Image credit: Eloy Jimenez (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
Brisk trade deadlines are fun days for fans and nail-biting days for club executives.
That’s one reason why some clubs try to get their shopping done early–get out in front of the market, be pro-active. That’s what the Cubs were able to do when they acquired lefthander Jose Quintana from the crosstown White Sox on July 13, taking the best starting pitcher–in terms of ability, age and club control–off the market.
Acquiring Quintana kick-started the Cubs’ second-half surge to take over first place in the National League Central, but it did not set the trade market, at least in terms of what price teams would have to pay in prospects. It wound up being the high end of the market in prospects, as outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who ranked No. 5 on our Midseason Top 100 Prospects list.
Dylan Cease, also included in the payment to the ChiSox, ranked No. 83 on the Top 100, meaning the Cubs gave up 40 percent the Top 100 prospects traded in the one deal for Quintana. Just five members of the Top 100 were traded–the same number of players as from our 2016 Dominican Summer League Top 20 list.
That tells you what a buyer’s market it became. The White Sox were an active seller that acted early, trading David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier to the Yankees and receiving one Top 100 prospect in outfielder Blake Rutherford. Among sellers, the Sox received three Top 100 prospects, adding to their recent prospect bonanza. Eight of the midseason Top 100 players are White Sox farmhands, with seven of them acquired via trade–starting with No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada.
Acting decisively early recouped better prospects for the Sox. Prices came down the closer it got to the deadline, and the quality of prospects traded fell.
“Early in the trading season, the cost was extremely high on all players,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told BA correspondent Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. “They did come down a little bit in certain areas, to the point where we thought we had some deals done. And they were deals that we were excited about getting over the finish line. But they didn’t happen, and so we move on.”
So does this column, as we rank the prospects traded in July, with big assists from J.J. Cooper, Kyle Glaser and Josh Norris.
1. Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox (via Cubs): Jimenez heads the White Sox’s next wave of prospects, with his hitting ability and power potential both grading as at least plus tools. He’s on the short list of best hitters in the minor leagues and seemed invigorated by the deal, going 21-for-59 (.356) with four homers in his first 17 games with high Class A Winston-Salem.
2. Blake Rutherford, OF, White Sox (Yankees): The 19th overall pick in 2016, Rutherford did not hit for power with low Class A Charleston prior to the trade, with just two homers in 307 at-bats. He’s in a more favorable ballpark now with low Class A Kannapolis, so let’s see if the power evinces itself more.
3. Willie Calhoun, 2B/OF, Rangers (Dodgers): A deal to an American League club should help the defensively-challenged Calhoun, whose bat is an asset. The 5-foot-8, 187-pounder is a unique profile in many ways, including his ability to make consistent hard contact. He had just 49 strikeouts in his first 373 at-bats.
4. Dylan Cease, RHP, White Sox (Cubs): Cease has made the jump to full-season ball this year with aplomb, striking out 12.5 per nine innings and averaging just more than five innings per start. Scouts remain mixed on whether the slender but athletic 6-foot-2 righty can remain a starter long-term.
5. Dustin Fowler, OF, Athletics (Yankees): Oakland’s haul in the Sonny Gray trade was fascinating because Fowler (knee) and righty James Kaprielian (elbow) are damaged, while tooled-up infielder Jorge Mateo has mixed performance to go with instances where he rubbed Yankees officials the wrong way. If healthy, Fowler is the safest bet with a solid across-the-board toolset, though his lack of a true plus leaves him short of five-tool status.
6. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics (Nationals): Just a gut feel here, but Luzardo had a chance to be a first-rounder before Tommy John surgery as a prep senior. He’s returned with power stuff, including a mid-90s fastball, plus curve and a changeup that could be a 70-grade pitch. Oakland got him in the deal that sent Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to Washington’s beleaguered bullpen.
7. James Kaprielian, RHP, Athletics (Yankees): Prior to Tommy John surgery, Kaprielian was a Top 100 prospect, but the risk is significant considering he missed nearly all of 2016 to go with all of ’17.
