The best prospects acquired in trades

Detroit Tigers

With the Trade Deadline fast approaching on Friday, here’s another reminder that the prospects whom sellers receive in exchange for veterans can deliver a huge payoff.

It’s possible the National League MVP and Cy Young awards could go to Fernando Tatis Jr. and Zack Wheeler, both acquired as youngsters in summer deals from years past. Check out MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects and you’ll find a dozen phenoms picked up in trades, led by Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic (No. 4), Marlins right-hander Sixto Sánchez (No. 11) and Cardinals left-hander Matthew Liberatore (No. 27).

Below we identify the best prospect on each of our organization Top 30 Prospects lists who was added via a swap with another club.

Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson (No. 4, MLB No. 68)
After taking him in the second round in 2018, the Mets moved Woods Richardson (alongside Anthony Kay) to the Jays for Marcus Stromam at the Trade Deadline a year later. At his best, the 20-year-old right-hander throws four above-average pitches. However, his results at Double-A New Hampshire have taken a step back in 2021 (5.76 ERA, 26 walks in 45 1/3 innings) as he’s lost a bit of the control that made him a Top 100 prospect in the first place. But Woods Richardson has still managed to strike out 33.2 percent of his batters faced at such a young age, and he earned an Olympic spot with Team USA as well.

Orioles: Terrin Vavra, INF (No. 10)
Vavra was the perfect pickup candidate for the rebuilding O’s when they moved Mychal Givens to the Rockies at last year’s deadline. The left-handed hitter can be above-average at the plate, and he showed a strong mix of patience and pitch recognition at Double-A Bowie, where he posted a .413 OBP. Though not a burner, Vavra has played primarily up the middle at second and short and even sprinkled in some center field this season. He is currently on the IL following a lower back strain.

Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (No. 5, MLB No. 71)
The Chris Archer trade with Pittsburgh from August 2018 just keeps on giving for Tampa Bay. Baz has some of the best stuff in the Minors with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and slider that each receive plus-plus grades. Command and control were the biggest concerns for the 22-year-old entering 2021, and he’s answered those questions well by walking only 10 over 55 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. (He has a 2.26 ERA and 82 strikeouts in the same span.) Baz is currently representing Team USA at the Olympics in Japan.

Red Sox: Jeter Downs, SS/2B (No. 2/MLB No. 35)
Downs has been part of not one but two blockbusters, going from the Reds to the Dodgers in December 2018 as part of a package for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer and then to the Red Sox in February 2020 as the key prospect in the Mookie Betts/David Price deal. Boston’s second baseman of the future, he has 20-20 potential but is having a rough year in Triple-A, batting .197/.272/.313 with seven homers and 12 steals in 56 games.

Yankees: Luis Gil, RHP (No. 5)
After designating Jake Cave for assignment in March 2018, the Yankees spun him to the Twins for Gil, who has since blossomed into one of their best pitching prospects. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and power slider, he has posted a 4.13 ERA, .204 opponent average and 88 strikeouts in 61 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Indians: Gabriel Arias, SS (No. 5/MLB No. 93)
With well above-average raw power and one of the strongest arms anywhere in the Minors, Arias has the highest ceiling of any of the six players acquired by the Indians in the nine-player Mike Clevinger swap last August. He led the High-A California League with 224 total bases as a 19-year-old in 2019 and currently is batting .276/.356/.432 with eight homers in 67 Triple-A games.

Royals: Ronald Bolaños, RHP (No. 23)
Kansas City acquired Bolaños from the Padres last July in a move for Tim Hill, and he’s been effective in brief looks for the Royals ever since. The 24-year-old right-hander throws both a sinker and a four-seamer in the mid-90s and mixes in an average slider and curveball as well. Bolaños struck out 10 and allowed only one earned run over 6 1/3 innings with the Major League club this season but currently sits on the 60-day IL with a right flexor strain.

Tigers: Joey Wentz, LHP (No. 6)
After coming over from the Braves system for Shane Greene in July 2019, Wentz was right there with Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo in a promising Double-A Erie rotation. However, the southpaw underwent Tommy John surgery the following spring, knocking out his ability to debut in 2020 or early 2021. Wentz, who throws in the low-90s with life and features a plus changeup, is back with Erie now, where he has a 3.63 ERA in six starts but has struggled with control (19 walks in 22 1/3 innings).

Twins: Jhoan Duran, RHP (No. 3, MLB No. 79)
A $65,000 signing by the D-backs in Dec. 2014, Duran really took off in the Twins system following his 2018 move there in a deal for Eduardo Escobar. His fastball can touch the upper-90s, and his splitter (often called a “splinker”) receives plus to plus-plus grades as well. A right elbow strain has limited him to only five Triple-A appearances thus far in 2021.

