Last night I wrote about how Gregory Polanco should be untouchable. Today I broke down the trade values of Alex Rios and Nate Schierholtz, and noted that Nick Kingham would be fair value for Rios and cash, but that I wouldn’t trade Kingham.
I get asked a lot of questions about which prospects I would trade. I don’t really like that question because the answer is dependent on who you are trading for. As an example, I’d be fine with dealing Alen Hanson, but only for the right return. The same would go for top prospects like Josh Bell or Luis Heredia. But I feel like saying I would trade a certain player, with no consideration of the return, is basically the equivalent of having a $20 bill burning a hole in your pocket. You’re just looking to spend it, even if there’s nothing you really need to spend it on.
I have thought about which players I would deal, and why I would deal those players. But before I go through the list I want to add the disclaimer that I’m not saying the Pirates should deal these players. It’s just that, if the Pirates dealt these guys, I think it would be easier to take the loss, compared to the potential loss of trading a Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, or a Tyler Glasnow. That doesn’t mean the Pirates should start shopping these guys, hoping to get the best return. It doesn’t mean I’d trade a certain Grade B hitting prospect just because the trade value for someone like Nate Schierholtz is a Grade B hitting prospect. You still need to make smart deals. And if that smart deal comes along, these are the guys I think could be expendable.
Alen Hanson, SS – I’ve seen Hanson a lot this year. A lot of people talk about how Hanson will eventually have to switch to second base. There are also people who feel he can stick at shortstop. After seeing Hanson so much, through the good stretches, the bad stretches, and the horrible stretches, I’m convinced he has the tools to stick at shortstop for the long-term. Shortstop is the hardest position to fill, and it’s hard to get offense from the shortstop position. So why would I be willing to part with an offensive shortstop who could stick at the position? The answer is focus. Hanson has all of the tools to stick at short. His arm isn’t great, but it’s good enough to make the throw from short, even from deep in the hole. He’s got good range, and makes a lot of difficult plays. The plays where he usually sees an error are the routine plays. He makes an error on those because he doesn’t go at it with an aggressive approach. A lot of the mistakes he has been making this year haven’t been due to skill, but due to a mental lapse. That’s part my perception, but I wouldn’t just type that only on my perception. I’ve also heard similar from members inside the organization, and the same perception from scouts who have seen Hanson.
If Hanson doesn’t make it as a shortstop, it won’t be due to a lack of talent. It will be due to a lack of focus. I don’t want to compare him to Ronny Cedeno, but it’s a similar situation where a guy has the tools, but can be prone to slumps where the tools and skills at the position become irrelevant. Hanson is a top 26-50 prospect, which would be worth $18.12 M in value. So it would take a big deal to trade him away. It’s not like the Pirates should just dump him, because he is talented, he’s the best shortstop prospect in the system, and he’s got a chance to be an offensive shortstop in the majors. It’s just that there are some real risks there.
Josh Bell, OF – The argument gets made about how the Pirates have two outfielders in the majors (Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte), a ton of outfield prospects, and only need one of those prospects to emerge. I would say two things about that. One is that we’ve seen this said in the past about how the Pirates had Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, Robbie Grossman, Starling Marte, and more. They only had two spots to fill at the time. Only one guy emerged as a starter from that group. My approach is that until you have three guys in Pittsburgh, you shouldn’t be trading people away citing a lack of spots in the majors. The other thing is that first base is also a long-term need, so even if you have four outfielders, you could move one to first.
That said, Bell is a guy I would deal if you’re going with the “they have two outfielders and only need one” approach. That third outfielder for me would be Gregory Polanco, allowing the team to deal other outfielders. I like Bell’s power and his contact potential, but I don’t like the reports we’ve been getting about issues with his swing. John Dreker has written about that twice, and if you look at the stats this year (.282/.345/.453, average K and BB rates), it explains why Bell hasn’t exactly been dominating. You see Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, and Stetson Allie dominate the level, and you wonder why Bell — with all of his talent — isn’t doing the same. I like Bell and believe with the right adjustments he could realize his offensive potential, which is pretty huge. But the Pirates are in a situation where they don’t have to wait on that, which means they could try and deal him to another team who is in search of prospects, even if they have to try a little harder to develop those prospects. Or, in other words, a team like the Pirates a few years ago.
