Top prospects are perhaps the most prized currency in today's game. Rebuilding teams turn to their minor league talent to lay the foundation of their future and contending teams cash in their prospects as trade chips to acquire that big ticket item that will get them over the hump in October.
Some teams place a higher emphasis on the talent and depth in their farm system than others, but these days you're not going to see a team neglecting their minor league system a la the New York Yankees in the mid-2000's. Still, there several instances when teams will part with some of their top young talent.
Whether a team needs one more piece for a playoff run, a prospect is blocked at the MLB level or some combination of circumstances, it is not terribly uncommon to see elite minor league talent traded away.
Here are a few prospects to keep an eye on over the next year or two. The next time you hear about them, they could be in a different organization.
- Mason Williams, NYY - Williams emerged as one of the New York Yankees' top prospects after tearing up the New York-Penn League in 2011. Scouts love his blazing speed and defense at this stage and think that he'll develop a sound hitting tool. Keep an eye on how much power he develops though. That could be the difference in Williams wearing Yankee pinstripes or getting dealt.
- Nick Castellanos, DET - Naturally, the Tigers are saying that Castellanos is not going anywhere and that they expect him to man third base in Detroit before too long. Perhaps it's true, but it won't happen until 2015 when the logjam they created by signing Prince Fielder clears up. With Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Alex Avila each looking to eat at the same table through 2014, there is no room for Castellanos for the next three seasons without a position change. The Tigers are obviously looking to win big over the next few seasons and it is not hard to imagine them dealing their stud 3B prospect in a deal that they feel puts them over the top.
- Arodys Vizcaino, ATL - To me Vizcaino seems like the least likely of this group to be moved. The Braves just don't part with young, high-end starting pitchers very often - "starting" is the key word though. The Braves are loaded in their rotation with five starters that just about any team would trade for in a heartbeat. Not only that, but they have two more top prospects - Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado - currently on the outside looking in. For now the Braves are probably content to let Vizcaino handle a bullpen role, but who knows what will happen when the competition in the stacked National League East heats up in July. World Series runs are few and far between and replacing a middle reliever - even a good one - is far from the toughest task for a GM.
- Matt Dominguez, MIA - Dominguez is in triple-trouble. He's blocked by Hanley Ramirez at 3B, he has disappointed with his offensive development AND the Marlins have plans to contend for October baseball this season. A lot of teams would trade the more expensive Ramirez, receive a small fortune in a return package and let Dominguez take the reigns. That would be contingent on the latter's ability to hit though - something that, according to the stats, he can't do very well. If/when that playoff piece hits the trade market, Dominguez could find himself a casualty of the Trade Deadline. He'll be left to restore his pre-2011 shine in somebody else's farm system.