If you have had access to any kind of connection to the internet in the past couple of days, you may be aware that Giancarlo Stanton is on the verge of being traded to either the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants. The possibility of a trade with either team carries with it drastically varying implications for the impending Marlins rebuild.
Most fans are hoping that the deal can be done with the Cardinals. The Cardinals have a hotbed of pitching talent in their minor league organizations ripe for the picking, with names such as Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, Sandy Alcantara and Dakota Hudson readily coming to mind. As well, the Cardinals also have a number of short-term bandaid outfielders that may be able to prevent a total bleed-out of talent when Stanton gets dealt. Examples of said outfielders are Stephen Piscotty, former Florida Gator - Harrison Bader, and Magneuris Sierra.
But while it’s easy to become bright-eyed at the prospect of a huge prospect yield, it’s important to remember the motivating factor behind the front office’s efforts to trade Stanton in the first place: they want to cut the payroll. Thus, instead of receiving prospects to match the value of Stanton, the Marlins will likely receive a combination of money to compensate for the contract, and perhaps one or two lower ranking prospects.
Add this to the fact that the native Californian Stanton is in total control of his destiny thanks to his no-trade clause, and it becomes even more unlikely that the Marlins will have a chance at attaining any of the Birds’ blue-chip, MLB ready prospects. Location is apparently an important factor in Stanton’s decision. It’s one thing that Florida is at least comparable in climate and proximity to the water as California; the same can’t be said about St. Louis, Missouri.
Enter the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are coming off of a season in which they were one Pablo Sandoval home run short of being the worst team in baseball. With their dynastic reign quickly fading in the rear view mirror, and the proliferation in age of their veteran stalwarts, the Team by the Bay finds themselves in a precarious position. Instead of tearing it all down, it appears that the Giants have committed to making a splash in free agency, in the interest of getting the most out of their veteran talent and attempting to make another run at the hardware, before the Golden Years definitively pass them by.
The only problem is that, at least compared to the Cardinals, the Giants seemingly lack the salt in their minor league organization to make such acquisitions. In the creation of their 2017 Futures Guide, Baseball Prospectus noted that none of the Giants’ top 10 prospects cracked their overall list of Top 101 Prospects in the MLB. The overriding assumption is that because of the lack of merit in San Francisco’s fam system, three-to-four prospects would have to be strung together to match a Stanton’s value. Obviously, given their already shallow system, the Giants would be hesitant to take four of their best prospects and trade them outright. Thus, the purported conclusion is that the Giants are ready to stake a large chunk of Stanton’s contract for the Marlins, in addition to one-or-two “mediocre” prospects.
I wanted to see myself what the Giants had to offer, so I went to my bookshelf, and dusted off both, Baseball Prospectus’ 2017 Futures Guide, and Baseball America’s 2017 Prospect Handbook. In what trade talks have been revealed, Tyler Beede and Chris Shaw have been two names thrown around. A cursory glance at both lists reveals that Beede is indeed at the top of the Giants list, while Shaw hovers around 3rd-4th. Thus, it’s probably consensus that either of these two prospects would be an adequate acquisition in this trade. Additionally, because both sites are in the process of restructuring their prospect analyses for the 2018 season, the lists I referred to did not include the Giants 2017 first-round draft pick, Heliot Ramos. While BP hasn’t published their Giants’ list for 2018 yet, BA has, and they have Heliot Ramos as the Giants’ new top prospect. With that said, Ramos is still three-to-four years out from cracking the bigs.
After examining both lists, I have discovered some hidden gems that the average fan may not ever reach after reading up to #3 on the list. From the Giants farm system, here are a few prospects that fans would have reason to have interest in, if the Giants decide to go the way of giving the Marlins more compensation, and less prospect prestige.
Before we dive into the hiddgen gems, I wanted to touch on Tyler Beede. As mentioned a couple sentences ago, this would be a welcomed acquisition for the Marlins. Before Heliot Ramos was drafted, Beede was the consensus top prospect in the system. While Baseball Prospectus draws comps to Jake Arrieta, Chad Bettis, and Esmil Rogers, the first person I thought of when I read about Beede’s repertoire of pitches was Corey Kluber. Beede utilizes three different types of fastballs; a four-seamer, a two-seamer, and a cutter. After that, Baseball America claims Beede’s best pitch to be a 60 grade curveball. While Kluber uses more of a sinker than a two-seamer, similarities can be drawn between his arsenal, and that of Beede’s.
Allow me to further qualify my comp. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching Kluber pitch, you notice that his breaking ball is just downright majestic. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs said it might be the best pitch in the bigs. To me however, the most impressive thing about Kluber is that he can make four different pitches look exactly the same coming out of his hand, every single time. Here is a Fangraphs’ pitch graph depicting his release points over the last season.
