Prospects Serve As Key Assets In Winter Moves

It’s been a busy offseason of deals. New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto kept making trade after trade—eight in all since he was hired in September—to remake the periphery of his 25-man roster. And the Braves’ rebuilding effort reached a new level of intensity with the trades of Shelby Miller and Andrelton Simmons.

With that in mind, here’s a ranking of the top 25 prospects who were traded in the last two months of 2015.

1. Dansby Swanson, ss, Braves (acquired from Diamondbacks)

Players of Swanson’s caliber are rarely traded while they are still in the minors. Swanson was traded faster than any No. 1 overall draft pick ever before, thanks to the Trea Turner rule, which changed the time when a drafted player could be traded, from a year after signing to the first day after the World Series of the draft year.

Beyond that, Swanson is considered one of the top 25 prospects in the game, making him arguably the most prominent prospect to be traded since Addison Russell went to the Cubs in 2014’s Jeff Samardzija trade deadline mega-deal.

Swanson is a shortstop with outstanding feel for the game, enough range to stick at the position and the bat to be a significant offensive contributor as well. His strikeout rate in college raises some concerns, but he’s the best combination of high ceiling and low risk as was traded this offseason. Acquiring Swanson in the trio of players acquired for Shelby Miller was a major step in the Braves’ massive rebuilding project. And as an added bonus Swanson is from Marietta, Ga., which is where the Braves will be playing in 2017.

2. Sean Newcomb, lhp, Braves (acquired from Angels)

If Swanson is the low-risk, high-reward pick-up of the offseason for Atlanta, Newcomb fits the general thrust of the Braves’ rebuilding effort as a high-ceiling pitcher who could be a star if everything comes together. But it’s a big if.

Newcomb has front of the rotation stuff with a big fastball (up to 99 mph) and a swing-and-miss curveball. What he doesn’t have yet is control. His command of his fastball wavers. While he’s hard to hit, he’s not so hard to get on base against—in Double-A he gave up more walks (24) than hits (22).

The Braves have a number of extremely high ceiling starting pitchers, including lefthander Kolby Allard and righthander Touki Toussaint. Newcomb’s upside is as high as any of them, and he’s the safest bet of the group to reach the major leagues.

3. Aaron Blair, rhp, Braves (acquired from Diamondbacks)

Aces Ballpark, home of Triple-A Reno, is an awful place for pitchers. Since 2010 just three pitchers have made 10 or more starts in a season with Reno and posted an ERA less than 3.50. Blair posted a 3.16 ERA in 2015. Blair doesn’t rack up a lot of strikeouts but with a heavy fastball and excellent command, he is a nearly big league-ready, middle-of-the-rotation starter who should be in the thick of a crowded Braves rotation mix in spring training.

4. Javier Guerra, ss, Padres (acquired from Red Sox)

The Padres haven’t had a shortstop to build around since Khalil Greene’s collapse as a regular in 2008. Trading away Trea Turner didn’t help either. Guerra, picked up in the four-for-one Craig Kimbrel deal, should fix that problem. He needs some more time in the minors but Guerra is an excellent defender who makes playing shortstop look easy. He also has some offensive potential, although the 15 home runs he hit last year surprised scouts who saw him having more 8-to-10 home run potential.

5. Jose Peraza, 2b, Reds (acquired from Dodgers)

This is the second time that Peraza has been traded in a six-month span as he was also sent to the Dodgers from the Braves in the deadline deal that traded Alex Wood to the Dodgers and Hector Olivera to the Braves. Peraza went to the Reds in the three-team deal headlined by Todd Frazier going to the White Sox. He’s moved a lot but he’s also moved quickly and he reached the big leagues last season as a 21-year-old. Peraza’s game is built around his speed, which is why it’s frustrating that he doesn’t walk more. But if Peraza can keep hitting like he’s hit (.302 career minor league average) he can be a top-of-the-order hitter even without a lot of walks. Defensively there are scouts who believe Peraza could handle shortstop even if his arm action isn’t ideal for the position. As a second baseman, Peraza should be above-average thanks to excellent range.

6. Manuel Margot, of, Padres (acquired from Red Sox)

Margot, another key to the Kimbrel deal, makes center field look easy. He ranges from gap to gap and by 2017 should give the Padres the everyday true center fielder the team lacked last year. Offensively, Margot is extremely difficult to strike out and nearly as tough to walk. Like Peraza, his offensive value is heavily tied to his batting average, but in Margot’s case he lines enough doubles to post solid slugging percentages as well.

7. Mark Appel, rhp, Phillies (acquired from Astros)

Appel has not lived up to the expectations that come with being the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft. At this point it will be hard for Appel to catch Kris Bryant (picked one spot behind Appel), but he does still have a chance to be a solid starting pitcher.

Appel’s stuff looks better than it plays, but even if his 93-95 mph fastball and darting slider get squared up more than one would expect, he’s durable and a change of scenery might help him find the tweak that he needs to become an effective big league starter.

And if he doesn’t? His combo could turn out to be devastating out of the bullpen. Just ask 2006 No. 1 pick Luke Hochevar how that transition turned out.

8. Frankie Montas, rhp, Dodgers (acquired from White Sox)

If you are dreaming on what Montas can be, you can see the big body, the massive fastball (he touches 100 mph) and see a future dominating starter. More realistically, Montas is likely to end up as a big-bodied, hard-throwing reliever. He struggles to throw strikes thanks in part to a long arm action and he’s too reliant on his fastball in his starts. As a reliever Montas could blow hitters away with his fastball and a slider that plays better in shorter stints. He could provide the Dodgers a valuable bullpen piece in 2016.

9. Trayce Thompson, of, Dodgers (acquired from White Sox)

Thompson, the brother of NBA shooting guard Klay Thompson, has long combined power with the ability to play anywhere in the outfield. But he finally demonstrated enough contact ability in 2015 to get to his power consistently. Whether Thompson has the feel for hitting to be an everyday player remains in question, but he’s at least a useful fourth outfielder—a role he could fill in Los Angeles at some point in 2016.

10. Micah Johnson, 2b, Dodgers (acquired from White Sox)

The third piece of the Dodgers’ haul in the three-team trade headlined by Todd Frazier, Johnson wouldn’t be prospect-eligible if his defense were better. But his hands are hard and he struggles to turn double plays, issues that prompted him to spend most of 2015 in Triple-A instead of in Chicago. Johnson still has promise at the plate, with pop and plus-plus speed when he is not battling hamstring injuries. His bat could potentially handle a move to the outfield.


11. Thomas Eshelman, rhp, Phillies (acquired from Astros)
12. Scott Schebler, of, Reds (acquired from Dodgers)
13. Chris Ellis, rhp, Braves (acquired from Angels)
14. Rookie Davis, rhp, Reds (acquired from Yankees)
15. Jonathan Arauz, ss, Astros (acquired from Phillies)
16. Boog Powell, of, Mariners (acquired from Rays)
17. Eric Jagielo, 3b, Reds (acquired from Yankees)
18. Patrick Kivlehan, 1b/of, Rangers (acquired from Mariners)
19. Carlos Asuaje, 2b/3b, Padres (acquired from Red Sox)
20. Ramon Flores, of, Brewers (acquired from Mariners)
21. Zack Erwin, lhp, Athletics (acquired from White Sox)
22. Logan Allen, lhp, Padres (acquired from Red Sox)
23. Luis Cessa, rhp, Yankees (acquired from Tigers)
24. Trey Supak, rhp, Brewers (acquired from Pirates)
25. Caleb Cotham, rhp, Reds (acquired from Yankees)