In August, Modest Returns For Modest Gains


Aug 28, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox shortstop Leury Garcia (28) scores ahead of the tag from Houston Astros catcher Cody Clark (39) during the seventh inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After the July 31st MLB trade deadline passed with little event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington noted that the Pirates (and other contending teams) didn’t make any major moves because they were, “willing to do something stupid, but nothing insane.” As August went on and a string of waiver trades came to fruition, it became increasingly clear that Huntington was right; with teams valuing prospects more than ever, no premium young talent would be on the move.

While not all PTBNLs have been announced, 10 different prospects are known to have been traded for veterans in August;

  1. Leury Garcia
  2. Dilson Herrera
  3. Alex Presley
  4. Vic Black
  5. Dakota Bacus
  6. Xavier Avery
  7. Nefi Ogando
  8. Michael Blazek
  9. Duke Welker
  10. Rob Rasmussen

This crop, for the most part, is a mixed bag of high velocity relievers and toolsy position players, with no individual having a particular acute chance of major league success. Acquired in exchange for Alex Rios, Shortstop Leury Garcia is the highlight of the group, with quick tap dancing feet that lead to wide range at short and 30+ SBs a year. His right arm is a cannon, rivaling those of outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Ichiro, and his athletic package could conceivably lead to multiple gold gloves at his position. A career  .261 hitter in the minors with virtually no power, his bat, however, is a definite question, and its unclear if he will ever hit enough enough to play everyday. If he can’t, his sheer athleticism will likely salvage his career and let him remain in a super utility role. Considering that in 2011, the Astros were able to collect four prospects, each of commensurate value to Garcia, in exchange for Michael Bourn (himself of similar value to Rios), veterans clearly have much less value at the deadline these days

Picked up in the deal that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets to the Pirates, second basemen Dilson Herrera pulls up second on the prospect list. He’s ranked behind Garcia because of the shortstop’s proximity to the majors, but Herrera, just 19 and currently playing in low A ball, has more upside.  Fast, with good range, he is only playing second because he lacks the arm for short. A much better hitter than Garcia, Herrera has a chance for above average power in the majors, a premium in the middle infield. He’s still long ways off and will certainly need to cut down on his strikeouts, but his high upside makes him a rare positive addition in this barren summer.

Jun 16, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Alex Presley (7) hits a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Closer to the majors, but less talented than Herrera, Alex Presley, sent to the Twins from the Pirates in exchange for Justin Morneau, is not a prospect in the strictest sense. He was drafted over 7 years ago and with 650+ at bats in the majors, his rookie status has long inspired. After a strong rookie season in 2011, where he posted an .804  OPS, Presley struggled mightily last year before spending most of 2013 in the minors. Already 27, the speedy center fielder may need a change of scenery to salvage his career. With average range at all three outfield positions, and a solid, if unpolished bat, Presley probably profiles best as a fourth outfielder.

The rest of the list is a series of pitchers of varying talents. The top two are probably Vic Black, who rounded out the Buck/Byrd deal and Dakota Bacus, who was sent to the nationals in exchange for Kurt Suzuki. Black, 25, saw his career as a starter derailed due to injuries and ineffectiveness after being selected in the first round in 2009. He was moved to the bullpen, where his 101 MPH fastball allowed him to thrive, striking out well over a batter per inning in the minors. Handed a September call up by the Mets, Black will be given a month to prove himself and, if he can show even modest control, could wind up as a very valuable reliever for years to come. Bacus, 22, has thrived in single A this year, posting a 3.39 ERA between the bullpen and the rotation. He has three pitches – a slider, change, and low 90’s fastball – that have the potential to be major league average, but not spectacular. If his repertoire develops, he might slot in as a back in starter, not a bad return for a back up catcher. More likely, however, he’ll find himself in the bullpen as a middle reliever.

September 14, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Stephen Drew (5) attempts to tag out Baltimore Orioles left fielder Xavier Avery (70) at second base during the ninth inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Filling out the order are Xavier Avery, a defensive outfielder who is unlikely to hit enough to ever start, Michael Black, a reliever with a mid 90’s heater and a chance to be a set up man, Duke Welker, a future middle reliever, and Nefi Ogando, a 24 year old who is posting a 4.09 ERA out of the bullpen in A+ ball and is not likely to ever make the majors.

After a 2012 that saw the Dodgers and Red Sox pull off one of the biggest blockbusters in Major League history, and move multiple top 100 prospects in the process, an August in which just a single prospect likely to start or be an every day position player was traded comes up somewhat short. A dead August for trades after a lackadaisical July was what baseball saw this summer, and what they will for some time in the future, unless serious changes are made.