8. Jorge Mateo, SS/OF, Athletics (Yankees): Billy Beane said that Oakland is in a full rebuild, and the organization needs to hit on some of these prospects. Mateo has premium speed and surprising power, but he’s frustrated the Yankees with a lack of maturity, is an inefficient basestealer at times and doesn’t draw a ton of walks. He’s a boom-or-bust guy.
9. Tyler O’Neill, OF, Cardinals (Mariners): Acquired for fellow prospect Marco Gonzales, O’Neill still has strikeout issues but has undeniable righthanded power. Don’t be surprised if fellow Canadian Stubby Clapp, his manager now at Triple-A Memphis and an accomplished hitting coach, unlocks his talent.
10. Isaac Paredes, SS, Tigers (Cubs): Paredes is a middle infielder who can hit; scouts have compared him to the likes of Jhonny Peralta on the high end to Mike Aviles. If he can stick at shortstop long-term, he can be an impact player.
Best Of The Rest
11. Merandy Gonzalez, RHP, Marlins (Mets): The Mets were expected to be sellers, but instead they bought Marlins closer A.J. Ramos and gave up Gonzalez, a physical prospect whose command has taken a step forward in his first full season.
12. Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Blue Jays (Astros): Still just 24, Hernandez has some big league time and could soon boost Toronto’s offensively-challenged outfield, capable of playing all three spots.
13. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Tigers (Cubs): Candelario should challenge Nicholas Castellanos for Detroit’s everyday third base job and could push him back to the outfield.
14. Dawel Lugo, 3B, Tigers (Diamondbacks): Lugo has given up shortstop but gives Detroit another infield option with some pop.
15. A.J. Alexy, RHP, Rangers (Dodgers): An above-slot 11th-round pick in 2016, the 19-year-old Alexy has missed a lot of low Class A Midwest League bats with an 89-93 mph fastball with good life, as well as an effective curveball with plus potential.
16. Brayan Hernandez, OF, Marlins (Mariners): Acquired in the deal that sent David Phelps to Seattle, Hernandez originally signed for $1.85 million in 2014 but still had yet to reach full-season ball for more than a three-game cameo. He has athleticism and has hit when he’s played, and needs time to develop and stay healthy.
17. Ryan Cordell, OF, White Sox (Brewers): Cordell has had an inconsistent pro career, but at his best, he can hit and play all over the field, and he’s played third base and all three outfield spots this year.
18. Marco Gonzales, LHP, Mariners (Cardinals): Healthy again after elbow surgery, Gonzales has thrived in Triple-A but was hit hard in a brief big league look, highlighting the small margin for error his below-average velocity affords.
19. Sheldon Neuse, 3B, Athletics (Nationals): College infielders who can hit often move quickly, and Neuse is starting to, leaping to the California League since being included in the Doolittle trade. The 2016 second-rounder has started tapping into his power as a pro and has plenty of arm strength, profiling well at third base.
20. Shaun Anderson, RHP, Giants (Red Sox): The former Florida Gators closer already has surpassed 100 innings in his first season as a starter, more than double his 2016 combined college-pro workload.
21. Brandon Miller, RHP, Marlins (Mariners): Miami fortified a poor farm system with the Phelps trade; Miller instantly becomes one of the Marlins’ top pitching prospects.
22. Thomas Pannone, LHP, Blue Jays (Indians): It’s not ‘wow’ stuff, but Pannone has a stellar strikeout-to-walk rate and has Double-A success.
23. Ian Clarkin, LHP, White Sox (Yankees): Drafted ahead of Aaron Judge in 2013, Clarkin must stay healthy but has started to show a solid mix, and he’s lefthanded.
24. Sergio Alcantara, SS, Tigers (Diamondbacks): Another injury-prone player, Alcantara has defensive chops at a premium position and some bat-to-ball skills.
25. Brendon Davis, SS, Rangers (Dodgers): Former prep teammate of J.P. Crawford is more body control than quick-twitch but has raw power potential thanks to his long levers.
26. Tyler Watson, LHP, Twins (Nationals): Traded for Brandon Kintzler, Watson has good size at 6-foot-5 and still throws a lot of strikes, with angle.
27. A.J. Puckett, RHP, White Sox (Royals): The former Pepperdine star hasn’t had sharp stuff as a pro, so the White Sox are banking on his athleticism to help him rediscover the firmness he had with the Waves.
