By: Burke Granger
If you follow baseball prospects with at least a moderate level of enthusiasm, and if you’re reading this article you probably do, there are a few milestones throughout the calendar year about which to get excited. Along with the First-Year Player Draft, the All-Star Futures Game, and September call-ups, the trade deadline is one of those moments.
Prospect enthusiasts need not worry about their team being a buyer or a seller this time of year. There is no need to calculate what your magic number is in locking up that coveted one game wildcard playoff. The purest prospect junkies among us are not beholden to a particular organization, and as such, the trade deadline brings with it a childlike optimism.
A major part of the appeal that the deadline provides an opportunity to assign a somewhat objective value to these prospects that we spend so much time evaluating. For a few brief days in July (and sometimes in August), no longer do we need to operate in the hypothetical when evaluating the worth of a particular player in a vacuum. We get a true glimpse of what another organization will sacrifice in what is in most cases a realized talent (a veteran) to acquire potential (a prospect).
There were about a dozen or so top 100 caliber prospects who changed teams summer, but in order to keep this article from droning on, I’m going to highlight five of the best. Also, I’m defining the deadline pretty loosely to include all trades from July 1 to August 1.
Anderson Espinoza: Alright so in the interest of full disclosure, the reason I defined the date perimeters the way I did is so I could include Espinoza, whom the Red Sox traded to San Diego on July 14th in exchange for Ole Miss alum, Drew Pomeranz. Anderson, an 18 year old right-hander who can run it up to triple digits, signed for $1.8 million out of Venezuela in 2014. Though just 6’0″ and 160, Espinoza’s stuff plays big. Aside from the above average fastball, Espinoza gets good grades on his changeup and curveball as well. Baseball America recently ranked Espinoza at #15 on their midseason top 100 prospect list, while MLB Pipeline had him at #20 respectively.
Glayber Torres: Like Espinoza, Torres was signed out of Venezuela, though it was a year earlier and for $100K less than his fellow countryman. The 19 year old shortstop was the keystone prospect (along with Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford and veteran Adam Warren) that the Cubs sent to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman on July 25th. Regarded for his bat, many project Torres to hit for average with decent pop, but it doesn’t appear to be a certainty that he will stay at shortstop. Torres is a consensus top #50 prospect, coming in at #27 on Baseball America’s list and #24 on MLB Pipeline’s.
Clint Frazier: Frazier was the 5th overall pick in 2013 and Cleveland promptly signed him for $3.5 million. At 6’1″ 190, Frazier has size, strength, and plenty of bat speed that he combines with a natural uppercut swing to produce above average power. Defensively, Frazier has played all three outfield positions. He has the athleticism to handle center, and an arm that could play in right. Frazier headlined a package that the Indians sent to the Yankees in exchange for Andrew Miller. Recently promoted to AAA Columbus with the Indians, Frazier is staying in the International League and has joined the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Lewis Brinson: A prep prospect out of Coral Springs H.S. (Fla.), Brinson was drafted by the Rangers in the first round (29th overall) in 2012. The Rangers sent Brinson and fellow blue chip prospect, LHP Luis Ortiz, to the Brewers in exchange for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress. Brinson ranks 21st on MLB Pipeline’s Midseason Top 100 list, and 30th on Baseball America’s list. Despite getting above average grades on his tools across the board, the results haven’t shown up on the stat sheet this season. In 77 games at the AA Texas League, Brinson hit just .237/.280/.431, though he did manage 11 homers and 11 steals.
Phil Bickford: Like Frazier and Brinson, Bickford was a first round pick out of high school. The Blue Jays made him the 10th overall pick in 2013, but he didn’t sign and followed through on his college commitment to Cal State Fullerton. Though he pitched well as a freshman (6-3, 2.15 ERA, 5.69 K/BB ratio), Bickford, went the junior college route as a sophomore, transferring to the the College of Southern Nevada, so he could be draft eligible following the 2015 season. Bickford used his upper 90s fastball and above average slider to strike out an obscene 17.24 batters per 9 innings that season over 86.2 innings. Bickford became a first round pick for a second time in 2015, this time being selected by the Giants 18th overall and signing for $2.3 million. This July, the Giants sent him, along with catcher Andrew Susac, to Milwaukee in exchange for lefty reliever Will Smith. Bickford’s ultimate future value is tied to whether he can stay in the rotation or will move to the pen, which in turn is dependent on the continued development of his changeup.