First Pitch: Which Prospects Should Be Available In Trades?

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 would be expendable, but only in a bigger deal.
Alen Hanson would be expendable, but only in a bigger deal.

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.

**Prospect Watch: Heredia Hit Hard, Bradenton Goes 19 Innings.

**Minor League Schedule: Just Four Games On A Slow Tuesday.

**Trade Values: Alex Rios and Nate Schierholtz.

**Top Performers: Stolmy Pimentel and Jameson Taillon Have Record Setting Starts.

**Top Performers: Dickerson and Rojas Hitting Their Way Back to Top Prospect Status.

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Chris Hale

First of all we haven’t EVER had the talent that we do now. That should be obvious if you follow our prospects. Which I do religiously . Mr. Huntington has worked hard to make it what it is. He has to be careful not to gut it out. I have compiled a list of about 70 Pirates prospects( my on the radar list) that have peaked my interest from reading things on this site or scouting reports on other sites From that list I make my own top 50 pirates prospects list. I go to West Virginia or Altoona whenever I get the chance. I eat and sleep Pirates baseball. The farm system is my favorite part about all of it. Tim I can’t imagine how hard you work I’m guessing pretty hard. I envy you though. Getting to do the things you do. Writing about Pirate baseball. That’s my dream job! Anyway I appreciate what you and your staff do. Keep up the good work!

james vargo

Depressing article Tim. our prospects aren’t looking as hot as they once did. Hansen has underwhelmed for a year and a half now. Prep players drive me nuts — you can load up on them and there is a decent bet none of them will make it. Look at the Pirates through the recent years. They had tons of pitching talent 10 or 15 years ago – potential wise – and all who made a dent were Duke and Maholm. I think trading for the real thing is the way to go now.

Monsoon Harvard

I’d also like to add that I believe most of the noise about contending teams trading for Alex Rios is coming from Chicago media. Of course they want Rios to be traded for prospects. They’ve seen him long enough to know he’s no team savior.

I don’t think their are any teams clamoring to get Rios for their stretch drive. There are enough better and cheaper players available. I think its a hard sell coming from Chicago trying to convince people that getting Rios will solve their needs.

Monsoon Harvard

I’m not comfortable with Alex Rios. He is and has always been prone to long slumps and could easily go a couple months without a whole lot at the plate. He is no guarantee for ‘getting a team over the hump’.

I don’t like putting all eggs in one basket either, and the Lee & Ludwick deals were the right way to go about it. Unfortunately Ludwick did what I just said Rios is prone on doing, sucking for a month or two.

I’d want a steady .300+ hitter or at least a steady homerun hitting player. A guy like Soriano would be much more to my liking than a Rios type for getting a team over the hump. Add in a couple of good hitting bench guys, and you have a nice recipe for fun from August through the post season.

But I wouldn’t trade Polanco or Hansen. The rest of guys Tim mentions I’m fine with trading.


Free Giancarlo!!!! Make him a buc with a trade the marlins can’t refuse. Prospects begone!


Yes and who do you suggest plays RF in 3 years? And what about the rotation?


Trade players/prospects at peak value. Who is peaking?

Hard to tell. I’d say Marte. I don’t think he’ll get much better and he’ll lose years of control. Is he good, yes. Is he at his peak of value, yes. Do I trade him, probably not, but that is an example.

Is Polanco peaking yet. Probably not.

Is Hanson peaking. Possibly.

Dickerson. Yes. (IMO)

You get the idea.


RE:Does a 94-68 team have a better chance of winning the world series than a 90-72 team?

….Maybe, maybe not, as you just need to get in… But this Pirates team with a legit power bat in RF(Rios), or a platoon IF to spell Pedro & Walker against lefties (Michael Young), or an extra front line starter for the playoffs (Garza) certainly has a better chance at the world series. This team has been playing within 3 games of the best record in baseball, or actually carrying the best record, since May 1st. I don’t think you need an overhaul. But to answer your question, yes, one player could make a considerable impact.

