Continuing a series looking at potential trading partners for the Marlins, let’s look at perhaps the most talked about target for Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto: the Atlanta Braves. Per a new Bleacher Report ranking, the Braves have the #1 farm system in baseball, while the Marlins (though improved) ranks only 26th. Clearly, a trade could be in order.
The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about such a trade is the traditional “red flag” of trading premier players to another team in your division. The Braves are farther down their rebuild, though are coming off a somewhat disappointing season in that some of their top prospects, notably #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, under-performed.
However, my sense of the “sports zeitgeist” is that trading to divisional or conference rivals is less a concern than in previous years. Didn’t the Cavs just trade Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, after all? Plus, its not like the Marlins and Braves are the NL East’s equivalent of Yankees vs. Red Sox.
There’s an excellent Baseball Prospectus article from 2015, appropriately titled “So You’ve Decided To Trade Within Your Division”, which also helps ease such fears.
So, putting that issue aside, let’s look at the details. Per Ken Rosenthal and others, the Marlins are not particularly looking to toss in bad contracts to trade along with Yelich and Realmuto, though the Braves could use a third baseman such as Martin Prado. The Fish are looking for top prospects first and foremost, so let’s look at the Braves system for possible trading chips.
Based on MLB Pipeline’s rankings, seven of the Braves top eight prospects are pitchers. It would seem reasonable that at least two of these pitchers should be obtainable for these Yelich and Realmuto, particularly if the Fish are truly trying to get other teams to “overpay”.
The Braves have six pitchers in the MLB Top 100 prospect list. Any of these would instantly become the Marlins’ #1 overall pitching prospect. Though several of these top arms are at a relatively early of development, this would still match the Marlins timeline for success, which is likely in the 2020-2021 time frame.
Four of these young pitchers were former first round picks. Kolby Allard was drafted in the first round in 2015, and is now considered the top lefty prospect in all of baseball Top 100 Prospects (#22), Top 10 LHP Prospects (#1). Allard is something of a Tom Glavine-type of pitcher with a low-mid 90s heater and excellent control, and is targeted to make his big-league debut this season.
The other three first-rounders are righties. Kyle Wright Top 100 Prospects (#31), Top 10 RHP Prospects (#9), yet another excellent arm out of Vanderbilt, was the 5th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Wright is a true pitcher, and still projects to mature into his 6’4” frame. Additionally, I am biased towards college arms; particularly those who have matured at high end programs such as Wright has.
High school draft pick Ian Anderson Top 100 Prospects (#51), picked 3rd overall in 2016, did well in single-A in his first full year of pro ball. He is projected to be in the minors for several more years, but also has a high up side on the bump.
Three left-handers round out the top pitching prospects for the Braves. Luiz Gohara, Joey Wentz, and Max Fried are projected with different timelines to reach the majors. These would likely be a secondary arm in a mega-trade such as this, but any would be considered as one of the top pitchers in the Marlins minor leagues if they came over.
Should J.T. Realmuto be sent to Atlanta, it makes sense that a minor league catcher be sent to Miami in return. Luckily, Atlanta has 3 catchers ranked in their top 30 list. Alex Jackson, ranked 15th in the Braves organization, is their top prospect behind the plate.
The former first rounder was drafted out of high school in 2014, and would be an obvious target for the Marlins in a trade. He has bounced around to different positions, so his defensive abilities are not graded as highly as their other top catchers Lucas Herbert or Brett Cumberland, but is seen as having a higher ceiling as a hitter.
Top Braves prospect Ronald Acuna Top 100 Prospects (#6), Top 10 OF Prospects (#3) is one this year’s top candidates for NL Rookie of the Year. Getting Acuna, and all-around outfield talent who hit .344 last year in triple-A, would be a true coup for the Fish and would clearly help refill the talent pool which was emptied this off season.
Dustin Peterson, a high energy player ranked 13th in the Braves system, could make an impact in the majors in 2018 as well. Christian Pache is ranked 10th on the Braves farm, and is a high-end athlete, but is still several years away from seeing MLB action.
Like the White Sox, previously mentioned in my last article, the Braves have many high-end prospects that could be true game changers for the Marlins. Hitting a home run on a trade like this is paramount for Miami’s rebuild. This is likely to be their final big swing to obtain future All-Star talent by trading from their current roster. Hopefully for the Fish, the more teams that are interested in Yelich and Realmuto, the higher the return, and the Braves could certainly provide that.