FIRST, Happy Independence Day
There seems no better way for me to begin my Independence Day than to write about baseball. Baseball captures much about the American spirit, both in its tenacious, grinding, strategic pace, and through its tumultuous labor history. So frequently, we leave our Independence Day celebrations at the surface, rightfully upholding institutional celebrations and glorifying our mainstream political values. After all, for all our ratings of dissatisfaction, we find in our institutions a glimmer of transparency and due process envisioned by the Framers.
Yet, America goes deeper than that. American Independence is Mexican Franciscans establishing missions throughout the West, in many cases before some of the famous colonies were ever established. American Independence spans the Whiskey Rebellion to jazz and rhythm and blues (and everything in between), as our liberty is as necessarily prodded and kept by outsiders as it is impossible without our Armed Forces. American Independence is immigrants, American Independence is robber barons, both spurring the economy in many ways that were extralegal but necessary for prosperity. American independence is impossible without the forms of everyday living and righteous, never-ending debates, be it Catholic Workers, black nationalists, Tea Partiers, Hippies, feminists, or advocates from numerous walks of life. There is not one interest that is American. American Independence is labor strife and political party coalitions, bringing together diverse interests to capture that glimmer of due process and steer it forward.
I don’t think that’s unlike the composition of a 40-man roster, and I think the primal showdown between pitcher and batter captures the feeling that for all our diversity, our interests, conflicts, and claims boil down to a fight between poles: rights and regulations, liberty and security, justice and punishment. It’s wild to think that at some point in time, the goal of the pitcher was to work in concert with the batter to yield a ball in play, so that the game of baseball could materialize between fielders and baserunners. No, our baseball, like MLB vs. MLBPA, AL vs. NL, small market vs. large, concentrates on one pure battle.
And so, with our Independence Day — I hope that rich or poor, represented or unrepresented, within or without the reaches of institutional justice, we can have an excellent day. May we capture that glimmer of due process, and continue to carry it forward for all persons.
Christmas In July
MLB’s official site is beginning their overview of potential midseason trading pieces, but even without their official notes, we’ve suspected for some time that the Brewers are likely sellers at the trading deadline. Our own Ryan Topp has outlined some of the potential trading partners in the AL and NL, noting their general farm system rankings and potential needs. Today, while you’re enjoying your cookout, parade, day at work or day off, I would like to outline and analyze some interesting prospects within midrange contending systems — Colorado, San Diego, Baltimore, Kansas City, and the Dodgers, .
Colorado Rockies: Kyle Parker, Trevor Story, and Chad Bettis
As Ryan noted, the Rockies’ top prospect Nolan Arendado at third base might keep them from trading for Aramis Ramirez, but there are other needs the Rockies could fill to solidify their roster for the final stretch. Among their prospects, their top pitcher is ranked in the middle of their organization by BaseballAmerica. Bettis provides an interesting challenge to both the Rockies and a potential trading partner, given his shoulder injury that sidelined his development in 2012. Bettis also battled some comparatively minor injury woes earlier in 2013, and according to the DenverPost, could be a candidate for a midseason call-up by the Rockies if all goes according to plan. Bettis is an aggressive pitcher, looking to get to the majors the fastest way possible, and his injury history might make him suitable for a swingman or relief role to ease him into starting at the MLB level. His 37 K / 5 BB / 4 HR performance against 149 Texas League batters is suitable eye candy and proof that he’s dealing despite his injury history.
Story is an interesting prospect given that he cracked BA’s Top 100, but is struggling with the batting average in 2013. However, his power total remains solid, as 24 of his 61 hits went for extra bases (even with a .209 AVG, his walk rate is respectable, and he’s slugging near .340). Story’s minor league experience comes at SS and 3B, and he’s an intriguing candidate at the hot corner, given his power. Given the Rockies’ organizational depth there, Story could be dealt from a position of strength. If the win-now chants call, the Rockies may sell on his hit tool, but his power could make that gamble worthwhile to trade suitors. Parker did not crack BA’s Top 100, but he’s a level beyond Story in the Rockies’ system. Although Parker hit a bit of a wall in the Texas League, his power remains solid (23 extra base hits in 69 total hits), and he patrols the corner outfield.
Injured Prospect! Rymer Liriano
While living in Chicago years ago, I experienced firsthand the mind-blowing trade GM Kenny Williams made for a then-injured Jake Peavy. During subpar 2010 and 2011 campaigns, the trade did not look great for Williams’ White Sox, but since then Peavy’s been solid for the South Siders (hence a great baseball rule for the crazy-like-a-fox GM, when Kenny Williams does something you disagree with, he’s probably right and you should re-evaluate your thinking).
