop the NL Central, whether it means dealing from their major league roster or their farm system. The latter doesn't have a whole lot worth protecting anyway. We have it ranked as the third-worst system in the National League.
Nico Hoerner is a potential exception, however.
The 22-year-old is Chicago's No. 1 prospect somewhat by default, but don't tell him that. He made an immediate impression with a 1.021 OPS in the minors after the Cubs drafted him 24th overall in 2018. A wrist injury in May slowed his ascent this season, but he's still put up a .786 OPS in 31 games at Double-A.
Although Hoerner may never be much of a slugger, his profile is that of an on-base machine who might stick at shortstop or second base. The latter happens to be a position where the Cubs have a need right now, and which figures to still be there in 2020.
Milwaukee Brewers: 2B Keston Hiura
Record: 51-47, 2nd in NL Central
After winning 96 games and going to the National League Championship Series in 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers' 2019 season has gone so awry that they don't seem sure they'll be buying at the deadline.
"We would like to be in a position to add to this team. That is our preference," GM David Stearns said, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. "And I anticipate that's where we are going to be. We're still in evaluative mode. We still have time. But certainly we would like to be in a position to add to the team where appropriate."
If the Brewers do add, they'll certainly look to reinforce a pitching staff that's been thin all season. To boot, it would be like them to target the bigger names on the trade market.
Just don't expect Keston Hiura to go anywhere. The 22-year-old is the No. 12 prospect in baseball right now, but not for long. He's raked with a .320/.383/.594 line and nine homers in 34 big league games. His 29.8 strikeout percentage won't be an issue as long as he keeps the hard contact coming.
In short, Hiura is more than rewarding the Brewers' decision to move on from Travis Shaw. He should remain a fixture at second base for a long time.
St. Louis Cardinals: OF Dylan Carlson
Record: 49-46, 3rd in NL Central
The St. Louis Cardinals have been in a rut ever since their 18-7 outburst in April. The only silver linings are that the NL Central lead is still within reach and that they still have a strong enough core to nab it.
The Cardinals' chances will look even better if they can add an impact starter and/or an impact reliever. Knowing that he probably won't be ready for the majors until 2022, even top prospect Nolan Gorman should be on the table in these pursuits.
The same shouldn't be true of their second-ranked prospect, Dylan Carlson.
The 20-year-old was slow to adapt to professional ball between 2016 and 2018. Now it sure seems like he gets it. Through 86 games at Double-A, he's hit .291/.371/.529 with 16 homers and 13 steals.
"Really honing in and focusing on my approach, that's something I've changed," Carlson said of the difference for him in 2019, per MiLB.com's Sam Dykstra. "Not just my approach, but my plan for the game has changed a little bit. I really try to go up there and have some intent with what I'm doing and do some damage."
Carlson may not help the Cardinals this season, but he'll be in play for 2020 as a potential replacement for Marcell Ozuna (who's a free agent this winter) in left field.
Los Angeles Dodgers: SS/2B Gavin Lux
Record: 64-34, 1st in NL Central
The Los Angeles Dodgers already have a stranglehold on the NL West lead. All they really need to worry about is protecting themselves against a third straight defeat in the World Series.
This will require addressing a bullpen that's thin beneath ace closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers might even want another starter who could stand in for veteran lefty Rich Hill, who's out with a forearm strain.
Which of their prospects should be untouchable? Frankly, none of them. But Gavin Lux should at least be the hardest to get.
He's technically the team's second-best prospect after catcher Keibert Ruiz, yet reality would beg to differ with that. Whereas Ruiz has had something of a difficult year, Lux has dominated with a .347/.407/.609 batting line and 19 homers at Double-A and Triple-A. He's been nigh unstoppable with a .500/.554/1.000 line in 14 games at the latter level.
It's possible that the 21-year-old will be seen in Dodger blue by the end of the year. If not, he'll be in the running to play second base on a regular basis in 2020.