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Which young players could AL contenders, including Yankees and Orioles, trade at deadline?


Which young players could AL contenders, including Yankees and Orioles, trade at deadline?

It’s July, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time to recklessly speculate about the upcoming July 30 trade deadline. With that in mind, this and next week’s Prospect Watch will deviate from the norm. Rather than highlighting one player per team, we’re focusing on five positional groups in each league that could become relevant this trade season. 

Our thinking is straightforward: teams tend to be more willing to move a player when they’re dealing from an organizational strength; that isn’t always the case, mind you, but we find this exercise is generally a useful one heading into the mad season that is the trade deadline. 

As always, this is more of an art than a science. 

1. Orioles positional players

Bear with us because this is familiar ground for return readers: the Orioles have more talented young hitters than they have at-bats to give them at the big-league level. That doesn’t mean they have to trade everyone at or above Double-A, but it does mean they should be open to parting with a few members of their hitter surplus to upgrade their World Series odds. (We have and will continue to give the Orioles credit for trading infielder Joey Ortiz as part of the spring’s Corbin Burnes deal.)

We recently addressed why we doubt infielder Jackson Holliday is on the block. We suppose it’s possible Baltimore would weigh moving either Coby Mayo or Samuel Basallo — two potential middle-of-the-order bats with defensive questions — but for now let’s assume they’re locked in to the Orioles’ long-term plans, too. It’s a testament to the O’s depth that those exceptions — of arguably the three best players in the system — do not leave them without a number of compelling trade candidates. 

Indeed, we’ll list four players in particular here: outfielders Enrique Bradfield Jr.; Jud Fabian; and Dylan Beavers; and infielder Connor Norby. They’re all top-100 picks since 2021 who have achieved at least some level of success in High-A or above. (Norby made his MLB debut earlier this season.) There’s reason to be skittish about each of them — Bradfield’s bat might play down because of his lacking thump; Fabian and Beavers have subpar hit-tool projections; and Norby might not stick on the dirt — but it’s so tough to acquire near-ready positional help up the middle that we think more than one club would be OK landing a member (or two) of the quartet as part of a deadline deal this month.

The Orioles, for their part, are unlikely to miss any of the above given all the other talented young hitters either in the big-league lineup or nearing their arrivals.

2. Yankees young arms, infielders

Under normal circumstances, we’d highlight the Yankees outfield trio of Spencer Jones, Jasson Domínguez, and Everson Pereira. Alas, Domínguez and Pereira are injured, and Jones was deemed to be off limits during negotiations with the White Sox over Dylan Cease. (Time may prove that decision to be the correct one; for now, though, don’t make direct eye contact with Jones’ Double-A strikeout rate.) The Yankees, then, may have to resort to dealing from their collection of young arms and young infielders. 

On the pitching front, some names to know include Henry Lalane, Chalniel Arias (both currently sidelined with an injury); Carlos Lagrange; and Sabier Marte. You’re likely familiar with a few of those from their residual springtime hype. We know, we know; trading away low-level pitching is a delicate dance. While you never want to move a pitcher who matures into a No. 2 or 3 starter for a rental, you have to be sober about these things. Probabilistic analysis suggests any given young pitcher is a candidate to fall victim to attrition — that can be owed to injury; a lack of development; or any other number of Oregon Trail-like maladies. Sometimes, you just have to play the odds.

As for infielders, the Yankees may want to hold onto Roderick Arias and George Lombard Jr., but perhaps they’d be more open to parting with someone along the lines of Jared Serna, Roc Riggio, or Enmanuel Tejeda.

Think about it this way: by the time some of these players establish themselves at the big-league level (if they are so fortunate as to do so), Juan Soto could be a third of the way through his next contract. 

The Guardians have had more infielders than spots for some time now. José Ramírez and Andrés Giménez are locked in on long-term deals, and the Guardians continue to give Tyler Freeman (now a center fielder), Brayan Rocchio, and Gabriel Arias opportunities to establish themselves at the game’s highest level. 

Beyond those five, the Guardians still have a number of other infielders at their highest levels who they could move for some immediate help elsewhere. That collection includes the recently recalled José Tena, Juan Brito, Angel Martínez, Nate Furman, and Kahlil Watson — a former first-round pick they obtained in the Josh Bell trade last deadline. (That deal, if you’ll recall, also netted them Jean Segura’s contract.)

At some point, the Guardians have to make a call on which of that group they believe in the most — and, ideally, make some moves with the others before they lose value. 

The Mariners have quietly done a nice job of assembling a lot of talented young position players, including catcher Harry Ford, infielders Colt Emerson and Cole Young, and outfielders Lazaro Montes and Jonny Farmelo. (Teenage shortstop Felnin Celesten has also been raising his stock by tearing up the complex circuit.) 

Jerry Dipoto has shown a willingness to make a bold move at the deadline before — think back to the Luis Castillo deal, which cost him infielders Edwin Arroyo and Noelvi Marte. Maybe Dipoto finds a similar blockbuster to his liking this summer.

Shy of that, it seems more likely to that the Mariners will bait their hook with positional players from the next rung or two down the ladder. We’re thinking more along the lines of Jonatan Clase, Michael Arroyo, Ben Williamson, and/or Tai Peete. As with some of the other teams in this piece, you just can’t keep everyone.

5. Twins pitchers

The Twins’ surprisingly crowded infield depth chart might lead to inquiries on former first-round pick Brooks Lee. Unless they’re far more confident in Willi Castro and Jose Miranda — or the health of Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis — than we realize, we think they’re more likely to deal from their stable of Double-A starters.

You’re unlikely to have one of Zebby Matthews, Marco Raya, Andrew Morris, Cory Lewis, or Travis Adams turn into a frontline starter. They’re all interesting in some respect or another, however, to the extent that we could see other clubs taking note. 

We’ll add that Raya and Adams are both Rule 5-eligible this winter; that doesn’t necessarily mean the Twins will be more aggressive in shopping them around, but generally teams are more likely to part with prospects on the bubble. 

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