Jeremy J Stein

I don’t think it does though. How many teams make big trades at the deadline (trading away their top prospects) and they dont’ even make the playoffs or lose in the divisional/championship series?
2004 – Houston Astros aquired Carlos Beltran who was worth 4.5 WAR over 3 months. The Astros had the likes of Jeff Kent, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and closer Brad Lidge. RESULT: Finished season with a 92-70 record and Lost NL championship to the Cardinals. —– Granted the Astros were smart and only traded away Octavio Dotel and BA #67 prospect John Buck (who ended up not doing much in the majors) and the Astros wouldn’t have made the playoffs without Beltran. I think the Astros got lucky getting a rental player that good for so little.
June 27th 2002 Montreal Expos were 41-36 and needed starting pitching to maybe make a push for a wild card spot. They got there answer in Bartolo Colon (who went 10-4 for them) from the Indians but they gave up Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips. The Expos had Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Vidro, Orlando Cabrera, Brad Wilkerson, Javier Vazquez and Tomo Ohka. RESULT: Expos finished the season 83-79 missing the playoffs.
2012 – July 25th Dodgers traded pitching prospects Scott McGough and Nathan Eovaldi to the Marlins for Hanley Ramirez (Eovaldi in 5 starts this year has been worth 1.0 WAR for the Marlins). July 31st Dodgers traded 2013 BA #80 prospect Ethan Martin and Josh Lindblom to the Phillies for Shane Victorino (The Phillies would trade Lindbom to the Rangers for Michael Young in the offseason). August 25th Dogers trade 2013 #49 BA prospect Allen Webster, Ivan De Jesus, James Loney (eventually Jerry Sands and prospect Rubby De La Rosa) for Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto. RESULT: The Dodgers would finish the season with a 86-76 record and miss the playoffs.
July 30th 2004 With a 49-53 record the Mets think they’re one starter away from a playoff push. They have 21 year olds David Wright and Jose Reyes to go along with veterans Mike Piazza, Kazuo Matsui, Mike Cameron, Cliff Floyd, Richard Hidalgo Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, Steve Trachsel and closer Brandon Looper. They get their starter in Victor Zambrano and reliever Bartolome Fortunato for Jose Diaz and Scott Kazmir. RESULTS: Zambrano would get hurt after 3 starts and the Mets would finish with a losing record of 71-91.
I couldn’t find one big impact trade aquisition for any of the last 10 world series champions. A few exceptions might be the 2010 Giants aquired Javier Lopez (also Freddy Sanchez the year before). The 2009 Yankees aquired Jerry Hairston. No big impact player, 99 percent of the big impact players on the last 10 world series teams were aquired by the draft or free agency. All of the trades made were very minor average players to fill a bench spot or provide a small upgrade to one of the everyday positions. None of these teams ever traded away top prospects.
That is the pattern to take note of. World Series champions don’t trade away their top prospects. Teams that make bad decisions trade away their top prospects.

Jeremy J Stein

I hope the Pirates make a few small moves like they did two years ago (picking up Derick Lee for Aaron Baker and Ryan Ludwick for cash) which is get a couple position players that could potentially have a strong second half. Granted only Lee played well and ended up getting hurt, I think moves like that would potentially help the bench.
I don’t like the idea of trading top prospects for a big name talent like Stanton, or even B potential prospects for 2nd teir talent like Rios, Ramirez or Schierholtz. Even if they could keep those players for 2 or 3 years after, it is likely that the prospects would be worth more in the long run. Moves like this are probably what sabotages a small market team (putting all the eggs in one basket which likely doesn’t work out and then doom the franchise to at least 5 losing seasons).
Well Schierholtz might not take a top prospect (or even 2nd teir prospect) to get. I’m okay with trading 3rd teir prospects like Grossman, Cain, Owens and Gorkys Hernandez last year or minor leage depth players like Aaron Baker from two years ago.
Let’s say the Pirates play .500 ball the rest of the season (34 and 35) with the team that they have now (no trades made), that would give them a record of 90-72. Even if the Pirates go out and trade their top prospects for top players, they’ll only get what, 3 or 4 more wins? So if they get 4 more wins, they’ll have a record of 94-68. I guess that could be the difference between winning the division and a wild card spot. But was it worth it? They could lose in the first round of the playoffs. Of course if they win the world series, then it would be worth it but then the question would be, was it even necessary to trade away top prospects? We would never know.
Does a 94-68 team have a better chance of winning the world series than a 90-72 team? I can’t see any reason why it 4 more wins would because in the playoffs, anything can happen.
So the goal is just to make the playoffs, why not see if you can get there with what you got (making only minor moves).
I wouldn’t mind seeing another starting pitcher added because I think pitching will be key to maintaining success for the rest of the season. Trading some 3rd or 4th teir prospects for a Bud Norris type pitcher would be a good move.


