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December 7, 2012

Prospect Push

Ranking the Traded Prospects

by Jason Churchill

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Each offseason—and occasionally during the season, especially in July—clubs acquire proven big-league players by sending prospects to their tango partners as part of the return. There already have been a handful of such trades since the end of the 2012 season, and there are numerous rumors suggesting more could be in the offing.

Let's rank those that have been moved to date.

Note: Players who have yet to reach 130 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched in the majors are eligible, with no regard to service time.

Traded
1. Alex
Meyer, RHP
Meyer brings No. 1 starter upside, and despite the chance he lands in the bullpen, is a better bet to reach top-end value as a major leaguer. He employs a plus fastball that has touched the upper-90s with above-average movement. He's tinkered with a two-seamer to help him stay down in the zone, but the changeup remains a below-average pitch. His best pitch is a hard slider in the 85-88 mph range that dives down and in on left-handed batters. It’s among the better breaking balls of any pitching prospect in the game. His mechanics aren't sound—he twists early to the plate—but his arm still works well. If Meyer is moved to the bullpen, he could see the big leagues as early as August, but the Twins should give him every shot to stick in the rotation.

2. Jake Marisnick, CF
Marisnick is a terrific athlete with average or better tools across the board, but while he has shown he can handle center field and works hard, his development in terms of his approach at the plate lacked progress in 2012. His home-run power also did not take a step forward as the Blue Jays hoped by moving him methodically through the system. The Marlins may have their center fielder of the future here, but Marisnick is unlikely to be one that approaches All-Star levels of performance.

3. Justin Nicolino, LHP
Nicolino lacks frontline upside but has good secondary skills, including a repeatable delivery that creates natural deception from a true three-quarters arm slot, aiding his fastball-changeup combination into missing some bats despite his heater typically sitting in the 89-92 mph range. I've seen him sit 90-93 and touch 95, but the pitch has more movement in the low 90s, and that allows him to command it to both sides of the plate. His breaking pitch is a 1-7 curveball with depth and late break, but its effectiveness varies by start.

Nicolino also has a good pickoff move and seems to get better pitching with runners on base. He's just 21 and a little more than a command-and-feel type southpaw. He projects as a mid-rotation candidate as early as 2014.

4. Trevor May, RHP
May has displayed above-average velocity and average secondary offerings, a curveball, and a changeup since 2011, but his ascent has slowed due to poor command and, potentially, a lack of a sound game plan. He often challenges hitters and catches too much of the plate, and his heater simply isn't that good. His control is also below average at best, suggesting he could benefit from a role change into shorter stints. May, however, could also take a leap forward with the assistance of an organization in Minnesota that has always been big on throwing tons of strikes and focusing on the lower half of the strike zone. If he adopts such an approach, May could help the Twins in 2013 and hold up a No. 3 or 4 spot in the rotation.

5. Ryan Wheeler, 3B
Wheeler has hit for average at every level, from college through the minors, with the exception of a 19-game stop in Double-A Mobile in 2010 where he batted just .254. He has above-average bat speed in batting practice, but he occasionally restricts the torque he generates with a stiff lower half during his swing, which also hinders his plate coverage. His hands work well when he stays back, however, and he's adept at using the whole field. His discipline and pitch recognition are each average at present. The Rockies could use Wheeler regularly at third base from the get-go in April, though long-term he profiles as a below-average defender.

6. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
Jeffress has yet to find a way to harness a fastball that lives in the mid-90s and visits the 98-99 mph range. The velocity comes easy for him despite a 6-foot, 195-pound frame, but he fails to keep his front shoulder closed or bend his knees and back to finish his pitches, hence the extremely high walk rates. The fastball lacks movement, too, which is a nightmare in the majors, especially when many cross the plate in the upper portions of the strike zone. Jeffress uses a 78-82 mph slider and is willing to throw it under the hands of left-handed batters, but he rarely throws it for strikes, and smart hitters lay off it and sit on the fastball.He's still just 25 years old and could flip the switch at any point, but the Blue Jays traded for a bit of a project.

7. Derek Dietrich, 2B/3B
Dietrich doesn't project as a regular in The Show but could develop into what Eric Chavez has been the past few years, which is a good platoon bat and reserve third baseman with a little power, but not enough to warrant an everyday job. The natural shortstop can play second base in a pinch and, if he jumps a grade with the hit tool in 2013, could be an offense-first option at the position. Dietrich is an aggressive hitter who doesn't like to get into pitcher's counts, so he's not going to draw a lot of walks, but he has shown an ability to torch the gaps against right-handed pitching. If that can be sustained to an extent, he'll have a place on a big-league roster.

8. Yan Gomes, C/1B
Gomes' value is wrapped up in his ability to catch some, despite possessing fringe physical skills behind the dish. He's also experienced at first base and isn't a terrible outfielder if used sparingly. As a batter, Gomes makes contact and has decent power. He profiles well as a third catcher and bench bat that can hit for some average.

9. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
DeSclafani has good control of his low-90s fastball, but his slider remains flat and his changeup does not project well in the majors. Many scouts see him as a reliever, where his fastball plays up a bit. The right-hander could serve as a swingman or middle reliever in a year or two.

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