Pipeline Inbox: Constructing an all-prospect starting 9
Is it just me, or has this been a crazy January for trades? We're two weeks into the month and we've already had five significant deals. We have three in the past two Januarys combined.
My rapid-fire take on each transaction:
I'd rather gamble on lefty Manny Banuelos' upside, but I can see why the Yankees sent him to the Braves for some sure middle-relief help in the form of David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve ... Similarly, I'd prefer the lottery ticket the Braves got in lefty Ricardo Sanchez, though third baseman Kyle Kubitza plugs a hole in the Angels' system and could start for the big league club in 2016 ... The trade that sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the A's and John Jaso plus prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell to the Rays makes sense for both sides. Zobrist has been among the game's most productive players, Escobar yielded Tyler Clippard in a subsequent deal with the Nationals and Robertson will be the best player in the deal in the long run (and has a better chance to stay at shortstop than one might think) ... Escobar's defense is declining and he's 32, so I don't see why Washington would sacrifice a valuable reliever to get him ... Evan Gattis is a one-tool guy who faded in the second half last year, so I don't like the Astros giving up right-handers Mike Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman plus third baseman Rio Ruiz to get him from Atlanta. My gut tells me Foltynewicz will be a reliever in the long run, but he might be a closer and Ruiz could be a quality regular.
Now, on to your questions...
Who would be the starters on your all-prospect team?
-- Reed H., Cape Coral, Fla.
The MLBPipeline.com team is busy preparing an updated Top 100 Prospects list for release at the end of January, and the first step in my process is to organize prospects by position. Here's my starting lineup if I had my pick from the entire prospect pool, listed in a batting order:
Byron Buxton, cf, Twins
Joc Pederson, lf, Dodgers
Carlos Correa, ss, Astros
Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs
Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs
Joey Gallo, 1b, Rangers
Blake Swihart, c, Red Sox
Jose Peraza, 2b, Braves
Lucas Giolito, p, Nationals
Gallo has spent almost his entire pro career at third base, but he's not pushing Bryant off the hot corner. I want his power in my lineup, and he's probably going to wind up at first base with Texas. Most of these were easy calls, including Correa at a loaded shortstop position. The toughest choice was taking Giolito over Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias on the mound.
Dylan Bundy (Orioles) or Kyle Zimmer (Royals)? Knowing what we know today, which right-hander do you think is the best bet to reach his enormous upside?
-- Ray I., Vancouver, British Columbia
If all had gone according to plan, Bundy and Zimmer would be established stars by now. But Bundy, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, was waylaid by Tommy John surgery in '13. Zimmer, the fifth overall choice in '12, had bone chips removed from his elbow after his first pro season and his shoulder cleaned up with exploratory surgery this fall.
Bundy missed all of 2013, and his stuff was down when he returned to work 41 1/3 innings in the lower Minors this season. Zimmer barely pitched at all in '14, appearing for just 4 2/3 innings in Rookie ball.
When they're both at full health, Zimmer has more zip ON his fastball and sharper break ON his curveball. He's more athletic, too, but he also has had physical issues in each of his three pro seasons, while Bundy has had just the one setback (albeit a more significant one). I think Bundy has a better chance to reach his ceiling because I think he has a better chance to stay healthy.
Which 2015 Draft prospect has the highest upside, and which is the most MLB-ready?
-- Nathan G., Deer Park, Ill.
Lake Mary (Fla.) High shortstop Brendan Rodgers, who occupies the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's Draft Top 50, has the best ceiling. He has similar offensive potential to Addison Russell (Cubs) and Corey Seager (Dodgers), but more speed and defensive chops. Duke right-hander Michael Matuella (No. 2 on our list) and left-hander Brady Aiken (No. 3) also stand out for the possibility that they could have three plus pitches and solid-or-better command.
Right-hander Walker Buehler (No. 4), one of three early-first-round prospects form Vanderbilt, is the closest to being ready for the big leagues. He may not be very physical at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, but he has a 90-96 mph fastball backed up by a solid curveball, slider, changeup and control. The first position player to reach the Majors likely will be Louisiana State's Alex Bregman, though he faces a move from shortstop to second base.
Who's your favorite sleeper prospect in the Braves system?
-- Jordan F., Darlington, S.C.
I'll give you two answers: My favorite player (who will rank high on our next Braves Top 30 list in March but doesn't get as much hype as he deserves) is shortstop Ozhaino Albies. He's tiny, but he can really hit -- .364/.446/.444 in his 2014 pro debut -- and run, and he has a strong arm.
Albies is regarded well enough that he's not really a sleeper. Right-hander Alec Grosser, an 11th-round pick in 2013 who has yet to make it past Rookie ball, fits the true definition better. He already has a 90-94 mph sinker and a projectable frame that bodes well for more velocity. His slider, control and athleticism are promising as well.