28. Oneil Cruz, SS/3B, Pirates (Dodgers): Just 18, Cruz is also 6-foot-6 and still growing into his lanky frame. He’s a lefthanded hitter who may outgrow the dirt but has made some adjustments in the low Class A Midwest League.
29. Esteury Ruiz, 2B, Padres (Royals): It’s all about the bat for Ruiz, an offensive second baseman who got off to a scorching start in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
30. Jose King, SS, Tigers (Diamondbacks): King may wind up at second base, but his speed makes him a prospect worth tracking. He likely will need two years before he reaches full-season ball.
High-Risk Starters And Potential Relievers
At this point, the balance between risk and reward has clearly flipped. Historically only 20 percent of prospects traded around the deadline end up being productive big league regulars. Most of these players will fall short of that goal, but there will be a few gems. Consider these realistic best-case scenarios a rosy look at what the player could be.
31. Zack Littell, RHP, Twins
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Back-of-rotation starter.
32. Jose Gomez, 2B/SS, Phillies
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Second baseman who hits for average and slides to short on occasion
33. Drew Smith, RHP, Mets
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Seventh/eighth-inning reliever
34. J.D. Hammer, RHP, Phillies
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Hard-throwing sixth/seventh-inning reliever.
35. Gabriel Moya, LHP, Twins
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Valuable innings-eating reliever
36. Gerson Bautista, RHP, Mets
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Hard-throwing seventh/eighth-inning reliever
37. Stephen Nogosek, RHP, Mets
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Reliever who piles up strikeouts and walks.
38. Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Braves
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Power seventh/eighth-inning reliever.
39. Tyler Webb, LHP, Brewers
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Matchup lefty reliever.
40. Jamie Callahan, RHP, Mets
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Major league middle reliever.
41. Casey Gillaspie, 1B, White Sox
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Low average, slugging second-division first baseman
42. Garrett Cooper, 1B, Yankees
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Up-and-down first baseman who gets 200-300 at-bats.
43. Pablo Lopez, RHP, Marlins
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Fifth starter/middle reliever.
44. Gregory Santos, RHP, Giants
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Shot at a future big league starter in six years.
45. Alejandro Requena, RHP, Phillies
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Touch-and-feel Triple-A starter who fills in at big league level.
46. Angel German, RHP, Pirates
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: 100-mph setup man.
47. Dietrich Enns, LHP, Twins
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Lefty specialist out of the bullpen.
48. Samad Taylor, SS, Blue Jays
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Hit-first utility infielder.
Let’s Play Lotto
This group consists of players who are either close to the majors, but with flaws that likely keep them from significant big league roles, or low-level minor leaguers whose risk is so high as to make them unlikely bets to reach the big leagues. Someone from this group will likely exceed expectations, but as a whole the vast majority will not.
49. Ricardo Cespedes, OF, Marlins
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Table-setter who probably fits best as a fourth outfielder.
50. McKenzie Mills, LHP, Phillies
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Changeup-heavy lefty, up-and-down starter.
51. Hendrik Clementina, C, Reds
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Bat-first catcher whose glove develops enough to stick behind plate.
52. Matt Rose, 1B, White Sox
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Quadruple-A slugger who gets some big league at-bats.
53. Bryant Flete, 2B, White Sox
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Fill-in big league middle infielder.
54. Tito Polo, OF, White Sox
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Fill-in big league outfielder when injuries arise.
55. Lukas Schiraldi, RHP, Marlins
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Sixth-seventh inning reliever who combines wildness and strikeouts.
56. Garrett Cleavinger, LHP, Phillies
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Wild lefty reliever who racks up strikeouts.
57. Tobias Myers, RHP, Rays
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Useful fastball/curveball reliever.
58. Luis Madero, RHP, Angels
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Low-leverage relief pitcher
59. Tayler Scott, RHP, Rangers
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Up-and-down big league reliever.
60. Andre Davis, LHP, White Sox
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Up-and-down lefty reliever.
61. Jeferson Mejia, RHP, Athletics
Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Up-and-down reliever who gets a few big league innings.