Last week I argued that the Rox are not a playoff team, and as such, should not be going “all-in” as regards trades. I think my article was mostly me being bipolar and off my meds, because this team does have an excellent chance to win the 1st Wild Card and even to end up with the 2nd best record in the National League. But the Wild Card is sort of like, well, not a lotto ticket because that is really long odds, but like buying tickets into those raffles to win a house to help out the Boys and Girls Club of Denver (I do it every year as I think the Boys and Girls Clubs do yeomen’s work). For me the Rox are competing a year too early, but you never know when your window is going to open or close, and in that vein, raffle ticket it may be, going all-out to win the 1st Wild Card isn’t a bad thing.
But the problem is, to get something you have to give something. The question is, what do you give up? There are three categories of prospects (and shoutout to Purple Row for their twice a year PurP rankings of prospects. Also the Pipeline at MLB list their list of Rox Top 30 prospects. So looking at those we can separate guys into 1) Untouchables 2) You had better get a player who is going to be here at least 2 years and be a stud and 3) this is why you have good prospects so you can get talent.
So with no further, the list:
- Untouchables: Now, if you get a chance to say, trade for Mike Trout or a player in the top 20 of baseball with 2+ years of control, no one is untouchable. But those kind of deals usually happen in the off-season when there is a bigger pool of players to trade and be traded. But given those deals aren’t happening by July 31, here is my list:
- Brenden Rodgers – he ate up the CAL league and got a promotion to start July in AA at Hartford. He has…struggled, not mightily but, struggled. He’s finally starting to hit some homers (5 in 102 AA at-bats) and while his average stinks (.245) his .325 OBP and .422 slugging are not bad, especially when you realize he is still just 20 and playing against guys 4-years in age and probably 2 years in minor league service time older than him. This is going to be a special player. Whether as a SS, a 2B or 3B depends a lot on what other prospects do and whether the Rox can get Nolan locked down to a long-term deal (just get it done Jeff Bridich). To give up Rodgers at this time you have to be latching on to a legitimate star, in his prime and with at least 2+ years of contract time (oh, and be cheap). So, not happening.
- Riley Pint – now, I could actually see where they might consider a trade of Pint, since he is at least 3-year from the bigs, is still learning control and a softer delivery, and pitchers are historically an injury away from selling used cars. But his arm is electric and with the team having no 1st Round pick this year (even I am now giving no grace on the Ian Demond deal, and I wrote before I understood it…now I don’t), he has to stay. There are very few players I can imagine that would be able to get the Rox to hand over Pint. Maybe Gerrit Cole if they really believed they could sign him before he hits free agency. But aside from that kind of deal, no. And that includes Sonny Gray (see issues about injuries stated earlier)
- Ryan McMahon – a year ago, he’s not on this list. Now, he is. Whatever clicked for him in the off-season (maybe it is playing home games somewhere other than out of your suitcase), it clicked big time. His doubles power has already moved to homer power – 15 so far this year between both leagues – and his average is back above .300. Actually he was hitting .400 for a while in AAA (he cooled off, to .373). McMahon has been around for a while but he is still just 22 and coming into his home. What is more, while he has struggled with errors at 3rd, he can play there but is turning into a great 2B. Bridich says it is his best position and it just so happens there is a certain Rockies 2B heading into his free agency year. The biggest improvement this year isn’t his average or homers, it is his strikeouts. In 374 at-bats he has struck out only 69 times, and he has walked 29 times (fewer in AAA but I think the ballparks there really hamper patience). If the Rox are interested in finding a bat (other than at catcher) they would do well to give McMahon his chance first. Problem is, where to play him as long as DJ is still at 2B and you have one 1B who is having a career year and another you dropped $70 million on. But for the future, he’s a starter somewhere in their infield.
- Yancey Almonte – the man the Rox got for Tommy Kahnle (whose bad attitude and 100mph just got traded to the Yanks) has turned into a true star. The AA Eastern League is a marginally pitcher-oriented league. Even with that, Almonte has a 2.00 ERA, 71K in 75 innings, and stuff that can profile as a #3-5 starter or a future closer. He was a steal for a player the Rox weren’t keeping and may even move to AAA this year or possible skip AAA (not a bad thing for pitchers) and help in September in the bullpen. While his control still has work to do, this is the kind of guy you don’t let walk when you know you are trading for guys who in a year he might be.
- Ryan Vilade – this one is simple. Not only has he had a great start to his career at Grand Junction, he was just drafted and with no #1 he is essentially carrying double-duty as far as the need to bring value from this past draft. Vilade is listed on the Pipeline as a 3B but has stuck at short so far. This team has a lot of great 3B prospects so until he proves he can’t play short, he will.