With all due credit to his breaker, Kluber really scares me with the fact that when he throws a fastball, you have no idea whether it’s going to come inside and crack your bat in half, or dive out over the black. Is it the fastest fastball in the bigs? No, but thanks to his ability to maintain a consistent release point and tunnel his fastballs, he keeps batter severely off-balance.
Call it wishful thinking if you’d like, but this may be a picture of Beede’s potential in the Majors. Today, everyone loves a hard-thrower with a big breaker. No one would be upset with the Marlins if they somehow convinced the Cardinals to give them Alex Reyes. But Beede poses an almost equally intriguing case. If he can take a page out of Kluber’s book, learning how to paint both sides of the black with his two-seamer and cutter, before unfurling his put-away curve, he can turn himself into a serious weapon in the rotation.
All reports on Beede seem to indicate that he is consistently making strides in cultivating breaking ball command, conditioning his stamina, and increasing his velocity. In 2016, Beede started 24 games for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, in which he held batters to a minuscule 2.81 ERA on a .309 BABIP. Unfortunately, Beede took a step back in 2017, doubling his HR/9 and blowing his FIP up to 5.02. Beede needs to show progress at Triple-A early in 2018 to stay on his progression curve; if he does, he should land on the big league roster by the year’s end. Ultimately, while the comp to Kluber is concededly hasty, it does serve as food for thought.
Now we get into the nitty gritty. As I mentioned earlier, some people might be hard pressed to traverse the Top 10 prospect lists all the way down to the bottom third. However, that’s where we find our hidden gems, such as one like Steven Duggar. Duggar was a sixth round draft pick for the Giants out of baseball powerhouse Clemson. In 2016, Duggar mashed in his time in both Hi-A and Double-A, with OBP’s of .386 and .391, and wRC+’s of 130 and 131, respectively. While Duggar was predominantly hampered by injury in 2017, in his small samples, he maintained his ability to get on base in Hi-A and Triple-A.
The verdict on Duggar seems to be that he is a very toolsy prospect. As it pertains to his hitting, both BP and BA mentioned that he has a very flat bat-plane. As a result, he hits a lot of hard line drives, at the cost of hitting less home runs. Despite his ability to get on base, over his 276 plate appearances in Double-A in 2016, Duggar hit just one lone home run. Duggar is also acclaimed for his above-average speed, which has contributed most to his range in the outfield. In 59 games at Double-A in 2016, Duggar raked up 7.1 Fielding Runs Above Average. While the speed tool can be utilized on the base pads, both BA and BP didn’t neglect to mention that Duggar’s base running instincts are not as fine tuned as one would desire. Still, as an athletic 24-year old with a lot of potential, the Marlins may find it to their benefit to deal for this under the radar prospect.
I’ll admit it, what got Joan Gregorio on this list for me is the fact that he is 6’7”, which in my mind evinces potential. There’s just something about a tall pitcher with an easy windup that screams control to me; even if the command doesn’t yet exist. A quick search on Youtube will show you what I’m talking about. Call it the scout in me, but Baseball America seems to agree; although his stuff is by no means elite, and he only ultimately comes out to a 45-grade, BA still views him as a medium risk, and for some reason, that resonates as a sound, worthwhile investment with me.
Ok, I know this isn’t what I pitched to you; I told you I was going to find prospects you would like, not prospects you would tolerate. The truth is that I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I still think there is a lot to like about a 6’7” pitcher like Gregorio. At first I was apprehensive about him; after reading that despite his height, he only topped at 93 with the fastball, I did endure a traumatic flashback to the days Mark Hendrickson. But I don’t think this is a Mark Hendrickson. Like I said about Beede, sometimes it’s not about the hardest throwing guy in the world. Gregorio also works in a decent slider and changeup. Although his numbers indicate that he has been hit hard, most people who have seen him are convinced that Gregorio has taken strides in developing his pitches.
The only thing that kept Gregorio from making the Big League club was the fact that he was busted for PED use on July 1st of last year. Other than that, Gregorio may be closer than we think to making his foray into the Majors. As a team with many holes to fill in its pitching staff and bullpen, the Marlins could find use for Gregorio in the very near future, if he were to come over in a trade.
In the two books I have been referencing, you have to dig a little deeper than the top 10 list to find CJ Hinojosa; he makes the “others of note” section in the Baseball Prospectus guide, and files in to rank 15th in the organization according to Baseball America. Hinojosa represents another high floor, prospect that the Marlins may benefit from snatching. A right-handed bat, while Hinojosa is currently classified as a shortstop, he is predicted to become an all-around utility infielder. Similar to Duggar, Hinojosa is reported to be a flat-planed contact hitter with above-average speed and below-average power. In one and a half seasons in Double-A, Hinojosa has accumulated modest numbers. While the wRC+ has been typically below average, he sports average-to-above-average OBP’s.
