The baseball work was set ablaze late Tuesday night as the biggest blockbuster in recent years hit Twitter. Mookie Betts and David Price (and his contract) are heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenta Maeda is headed to the Minnesota Twins, while Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Graterol are headed to the Boston Red Sox. In a corresponding move, Joc Peterson is heading down the 405 to the Los Angeles Angels and Luis Rengifo is headed up to the Dodgers. Other pieces are involved in this deal and a post will go up breaking down Andy Pages and any other prospects once the physicals are done and the trade is final.
Every one of the players in the deal has seen MLB time, and only Graterol still has rookie eligibility, so he is the lone player that fits for this site. He saw just 9.2 innings over 10m games, all in relief, where his power sinker was his go to offering. If the Red Sox decide to keep him in the bullpen, he has the makings of a dominant reliever, but I am not ready to write off his starting career just yet. He has that sinking fastball along with a more traditional four-seamer give him the power offering, while he has a slider that sits just under 90 MPH and a two-plan curve to keep hitters even further off balance. I don’t have much faith in the change, but it is not an offering without upside.
His delivery has some late effort and short arm that leaves some concern, but the body suggests he can hold up to the innings and there is plenty of athleticism in his delivery too. When he is working as a starter there is less violence in the end of the process and there is very little concern from me on that. Overall he is immediately the best prospect in the Red Sox system and good enough to open the season in the rotation.
One question that has not been raised about Dodgers catching prospect Will Smith is whether or not he can stick behind the plate. He has a plus arm and plenty of agility behind the plate to make him an above average if not plus as a catcher. The Dodgers love to get their catchers playing other positions, and Smith has turned himself into a serviceable defender at the hot corner and has seen some time at second in the past.
The big question (after he replies “no, not that Will Smith, no not the football player Will Smith…”) is how much will he hit? I am in the minority that feels he can hit enough to be an everyday option behind the plate. He has some leg kick and can get out on his front foot too far and his bat speed is far from elite, but the bat plane allows him to really drive the ball. With the defense he brings to the table and the power he can provide, he only needs to hit .225+ to be a valuable player. I expect him to hit between that .225-.230 with 18-20 home runs should he get an everyday player’s workload.
Depending on how long Austin Barnes is on the shelf, Smith should get every opportunity to take over as the primary backstop ahead of Russell Martin, but the Dodgers do have arguably the best catching prospect in the game, Keibert Ruiz, who could find himself in the mix before too long. Ruiz is still just 20 and at AA so that may be somewhat aggressive, meaning Smith has every opportunity to hold down a job in the big leagues for the rest of the season even after Barnes comes back as he and Barnes both have the ability to play the infield, reducing the roster concerns often created by carrying three catchers.
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.
Before I even got this posted Alex Reyes exhausted his rookie eligibility (needed a single out to do so and pitched an inning on Friday) so I updated my top 150 before it went live. Reyes was at 22 but is now removed making room for Ryan Weathers, giving the Padres two more than any other team with 12 players making the top 150. 15 players on the list open the season in the big leagues, with 14 of those in the top 80 and the Padres and Mariners both starting with two players in the big leagues.