This time of year the moves are sneaky but there are a lot of names involved in this deal that prospect fans are familiar with. Tyler Austin goes from the Minnesota Twins to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Malique Ziegler, while Connor Joe has been designated for assignment to make room for Austin.
Austin was once a top 100 prospect when still with the New York Yankees making a rare three trips to the Arizona Fall League. He is primarily a first baseman but has seen a dozen games in the outfield and had a “breakout” season a year ago when he hit 17 home runs in 69 games with the Yankees and Twins.
Connor Joe has had a busy season already, being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 draft but traded to the Giants. Since he still carries the Rule 5 tag, he will need to be traded to or claimed by another team who will have to place him on their big league roster (something that is somewhat unlikely given he has reached base twice in his first 16 big league plate appearances) or he will be offered back to the Dodgers, the team that had him before the Rule 5 draft.
My focus on trades involving prospects is going to be on those who have yet to make their big league debut, so I am not going to dive further into Joe despite him still very much carrying rookie eligibility. I define prospects as players who have a real shot to make a Major League roster someday, while I consider fringe prospects to be guys that wouldn’t be shocking to see them get a cup of coffee but not necessarily something I expect either, while those I don’t give any real shot at ever making it to the highest level are just org guys. Ziegler just barely makes fringe prospect for me.
He is a 22 year old outfielder with just two games at High A (both this season) under his belt. He is athletic, stealing 26 bags in just 64 games two seasons ago in the Northwest League and can play a solid center field. He has hit just .245 this far in his pro career, but there is hope for the bat. He has good bat plane and quick wrists, but his pitch recognition is poor. He strikes out more than once a game throughout his pro career and takes horrible hacks at off-speed, especially breaking balls from lefties of all pitchers. The back foot is busy, which limits his balance on said off-speed offerings and it limits the amount of power he is able to tap into.
The most likely path for Ziegler to the bigs will be as a September call-up who sees time as a defensive replacement or pinch runner. That said, there is still a shot at the pitch recognition improving enough for his bat speed to come into play and potentially develop into a fourth outfielder, which is something worth taking a shot on for the Twins in exchange for a guy that was likely headed for a DFA given the depth at DH/1B the Twins currently have.