Luis Heredia, RHP – This is a similar situation to Bell, only on the pitching side. Heredia is only 18 years old, turning 19 in a month. He is still in the early stages of his career, and his upside of a top of the rotation starter still exists. But let’s review the things he has to work on. He needs to improve his control (learn to repeat his delivery). He needs to develop his new slider into an out pitch. He needs to develop a changeup. It would also be nice if he learned how to command the fastball at higher speeds. There’s nothing saying he can’t do any of those things, and he’s very young, so he’s got plenty of time. But the Pirates have Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and Nick Kingham. All four have #1-2 upsides, which means they don’t need to gamble on Heredia, who is higher risk than those guys.
Dilson Herrera, 2B / Barrett Barnes, OF – I like the tools with both of these guys, but they’re both in a situation where the Pirates have a lot of depth at their position. Herrera is only an option at second. He’s a great hitter and plays good defense at the position. Eventually Neil Walker will leave, but second shouldn’t be too hard to fill. If Hanson is still around, then the Pirates could go with a combo of Jordy Mercer and Hanson. If they keep Hanson, Herrera is expendable. There are a lot of other second base candidates around the same level, so the Pirates could have someone else on the same timetable as Herrera. Barnes is in the same outfield situation as Bell. Obviously they shouldn’t trade every outfielder, but every non-Polanco outfielder should be available if you go with that approach.
The only problem with trading Herrera and Barnes now is that you could be selling low. If you wait a year or two until they have success in high-A or Double-A, you could get double or triple the value. That’s not a guarantee, which is why the value is lower now. So it just depends on how confident you are that those two won’t bust at a higher level. I think both could increase in value, eventually being top 100 guys.
Stetson Allie, 1B – He’s got the best power in the system, but also has a 30% strikeout rate. Pedro Alvarez also had a high strikeout rate in the minors, and his power has made him an impact bat in the majors. But success rate of guys with power and strikeout rates like Allie has isn’t great. The plate patience issues make Allie a risky bet. I consider his power very legit, and because of that I consider him closer to a B prospect than a C prospect. If other teams valued him as a Grade C prospect, I wouldn’t deal him since that would be selling low. If another team really like his power and wanted to take a chance on his strikeouts, I’d deal him.
Other Prospects Who Can’t Help This Year – Stetson Allie was ranked our #14 prospect in the mid-season update. After that, most of the prospects are lower than Grade B. In a lot of cases you’ve got guys like Herrera and Barnes, where you’re probably selling low. Some of those guys could be Colton Cain type players who could be dealt in a multi-player deal. The guys I wouldn’t deal are the guys who can help this year. That would include Stolmy Pimentel, Vic Black, and Duke Welker. That’s not to say that those guys are untouchable in the same way Gregory Polanco is untouchable. It’s just that I think their value to the team could be greater than their trade value.
Who Should Be Available?
You may notice a trend above. The guys I’d be willing to deal are the guys with question marks surrounding their future. Prospects have question marks. If a prospect didn’t have any questions, they’d be in the majors. But some prospects are bigger questions than others. The Pirates around 2008-2010 were in a desperate situation with their farm system. They didn’t have a great system, and didn’t have the guys needed to land a bunch of top prospects who were considered safe bets. Instead they had to take chances on riskier guys with question marks and stuff to work on.
The Pirates today are in a different situation. They have a lot of young talent in the majors, and a loaded farm system. They’re not in a situation where they need to take a chance on every risky prospect. A few years ago they would have needed someone like Josh Bell to work out. Now if Bell works out, he’d end up being just a bonus player, since the Pirates would probably have all three outfield spots filled, and hopefully their first base spot filled at the same time. There are other teams who would be in the “Pirates 2008-2010” situation, and who would be fine taking on a guy who is more of a project. A few years ago the Pirates were in a situation where teams were crossing off top prospects, and dealing the riskier options. Now the Pirates are in the situation where they can cross off top prospects and still make a deal using riskier options.
Links and Notes
**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 13: What Are the Needs For the Pirates as the Deadline Nears?
**Episode 3 of the Pirates Roundtable can be viewed here. This week’s episode features James Santelli as the host, along with Ed Giles of In Clemente Weather, Michael Waterloo of Pittsburgh Sporting News, Steve Petrella of MLB.com, Cory of Three Rivers Burgh Blog, and Brian McElhinney of Raise The Jolly Roger.
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