White Sox: Blake Rutherford, OF (No. 8)
The White Sox helped build their first-place team with a number of deals for youngsters, including Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, Michael Kopech and Yoán Moncada. The best trade acquisition in their system is Rutherford, part of a four-player package from the Yankees in exchange for Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson in July 2017. Rutherford’s offensive potential made him the 18th overall pick in 2016, but he has stalled in the upper Minors and is batting .239/.283/.371 with five homers in 63 Triple-A games.

A’s: Junior Perez (No. 9)
Players to be named later were all the rage in 2020, and Perez fit the bill in a deal that moved Jorge Mateo from the A’s to the Padres. A $300,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic in July 2017, the 20-year-old outfielder has shown some promise for above-average power because of a quick bat and some lift in his swing. He is still raw, especially when it comes to swing and miss, and he should remain a lottery ticket acquisition for Oakland for at least a few more years as he irons those issues out.

Angels: Packy Naughton, LHP (No. 21)
The Halos picked up the 6-foot-2 hurler in a deal with the Reds at last year’s Deadline, sending Brian Goodwin the other way. Naughton is a pitchability lefty with three average pitches that play up because of some deception in his delivery and decent control. The former Virginia Tech pitcher has been used as both a starter and reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake this season and could provide Los Angeles with pitching depth in whichever role they need him going forward.

Astros: Scott Manea, C (No. 28)
The Mets signed Manea as a nondrafted free agent out of St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC for $30,000 in 2016 and included him in a deal with the Astros for J.D. Davis in January 2019. He possesses plus raw power — he’s hitting .278/.374/.473 with eight homers in 51 Double-A games — and impressive receiving skills.

Mariners: Jarred Kelenic, OF (No. 1, MLB No. 4)
Kelenic — arguably the most famous current prospect to be traded — still qualifies for this list by eight Major League at-bats, so we’ll definitely use him here. As difficult as it sounds, ignore Kelenic’s tough stretch to begin his Major League career. The left-handed slugger, who just turned 22 two weeks ago, should still be an above-average hitter with plus power, as he’s been at every other stop in his pro career. He needs to adjust to breaking and offspeed stuff at the top level, but expect those adjustments to come. Kelenic is much more talented than his present numbers indicate, and his future value will color how the December 2018 Mets-Mariners trade will look.

Rangers: Sherten Apostel, 3B/1B (No. 9)
Part of the Keone Kela trade with the Pirates in August 2018, Apostel has some of the best raw power and arm strength in the Rangers system. After making his big league debut last September at age 21, he has battled injuries this season and is hitting .248/.329/.445 with six homers in 39 Double-A games.

Braves: Thomas Burrows, LHP (No. 20)
The Mariners sent Burrows and Luiz Gohara to the Braves for Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons in January 2017, and the lefty reliever is knocking on the door to the Majors four years later. He works with a deceptive low-90s fastball and a plus slider, and he sports a 2.96 ERA, .168 opponent average and 40 strikeouts in 27 1/3 Triple-A innings.

Marlins: Sixto Sánchez, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 11)
The centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto trade with the Phillies in February 2019, Sánchez displayed a well above-average fastball and changeup when he broke into the Majors last summer, allowing just five runs in his first six starts and twirling five shutout innings against the Cubs in the Wild Card Series. He’s out for all of 2021, however, after injuring his shoulder at Miami’s alternate site in late March and requiring surgery to repair a small tear of his posterior capsule.

Mets: Khalil Lee, OF (No. 7)
New York wedged its way into a Kansas City-Boston trade last offseason that primarily focused on making Andrew Benintendi a Royal and picked up Lee in the process. Lee has been a well above-average hitter at Triple-A Syracuse this season with a 142 wRC+ and a .443 OBP in 50 games. But his swing-and-miss issues remain, and it’s been notable that the Mets have looked elsewhere for outfield help after giving Lee an 11-game Major League look in May.

Nationals: None
There are several points to make here. None of the Nationals’ Top 30 prospects at present were acquired via trade, nor were there any candidates to join that group. That emphasizes just how long it’s been since general manager Mike Rizzo & Co. have played the role of sellers in a trade market. (This isn’t a bad thing; the role of being a buyer is much more fun for the club and its fanbase.) That could be about to change with Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and others possibly on the block during this Deadline season. If the Nats pull off a blockbuster, a prominent prospect name will easily slot in here. Until then, it remains empty.

