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July 18, 2012

Future Shock

Top False Trade Values

by Kevin Goldstein

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With officially two weeks to go before the trading deadline, teams are evaluating their own prospects as much as they're evaluating prospective acquisition targets. It's important to not only understand how good your own organization is, but also the industry perception of your players. It's never easy for a team to send off players they draft, develop and put so much time into, but here are some who might generate more trade value than they are actually worth. These are the prospects whose trade value may never be higher than it is right now. However, to put it another way, they are also players other teams should beware of.

Cody Buckel, RHP, Rangers
One has to wonder if the Rangers shouldn't have bumped Buckel up to Double-A in mid-June. He's been perfectly fine in the Texas League, limiting batters to a .212 batting average while striking out 22 in 27.1 innings, but he was putting up some of the best numbers in the minors at High-A Myrtle Beach, with a 1.31 ERA in 13 starts and nearly twice as many strikeouts (91) as hits allowed (49) in 75.2 frames. Those are ace-level numbers, and while Buckel is a prospect, he's far from a future ace. Like many Rangers pitching prospects, Buckel is small but athletic, and he has three average to slightly above-average pitches that play up due to outstanding location. He's a very safe bet to be a big leaguer, but not a future star.

C.J. Cron, 1B, Angels
Last year's first-round pick has been a streaky hitter, currently sitting at .286/.323/.460, and that's in the hitter-friendly California League. His power has been a little less than expected, his patience at the plate has all but disappeared, but he still has the pedigree of a first-round pick who, despite his defensive limitations, was seen by some as the best college hitter in the draft. To be a first base prospect, you have to look like a future middle-of-the-order hitter, and the Angels might be best served by finding a team that still believes in this.

Wilmer Flores, 3B/1B, Mets
In the world of finance, it's called a “dead cat bounce.” A small, brief uptick in what is an otherwise declining stock. While a .305/.350/.489 line has brought his stock back as a hitter, he continues to slide the wrong way on the defensive spectrum. Until the year began, he was a shortstop, then he began the year as a third baseman, and now he's been seeing some time at first base since his promotion to Double-A. He's the ugly combination of being both slow and poor defensively, and if the Mets can find a team that believes in him as a left-side infielder, it's time to sell.

Miles Head, 3B/1B, Athletics
Head was one of the best hitters in the minors during the first half of the season, hitting .382/.433/.715 for High-A Stockton, and while he's slowed down a bit (how could he not?), he's still producing at Double-A. Two issues: No. 1, he's not a third baseman. No. 2, he just doesn't profile well. He's a short, squat, right-handed hitter, and while it might sound a bit strange, how many short, right-handed hitting first baseman can you name that make an impact in the big leagues? It's hard to call him a big prospect because it's hard to find other players like him who were in the past.

Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox
Lavarnway got off to a slow start, but after hitting .405 in June, his .297/.385/.452 line looks awfully good for a big-league ready catcher. The key word in that last sentence is the last one. Some scouts think he can be acceptable behind the dish, and others think he's more of a first baseman/designated hitter type. If Boston can find the former, they could get value for him, and his ability to show up in his new team's lineup makes him even more appealing. If the Red Sox don't deal him, he's the type whose value slips as he stagnates at Triple-A.

Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
Marte is the best prospect on this list, and one has to wonder if one of the reasons the Pirates have kept him at Triple-A is to keep him putting up numbers as opposed to risking having his aggressive approach exposed by big league pitching. He's got plenty of tools, including plus speed, plus defense, good hitting ability and a bit of power, but his value is far higher to nearly every other team in baseball. As a center fielder, Marte is a star, but the Pirates have Andrew McCutchen, and in a corner outfield spot, Marte might look more like Juan Encarnacion. Position is everything, and Marte just doesn't have an ideal fit with his current organization.

Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, Cardinals
The Cardinals have been very aggressive with their prospects, but with none more than Rosenthal. After pitching in the Low-A Midwest League last year, Rosenthal was double-jumped to the Texas League this year, and as of this week, he's in the big leagues, which might be a showcase as much as a reward. Rosenthal has two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, but his changeup still lags behind his other offerings, and the Cardinals are almost showing their cards by putting him in the bullpen. His ceiling as a starter is a No. 3, but more likely a four, or else a very good reliever. He'll certainly be asked about over the next two weeks, but putting him in the big leagues now is a risky maneuver in terms of how it could effect his external value.

Matt Skole, 3B, Nationals
A fifth-round pick last June out of Georgia Tech, Skole has some of the best numbers in the South Atlantic League, hitting .280/.434/.553 for Low-A Hagerstown. He ranks second in the minors with 79 walks, and has 21 home runs in 282 at-bats, but while he looks like a stathead's dream, there are all sorts of red flags. 22-year-old products of major college programs are supposed to kill Low-A pitching, and with 94 strikeouts in 83 games, his batting average doesn't seem sustainable. Chances are good he'll never put up numbers anything close to this again.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Trade Deadline

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