The MLB Draft is in less than a month, but it seems Pirates fans are more interested in Trade Deadline season, as the club will be a seller come July 30 or sooner.
Maybe a realistic trade scenario for Adam Frazier?
I tried to dig back in the past few years to find a great comp for Frazier’s batting profile, defense and contract. I didn’t find many, but I did find one that intrigued me.
Jonathan Villar was traded at the 2020 Deadline ahead of free agency in the offseason, so not necessarily the same as Frazier, who won't become a free agent until '23. But Villar was traded for a PTBNL -- which may not sound like much, until it became the Marlins’ current No. 18 prospect Griffin Conine.
Though Villar slugged 24 homers in 2019, he is not an exceptionally better run producer than Frazier, whose ability to hit for average allows him to be a scoring threat at the top of the order as well as wear down starting pitchers with grinding, foul-heavy at-bats.
So a Top 30 prospect will undeniably be in the mix, most likely one either from, or who will be in the top half of the Pirates’ Top 30. That’s likely even if Pittsburgh goes for bulk value, which would likely mean many of the prospects are significantly younger with high ceilings but more limited evaluations. I’d expect more than one prospect, though. If I had to guess, it would be two or three.
Could we see some of the pitchers dominating in the lower Minors get a promotion within the coming weeks?
We could, especially among those who are more advanced like college arms dominating at the Low-A and High-A levels. But I wouldn’t get too far ahead in expecting these moves.
General manager Ben Cherington is not one to push the needle on a prospect’s timeline just to push it. Some prospects at the higher levels like Miguel Yajure, Rodolfo Castro and Hunter Owen have seen callups at the Major League level due to injuries and Cherington’s view that Triple-A players are not as much prospects as they are Major Leaguers on the cusp.
But at the lower levels, we’ve seen very few moves so far, aside from a few due to injuries and depth needs. Some top prospects are pushing the envelope. But it seems unlikely pitching prospects will be moved up in short order, especially for the jump from High-A to Double-A. Entering Thursday, the most innings a pitcher had thrown for Greenboro was 30 2/3 innings, set by No. 2 prospect Quinn Priester.
“Typically, even in a normal year, we wouldn’t probably make decisions on moving guys until we at least have several weeks of the season in,” Cherington said. “Can’t say that’s going to apply perfectly to everyone, but generally speaking.”
You could argue it’s been “several weeks.” I still think that means a bit longer than now, and there’s no point in rushing prospects at that level unless it’s clear they’re overpowering the competition.
Which player that hasn't been mentioned as potentially moving won't be a Bucco on 7/30?
There’s one guy who I wouldn’t say hasn’t been mentioned, but he’s been much less mentioned than Frazier, Richard Rodríguez, Tyler Anderson and even Bryan Reynolds.
It’s Gregory Polanco.
I know, I know. He has a .612 OPS this year, and he’s a defensive liability with an arm that has routinely been tested. That’s why he hasn’t been mentioned as much. But I wouldn’t 100 percent rule out Polanco.
We know that historically, when he catches the ball, he absolutely crushes it. Polanco’s max exit velocity has been above 112 mph each season, and this year it’s 116.2 -- an elite number. The problem the past two years has been contact; his K rate last season was a ghastly 37.4 percent, and though he’s cut it to 30.6 percent this season, it’s still in the 10th percentile in the Majors, and his average exit velocity has dipped due to some strikeouts becoming weak contact.
Overall, it’s not going well at the plate, but raw power like Polanco’s is not easily found. Some teams have different philosophies on hitting. Maybe one sees Polanco’s swing and says, “I have a fix.”
If a contending team -- likely, a big-market team with salary resources -- has the spending to help give the Pirates a bit of savings on a player they will not keep after next season, and in all honesty, will block other outfield prospects looking to get time last this season and into next season, I think Pittsburgh will be intrigued.