With the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline less than two weeks away, most of the focus is on which Major Leaguers are expected to be swapped and make an impact for contenders in the second half. But for every big leaguer who changes teams, there often are multiple prospects involved
With the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline less than two weeks away, most of the focus is on which Major Leaguers are expected to be swapped and make an impact for contenders in the second half. But for every big leaguer who changes teams, there often are multiple prospects involved in a trade.
That's the focus here, as we identify nine elite youngsters -- specifically, Top 100 prospects per MLB Pipeline -- who are most likely to be dealt between now and the end of the month.
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Picking which prospects are trade bait isn't an exact science, but the names below -- listed in order of their Top 100 ranking -- are prime candidates for a variety of reasons, including their performance and pedigree, their standing within their organization's depth chart, and their franchise's level of desperation to make it to October.
Francisco Mejia, C/OF, Indians
Top 100 Ranking: No. 15
A switch-hitter with pop and backstop with a big arm, Mejia entered 2018 as the top catching prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, making him a valuable commodity at a premium position. Mejia, 22, first gained mainstream attention for his historic 50-game hitting streak in the Minor Leagues in 2016.
Mejia made his big league debut last September and has been up with the Indians this season, too, although he has just 18 plate appearances in 12 MLB games overall. After a slow start at Triple-A this year, he has hit .385/.424/.585 since June 1. In an effort to increase his versatility, the Tribe has moved Mejia around, putting him in the outfield and even at third base in the Arizona Fall League.
That indicates the Indians like Mejia's bat enough to try to get him into the lineup at different positions, but it also might suggest some uncertainty in his ultimate position. For a title-starved team whose window of contention is now, Mejia might be best utilized as a trade chip to bring back a high-end reliever with multiple years of club control, like Raisel Iglesias or Brad Hand, as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick noted Tuesday. Remember, we've seen Cleveland pull off a blockbuster deal for just that when it acquired Andrew Miller for a package fronted by Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in July 2016.
Estevan Florial, OF, Yankees
Top 100 Ranking: No. 37
As a dynamic outfielder with loads of potential but more than a few obstacles ahead of him on the depth chart, Florial's future ultimately may be as a trade piece. The toolsy 20-year-old's follow-up campaign to his breakout 2017 hasn't been as impressive (.246/.353/.343 at Class A Advanced), in part because he missed about six weeks after having surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his right hand.
Plus, the Yankees are so stacked in an outfield that features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks, that Frazier -- a former top prospect himself -- hasn't been able to stick on the 25-man roster.
Sheffield would get consideration here, but the 22-year-old southpaw -- who is No. 39 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list -- might be off limits because he's already throwing well at Triple-A and could help solidify the Yanks' rotation in the second half. If they decide to look outside the organization for a starter with years of control (maybe Michael Fulmer?), Florial would be a name to entice sellers.
Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves
Top 100 Ranking: No. 48
The Braves still have oh-so-much pitching depth in their farm system, but we'll pick Allard as the most likely to be moved in a significant deal. The 20-year-old lefty has zoomed to Triple-A, where he owns a 2.85 ERA this year, living up to his pedigree as a 2015 first-round pick.
Dangling Allard would help Atlanta address its biggest needs: an elite late-inning arm with years of control, like Hand or Iglesias; or a third baseman (perhaps Mike Moustakas or Adrian Beltre?) who can help this year before prospect Austin Riley is ready, likely by early 2019.
With other prospect arms like Luiz Gohara and Max Fried, who already have big league time, and Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and 2018 breakout pitcher Touki Toussaint, who are quickly moving through the Minors, the Braves could move Allard and still have more prospect pitching depth than just about any organization.
Besides, there's only so much room in Atlanta's rotation for 2019 and beyond. "With Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Julio Teheran returning next year," as MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes, "they really only need two of these MLB-ready prospects for the start of next season."
Yordan Alvarez, 1B/OF, Astros
Top 100 Ranking: No. 51
Given that the Astros don't have any glaring need outside of the bullpen, it's unlikely that they would be interested in trading either outfielder Kyle Tucker or righty Forrest Whitley, the Nos. 8 and 9 overall prospects, respectively.
