Valuing Prospects with New Homes
The calendar has turned to 2018, and the Hot Stove is officially … a bunch of tepid embers. With a majority of the top free agents still unsigned, it’s obvious to say that not much has happened so far this offseason. Sure, the Angels have made some major headlines, but guys like Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Jake Arrieta, and J.D. Martinez still haven’t found a home. And while free agency is always exciting, moving prospects like Christian Arroyo always tends to be pretty exciting in its own right, and the trade front has been far more active this offseason.
We recently saw a three-team trade between the White Sox, Dodgers, and Royals getting together to swap some relievers in the latest “blockbuster” deal. We’ve also seen vaunted Rays third baseman Evan Longoria take a trip west, Marcell Ozuna wind up in Cardinals red, Dee Gordon make the move to center field with a trade to the Mariners, and several more depth trades, as well. Nearly every trade involved prospects on the move, and today we’re going to take a look at several of these players and see whether their values go up or down on their new teams.
Christian Arroyo – Traded from San Francisco Giants to Tampa Bay Rays
Arroyo was the Giants’ first round pick at number 25 overall back in 2013. He was drafted as a high school shortstop with questions on defense, a solid hit tool, and low power and speed grades. Yeah, I don’t know why the Giants did it, either. He wasn’t listed in many top 100 lists going into the draft and signed for the allotted slot total of $1.86 million, so they didn’t save any money here, either.
Arroyo has largely lived up to the low expectations by hitting over .300 in nearly every stop of the minors while never cracking 10 homers or steals in a season. He can play an OK shortstop or a slightly better third base with a solid arm. Now with the Rays as the centerpiece in the trade for Evan Longoria, it’s hard to know exactly what they plan to do with him. They are often a stingy team with regard to Major League service time, so it’s not likely we see him on Opening Day, but with him being a lesser prospect, there’s a chance they give it a shot and see what they have.
Ultimately, Arroyo’s value stays the same, as he wasn’t really highly regarded to begin with. There’s a chance the power actually develops and he becomes a 15-homer guy, but I’m not betting on it. And if he struggles in the Majors with his batting average, his low walk rate won’t bail him out, which would basically make him a bench bat. Unless you’re desperate, it’s not worth making the effort to worry about Arroyo.
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Sandy Alcantara – Traded from St. Louis Cardinals to Miami Marlins
Sandy Alcantara is the epitome of “is he a reliever or a starter?” question. He flashes that always-frustrating triple-digit heat combined with shaky command, and because of it, he struck out only 106 batters in 125.1 innings in Double-A in 2017. For a guy who arguably might be the top prospect in this system, that’s not exactly awe-inspiring.
He is just 22 years old, though, and there’s always a chance that the command develops enough that he manages to become a good rotation piece. I highly doubt that the improvements he makes ever put him into ace territory, but it’s possible to get a third starter’s workload out of him as a ceiling. If it doesn’t work out as a starter, there’s always the option of becoming a lights-out option out of the pen, and ultimately I think this is his destiny.
The one nice thing about being moved from a Cardinals system with decent pitching depth to a Marlins team that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “depth” is that Alcantara likely has a longer leash as a starter. That ultimately ups his value slightly, and if you’re a team looking for a nice lottery ticket, you could certainly do worse. The move certainly doesn’t make him a top-10 prospect, but if you have to pay for a top 50-60 prospect, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
Magneuris Sierra – Traded from St. Louis Cardinals to Miami Marlins
The other big piece of the Marcell Ozuna trade, Sierra is a 21-year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder with some OK potential as a speedy outfielder. He doesn’t strike out a whole lot (whiffing only 16.8% of the time in Double-A and High-A in 2017) and uses his speed to post high BABIPs and inflate his batting average. The hit tool isn’t good enough to carry his bat, but the speed can make up for a lack of true hitting ability. There isn’t much power here, with only 11 home runs in 1,908 plate appearances in the minors, so he’s not going to give you much in the slugging department.
On the Marlins, Sierra is now projected to be the everyday right or center fielder (depending on what the team does with Christian Yelich), and though I think he could do with a bit more seasoning in the minors, there’s a chance he can provide some good value thanks to his 70-grade speed. Of course, you’re also likely going to end up with a .280/.310/.350 slash line, so don’t expect Dee Gordon-type numbers from the kid. Instead, maybe think of him as a Jarrod Dyson type who you can plug into your lineup when someone gets hurt and hope that you catch him on a hot streak.
The move to the barren Marlins’ system does mean that Sierra will likely get playing time sooner rather than later, but is this a detriment to his learning process? It could be, and if it is, that means he actually loses value by moving to this system. Since you can’t predict that (nor can you predict his success, obviously), I won’t hold it against him, and I’ll instead say that he gains a bit of value with this move. Don’t break the bank trying to acquire him, but as a bench outfielder, you could do worse.