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October 26, 2012

Young and on Their Way

Top Prospect Trade Candidates

by Jason Churchill

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Jarrod Parker, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso and Jesus Montero were among the high profile prospects who changed organizations last winter. Each of them made an impact with their new club—some certainly more than others—but such trades occur each offseason as contenders look for proven talent and specific needs.

Based on conversations with some busy folks in baseball over the past few weeks, it's apparent there will be numerous negotiations that include top prospects again this year. Most clubs have had their organizational meetings already, when teams discuss strengths and weaknesses, offseason needs, trade targets, free agent possibilities, and which of their own players they might be willing to move in the right transaction.

Based on dozens of e-mail, text and phone interactions with representatives of 11 different organizations, the following 10 prospects were the most mentioned as likely to be involved in a trade.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
Arenado was described by the Rockies organization last summer as a young player who needed to mature. Scouts have described his play as occasionally disinterested and lacking energy. When a team calls out a player—Rockies then-GM Dan O'Dowd did just that to season-ticket holders last summer—it generally means any behind-the-scenes pep talks have not worked and the patience on the part of the team is wearing somewhat thin. This makes Arenado a prime candidate to be traded.

In one manner it's selling low—the other 29 teams in baseball have seen the same player and certainly share similar concerns—but the third baseman did have a big month of August and won't turn 22 until April, suggesting there is value there. The Rockies need pitching and could package Arenado for some proven help on the mound and move on from the former second-round pick.

Gary Brown, CF, San Francisco Giants
Brown is not an elite prospect, but he can fly—an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale—play defense in center field, and has solid on-base skills. He's yet to show he's a surefire everyday big leaguer, but the Giants are likely to secure a long-term answer in center field over the offseason, deeming Brown expendable.

Brown, however, is more of a second or third piece in a significant trade than a headliner, but he did enter 2012 as the club's top prospect. Still, he appears to have little chance at being the center fielder for the National League champs anytime remotely soon. After the free agent market dries up on center fielders, Brown, who could earn his way to majors in 2013, could be a valuable commodity for a team looking to build for 2014 and beyond.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks do not figure to be a club looking to deal prospects, since their plan, clearly, is to build from within and retain their depth. Bauer, however, may have fallen a little behind the organization's other top young pitchers—not to mention a little out of favor, possibly—and it's conceivable that he starts 2013 back in Triple-A Reno. With the likes of Wade Miley, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, Josh Collmenter and Patrick Corbin all available and capable of being in the starting rotation, the Diamondbacks are not counting on Bauer's presence. Right-hander Daniel Hudson (Tommy John surgery) is expected back sometime during the second half of the season, too.

Bauer could be valuable enough to another team in need of big-league ready starting pitching that could offer a young player the Diamondbacks could plug into one of their few openings. Last week I mentioned a potential match with the Texas Rangers for third baseman Mike Olt, but there could be several possibilities, perhaps including a corner outfielder. What GM Kevin Towers decides to do with right fielder Justin Upton could impact Bauer's status. If Upton is moved in a blockbuster, Bauer could be included, or subsequently be traded to help fill the void left in the outfield.

James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Paxton is the mostly likely Mariners pitching prospect to be moved this offseason and most rivals believe GM Jack Zduriencik will be aggressive in an attempt to add at least one veteran hitter to a young lineup.

Taijuan Walker will be the most coveted of Seattle's crop, but it appears unlikely he'll be involved unless it's a player such as Arizona's Upton, Cincinnati's Jay Bruce or one of two Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon, or top prospect Wil Myers. Paxton is likely to hit the majors at some point next season, an attractive time table for clubs such as the Royals, Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and perhaps even the Miami Marlins.

Jedd Gyorko, 3B, San Diego Padres
The Padres tried Gyorko at second base where his bat profiles as above average, but he lacks the athleticism and footwork to handle the position long term; with the presence and emergence of Chase Headley—one of the NL's better players in 2012—Gyorko could be prime trade bait as early as this winter.

Scouts tend to like Gyroko's bat but don't believe he'll hit for the power generally desired for the position. Considering the average regular third baseman in Major League Baseball this past season hit just 15 home runs, Gyorko may fit right in, even with a contender, as a cheap option.

Grant Green, IF/OF, Oakland Athletics
Oddly, the trade of Cliff Pennington to the Arizona Diamondbacks this month probably made Green more likely to be moved than he otherwise might have been. With Pennington gone and Stephen Drew potentially hitting the free agent market—the club holds an option on his contract—it might seem that Green's chances of hitting the big leagues in 2013 improved.

He's a natural shortstop but has been tried in center field and at third base as the A's searched for a permanent position for their former first-round pick. With his defensive future up in the air, the A's are not planning on Green being a part of things anytime soon, but with the acquisition of Chris Young, Green, whose best position might be the outfield, falls deeper down the depth chart.

There are at least a few clubs that would like to see Green play second base, a position he played just a few times in 2012, and the A's have him doing just that in the Arizona Fall League. If scouts come away convinced he can play there, a trade may be most likely. Of course, the A's could come away feeling the same way and keep Green for themselves, but they do have Jemile Weeks, who may get another shot next spring, and they could return Scott Sizemore to his natural position.

Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers
If the Rangers are not willing to use Olt regularly at first base—third base is blocked by Adrian Beltre—he could be one of the main assets the club use to acquire outfield help, a true, everyday first baseman or starting pitching.

Olt made the jump from Double-A last summer but he may benefit from a little more seasoning in the minors. Either way he's going to contribute next season and could be a club's starting third baseman from the get-go. Olt simply has more value to another team, where he can play third base and start regularly.

Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox
Bogaerts is likely headed for third base full-time and, with Will Middlebrooks ahead of him on the depth chart, his future isn't likely to be in Boston.

The club could always try him in a corner outfield spot, but he may be of more use as trade bait. The Red Sox need starting pitching, outfielders and a first baseman, any of which Bogaerts could help them acquire this winter.

Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Of the Yankees' catching prospects—Sanchez, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy—Sanchez has the best shot to catch and hit long-term. He had a strong year split between two levels in 2012, showing power, improved footwork and a more accurate throwing arm than in past years.

The 19-year-old is at least a year and a half from being big-league ready, however, and with the Yankees needing a catcher for 2013, the club could commit to a free agent or trade acquisition and use Sanchez as bait to acquire starting pitching.

Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners
Rival scouts, at a 3-to-1 rate, believe Franklin belongs at second base long term—I think it's premature to call it on a 21-year-old who appears to be a late bloomer physically—and if that is the case Franklin could be traded due to the presence of Dustin Ackley and, to a lesser extent, Kyle Seager.

Even if the Mariners are convinced Franklin is a shortstop they could trade him, anyway, since they are likely to bring back Brendan Ryan for 2013 and 2011 second-round pick Brad Miller could be ready for 2014, which is the earliest Franklin could likely be ready to take over full-time.

 

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