Pipeline Inbox: Prospects take the spotlight in Nashville

December 8th, 2023

While there might not have been the kind of non-stop fireworks in terms of trades and signings some were hoping for at the Winter Meetings, there was still plenty to talk about in Nashville, especially from a prospect perspective. A review:

And while it didn’t become official until the Winter Meetings were wrapping up, the Juan Soto trade did net the Padres five players, including two prospects.

So there’s plenty to talk about, and there were plenty of questions for this week’s MLB Pipeline Inbox. Let’s dig in.

If you had to choose the top 3 picks based on best fit, then who do you see the Guardians, Reds and Rockies taking? – @StevieDAles97

We answered this one on this week’s MLB Pipeline Podcast, so be sure to give it a listen. Jim Callis and I went in slightly different directions, trying to look more at what teams tend to do in the Draft and not necessarily their needs or fits. And I think we both agree that teams at the top will pick who they think is the best player more often than not. Here’s what the two of us came up with (listen to the pod for the analysis):

1. Guardians: JJ Wetherholt, SS/2B, West Virginia
2. Reds: Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest
3. Rockies: Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest

1. Guardians: Kurtz
2. Reds: Wetherholt
3. Rockies: Charlie Condon, OF, Georgia

Do you think it is likely that Jackson Chourio starts the year in the Majors? -- @warblingsomeone

In a word, yes.

It’s pretty clear the Brewers think so too. You don’t sign a teenager to that kind of contract without thinking he’s ready to step up to the big stage and everything the Brewers said upon announcing the signing pointed to him being their Opening Day center fielder. Now, if for some reason, it’s decided he could use a little more time in Triple-A after playing just six games there, that shouldn’t be seen as any kind of failure. Just like the Brewers believed Chourio could handle the pressure of a record-setting contract, they’ll assuredly have faith he can handle the need to get a touch more seasoning before coming up for good. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing Chourio have a good Spring Training while turning 20 and being in the lineup from Day 1, giving Milwaukee the chance to have its first Rookie of the Year since Devin Williams in 2020 and collect a coveted PPI Draft pick as a result.

Hindsight being 20/20 … if Brian Cashman knew he was going to give in and give up Drew Thorpe, Michael King, Jhony Brito and Randy Vazquez to get Juan Soto, might the Yankees have considered protecting Mitch Spence, Matt Sauer, and Carson Coleman? -- @SethTweets

Considering that at the time they had to make roster decisions, they didn’t feel Spence, Sauer and Coleman were worthy of a spot on the 40-man, I’m not sure they would have made a different choice had they made the Soto trade ahead of that roster deadline. Spence and Coleman weren’t on the Yankees’ Top 30 at the time of the Rule 5 and Sauer was at the tail end of the list. I wonder if the Yankees feel those arms aren’t going to stick on their new teams (the A’s, Royals and Rangers) and that they’ll get them back in the fold.

Coleman is going to miss most, if not all, of the 2024 season anyway, which might give him a better chance of sticking with the Rangers for now because they can stash him on the injured list. Sauer has had a history of injuries, but misses bats. I think he’s a reliever, though the Royals feel he has a chance to start and they could bring him along like they did with former Rule 5 pick Brad Keller. Spence threw more innings than anyone in the Minor Leagues last year, so he’s durable. He has average stuff across the board, so the ceiling is a little limited.

So yes, in totality, that’s a lot of arms to see leave. But the Yankees’ decision to not protect Spence, Sauer and Coleman points to them not really thinking they were going to contribute to the big league team. We all know the Yankees have the financial wherewithal to cover holes in the system until they can restock. And while it might seem like a lot to pay for one year of Juan Soto, keep in mind that giving him a year in New York gives them a year to build a relationship and get a leg up on competition to sign him to a new deal for 2025 and beyond.

How gutted should the D-backs be about Deyvison De Los Santos and what does it say about the system that he was the D-backs' No. 5 prospect and now is the Guardians' No. 12? -- @jmcdearmont01

Not at all.

First, a note about the rankings. By this point, our 2023 rankings are a little bit dated, last updated in August. There’s a chance De Los Santos would have moved down the D-backs list in our preseason 2024 re-rank, so when looking at where a prospect goes when he changes hands at this time of year, it might be a better reflection of that prospect’s evaluation. Remember, the D-backs didn’t protect De Los Santos and that does matter.

I’m also guessing the D-backs felt that while De Los Santos’ power is real (42 homers over the past two seasons), so are the swing-and-miss/approach concerns after a year in Double-A in which he posted a 125/25 K/BB ratio. The hope is that either he wouldn’t get taken or that he’ll have a hard time sticking in the big leagues, so they’ll get him back. Making Rule 5 stick-or-sent-back predictions are a bit of a fool’s errand, but this fool thinks De Los Santos ends up back with Arizona.