These prospects could be on the move
With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, it's back to business as usual. A flurry of free-agent and trade activity is expected almost immediately, and we're here to identify prospects who could be changing addresses in deals for veterans.
As we like to remind you whenever we undertake this exercise, this is all highly speculative. In most cases, we've selected a prospect at a position of relative strength in each organization. We do understand that teams coming off 100-loss seasons (Orioles, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Pirates) probably won't be parting with young talent as they prepare for Opening Day, but that won't stop us from offering a possibility for each club.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays -- Kevin Smith, SS/3B
The Jays are in full contention mode after just missing out on the playoffs last year and might be willing to play the market to catch up to the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. Smith is coming off a rebounding year in which he hit .285/.370/.561 with 21 homers and 18 steals in 94 games at Triple-A Buffalo and got in 18 games with the big club. He spent time at four different positions to find a role but was primarily focused on short. That’s where Bo Bichette calls home. Smith could crack through at third base, where Toronto has a wider opening, but it wouldn’t be a shock if the club sold high on the 25-year-old to fill other holes.
Orioles -- Jordan Westburg, SS/3B
Westburg hit his way across three levels up to Double-A, finishing with an .868 OPS, 15 homers and 17 steals, though he didn’t perform as well in his first taste of Double-A. He’s a big, super-athletic infielder, but with Gunnar Henderson, Joey Ortiz, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby (you get the idea), this is a place of depth in the O’s system.
Rays -- Vidal Bruján, OF/2B
Bruján is in some ways a very Rays prospect. He’s versatile and has played all over the infield and outfield. He’s fast with plus-plus speed and has proven value with the bat, though his .262 average at Triple-A Durham last season was a career-low. So why feature Bruján here? For all his versatility, he may not fit perfectly in Tampa Bay’s current roster with shortstop, second base and center field spoken for. Even if Kevin Kiermaier is traded himself, Josh Lowe seems like a more natural replacement for him in the outfield. The 24-year-old is deserving of a Major League spot soon, and he might hold more value elsewhere where there are more ample openings.
Red Sox -- Blaze Jordan, 3B
Jordan's massive power helped him win his first home run derby when he was 11 and earned him an above-slot $1.75 million bonus as a Mississippi high schooler taken in the third round of the 2020 Draft. He homered six times in his 28-game pro debut last summer, and his hitting and approach were better than advertised, but the Red Sox already have long-term options at third base (Rafael Devers) and first base (Triston Casas), the only positions Jordan realistically can play.
Yankees -- Oswaldo Cabrera, INF
Signed for $100,000 out of Venezuela in 2015, Cabrera is a versatile defender who showed previously unseen power by slamming 29 homers while advancing to Triple-A last season. Yet with so many talented shortstop prospects in the system -- Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Trey Sweeney, Roderick Arias, Alexander Vargas -- Cabrera is expendable.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians -- Tyler Freeman, INF
The Guardians are loaded with middle-infield prospects and won't possibly be able to find spots for all of them in their lineup of the future. A supplemental second-round pick out of a Southern California high school in 2017, Freeman has exceptional bat-to-ball skills that have produced a career .319 batting average and 9 percent strikeout rate in four pro seasons.
Royals -- Kyle Isbel, OF
Kansas City is on the precipice of a homegrown revolution, so don’t expect it to be major sellers from its farm this spring. That said, if the Royals were to swing a deal, Isbel could be an option to head out. The 2018 third-round pick is entering his age-25 season, putting him on the older side of prospectdom, and if a shifting Kansas City infield (which could soon feature Bobby Witt Jr.) displaces Whit Merrifield to the outfield for good, Isbel will be on the outside looking in at the starting nine. If the Royals were to try to pull off a blockbuster, including the controllable left-handed slugger, who could slide into a fourth-outfield role right now, would hold some sway without hurting the plan too much.
Tigers -- Parker Meadows, OF
This is more about Meadows needing a potential change of scenery. The 2018 second-rounder (and brother of Austin) is a plus runner and a defensive asset in the outfield with his range and strong arm, but he just hasn’t hit in his two full Minor League seasons. Most recently, Meadows finished with a .208/.290/.330 line over 94 games at High-A. His athleticism could be enticing to a club talking to Detroit, who seems ready to pivot toward contention after acquiring Javier Báez and Eduardo Rodriguez already this offseason.
