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Minor League Barometer: To Trade or Not to Trade

Jesse Siegel

Jesse Siegel

Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

To trade a prospect, or not to trade a prospect. That is the question. As the trade deadline looms, contending teams are faced with this very proposition. Mortgage the future for a chance at winning this season? Hold onto your possible future stars and attempt to win with your current roster? Or perhaps find some middle ground? The Orioles pulled off a smaller deal for Francisco Rodriguez in which they gave up Nick Delmonico, arguably the top hitting prospect in their system. Delmonico is not viewed as a future star, but can be a productive major leaguer some day. The Birds also have Chris Davis at first and Manny Machado at third, so it's questionable whether Delmonico would have had a place to play for the O's anyway. Instead, Baltimore gained bullpen depth and let Delmonico go to a rebuilding Milwaukee team where he could have a clear path to the big leagues. This trade appears to be a win-win for all involved.

Now, of course, not all trades are created equal, and it will take much more highly rated prospects to obtain the likes of a Jake Peavy or Cliff Lee. Is it really worth it? Here are five more items to ponder:

1. Speaking of Cliff Lee, did you know that as a prospect, he was traded with fellow prospects Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips to Cleveland for then-reigning Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon? One of the most lopsided prospects-for-star trades in baseball history.

2. A close second may be the Braves dealing a boatload of prospects for one season of Mark Teixeira in 2007. Who did they give up? Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Harrison.

3. Kyle Zimmer and Matt Barnes have been white-hot lately, justifying their elite prospect status that many doubted over the first half of the season.

4. Keep an eye on Mets prospect Cesar Puello, who is having a breakout season at Double-A Binghamton. Unfortunately, his name was included on the original Biogenesis list, and he may be suspended for at least 50 games once punishments are handed out.

5. Players to watch at or below the Low-A line who have been hot recently: Avery Romero of the Marlins, Austin Meadows of the Pirates, and D.J. Peterson of the Mariners.

More prospect talk awaits in this week's edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE/Javier Baez, SS, CHC -
I'm grouping Lindor and Baez together because they were drafted back-to-back in 2011, play the same position and have both been successful at Double-A since being promoted earlier this season. The 19-year-old Lindor is slashing .348/.474/.500 with one home run, seven RBI and five steals through 13 games for Double-A Akron. Lindor's plate discipline has been superior; he has drawn 10 walks while fanning just three times over that span. Baez is much more of a power prospect; despite batting .232 with 32 strikeouts in 20 games since being promoted to Double-A Tennessee, the 20-year-old already has 10 home runs in that short time. Although he doesn't quite have as much speed as Lindor, Baez has still been known to swipe a couple of bags. Both shortstops have only helped their status this season as two of the better infield prospects in baseball.

Phil Ervin, OF, CIN -
Ervin's size (5-foot-11, 190) and a collegiate career at Samford kept him from being a top-10 pick. He didn't slip far, though, as the Reds snatched him up with the 27th pick in this year's draft. Ervin is extremely toolsy, with standout speed, pop and a polished approach at the dish. He has hit the ground running in the Pioneer League through 33 games, slashing .317/.407/.571 with seven home runs, 27 RBI and 12 steals. He's been on fire recently, hitting .429/.512/.971 with five home runs, 13 RBI and three steals over his last 10 contests. Yes, the sample size is small, Ervin has a college pedigree and the Pioneer League is hitter-friendly. But that shouldn't take away from his fast start, as well as the promise of even better things to come.

Adam Brett Walker, OF, MIN -
The Twins have an embarrassment of riches in their farm system, and Walker should be included among those up-and-coming phenoms for Minnesota. With power to rival fellow Twin prospect Miguel Sano, Walker has 22 dingers and 91 RBI through 96 games for Low-A Cedar Rapids. Walker has been dynamite over his last 10 games, batting .333 with four home runs and 12 RBI. Strikeouts remain a concern, as he has fanned 90 times this season. However, Walker has actually shown some improvement in that category from a year ago, and is also hitting .283 at this level with seven stolen bases. He's raw for certain, his plate discipline is suspect and the 21-year-old doesn't have Sano's upside. Nevertheless, he has significant potential for growth, and his power is legitimate.

Greg Bird, 1B, NYY -
The Yankees could use some good news from their hitting prospects, as it seems the entire organization has struggled swinging the bat in 2013. Enter Bird, a 20-year-old first baseman who has been scalding the ball recently. Bird is slashing .472/.596/.861 with four home runs and 13 RBI over his last 10 games at Low-A Charleston. Bird takes a lot of pitches, something the Yankees have preached in their farm system for years. Although he has fanned 97 times in 94 games, Bird has also drawn 71 walks. A high-school draft pick in 2011, Bird's .418 OBP along with 15 home runs and 66 RBI this season make him an intriguing player for the Bombers. Bird is still a few years away from making an impact, but Mark Teixeira may be gone by the time Bird is ready anyway.