Enter Alvarez, a 21-year-old listed at a towering 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds who has posted a .952 OPS with 13 taters across Double- and Triple-A this season. With good athleticism for his size, Alvarez is capable of handling an outfield corner with first base as a fallback option.
Those spots are pretty well stocked in Houston, however, with Tucker now in town to go with George Springer, Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez in an outfield that leaves little playing time for Jake Marisnick. Meanwhile, the Astros have Yuli Gurriel signed through 2020, so Alvarez could be the catalyst if they seek a reliever with multiple years of control.
Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers
Top 100 Ranking: No. 55
Sure, Keston Hiura -- Milwaukee's No. 1 prospect and No. 30 overall -- could be swapped. Heck, he's already acknowledged the ever-present rumors this time of year, as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy writes. But the No. 9 pick in the 2017 Draft already has rocketed to Double-A and looks to be the Brewers' long-term solution at second base.
Burnes' name has been mentioned as a trade chip this month, and as McCalvy notes, the Brewers are "more likely to move Burnes, because they seem pretty confident in their stock of prospect pitching with Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and others. Generally, they believe they don't get enough credit for the pitching they have in their system."
Milwaukee needs help in the rotation and middle infield, and while Burnes was brought up recently to help the pitching staff, the club also could be showcasing him for suitors.
Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners
Top 100 Ranking: No. 57
The case for Lewis as a likely trade piece is pretty simple. The Mariners have a mediocre-at-best farm system and are very much in win-now mode as they try to end the longest active postseason drought -- dating back to 2001 -- among the four major pro sports.
That desperation, combined with the fact Seattle's stranglehold on the second AL Wild Card spot has loosened to a mere three-game lead over Oakland as the second half gets underway, means GM Jerry Dipoto is likely to be aggressive, as usual, to improve his rotation and/or bullpen. The 23-year-old Lewis, a 2016 first-rounder who has battled numerous knee injuries as a pro, might be the only option if the Mariners are going to do something of significance.
Jon Duplantier, RHP, D-backs
Top 100 Ranking: No. 59
Speaking of organizations in win-now mode with shallow systems, the D-backs fit the bill, too. That makes Duplantier, their top prospect, a key component if they're looking for a needle-moving addition to the rotation or at shortstop.
Duplantier's name has been bandied about as is, with MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi pointing out recently that the O's showed interest. The 24-year-old righty has been out of action since the end of May with biceps tendinitis, perhaps making him less likely to be a trade target, but suitors will focus on Duplantier's stellar stats as a pro (1.62 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 10.9 K/9), as well as the fact that he's reached Double-A.
Carter Kieboom, SS, Nationals
Top 100 Ranking: No. 61
Is there a chance the sought-after Victor Robles gets dealt? Sure, but he's the No. 5 prospect in the sport and could be Bryce Harper's replacement in 2019, so it would take something super special.
Kieboom, who is also highly coveted as shortstop hitting .300/.381/.479 with 13 long balls between Class A Advanced and Double-A, seems a more likely trade candidate because the Nationals have Trea Turner under control through 2022.
The 20-year-old has been mentioned as a potential piece the Nats could use to go after a big-name backstop like the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto, who has multiple years of control left and would fix Washington's primary area of weakness beyond just 2018.
Adonis Medina, RHP, Phillies
Top 100 Ranking: No. 73
In Medina and Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies have a pair of right-handed pitchers with 80-grade names, but the former appears to be more available than the latter -- who is Philly's top youngster and No. 23 overall -- in trade talks. In fact, Sanchez may be "off limits," according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.
Given that, as well as how much young pitching the Phils possess (JoJo Romero, Franklyn Kilome, Ranger Suarez, etc.), they certainly have the ability to make a move with Medina as the centerpiece to address their bullpen or the left side of their infield.
Considering the Phillies indicated a willingness to discuss Medina in a possible deal for Manny Machado, as Morosi reported Monday, it shouldn't be shocking if they swap him this month. The 21-year-old has 75 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced after a breakout 2017.
*Jason Catania is a reporter for MLB.com.*