Twins -- Jhoan Duran, RHP
An elbow issue seriously hampered Duran in 2021, though it didn’t require surgery and he was back at the end of the year throwing full-strength in live BP sessions. His fastball-splinker (his splitter-sinker hybrid) are downright nasty and even teams who think he’s a reliever might be interested in obtaining him and putting him straight into a big league bullpen. The Twins have other starting pitching prospects ready to contribute, like Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic and Josh Winder.
White Sox -- Wes Kath, 3B
The White Sox love Kath, who got an over-slot $1.8 million as a second-round pick from an Arizona high school in July, seeing him as an advanced hitter with at least 20-homer pop. But third base is the deepest position in their thin farm system and 2021 first-rounder Colson Montgomery could wind up moving from shortstop to the hot corner in the long run.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels -- Kyren Paris, SS/2B
The Angels have a solid stable of young middle infield talent, albeit pretty far away, so this is an area of some strength. Paris has the skills to play shortstop and has shown he can slide over to second base and while he has good bat-to-ball skills, he doesn’t have the same kind of impact potential as some of the others in the system.
A’s -- A.J. Puk, LHP
Yes, he’s 26, but if he can stay healthy, he’s still a 6-foot-7 lefty with premium stuff. Asking him to start might be too tall of an order, but his fastball-slider combination would work really well in shorter stints out of a big league bullpen, where he wouldn’t have to worry about pinpoint command or a changeup.
Astros -- Joe Perez, 3B/1B
Though Perez was a 2017 second-round pick out of a Florida high school, Tommy John surgery, further injuries and the 2020 pandemic shutdown meant that he didn't make his full-season debut until four years later. He slammed 18 homers while advancing to Double-A last year, but Alex Bregman isn't going anywhere and Perez could bring back more immediate help as trade bait.
Mariners -- Emerson Hancock, RHP
Teams might want to be sure Hancock is healthy, as arm and shoulder issues severely limited him in 2021, but he was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 Draft and still has a legitimate four-pitch mix coming from a 6-foot-4 frame. George Kirby has definitely passed him by and some feel Matt Brash has as well, with the Mariners’ farm well-stocked with upper-level arms.
Rangers -- Josh Smith, SS
Not only did the Rangers invest $500 million in Corey Seager and Marcus Semien this offseason, but they're also loaded with middle-infield prospects such as Ezequiel Duran, Justin Foscue, Smith, Luisangel Acuna and Maximo Acosta. Acquired from the Yankees in July as part of the Joey Gallo trade, Smith is a career .313 hitter with excellent bat-to-ball skills, 20-homer potential and solid to plus speed.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves -- Tucker Davidson, LHP
The left-hander touched the big leagues in both 2020 and last year, when he started Game 5 of the World Series, and he has the potential to serve in a number of roles. He has the stuff to start, with command that’s been improving (though he missed nearly all of the 2021 season with a forearm strain), and a fastball-slider combination that would play well out of a pen. Lefties are always a hot commodity on the market, no?
Marlins -- Ian Lewis, 2B
The Marlins have Jazz Chisholm manning second base in Miami and more middle-infield prospects on the way in Kahlil Watson and Jose Salas, so perhaps they could be enticed to part with Lewis. Signed for $950,000 out of the Bahamas in 2019, he's a switch-hitter with well above-average speed and a penchant for making hard contact.
Mets -- Mark Vientos, 3B/OF
There’s no doubt Vientos can hit. The 2017 second-rounder produced a .281/.352/.581 line and 25 homers in only 83 games at Double-A and Triple-A last season. The power will play quickly in the Majors, and he could add even a little more considering he just turned 22 in December. However, there is some hit-tool risk with a high strikeout rate, and his defensive home is far from settled. A third baseman/outfielder now, Vientos likely profiles best at first base, a position occupied by Pete Alonso right now. The universal DH might change some of that calculus, but the Mets, who seem dead-set on pushing for a title in 2022, might try to swing a blockbuster that doesn’t include their Big Three of Álvarez, Baty or Mauricio.
Nationals -- Israel Pineda, C
Pineda was not added to the 40-man roster for the second offseason in a row and is about to begin a season in a Nationals system that added other backstops Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams and Drew Millas at last year’s Trade Deadline alone. The 21-year-old catcher is still a solid power hitter and possesses a plus arm, and it’s unlikely the rebuilding Nationals will swap anyone from its Top 30 prospect group heading into 2022. But if there’s a player who’s buried and could use a look elsewhere, it’s Pineda.