CHECK STATUS

Clayton Blackburn, P, SF -
Blackburn has really done a marvelous job of handling the hitter-friendly confines of the California League. Despite a 4.02 ERA, his peripheral numbers remain solid. Blackburn has notched a 113:26 K:BB ratio, 1.40 GO:AO ratio, and opposing batters are hitting just .223 against him. Blackburn's greatest asset remains his mid-90s heater with diving action, which has the ability to miss bats or at the very least keep balls on the ground. He won't turn 21 until January, which likely will make him one of the younger hurlers in Double-A in 2014. With two stellar seasons in a row, Blackburn should be gaining just as much notoriety as fellow Giants pitchers Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton.

Luke Jackson, P, TEX -
Another prospect who doesn't get nearly as much publicity as he should is Jackson, the 21-year-old righty pitching for High-A Myrtle Beach. Command has hindered him, but he has always shown strikeout stuff. Jackson is having his best season by far this year, posting a 2.41 ERA and 104:47 K:BB ratio in 101 innings. Opposing batters are hitting a mere .216 against him. Jackson's secondary pitches need work, but his fastball can be dominating. Assuming he matures a bit physically and gains some command, Jackson has plenty of upside for the Rangers.

Terrance Gore, OF, KC -
You can't teach speed, and Gore certainly has it. The 22-year-old has swiped 59 bags in 65 tries at Low-A this season. Unfortunately, Gore is hitting just .228 on the year. He has shown a decent eye at the dish, drawing 47 walks, but has been limited due to an inability to make contact. He won't hit for power, so his ability to get on base is of paramount importance. He's a bit old for this level as well, so it's hard to get too excited about his future prospects. However, the stolen base artist is becoming increasingly rare these days, meaning Gore will still draw some intrigue even without an above-average hit tool.

Carlos Moncrief, OF, CLE -
We're diving really deep for this prospect, but Moncrief gets a pass for being 24 at Double-A due to the fact that he was a pitcher up until 2010. He has really come into his own this season, slashing .305/.378/.507 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 steals through 101 games for Double-A Akron. Despite learning to be a position player/hitter on the fly, Moncrief has steadily climbed levels each season since 2010. His plate discipline has shown vast improvement in a short time (Moncrief fanned 158 times in 122 games at Low-A in 2011). He has also shown decent pop and speed. Moncrief may not be a sexy prospect, but could prove useful at some point soon for the Indians.

DOWNGRADE

Bryce Brentz, OF, BOS -
Brentz has had the unfortunate honor of being included on the wrong side of this barometer multiple times this season. He is likely to miss the remainder of the season after having surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. It's safe to say more was expected out of Brentz, as the 24-year-old has shown plus-power but also disappointing plate discipline since a breakout 2011 campaign. This season, he was slashing .272/.321/.487 with 16 home runs and 53 RBI through 75 games at Triple-A Pawtucket. Brentz had fanned 76 times while drawing just 19 walks before the injury. At this stage of his career, it does not appear as though Brentz's approach at the dish will ever change, leaving him profiled as more of a fourth outfielder than anything else. Picture a younger version of BoSox outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Walker Weickel, P, SD -
Weickel's first full season in the minors has been a dud, as the 6-6 righty has compiled a 5.27 ERA and 57:31 K:BB ratio through 80.1 innings for Low-A Fort Wayne. Weickel was bombed in his last start, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits in just three innings for the TinCaps. A supplemental first-round draft pick last year, Weickel gets a decent amount of groundballs with a sinking fastball and is also armed with an above-average curveball. Unfortunately, the results have not been there for the 19-year-old. He has plenty of time to turn things around, but could be viewed as a future reliever by the Padres instead of a workhorse starter.

Matt Olson, 1B, OAK -
Olson is another 2012 draft pick who has struggled this year, particularly recently. The 19-year-old first baseman is batting a putrid .091 over his last 10 games with two RBI and 10 strikeouts. Considered one of the better hitting prospects in the Oakland organization heading into 2013, Olson's slash line has fallen to .226/.333/.396 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI in 101 games for Low-A Beloit. He has drawn a decent amount of walks (57) but has also fanned 104 times this year. He pitched in high school, so perhaps the learning curve will be a bit steeper due to his lack of at-bats overall.

Luis Heredia, P, PIT -
While fellow teenager and Low-A teammate Tyler Glasnow is having a superior 2013 campaign, the highly touted Heredia has had his ups and down at the same level. The 18-year-old righty has a 4.45 ERA and 22:20 K:BB ratio through 30.1 innings this season. Heredia was held back in extended spring training and has been on a short leash since his Low-A debut. In all fairness, most of his earned runs came from a start on July 14th in which he was blasted for eight runs in just 3.2 innings. Still, as can be seen from the statistics, his control has been suspect throughout his brief stint with the West Virginia Power. Continue to hold onto him in deeper keeper leagues, but Heredia is still a project despite his massive upside.

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