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The trade deadline is a wild and crazy time for rumors and speculation, but so far the trades themselves have actually lived up to the hype. Troy Tulowitzki needs a passport to spend time in Canada and Johnny Cueto goes from a cellar dweller wearing the red and white of Cincy to the division leading blue and white of Kansas City. Jose Reyes has a much closer view of the Rocky Mountains, while Ben Zobrist will defend all over the diamond in Missouri, likely into October, rather than Oakland’s O.Co coliseum. It looks like Cole Hamels will be leaving cheesesteaks behind, and Jonathan Papelbon is going to be his non-PC self in the Nations capital. Justin Upton was in Atlanta on Christmas, and it looks like he might be in Baltimore eating crab over Labor Day weekend. Those are the juicy eye grabbing headlines, but the prospects are where the actual value at the trade deadline lies.
Trades are evaluated and general managers judged almost entirely based on the minor league prospects involved. The biggest criticism of the San Diego Padres 2014-2015 offseason, and there are a lot of them, is going to be shortstop Trea Turner becoming a potential star after being traded to Washington. One of the more surprising trades in recent memory was Addison Russell going to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deadline deal of 2014. This time of year we are constantly reminded of Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz and Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell. We won’t accurately know who won or lost these trade deadline deals for two or three years, but fans are making snap judgments now and often forget who was involved later, and that is because of the minor league prospects as well.
In this week’s article I am going to put my prospect evaluations on the record so that we have as good a snapshot as possible about what the teams may have been thinking now and why. What are these prospects on July 28, 2015 and what might they be when we look back on July 28, 2018?
Royals receive SP Johnny Cueto
Reds receive LHP Brandon Finnegan, LHP John Lamb and LHP Cody Reed
This is a strong overall prospect return for a rental, with the Reds receiving a group of prospects that have pretty high floors while the Royals gave up three players with limited ceilings, which protects them from being lambasted with criticism. In an offseason trade, James Shields netted the Tampa Bay Rays Wil Myers; this trade is for a three month rental and it doesn’t involve any prospects with that kind of upside.
LHP John Lamb: Lamb is an example of a pitcher not returning to form after Tommy John surgery. He had an intriguing future before the surgery and has shown some signs of that returning at Triple-A in 2015, with a 2.67 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 94.1 innings pitched. In one inning spurts his arsenal doesn’t match Brandon Finnegan’s, but Lamb has a better chance to be a serviceable SP3.
LHP Brandon Finnegan: At his best, he has the “stuff” to make an impact for the Reds, but for Fantasy owners it will likely be as an eighth-inning reliever with strong holds totals. He lacks the plus-velocity you want to see in a closer and there are doubts that he can repeat his delivery consistently enough to be a durable, 200-inning starter. What we saw in the 2014 playoffs is the ceiling for Finnegan, and while he could be a closer, Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect three or four years of save opportunities, even if Aroldis Chapman goes elsewhere.
LHP Cody Reed: Reed has flashed potential at his best, but he is not a blue chip prospect. He is left-handed and has looked better in 2015 than he did in 2013 or 2014. He is not worth a roster spot at this time, but he could develop into a SP3 if everything continues to improve.
Royals receive Ben Zobrist
A’s receive LHP Sean Manaea and RHP Aaron Brooks
The Royals are clearly going for it in 2015, but this deal has a chance to come back to haunt them. Ben Zobrist won’t provide the kind of impact that Johnny Cueto should, but this could be 2015’s “Eduardo Rodriguez” trade. Rodriguez was traded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Boston Red Sox for Andrew Miller, a deal which is being lauded as highway robbery.
LHP Sean Manaea: He has a chance to be the best player the Royals traded at the deadline, and possibly the best prospect that changes hands when we look back in three or four years. He had the most upside of any prospect in the Royals’ system, while also being a riskier bet to contribute at the major league level. I ranked Manaea as the Royals’ top Fantasy prospect in my Organizational Top 10 rankings in our Xclusive Edge Baseball Draft Package. He needs to improve his control in order to be a SP3, and if he can put it all together he has the upside to be a SP2 with impact Fantasy potential, which can’t be said of anyone else the Royals have dealt at the deadline so far.
RHP Aaron Brooks: He has a chance to contribute innings at the major league level, as it appears all players that the A’s trade for eventually do, but he lacks the upside to be an impact Fantasy prospect.
Blue Jays receive Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins
Rockies receive SS Jose Reyes, RHP Jeff Hoffman, RHP Miguel Castro and RHP Jesus Tinoco
The Rockies got the best Fantasy prospect of the 2015 trade deadline so far in RHP Jeff Hoffman, an explosive arm with closer ability in Miguel Castro and a project with some upside in Jesus Tinoco. It’s unlikely that we see a better pair of potential impact Fantasy prospects traded at the deadline than Hoffman and Castro.
RHP Jeff Hoffman: Another prospect that had Tommy John surgery before he stepped on a field for the team that drafted him, Hoffman has an ace caliber two-pitch mix in his fastball and breaking pitch. If he develops his changeup, Hoffman could become that rare SP1, or at least a SP2. His Fantasy value gets killed going to Coors Field, but the raw ability ranks him as one of the best arms in the Rockies’ system before he even steps on Colorado soil.
RHP Miguel Castro: I had Castro on my “prospect watch list” rather than among the Jays Top 10 prospects because of his explosive arm and how raw he was heading in to 2015. The Jays rushed him to the majors because they were desperate for bullpen help and it didn’t work out well. He has an explosive fastball with sink that profiles well for a closer, and he is a nightmare for right-handed batters. His secondary pitches need significant work for him to become a reliable starter. His ceiling as a potential closer could save Fantasy owners from dreaded Coors Field, but you should expect the Rockies to try and develop him as a starter first.
RHP Jesus Tinoco: Tinoco doesn’t profile as an impact Fantasy pitcher, but he has the stuff to be a consistent innings eater and two-start SP in deeper leagues. He has a plus fastball that gets a lot of groundballs and he has the potential in his secondary offerings to be a starter if he can throw consistent strikes.
Astros receive LHP Scott Kazmir
A’s receive C Jacob Nottingham and RHP Daniel Mengden
The A’s didn’t get a ton of Fantasy impact in RHP Daniel Mengden, but C Jacob Nottingham has shown that he may turn into an offensive backstop with his 14 home runs in 2015. You would think Scott Kazmir would bring more than a developing catcher in return, but it’s a thin position and Nottingham has had an impressive season.
C Jacob Nottingham: Nottingham is having a breakout season split between Low-A and High-A. He didn’t profile as a prospect before this season, so he qualifies as a pop-up prospect and that’s not uncommon for catchers. Catching prospects are difficult to profile and even more difficult to project. Analysts believe he can handle the position defensively, and that the bat is emerging, so he is a prospect to monitor and is worth a claim if you have a spot to spare.
RHP Daniel Mengden: Mengden doesn’t profile to be an impact starter or a closer. He has a ceiling as an innings-eater SP4/5.