Prospects who could be on the move come July 31
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
Earlier this month, I looked at the prospects I believe aren’t going anywhere come the July 31 Trade Deadline. Now that we’re just over one week away from one of the most exciting dates on the MLB calendar, here’s a look at some prospects that could be on the move between now and then. (Disclaimer: These are just thoughts and not at all guarantees that Prospect A will be moved.)
Tyler Skaggs, Arizona: We’ll start with by far the biggest name on this list. Skaggs, who was a fixture at the top prospect spot in the D-backs’ prospect list before “graduating” earlier this month, has already been traded once in his pro career — as the player to be named later in the 2010 deal that sent Dan Haren to the Angels — but I wouldn’t be surprised if the left-hander is moved again. The 22-year-old has been touch-and-go in both the Majors (2-1, 4.03 ERA in five starts) and Minors (6-6, 4.30 in 14 appearances between Triple-A Reno and Class A Advanced Visalia) this season, but because of age and potential, his stock remains quite high, meaning now might be the time to bite.
I’m not saying the D-backs should actively shop Skaggs this Deadline season. In fact, they’ve flat-out denied any interest in letting him go, although how often have we heard that story. If the right blockbuster deal is on the table though — think Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs — Skaggs could be on the move once more.
Mike Olt/C.J. Edwards/Neil Ramirez, Texas: These come straight from the headlines. Multiple outlets have reported that the Rangers and Cubs were discussing a deal for right-hander Matt Garza. Rumors began flying about who Chicago would get in return, although talks apparently broke down when the Cubs became concerned with the health of an unnamed prospect they’d receive. Still, these were the three most often discussed as the key prospect pieces heading Chicago’s way.
Olt, who is coming around at Triple-A Round Rock after early struggles caused by an eye issue, is listed by MLB.com as the Rangers’ top prospect but is obviously blocked at the hot corner by three-time All-Star Adrian Beltre. Although he’s been tried in the outfield and at first before, he hasn’t played another position outside third this year for the Express, so his role within the organization might be only as trade bait. The Cubs, who have used Luis Valbuena (.236/.345/.394) at third this season, would be a nice fit for his services.
On the other hand, Edwards would be another “strike while the iron is hot” candidate. Drafted in the 48th round in 2011, the 21-year-old right-hander has dominated the South Atlantic League this season, posting a 1.83 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 122 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings for Class A Hickory without allowing a home run. He has yet to be tested by the upper levels, but the numbers as they stand are quite encouraging. Chicago could certainly use pitching depth in the Minors pool, and Edwards could provide that and then some, even if his ETA isn’t for a few more years.
Ramirez could be the one where there were some hangups on the Cubs’ end. Texas’ No. 14 prospect had issues — among a laundry list of other struggles — with his back last season, when he went 8-13 with a 6.28 ERA and 1.40 WHIP between Round Rock and Double-A Frisco. He’s been much better for the RoughRiders this season (3.68 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, increase from 7.9 K/9 to 11.0), but he’s also had problems with his shoulder. If the Cubs (or another team) decide they want to look past those problems, the 24-year-old right-hander is certainly a candidate to be moved, now that the on-the-field results appear to be back.
Kolten Wong, St. Louis: Like Olt above, Wong finds himself blocked at second base in the Cardinals organization. Fresh off finishing a solid rookie season, Matt Carpenter has taken his game to another level this season with a .325 average (fifth-highest in the NL) and a senior circuit-leading 31 doubles. Wong — St. Louis’ No. 3 prospect — has held his own for Triple-A Memphis with a .301/.359/.464 slash line and 13 steals so far en route to a Futures Game nod last week. The University of Hawaii product could have broken down the door to his Majors debut by this point but hasn’t because of Carpenter’s All-Star contributions. With that, he could be a key piece that that the Cards are willing to let go of come the end of the month.
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh: Imagine that. The Pirates might be the most well-equipped to make a big move this Trade Deadline season. Alright alright, they were one of the teams to make a fairly big trade last year when they acquired Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. But it still feels a little weird to call the Bucs buyers at this point, right? With that in mind, the team was one of the most prominently named in the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes that have seemingly ended. With the need for a right fielder still remaining — Travis Snider just isn’t cutting it — Alex Rios could be a different target.
What it takes to get him remains to be seen, but a package based around Polanco wouldn’t be out of the question. The 21-year-old center fielder broke out at Class A West Virginia last year, and a .312/.364/.472 slash line with 24 steals in 57 games for Class A Advanced Bradenton impressed the Pirates enough that they moved him up to Double-A Altoona. He’s ranked right now as Pittsburgh’s No. 4 and MLB.com’s No.52 overall prospect. That could be enough to get Rios or some sort of equivalent, especially if the other side eats some of the contract. An outfielder of the future for a steady outfielder of the present — not a bad trade for the Pirates in their pursuit of that elusive playoff spot.
Joey Terdoslavich, Atlanta: Justin Upton. B.J. Upton. Jason Heyward. Despite the struggles of the latter two this season, this seems to be the Braves outfield of the long-term future, leaving Terdoslavich on the outside looking in for a starting spot. The 24-year-old switch-hitter, who ranks as the Braves’ No. 14 prospect, ranked among the International League leaders with a .318 average, .926 OPS, 18 homers and 58 RBIs for Triple-A Gwinnett before being called up to Atlanta when Jordan Schafer hit the DL earlier this month. The sixth-round pick from the 2010 Draft, who has played in left, right and first base with the Braves, may never look better to potential suitors than he does right now, and Atlanta might be wise to cash in.
Drake Britton, Boston: Britton, whose year didn’t get off to a great start when he was arrested for a DUI in Spring Training, put together a fine half-season at Double-A Portland, going 7-6 with a 3.51 ERA in 17 appearances (16 starts). The 24-year-old southpaw moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he gave up five runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings during his debut. Despite his struggles in that one game, the Red Sox moved him to the big club just before the All-Star break with the idea of him joining the relief corps. (He allowed just one hit and one walk over two scoreless innings against the Yankees the past two days, the first time he’s ever worked back-to-back days.)
Still, that smells very much like an audition for potential suitors. Between names like Barnes, Webster, De La Rosa, Owens, Ranaudo and Workman, the Red Sox have an abundance of potential Major League arms in the system, so they can deal from a position of strength when they go looking for additional bullpen arms, beyond the recently acquired Matt Thornton or even starting pitching, if it looks like Clay Buchholz will be out longer than expected. Britton, who hadn’t posted a season ERA below 4.00 since 2010 entering this season, could be the one they are most likely to let go.