While Hinojosa doesn’t make you immediately jump out of your seat, the scouts at both sites seemed to have Hinojosa pegged as a perfectly average major leaguer, and that’s ok. Although BA has him ranked only a 45, they have him a medium risk prospect. Perhaps more noteworthy, BP makes the tongue and cheek comment in their blurb on Hinojosa that, in the tune of Matt Duffy and Joe Panik, although Hinojosa doesn’t project to be stellar, he is “the guy the Giants will somehow turn into an average regular.” It might not be the most endearing compliment about a prospect, but it is worth something.
An important thing to remember is that looking at the books, Dee Gordon takes up a cozy amount of the Marlins payroll. As noted by fellow writer Thomas Bennett, Gordon may soon go the way of Stanton and see himself out in a trade as well. After that, the Marlins are left with JT Riddle, Derek Dietrich, Brian Anderson, Martin Prado and Miguel Rojas to take up the mantle. That’s about as far as the Marlins want to go; otherwise, they find themselves on the carousel again with some semblance of infielders like Mike Aviles, Christian Colon, and Steve Lombardozzi. If last year wasn’t indication enough, I’ll just say it: it may be time to start stocking up on projectable, reliable infielders like Hinojosa. If the injury bug comes around again, we might be grateful to have a guy like Hinojosa waiting in the wings.
A real feel good story, Aramis Garcia is a local product of South Florida. How local is he you ask? If my memory serves me, I’m pretty sure I used to go to Alex Othon Baseball Camp in Pembroke Pines with this guy when I was like ten-years old. He used to be really good then, and unsurprisingly, the kid is still really good. A graduate of Florida International University, the Hialeah native was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Giants. Since then, he has overcome a number of obstacles to achieve modest acclaim in the system, including a freak facial-injury on a collision at second-base.
The BA Prospect Handbook says that after he was injured in 2015, Garcia had trouble reclaiming what seemed to be a noteworthy approach at the plate and line drive consistency. It’s clear that he had no such trouble regaining said attributes in 2017; over 103 games at Hi-A and Double-A, Garcia racked up an average wRC+ of 117 and an OBP of .337. He also slugged 17 home runs in Hi-A San Jose. While Garcia was trending towards being a glove-first catcher prior to 2017, it seems that he has averaged out, and now presents the opportunity to serve as an all-around serviceable backstop. Although BA has him as a high risk, he is scouted as a 50 grade catcher overall.
As Garcia is likely to make his highest-career start in Double-A, I wouldn’t envision seeing him breaking onto the big league scene this year, especially if he comes to the Fish, since catcher is one of the most shored up spots on the diamond for the Marlins. Its also worth noting however that the next men up after JT Realmuto are Tomas Telis (who the Marlins seemingly didn’t even trust to play catcher at the end of ‘17) and shortstop-turned-catcher Austin Nola. Thus, it may pay in dividends in the future to have a bona fide, defensive catcher waiting on deck for the Marlins. It would be a cherry on top to have it be a homegrown talent like Garcia.
Look, no one said it is going to be nice to trade Giancarlo Stanton. But if it happens with the Giants — and there is a very high chance it will happen with the Giants — the ugly truth is that Marlins fans might not totally like the package they receive. Why is that? Well, because the bulk of the deal might be money. And if the bulk of the deal is money, then the Marlins wont get as much of a prospect yield as they like.
Does that mean that the Marlins are going to get a raw deal? Potentially not. As hopefully illuminated, while many baseball writers may be quick to write off the Giants system, there are many promising young players that may benefit the Marlins in the future. Although it may be hard to believe that Derek Jeter isn’t trying to sabotage the team so he can move it to Las Vegas or Montreal or San Antonio, I have to implore you that there are baseball minds at work in Miami, and they are working to get the best deal possible for dealing the reigning MVP.
If and when the trade happens, and we find out what players the Marlins receive, I would offer the same advice as I have often given since new management took over for the Marlins: be patient. It’s easy to just chalk up a trade with the Giants as an “L”. On the other hand, it would evince considerable tact on your part if in response to the trade, you counted to ten, went to your preferred source of baseball information, and did your due diligence, in consideration that the haul the Marlins received may be better than you think. The case may be especially so if the trade involves one of the above five players, or the like.
Baseball America (2017). Prospect Handbook 2017. Durham, NC.
Baseball Prospectus (2017). Futures Guide 2017. Columbia, SC.
Other statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com