Anyway, Rymer Liriano is a promising prospect for the Padres, except for the fact that he’s missing 2013 due to Tommy John surgery. According to MinorLeagueBall, one of Liriano’s best assets is his arm, so even though Tommy John is not as daunting for position players as pitchers, this injury could potentially impact one of his key tools. The RF-CF hammered the California League prior to his promotion to the Texas League in 2012, where the then-21-year-old did not hit as frequently. However, the outfielder maintained solid walk and respectable power rates, suggesting that he wasn’t entirely overmatched or victim of a poor approach.
So, I’ll simply ask a series of questions: How frequently are injured prospects traded, if ever? Do the same principles for trading injured big leaguers apply to injured prospects? One wonders whether Liriano’s stock with San Diego fallen — he’ll turn 23 in 2014 and presumably need more PA at AA. But, if the price is right and the trade is possible, this is the type of crazy-like-a-fox trading chip that could give the Brewers a solid gamble (would injured prospect for a top reliever be acceptable?).
Baltimore Orioles: Nick Delmonico, Tyler Wilson
With the Baltimore Orioles facing injuries and promotions with their top three BA prospects, chances are that any trade making a big splash will involve other characters from their farm. Tyler Wilson is my kind of prospect! Apparently, the whiz kid of command among Orioles affiliates was slated for a medical career had baseball not worked. Wilson’s Orioles-Nation profile labels his curve as average and change as below average, but he uses his offerings to limit the damage. Since the major club promoted Wilson to the Eastern League, his performance improved notably, although his home run rate is much more impressive than his current walk rate. Wilson simply interests me because he’s off the radar of the organizational Top 10, but he gets a nod for Best Control by BA.
Behind infielder Jonathan Schoop, Nick Delmonico is the Orioles’ best ranked bat. The flexible gloveman started his career on the right side of the infield, but his ability to play first and second has expanded to third base in 2013, leading the youngster to complete Abbott and Costello’s routine by himself. Delmonico’s bat loves the riotous Carolina League, as he’s already surpassed his 2012 HR total in half the games. However, even if we look beyond an environmental inflation, his plate discipline looks even better, with 30 walks in 215 trips to the dish. With their top three injured or in the majors already, Delmonico might be a tough sell from the Orioles’ organization, but he could be one of the strongest prospects to fit a future Brewers need (should Milwaukee’s loot convince the Orioles to part ways).
Kansas City Royals: Winning Now Saving Job?
GM Dayton Moore willed the Royals’ win-now campaign into existence when he traded two of his organization’s Top Five prospects to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis. That the club is underperforming because of their offense is not necessarily surprising, and in some ways it’s unfortunate that the Royals let go of Wil Myers during the very season that they finally cut ties with locker room superstar Jeff Francoeur. How far Moore’s win-now willing extends into 2013 will match his club’s pitching performance; so far, the club’s hurlers haven’t been half bad, and one wonders whether Moore will continue his all-out excursion to keep his digs in KCMO. Given that the Royals had one of the loudest offseason win-now campaigns, one wonders whether they will also be one of the teams to stretch as far as possible on competitive hopes.
So, even though Myers and former Brewers farmhand Jake Odorizzi are off the table, we can still have some fun wondering who the Royals might trade to acquire offensive help. Fittingly, the Royals’ offensive areas of need almost perfectly correspond with the Brewers’ most expendable bats, which makes the Brewers’ need for a quick turnaround and the Royals’ need for extra wins wondrously compatible. Bubba Starling might be the Royals’ best trade-eligible prospect, but the centerfielder’s plate discipline and hit tool took a wrong turn when the prospect reported to the South Atlantic League. Still, he’s the Royals’ Best Athlete and Defensive OF according to BA, and his power potential remains solid for a centerfielder.
FanGraphs‘ JD Sussman wrote a detailed profile on Jorge Bonifacio‘s unfortunate 2013 campaign, but the outfielder is recovering from his injury by destroying rookie ball once more. Sussman suggests that Bonifacio is a more intriguing prospect as a RF than 1B, but in either case, the big bat projects at two potential needs for future Brewers ballclubs. Bonifacio’s injury hasn’t necessarily knocked him too far back, as he just turned 20 and should hopefully resume play in A-ball at some point in 2013.