Tier Two – You Had Better Be Trading a Big Piece to Ask for…
- Peter Lambert – this young man, just 20 pitching this year at Lancaster in High-A has been carefully managed through his career with the Rox so far. Not this year. The former 2nd Round pick has thrown 113 innings so far in the most offensive place outside of Coors Field and owns a 3.74 ERA. He has 108 strikeouts in those 113 innings while allowing just 25 walks. His velocity continues to develop. Most people say he could be #3 starter but if the continues to mature physically, especially his lower half to add a couple of ticks on the radar gun, he could be even better. Still at least a year or probably year-and-a-half from Coors, you would hate to trade him but if you can grab a Sonny Gray, then it could be worth it.
- Ryan Castellini – I put these two together because they are joined in my mind, both former 2nd rounders a year apart, and both seen as the next wave of pitching heading towards Coors. Castellini was dominate last year in High-A but has found AA a bigger challenge. He’s just 21, so young for the league but his 4.77 ERA is concerning. This year he only has 94Ks in 109 innings to go with 31 walks, but 11 homers is a much bigger concern especially on a groundball pitcher (shades of Tyler Chatwood). Many scouts hate his delivery (but then compare it to Max Scherzer which, last I read, was a pretty good pitcher) and so fear injuries. But a nice big #4 future starter isn’t something you trade away lightly.
- Colten Welker – Further away from Coors could be the next Nolan Arenado. Though I want the current one there for many years to come. He’s just 19 and yes, is playing in the South Atlantic league at an offensive ballpark, but he has flat raked all year long. His .365 average and .941 OPS are far higher than what we saw out of Brenden Rodgers there last year, and his performance there last year moved him up the boards with lots of Top 100 lists. Welker looks like a good bet to stick at third and what is today doubles power (17 doubles, only 5 homers) will probably become homer power by the time he is ready for Coors Field. All he has done since signing is hit and impress. No way you trade him unless what you are getting back gives you a great shot at the World Series in 2017-2019.
Tier Three – Good Players Who Are Players You Can Trade
- Garret Hampson – this very fast, very solid shortstop is playing in High A just a year after drafting. He’s been solid from day one, hits, runs the bases very well, and is solid at short. But for whatever reason…no pop (20 2B ,7 3B, and 4HR all inflated thanks to the park). But he can flat run (33 SB) and profiles out as a very solid utility infielder. But he is expendable with several similar type players in the organization (and one on their bench now), but for the right team that can live with the lack of power, he could make a potential starting shortstop (thinking of Kansas City perhaps).
- Jordan Patterson – I have loved Jordan as a player since they drafted him out of Alabama A&M in 2013. He’s a leader, he plays solid corner outfield and 1B. His pop has grown year-by-year, and he has sneaky speed in a Brad Hawpe way. But alas, he a) is left-handed like everyone else in the Rox farm system and current outfield b) is blocked by the decision to sign Ian Desmond from 1B and David Dahl and Ramiel Tapia even after CarGo leaves this year and c) is now hitting the age where you are no longer a prospect (age 25 back in February). They need to trade Jordan so he can get a shot to play. And while power corner bats hit the discount rack last year in the off-season, it doesn’t mean that teams aren’t looking for it among young controllable players. Set Jordan free!
- Dom Nunez – Nunez had a great offensive 2nd half in 2015, then struggled offensively in AA last year during the team’s season-long sojourn (who didn’t named something other than Dahl) and still hasn’t rebounded. He shows plus defensive skill as a former infielder (sound familiar) and some teams and prospect hounds remain high on him. But the fact is, the Rox already have a young catcher with the same profile, and Tony Wolters, for all his struggles offensively the past month, has proven he belongs. So at this point Nunez profiles as a good potential piece to a team struggling to develop catching.
- Mike Tauchman and Rossell Herrera – going to just do these two guys together. Their original profile was quite different. Tauchman has hit at every level – but with little power – and was never seen as a real prospect. Herrera after a big breakthrough year in Low-A was on everyone’s list but hasn’t really proven to be a prospect since. They are both still young enough to be “prospects” and are both having excellent years at AAA (granted, in the PCL). Herrera can play several positions and has great speed, and Tauchman is a legit centerfielder who has gone 15/15 homers and SB and Herrera while only having 2 homers has 18 steals. Both are players whose careers are not going to happen at Colorado but could be part of a 25-man roster for another team, in both cases as utility or platoon players. There are a couple of other players similar to them, who given a chance might be solid major leaguers (thinking of Noel Cuevas, another CF talent who has found power this year as well). Before this year they looked like just so much minor league filler, but while still 25 or younger, figuring out the power in their bat and their positional flexibility actually has made them parts and pieces in a deal that would clearly headline bigger-name talent, but could help return what is needed. Had the team not signed Parra and Desmond the past two off-seasons, all the guys on this last list other than Nunez would likely be playing at Coors already. So, these aren’t just filler anymore. But on the Rockies, they also can’t squeeze into the team picture.
Other names you hate to lose if you don’t get back real talent:
Sam Howard, Brian Mundell, Sam Hilliard, Tyler Nevin and Justin Lawrence