Prospects who could be moved by the July 31 trade deadline
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
Yesterday, we covered which prospects shouldn’t be going anywhere this trade deadline season. Today, we turn our eyes toward which ones could very well be on the move as contenders try to bolster their Major League rosters. This is neither a guarantee nor a prediction that all or any of these Minor Leaguers will be moved before the July 31 deadline. Rather, they’re just some thoughts on players who are good candidates to be traded for a myriad of reasons.
Enough with the disclaimers, onto the potential movers:
Steven Souza Jr., outfielder, Washington Nationals
This trade is just begging to be made.
Souza, the Nats’ No. 14 prospect, is having an MVP-caliber season in the International League. He leads the Triple-A circuit in all three slash-line categories (.371/.449/.615) as well as RBIs (62) through 74 games with Syracuse. The 25-year-old right-handed outfielder has also hit 14 homers and stolen 21 bases. With those numbers — which have gotten even better in July when he has a .458 average and 1.325 OPS in 12 games — it’s no surprise he was a starter and the IL’s No. 3 hitter in Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game.
Based on numbers alone, Souza should be in the Majors right now. Mind you, he received two stints with the big club in April and May and went 1-for-8 across eight games back then. But in a vacuum, those Triple-A stats should be good enough to earn the 2007 third-rounder at least a Major League roster spot.
But there’s, of course, the problem: Souza’s situation in the Nationals system isn’t happening within a vacuum. The big league club has three worthy starters in the outfield in Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. Scott Hairston (.679 OPS) has been serviceable off the bench, and even though Nate McLouth (.562 OPS) hasn’t, he’s signed through 2015. Barring injury, there is no room for Souza on the Major League roster.
That means there might be no better time for the NL East leaders to flip him for, say, a middle reliever. (The Nats, admittedly, don’t have too many holes.) Though Souza’s stats are eye-popping and are promotion-worthy, his realistic role in the Majors remains as a second-division starter or a backup on a good team. He just needs the right situation to realize that Major League potential.
James Ramsey, outfielders, St. Louis Cardinals
This is a similar situation to the one the Nationals find themselves in, except at the Minor League level.
Ramsey, a 2014 Futures Game selection, has thrived in his second go-round in the Texas League, putting up a .302/.383/.535 line with 12 homers and 31 RBIs in 55 games for Double-A Springfield. The Cardinals’ No. 6 prospect is blocked at the Triple-A level, however, by No. 2 prospect Stephen Piscotty (.801 OPS), No. 11 prospect Randal Grichuk (.821 OPS) and veterans Shane Robinson (.331 average) and Thomas Pham (.907 OPS) (a group that included top prospect Oscar Taveras until late June). All four have shown good bats in 2014, and though playing time is difficult to share with only three open spots, none of the four seems like an obvious choice to be the man left out, meaning the 24-year-old Ramsey is left in Springfield.
“I think career-wise, you want to be moving up as fast as you can — you want that opportunity,” Ramsey told MLB.com last Sunday. “But I think there is value in having to learn how to deal with these situations. I want to be in an organization that wins and plays the game the right way. Even if you have to wait longer for that opportunity, I think it will be worth it. … But I also think that the arms I’ve faced in the Texas League, I really would rival them against most leagues you see as far as actual big league ability.”
The Cardinals have been rumored to be on the lookout for starting pitching help, particularly Jake Peavy of the Red Sox, and catching assistance, given the recent thumb injury to All-Star backstop Yadier Molina. (The Twins’ Kurt Suzuki has been mentioned as a possibility there.) As St. Louis tries to negotiate one of these trades, the Cards will likely dip into their outfield depth, and don’t be surprised to see Ramsey, who is a little too old and is performing a little too well for Double-A, to be on his way to a new organization.
Taylor Lindsey, second baseman, Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have been oft-mentioned as buyers this deadline season. Their offense is healthy and churning out 5.09 runs per game, most in the Majors. They trail Oakland by 1 1/2 games, not only for the top spot in the AL West but also the best record in baseball.
To get over that hump, they could use some back-end-of-the-rotation and bullpen help. The Halos have been linked to a trio of Padres hurlers in starters Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross and closer Huston Street. The problem is those guys would require a good package of pieces to be moved by San Diego, and the Angels don’t exactly have the best farm system (in fact, it’s one of the weakest). Top prospect Kaleb Cowart is batting .220 in his second trip to the Texas League, No. 3 prospect Mark Sappington owns a 6.90 ERA in 23 games between Double-A and Class A Advanced and No. 4 prospect Hunter Green hasn’t pitched in 2014.
That leaves No. 2 prospect Taylor Lindsey, No. 5 prospect Jose Rondon (.782 OPS at Class A Advanced Inland Empire) and No. 6 prospect R.J. Alvarez (0.33 ERA, 0.85 WHIP in 21 Double-A appearances) as perhaps the best prospects the Angels have to offer.
We’ll stick to Lindsey here for a few reasons. First, he might be the most attractive piece of the bunch. The 22-year-old second baseman was at the top of many Angels prospect lists last offseason after slugging 17 homers with Arkansas last season and has shown some decent pop with Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a .726 OPS with eight homers in 74 games. His stock hasn’t exactly risen through the first half, but it hasn’t been hurt either. Second, Howie Kendrick will be the Angels’ starting second baseman through 2015. With Kendrick above him and No. 8 prospect Alex Yarbrough (.288/.315/.429 in 94 Double-A games) right behind him, there’s not a huge need to keep Lindsey around for depth purposes.
If the Angels are going to make a big move for pitching, don’t be surprised to see Lindsey’s name included going the other way.
Dalton Pompey, outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays
This is the reward sometimes for a breakout season — you get mentioned in trade rumors. It happened to C.J. Edwards last year when his incredible start to the season in the Rangers system earned him a trade to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal.
Since being taken in the 16th round of the 2010 Draft, Pompey played only 20 games in 2012 due to a broken hand and then was solid at Class A Lansing in 2013, when he batted .261 with a .752 OPS and 38 steals in 115 games. His numbers took a jump across the board this season as he slashed .319/.397/.471 with 29 steals in 70 contests at Class A Advanced Dunedin before he earned a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire in late June. His seven homers this season are already a career best. He participated in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game as a reward for his impressive efforts.
And now his name is one that pops up among trade rumors as the Jays, who sit four games back of the Orioles in the AL East and 2 1/2 behind the Mariners for the final Wild Card spot, look to upgrade their infield, bullpen and perhaps even rotation. As mentioned yesterday in terms of Daniel Norris, Pompey would provide a nice sell-high option for Toronto. But the 21-year-old outfielder’s projected ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Norris’s (or even as high Edwards’s appeared to be at this time last year). If they can get an impact bat or arm for Pompey and some smaller pieces, the Blue Jays may very well chomp at the bit.