There are plenty of big signing going down at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, but plenty of quality trades taking place as well. The latest, Nomar Mazara headed to the South Side to play for the Chicago White Sox in exchange for outfield prospect Steele Walker.
In the 2018 draft Oklahoma had two highly touted outfield prospects and there was some debate on who would be the better pro. I was on the Steele Walker side of the argument as I felt he was a more polished baseball player, and there was a guarantee he would stick with baseball. That other outfielder no longer plays baseball because he is busy on Sunday’s quarterbacking the Arizona Cardinals, Kyler Murray.
The best tool for Walker is one that is tough to teach, and that is pitch recognition. He demonstrates a plus aye at the plate that has allowed for an OBP better than 70 points higher than his batting average. He has a low stride that allows him to keep his balance well and adjust to off-speed. The hands are quick allowing the bat speed to translate to at least average power.
He is a quality athlete but is no burner, however he has quality instincts that allow him to play a serviceable center field, although left is a better fit. Don’t give up on the idea of him staying in center though, as plenty within the organization are confident he will be able to stick there long term.
In the end, I see him as a fringe-average everyday outfielder or a high-quality number four that can hold his own at all three spots, although the arm is really his lone below average tool. He has the upside of a .275 hitter with 15-20 home run power that provides quality ABs near the bottom of a lineup.
The Los Angeles Angels have shipped the number 15 overall pick in the past MLB draft to the San Francisco Giants for salary relief of Zack Cozart’s contract and other cash considerations. So, what did the Giants “buy” and what did the Angels “sell”?
Will Wilson was a multi-year standout on a quality North Carolina State club and is a better player than his tools would suggest. He is far from an impressive athlete as he runs like a first baseman, but his instincts in the field allow him to be at least an average defender at short. The arm isn’t special but it is definitely enough to stick on the left side and will stick at short although second might be where he fits best.
At the plate he has sneaky pop, hitting 31 home runs over the past two seasons in college and then hit five over 46 games in the Pioneer League. He makes good contact although he will chase a bit too much. There is a rather significant leg kick that, along with his knack to chase the ball out of the zone, will result in an adjustment likely needed when he reaches the higher minors. He does have enough bat control to hit for a solid average and he manages to utilize his legs to get to balls lower in the zone and still drive the ball. I anticipate the plate discipline to get better with pro coaching and that adjustment to come quickly.
In the end I don’t think Wilson will be anything more than an average regular, but he could certainly develop into a well above average utility guy who can fill in at a handful of positions. He is also rather polished, so a cameo in the big league at the end of 2021 is not out of the question.
The Boston Red Sox revolving trio of catchers is officially a thing of the past, as they dealt Blake Swihart to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Marcus Wilson ($500K in international money is included in the deal, but reports have seen the money going in both directions, unsure at the time of this writing who actually received the money but I do believe it is Arizona).
Wilson is an athletic outfielder with plenty of tools, but has yet to really put together a season that matches his potential. The speed is easily above average to plus although he has only stolen more than 16 bags in a season once. He has enough instincts to stick in center with enough arm to be serviceable in right, although he is best suited in center or left.
The swing is big, violent, and inconsistent. He has some bat wrap up by the ear, a decent leg kick, and soft wrists that lead to more check swing strikes than most. His hips also open early, limiting his ability to cover the outer half of the plate, which is one of the reasons he struck out in nearly 30% of his trips to the plate in 2018. There is real raw power in the bat, although none of it has shown in game action, as his best power season was just 10 home runs in a season he slugged .369.
The approach at the plate is well below average, but the bat speed is above average leaving an upside of a future average hit tool still conceivable, although it is most likely a future 40 grade tool. The raw power is real and there is still plenty of projection in his body, so average to better game power is something that is reasonable to expect. The future for Wilson is most likely a 4-A type player, but he could find himself a role as quality fourth outfielder thanks to his athletic tools that will allow him to play all three positions and provide pop.
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.