Phillies -- Francisco Morales, RHP
Morales took a step backward in 2021 when he moved up to Double-A Reading, a notorious hitter’s paradise. It was his command (6.6 BB/9) more than the friendly confines that hurt him, but a team could buy low on his plus fastball and slider combination, help him refine his delivery and put him in a bullpen.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers -- Mario Feliciano, C
The defending NL Central champions don’t have the deepest or most high-ceiling system, so that could preclude them from making a big trade swing. If they were to try to do a smaller deal, Feliciano could be enticing to other clubs. The 23-year-old is only two Minor League seasons removed from being the Carolina League MVP, and he still holds some value with average power. Shoulder issues limited him in 2021, but an acquiring club could be willing to buy low here. He’s also one of four Milwaukee catchers on the 40-man, so the Brewers would be moving from a place of depth.
Cardinals -- Luken Baker, 1B
Baker proved he can mash with 26 homers (third-most in Double-A Central) and a .530 slugging percentage in 91 games at Double-A Springfield last season, but St. Louis opted not to add him to the 40-man roster when he was Rule 5-eligible in November. He’s first-base-only and thus blocked by Paul Goldschmidt, and it seems like fellow prospect Juan Yepez might be a bigger beneficiary of the universal DH. Organizations with a more open first-base depth chart might be more willing to add Baker’s power bat to its mix.
Cubs -- Owen Caissie, OF
The Cubs have high hopes for Caissie, an athletic 6-foot-4 teenager with big power potential and a right-field arm whom they acquired in the Yu Darvish trade with the Padres in December 2020. They also have a deep stock of outfield prospects -- Brennen Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcantara, Arizona Fall League MVP Nelson Velazquez -- and are still on the hunt for pitching help.Baker proved he can mash with
Pirates -- Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B/OF
There are some interesting things going on with Bae these days. He’s always had impressive contact skills and 70-grade speed. But now he’s added some strength to help him impact the ball more and he’s added center field to his resume, which makes him a much more intriguing prospect.
Reds -- Rece Hinds, 3B/OF
The Reds are still believers in Hinds’ raw power and his ability to get to it, but there could be a logjam at the hot corner if 2021 revelation Elly De La Cruz shifts over to third. Hinds is getting reps as a corner outfielder now, but the outfield is pretty crowded, too.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs -- Corbin Martin, RHP
Coming off a rough 2021, the D-backs are in no position to be dealing prospects from a farm system on the way up. We only put Martin here because he fits the role of being able to help a Major League team quickly, but not necessarily fitting in Arizona’s long-term plans. The 26-year-old right-hander can throw in the mid-90s and showcase an above-average curveball and slider, when healthy, but Tommy John surgery and a forearm strain in recent years have limited him on the mound. If he is to be moved, it might be as a DFA candidate to a team hoping it can help him find his healthy form again.
Dodgers -- Miguel Vargas, 3B/2B/1B
With impressive depth in the Majors and Minors at several positions, the Dodgers have plenty of prospect trade bait if they want to use it. Many of their most talented farmhands are infielders, including Vargas, who was signed out of Cuba for $300,000 in 2017 and won the Double-A Central batting title (.321) last year while more than tripling his previous career high with 23 homers.
Giants -- Heliot Ramos, OF
A 2017 first-round pick from a Puerto Rico high school, Ramos has some of the best raw power and arm strength in the system and advanced to Triple-A at age 21 last season. The Giants have plenty of outfield prospect depth that also includes Luis Matos, Jairo Pomares and Hunter Bishop, so they could part with some of it to fill a big league need.
Padres -- Joshua Mears, OF
How many big moves do the Padres have after a disappointing 2021? That remains to be seen, but if they’re going to pull one off, it might force them to give up one of their high-upside prospects. Mears’ power is as big as nearly anyone in the Minors, and it played quickly with 17 homers and a .529 slugging percentage over 71 Low-A games last season. The 21-year-old outfielder has ample swing-and-miss concerns too with a 39.2 percent strikeout rate. That will hurt his stock in trade circles, but you can bet a lot of teams wouldn’t mind seeing what they could do with his raw power ahead of his second full Minor League season.
Rockies -- Michael Toglia, 1B
Toglia has legitimate raw power and he can play easily plus defense at first. There are some concerns about his ability to hit enough to get to that power, but that pop from the corner could be marketable, and the Rockies could slide Elehuris Montero to first if they need a young guy to take over there.