What top prospects who seem to be blocked at the MLB level will be moved?
This past week Major League Baseball held their annual amateur draft. Over the next three to five years some of those players will break through to make their debut in the Majors. For some it will be with the team who drafted them, while for others it will be with a team who may have traded for them; because not all prospects’ paths to the big leagues are the same.
It got me thinking about the 2018 season, and the MLB trade deadline that’s fast approaching; only six weeks away. Some players in the last year of their contracts, who are on bad teams, (Josh Donaldson: Toronto Blue Jays and Manny Machado: Baltimore Orioles), will be traded before July 31st. There are other teams who are in contention, in need of that one extra piece to get over the top. It is those teams who are typically stocked at the big league level, with prospects languishing in the Minors; and no chance to crack through. It is players on those teams I’m focusing on.
Clint Frazier, New York Yankees: There’s just no room on the Yankees roster for Frazier. The youngster was acquired by the Yankees in a deal for Andrew Miller in 2016. He’s still only 23 years old and should have a nice career in front of him…on some other team. He has consistently put up double digit home runs and stolen double digit bases in his four year minor league career. The Yankees’ pitching staff was already sketchy, but losing Jordan Montgomery for the year has made their situation more dire and urgent. Using Frazier as a trade chip to a team like the Rangers who have Cole Hamels, makes perfect sense. It could be the type of move that can jump-start a young player’s career.
Justus Sheffield, New York Yankees: Sheffield is MLB’s 40th top prospect, and by all accounts a beast. The 22 year-old lefty possesses terrific stuff, and was part of the same Andrew Miller deal that sent Frazier to the Yankees. He is zipping through the minors and on another team, would probably be called up. But the Yankees can’t afford to put him in their rotation for any extended period of time. He, like Frazier will serve the Yankees as trade bait.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 9, 2018
Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros: The Houston Astros certainly don’t need any more starters; their rotation is the best in baseball. That being said, the defending champs are not a perfect team, and will surely look to bolster their team before July 31st. They will surely look to improve their bullpen, and possibly add another bat. This seventh-ranked prospect has been slowed by a 50-game suspension for violating Minor League’s drug policy, but that’s the only thing that will slow this 6’7” giant. He has a plus curveball to go along with a wipeout 97 mile per hour fastball. Someone like Kansas City’s closer Kelvin Herrera could be snagged.
Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros: As great as Houston’s lineup is, they haven’t been the same juggernaut they were last season. Marwin Gonzalez has been pedestrian at best, and first baseman Yuli Gurriel only has one home run. They could use another experienced bat. Tucker will be able to provide that through a trade. Tucker is the 14th ranked prospect in baseball and at 21 years old is on the cusp of breaking through, just not the Astros. A team like the Orioles, who have Adam Jones and Zac Britton in the last years of their contracts, could look to rebuild with a talent like Tucker.
Victor Robles, Washington Nationals: This is the last hurrah for the Nationals. Bryce Harper is in the last year of his contract and will undoubtedly be going on to greener pastures next season, and Max Scherzer doesn’t want to waste his third consecutive Cy Young season. But we’ve seen this movie before. Management has tried in the past to no avail. They’ll pull out all the stops to get the Nationals to the promised land this year in Harper’s final season in Washington. They’ve tried to bolster their bullpen, but that wasn’t enough. Robles is the team’s best prospect, and MLB’s fourth best prospect. At only 21, he’s zipped through the Minors and is already at Triple-A. He’s never stolen less than 22 bases in his minor league career, and will get the Majors mainly because of his legs.
Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians: Mejia is an above-average catcher who compares nicely to Buster Posey. He had an amazing 50-game hitting streak in 2016, to go with an incredible OPS over .900. At 22 years old he’s already at Triple-A, and will be the cornerstone for some team for many years to come. Although it will be tough for the Indians to part with their top prospect, their window to win a World Series is closing and they should do whatever they can to maximize their opportunity. They’ve shown a willingness to trade prospects in the past, dealing Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier.
Sixto Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are way ahead of schedule, and have a legitimate chance to make the post-season. With the emergence of Aaron Nola, to go along with an improved Vincent Velasquez, and veteran leadership from recently signed Jake Arrieta, their future is now. Because of the strong rotation, management may have decided their top pitching prospect is expendable. He’s exactly the type of player the Orioles would want in a package for Manny Machado.
Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers top ranked outfielder is reminiscent of Red Sox left fielder, Andrew Benintendi. He has a fantastic stroke and is a pure hitter. He has enough speed to get double digit steals, and has consistently hit over .300 at every level so far. He’s batting .318 at Triple-A this season, to go along with a .358 OBP. Similar to the Phillies, Machado would look good in a Dodgers uniform in the second half of the year, and Verdugo would be a great starting piece for them to offer the Orioles.
These eight players are mired in their current team’s minor league systems. Some don’t ever stand to crack the Majors with the teams they’re currently with. Look for most, if not all of them to be traded to other teams before the trade deadline. Realistically any team who trades for these players will bring them up to the Majors at some point this season. You should be preparing to add them at some point or expect to promote them on your keeper rosters.
Clint Frazier Featured Image: (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)