I disagree with the philosophy of “just get in” the playoffs. If you are a WC, you have a 50-50 chance of not even making the divisional playoffs, and your season ending after one game. Sure, right now the Cardinals look very good, but add a big bat to the Pirates, and I think they can challenge them. If you can win the Central, you not only avoid a one-game elimination but very likely get home field in the divisional round.


I would trade Polanco even up for Xander Bogaerts in a heartbeat, move him to the majors now, put Mercer in a trade with someone else as part of a RF/1B package.


Boston might have somebody slap you in the face for suggesting that.


Thanks very much for the great article. I’m not a scout and don’t see minor league games. Therefore, I have to rely on articles like this. I think there are only several or three “don’t touch” prospects in the organization unless the Pirates get absolutely blown away with an offer they can’t refuse (and that only happens in fairy tales). Last year’s trade for Travis Snider appears to have been a bust, and I hope they can do better this year. We definitely need another strong bat in the line-up.


I hope the rest of the league values these guys as highly as you do. It’ll definitely make keeping Taillon and Polanco while getting an impact player at the deadline easier. I know you see these guys a lot but other organizations’ scouts don’t have that luxury so that could lead to poor profiling of these players by other teams. And because of that, we could see a poor deal by the standards you’ve laid out, but it could be necessary for the sake of the 2013 season.


Isn’t there a case to made to “sell high” on Taillon? I feel mixed about this myself. His performance is solid, but unspectacular. His fastball is flat, he’s always behind hitters, and he just doesn’t seem like he blows people away.


Have you ever seen Taillon pitch?? His fastball is far, far away from being flat. The main issue is leaving the pitch up in the zone which, for any hitter, anywhere, results in the ball being hit. Each of three times I’ve seen Taillon this season he has kept the ball low and shown a knack for knowing how to pitch. He doesn’t need to blow anyone away for me as there is no indication to me that he won’t be a solid 1 or 2 starter not too far down the line. He has the frame, he has the velocity, he has the pitches, he has the mindset. Selling high on him would be a mistake because, first, this isn’t his peak value. His peak value will be in a few seasons when him and Cole are anchoring our rotation


I have seen him pitch, and he was awesome in the game that I saw him. But I have watched or listened to the majority of his other starts. I should have used the word straight, not flat. I guess I am concerned that he can’t get more swings and misses against the bottom of the order of a double-A team. I hope your correct.


I’m on the record as saying Taillon is completely fine and on pace to be in Pittsburgh next year. I don’t think his stock has dropped at all and I think he’s going to be a big time pitcher with Cole for years to come. The only thing doubters could point to is the line hitters are putting up against him this year .263/.329/.384/.712.

That’s not an awful line, and it is aided pretty strongly by a .325 BABip, but he’s still probably getting hit more than you would like. But at the same time, that’s been a known issue with him, especially when he elevates the FB. I’m not moving him. He’s in such a good place to come up next year and pitch behind Liriano, and Cole, and maybe AJ without the pressure of being the Ace. No way I’m getting rid of him.