Yordano Ventura owns the Royals’ best fastball, and the Brewers would likely have to “wow” the Royals front office to land the high-minors hurler. Ventura is struggling with walks in the Pacific Coast League, but his earlier 2013 performance with Northwest Arkansas was good enough to earn a promotion from the Texas League. Not surprisingly, Royals Revival sees Ventura in the Royals’ rotation in the not-too-distant future, but, in fairness, Myers was the heir apparent to Francoeur. At #85 to BaseballAmerica, Ventura is among the strongest returns the Brewers could potentially receive at the deadline, but it will only happen if the Royals double down on winning now.
Los Angeles Dodgers: More Winning
For all their payroll weight, the Dodgers continue to toil in the crowded NL West, and they’re not registering in the Wild Card race thanks to the surprisingly powerful NL Central. While my bloodlust and thirst for entertainment would love nothing more than to see one of the highest payrolls in baseball history fail to make the playoffs, (a) that’s very mean, and (b) my brain and Milwaukee Brewers fanhood would love nothing more than a Dodgers hot streak to enter L.A.’s senior club into the trade market.
Oddly enough, a handful of the Dodgers’ top prospects (and their “Top Fastball”) are already serving functions for the big league club, which makes scouring their farm system for potential returns more difficult. Should the Dodgers’ ownership group desperately argue for a big trade, Joc Pederson would be a no-brainer “shortlist” for the Brewers. Rated for his strike zone discipline, Pederson is using the Southern League to translate that discipline into notable power. 36 of his 90 hits have gone for extra bases, and his discipline is as advertised — he earned 40 bases on balls in 345 PA, against 73 strikeouts. Furthermore, Pederson successfully stole 25 bases in 28 attempts thus far, making him a legitimate power/speed threat.
Pederson would be a pipe dream trade return, but one could argue that he’s even more likely to be traded given the Dodgers’ outfield depth. Frankly, the Dodgers’ high paid outfield is packed before even considering top prospect Yasiel Puig. With more than $200 million locked up in three outfield spots over the next four (or more) years, the Dodgers have a jam-packed outfield oriented toward veterans rather than prospects. One of the ways for the Dodgers to rid themselves of these contracts is to sell at the deadline, or work a large offseason deal; with Pederson at least a year away, one could argue that the Dodgers have time to make such decisions.
This situation reminds me of the trade the Cincinnati Reds made for Mat Latos, when they dealt from a position of strength from their deep organizational positions to address a big league need. Given the current performances by 2/3 of their big ticket outfield, as well as their strongest outfield prospect, the Dodgers could arguably trade Pederson without diminishing their depth. The only question is whether the Brewers could assemble the right package to land the outfielder.
Former Stanford standout Chris Reed is one of the best arms in the Dodgers’ system that has yet to migrate to Chavez Ravine, and he would be one of the strongest potential trade returns for the Brewers from the Dodgers. However, according to Feelin’ Kinda Blue, the Dodgers also have another intriguing college arm coming through the ranks in Ross Stripling. Stripling is not likely to be traded given his position as a 2012 pick for the Dodgers, but his size, athleticism, and fastball make him a strong value from the Fifth Round. He looks to follow in the Dodgers tradition of big right handers, but he could be trade eligible for the latest days of the deadline.
Obviously, some of the players noted here are more longshots than realistic trade returns, but that’s okay — this is Christmas in July. On the other hand, some of these players appear to be gambles that are not suitable for a successful rebuilding process. That’s okay, too — we’re looking for a range of talent from potential trades, and the fact is, the Brewers will need to scout buy-low candidates for some of their lesser-value-but-still-tradeable players. Of course, it’s not like the Brewers need to trade anyone, but given their position, and some of the talent in contending (or near-contending) farm systems, the Brewers should be able to complete the trade deadline with some higher ceilings or more potential in their farm system. I’ve focused specifically on the mid-range farm systems because those mid-level systems also feature some of the most interesting contending clubs, and also to get away from the “Can the Brewers trade Aramis Ramirez for Top 10 Prospect _____________” analysis (that’s an interesting question, but I’m much more interested in what kind of prospect projects the Brewers could mine). After all, should the Brewers land Top 10 (or even Top 50) talent at the deadline, it will indeed be Christmas in July; I’m simply wondering if our summer shopping spree can yield some value outside of the top shelf items.
Fan blogs, analysis sites, and scouting information linked as cited.
BaseballAmerica. Baseball America Inc, 1999-2013.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. 2000-2012.
Image (USA Today, H. Darr Beiser): http://www.royalsreview.com/2012/7/10/3148962/yordano-ventura-is-not-a-large-person