Trades present chances for top prospects
Cards' Taveras, Boston's Ranaudo, Twins' Vargas among those to get opportunities
As Trade Deadline Day progressed on Thursday, it seemed as if it might be one of a kind: a Deadline Day without any real prospects changing hands.
While Addison Russell, part of the Jeff Samardzija swap early last month, remains the top prospect to have been dealt, there were a few Minor Leaguers included in deals leading up to the Deadline. But even though the trades involved mostly big leaguers, that doesn't mean prospects weren't impacted by the activities.
There's a tendency to look only at the up-and-comers who are involved in trades, but it's equally important -- maybe more so this year -- to look at the teams that sold at the Deadline. Where Major Leaguers once stood, opportunities for young players may now be there for the taking.
From a prospect standpoint, it's addition by subtraction. Teams out of the race sell the big leaguers to contenders and then audition time begins. The next two months give those teams an opportunity to see what the future might look like and what kind of big league contributors they might be a able to count on in the future.
That's what the Red Sox will do with their rotation from this point forward after trading Jake Peavy, Jon Lester and John Lackey. They even dealt Felix Doubront, who could have filled a spot if Boston was so inclined. Young arms Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman are already in the big leagues. Anthony Ranaudo, currently No. 6 on the Red Sox Top 20 and No. 82 on the Top 100, will start on Friday, making his Major League debut against the Yankees. All will be hoping to make a lasting impression, though it remains to be seen if Ranaudo will get more than one start for the time being.
The biggest reason the Cardinals felt they could part with Allen Craig to get John Lackey is Oscar Taveras. St. Louis' top prospect, ranked No. 2 on the Top 100 -- until he graduates off the list shortly -- has done nothing but hit and the organization is confident he's ready to play every day. The home run he hit on Thursday was a nice touch, but there's a lot more of that to come. The sting of losing Craig might hurt in the clubhouse for a while, but long-term, Taveras is likely to help heal those wounds.
Even small trades can provide chances. Oakland's acquisition of outfielder Sam Fuld might have looked like a small deal in which a contending team was picking up a role player for the stretch run. But it meant much more than that to Kennys Vargas. No. 11 on the Twins' Top 20. Vargas celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday with his first big league callup. A first baseman only, it's not like Vargas can or will fill Fuld's role, but the 2014 Futures Gamer, known as Little Papi, should get some chances to see how his switch-hitting power bat plays at the highest level. If the Twins end up moving Josh Willingham during the waiver period, that would potentially open some more at-bats for Vargas in the designated-hitter spot.
Unfortunately for prospect fans, not every trade means an immediate opportunity. The first thing almost anyone who tracks the top Minor Leaguers thought when the Indians sent Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals was: Does that mean the Francisco Lindor era is ready to begin?
The short answer is no. The No. 5 prospect in baseball recently got to Triple-A and is off to a fast start there. It's long been said the 20-year old could handle shortstop defensively at the big league level right now, and it looks like the three-time Futures Game participant's bat is rapidly developing as well. But the Indians made it clear they will not rush the 2011 first-rounder just because Cabrera is gone. Jose Ramirez should get most of the time at shortstop, with veteran Mike Aviles getting a little more action.
Fear not, Lindor enthusiasts. Neither Ramirez nor Aviles will block Lindor's ascension and there's an outside possibility of seeing him in September.