Lee Young

Good stuff as always from you, Tim.
As you say “Depends on the return”.

Chris Hale

Tim I was wondering what moves you would like to see the Pirates make. Do you think it’s worth trading the guys above this year or do you think maybe that it’s too soon to trade off top 10 prospects to make a realistic run. . I think we are in need of a top of the order high OBP % hitter and a middle of the order power hitter to have a shot at beating STL for the Central, If you look at their lineup we do not match up. I think they have a slight edge in SP but we have the advantage in the bullpen but What would it take to get guys like Aoki, or Rollins for the top of the order or Morales, Ibanez,Pence,Soriano, What do you think it would take to bring Alexi Ramirez /Alex Rios from the ChiSox.
Aoki and Morales or Ramirez/Rios This is a lineup I could see us making a run with
Aoki RF
Marte LF
Cutch CF
Morales 1B
Alvarez 3b
Martin C
Walker 2B
Mercer/Barmes SS


Rios is going to be too expensive for this team in terms of both prospects and salary. Alejandro De Aza has been similar offensively in terms of statistics, and he shouldn’t demand the prospects that Rios does. And honestly, I don’t want to make a trade within the division, so I don’t like the Aoki or the Soriano deal.


Ibanez I think would be a great rental, and his past experience with winning and leadership shouldn’t command too much back. Rios is inconsistent, i’m not interested in him at all at any price, too much risk when we need a definite upgrade. Morales… an upgrade, but not a big upgrade. Pence isn’t going anywhere. Soriano they can’t trade because he veteod the trade to us last year if you remember correctly. He doesn’t want to leave Chicago. Aoki or Rollins….are interesting thoughts, I’d be interested in seeing what they’d cost.

Monsoon Harvard

I never heard anything about Soriano vetoing a trade to Pittsburgh last year. Is there a source for that?


There are big concerns about each of Morales, Rios and Ibanez. Rios has been extremely inconsistent this season and I think he could be a problem to the club house chemistry. Morales probably can’t handle 1B anymore (his last season where he played more than 50 games at the position was 2009. Ibanez is a butcher in the OF and while his bat is nice, we have all seen the value of having an adequate defender out there.

Joe Sweetnich

Great read Tim

joe g.

Lol Tim, I’m greedy. I don’t want to trade any of them. Seriously though, you make a great point about outfielders potentially being moved to 1B. A small market team like the Pirates needs to have that kind of flexibility and maximize their developing talent.

I also find myself struggling with the idea of trading a Hanson vs Heredia. I see a system from top to bottom deep in pitching, but a major league team struggling to score runs. I just hate the idea of giving up players with offensive potential until we see a better scoring major league team.


Not much to quibble with here. I don’t know if the Pirates look at it as an investment, or a sunk cost, but the $5M they have tied into Bell would make me hesitate to move him at this point. I think you would probably be selling pretty low on him. Power hitters take longer to develop and he’s still in the early stages.


Tim, Imagine the pirate lineup with Giancarlo in it!!! Put all chips on table to get him.


Great article. I haven’t seen Heredia in person but believe he hasn’t progressed as the Pirates would have liked (yet). I’m fully aware of his upside, but coming into camp overweight is a big indicator to me he’s not ready mentally.


What you may be forgetting is that Heredia is only 18 years old and would have been drafted this season. In terms of development, we really have nothing to go on for a pitcher being signed at 16. It seems very likely Heredia is going to be taking the path that the Bucs do with the HS prep arms, limited innings in the lower levels, a full year at West Virginia, then promotion by merit. Despite his last start, Heredia has pitched pretty well in the minors this season and it should also be noted that he’s a level ahead of most kids that are his same age.

As for Heredia’s weight, yes he did come into camp overweight which is never a good thing but it should also be noted Heredia has always been a thick kid with a big frame. Standing at 6’7 as well adds into his weight. He’s never going to be a thin kid out there. He’s not built like Locke, more along the lines of Sabathia.

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