Phillies: Cristopher Sanchez, LHP (No. 21)
Faced with a 40-man roster crunch in November 2019, the Rays moved Sanchez to the Phillies for infield prospect Curtis Mead. A southpaw whose primary weapon is a lively two-seam fastball that reaches 97 mph, he has made four relief appearances in Philadelphia this year and has a 4.46 ERA, .207 opponent average and 44 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings in Triple-A

Brewers: Patrick Weigel, RHP (No. 17)
Similar to the Nationals, the Brewers haven’t done a lot of selling in recent years, and that’s reflected in their current farm system. They did, however, move Orlando Arcia to the Braves back in April and picked up Weigel alongside Chad Sobotka in the process. The 27-year-old right-hander overcame Tommy John surgery in 2017 to make his Major League debut last season and has made three appearances for Milwaukee in 2021. Once a starter, Weigel now primarily throws his mid-90s four-seamer and low-80s slider as a reliever. (The latter is his primary pitch now.) Control issues should keep him in the bullpen.

Cardinals: Matthew Liberatore, LHP (No. 1, MLB No. 27)
St. Louis fans winced at Randy Arozarena’s 2020 postseason dominance because of the way their club had moved the outfielder for Liberatore the previous January. Now that the Rays outfielder has come back down to earth, the trade should be much more fun to follow. Liberatore remains a legit top prospect because of his plus fastball, plus curve, above-average changeup and good control. He’s held his own at Triple-A in his age-21 season with a 4.82 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 16 walks in 61 2/3 innings.

Cubs: Reginald Preciado, SS (No. 10)
Signed for a Panamanian-record $1.3 million by the Padres in 2019, Preciado is the best of the four teenagers the Cubs acquired along with Zach Davies in exchange for Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini last December. He has a chance to hit for power and average from both sides of the plate and has batted .394/.461/.545 with a pair of homers and five steals in 17 games while making his pro debut in Rookie ball.

Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 3/MLB No. 48)
Six of the first eight players on our Pirates Top 30 Prospects list were added via trades, most notably Cruz, part of the return from the Dodgers for Tony Watson in June 2017. A rare 6-foot-7 shortstop with huge raw power and arm strength, he’s batting .289/.348/.538 with nine homers and 10 steals in 43 Double-A games.

Reds: Riley O’Brien, RHP (No. 13)
A $7,500 senior sign as a 10th-rounder out of the College of Idaho by the Rays in 2017, O’Brien joined the Reds in exchange for Cody Reed last August. He can hit 98 mph with his fastball and flash a plus slider, and he owns a 4.41 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings in Triple-A.

D-backs: Corbin Martin, RHP (No. 7)
The deal that moved Zack Greinke from the D-backs to the Astros was one of the biggest blockbusters of the 2019 Trade Deadline. Not to be lost in the shuffle was Martin, who had Tommy John surgery just before the trade. The 25-year-old right-hander is still waiting for his control to come back post-procedure, but his velocity is back to the mid-90s. He complements that with a changeup, curveball and slider. Five Major League appearances haven’t gone well this season (10.69 ERA, 14 walks in 16 innings), but considering Arizona’s place in the standings, Martin should get more looks to try and secure his place in the D-backs’ future.

Dodgers: Josiah Gray, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 42)
When the Dodgers shipped Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer to the Reds in December 2018, they not only received salary and 40-man roster relief, but also grabbed Jeter Downs (see Red Sox above) and Gray. He impresses with his lively mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider, not to mention his competitiveness. Summoned to the Majors for the first time last week, he has struck out 13 in eight innings but has surrendered four homers.

Giants: Will Wilson, SS/2B (No. 12)
The Angels made Wilson the 15th overall choice in the 2019 Draft, then gave the North Carolina State product to the Giants six months later in order to dump Zack Cozart’s contract and acquire lefty pitching prospect Garrett Williams. A potential 20-homer middle infielder with quick hands, he’s batting .234/.319/.443 with 12 homers in 68 games between High-A and Double-A.

Padres: Anderson Espinoza, RHP (No. 10)
It has been an absolute journey for the 23-year-old since he first joined the San Diego system in a trade for Drew Pomeranz five years ago. Espinoza has undergone Tommy John surgery twice in 2017 and 2019 before finally returning to a Minor League mound this season. He’s back to throwing in the mid-90s and has yet to throw more than three innings in a start for High-A Fort Wayne as he continues to be eased back into action.

Rockies: Elehuris Montero, 3B (No. 9)
When the Rockies dealt face of the franchise Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals in February, Montero had the most upside of the four prospects they received in return along with Austin Gomber. He won Low-A Midwest League MVP honors in 2018 before slumping during an injury-filled 2019, but he has bounced back to hit .279/.368/.547 with 18 homers in 71 Double-A games. His best tools are his well above-average raw power and plus arm strength.

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