So, we are into the last week of July, pushing towards the trade dealine. Fantasy owners all want to know not just who will get swapped, and where, but perhaps more important, what is the future of the team/position as prime players move and we get to speculate on which prospects we should watch with our eyes upon the future.
Jeff Todd, at MLB Trade Rumors identified 15 primary trade pieces for this year, pretty succinctly. So, let's use that as a basis and see what, if anything, we can reason out.
Jay Bruce/Jose Peraza (Reds): If nothing else, the Reds have to find a permanent spot for Peraza to sink or swim, and thus far the supposed infielder has played 11 games in the outfield to just nine at second and three at short. Just 22, Peraza has a minor league line of .299-10-195 with a wicked 219 swipes, and if Bruce departs, Peraza has to simply get a chance to play every day. The knocks are walks to strikeouts (110 to 240) and somewhere the Reds will need to replace Bruce's power, which Peraza will not do. Also note that the team may move Zack Cozart as well, and that would be a more likely spot for Peraza. Regardless, I have to think he gets to play every day in the event of an offensive swap.
Jonathan Lucroy/Jacob Nottingham (Brewers): The Brewers have a prime chip in Lucroy, and one of the rumors has the Brew Crew backstop going to the Mets, and Travis d'Arnaud going back to Milwaukee. Certainly, the Brewers would need a catcher, for now they have Martin Maldonado, a 29-year-old with a lifetime .215-25-93 line over 320 games, as first in line. But, in the wings is Jacob Nottingham, a 21-year-old 2013 draftee who ripped it over three levels last year (.316-17-82). Nottingham has been adjusting to Double-A Biloxi full-time (.239-7-26), so he is likely a year or so away. But, Nottingham is the only thing the Brewers have that can be called a catching prospect, and he certainly can hit. He will be the answer to something, somewhere.
Ryan Braun/Brett Phillips (Brewers): As long as we are poking at the poor carcass that is the Brewers, their right fielder is apparently expendable. Considering the money/injury issues (Braun is signed through 2020 for $20 million a year), acquiring Braun is not unlike investing in Enron. But, the 22-year-old Phillips, drafted by the Astros in 2012, has a .230-12-47 line with 42 walks to 115 strikeouts in Biloxi, where he toils with Nottingham. As a minor leaguer, Phillips is hitting .284-45-220, and 41% of his hits have gone for extra bases.
Danny Valencia/Ryon Healy (Athletics): This transition seems like it might have already taken place, with Healy starting every day since being promoted, and belting two homers while driving in seven his first week at the Show. However, the real sleeper here would be Matt Chapman. Oakland's first-rounder in 2015 is hitting .225-22-61 at Midland this season after posting a fine .250-23-57 line over 80 Stockton games last year. Chapman is the guy to watch.
Sean Doolittle/Ryan Dull (Athletics): No question Doolittle can close, and even if he doesn't, as a dominant lefty, any team would love to have him on their roster. There is no question Ryan Madson--who is signed through 2018--is the closer in Oakland today, but Dull, who collected 42 minor league saves, has become dominant, with a 4-2, 2.13, with 53 whiffs over 50.6 frames. By the end of the year, the A's will transition the 26-year-old into the gig. In fact, just as Doolittle is jettisoned, Madson could be dealt as well.
Yunel Escobar/Kaleb Cowart (Angels): Escobar is a pretty good hitter (.318-3-30 this year) and he can play all over the infield, making him a boon to any contending team. In the wings is Kaleb Cowart, who has indeed struggled in the Majors (.173-1-4 over 58 at-bats), but who is holding a .288-5-43 line at Salt Lake. Cowart has an adequate eye (255 walks to 608 whiffs) but he has interesting power potential. Although the third sacker only accumulated 49 homers over six years, he did nab 134 doubles over the same span, and looks like the kind of guy who could hit .280-15-80 with 40 doubles per season. He also has 91 minor league steals, and though Jefry Marte is the place holder if you need immediate coverage, Cowart is the guy to watch.
Matt Kemp/Alex Dickerson (Padres): Like Braun, Kemp carries a big contract ($160 million through 2019), and perhaps the lesser priced Jon Jay will be the trade target. But either way, Dickerson, the Pirates' #3 selection in 2011, has kind of already grabbed his place, posting a .254-3-11 line over 71 at-bats. The 26-year-old was hitting .382-10-51 at El Paso, and he carries a .309-58-325 line over 524 games. No matter what, Dickerson is starting the rest of the season in the outfield (I actually wrote about both Dickerson and Healy over the past several weeks).
Arodys Vizcaino/Mauricio Cabrera (Braves): At 22, Cabrera moved into the pen last year. Since the move, his strikeout numbers improved to 85 whiffs over 82 innings (as a starter, Cabrera had 225 whiffs over 274 frames). Vizcaino, who is on the DL with a muscle pull, isn't so expensive as a closer, but he is arbitration eligible next year and the rebuilding cost-cutting Braves will likely be happy to save the bucks and move Vizcaino while giving Cabrera a shot as part of the process. Stranger things have happened.