Some time in the next 25 days, the Orioles will make the Manny Machado trade that will hopefully alter the future trajectory of the franchise for the better. Their place in the standings dictates this certainty, with only an unfortunate injury or catastrophic front office paralysis able to stop it.
Where the Orioles end up trading Machado is something that will be determined by what team, in their judgment, ends up offering them the best package of players in return. Whichever team ends up getting Machado, one constant about such a trade will remain true: The Orioles are going to get some players who Orioles fans have probably never heard of and almost certainly have never seen play professional baseball before.
In an effort to avoid a “Who the heck are these guys?” reaction to a trade, I’ll be going through the farm systems of the likely trade suitors over the next couple of weeks so that we all have some idea of who the names in play might be. First up, the Diamondbacks, because Arizona is first alphabetically among teams that have been linked as potential Machado destinations.
The prospects are listed below according to their MLB Pipeline ranking, with additional information drawn from Keith Law’s prospect rankings as well as Fangraphs.
#1 - RHP Jon Duplantier
2018 stats, Double-A: 7 GS, 35.2 IP, 2.52 ERA, 41 K, 11 BB
Duplantier is the lone Diamondbacks prospect in the current MLB Pipeline top 100. In this sense, it feels like he “must” be the O’s headline demand from this system. However, he last pitched on May 27 due to biceps tendinitis, and the 2016 third round pick came from Rice with an injury history: He missed his whole sophomore season with a shoulder injury and battled elbow soreness after being drafted two years ago.
The prospect folks see Duplantier with a four-pitch mix and project him with a high floor to be at least a mid-rotation starter, if he stays healthy. Good luck getting past the Orioles doctors. It may be that the O’s shouldn’t even bother asking for him.
#2 - 1B Pavin Smith
2018 stats, High-A: .227/.330/.358 in 72 G, 7 HR, 40 K, 8 BB
The Orioles can’t let the current Chris Davis/Mark Trumbo/Trey Mancini log jam stop them from getting a good player if one attainable at that position, but the .658 OPS at High-A for a guy who was the #7 overall pick last year and was supposed to be an advanced, move-quick bat isn’t the most thrilling to see, even if he doesn’t strike out much and walks a lot. Moving on.
#3 - SS Jasrado Chisholm
2018 stats, Low-A: .245/.318/.464 in 66 G, 12 HR, 80 K, 28 BB, 8 SB
By refusing to sign international amateurs, the Orioles miss out on guys like Chisholm, 20, who signed for $200,000 out of the Bahamas in 2015. He was seen as a raw baseball talent, and his development wasn’t helped by a torn meniscus in his right knee that cost him most of last season.
The strikeout rate is high, but all of Pipeline, Law, and Fangraphs think he will hit for power in the middle of the diamond in MLB. Law predicts a move to second base, which would even be convenient for the O’s if freshly-drafted shortstop Cadyn Grenier is really all that. They sometimes call him Jazz, which I think is great.
#4 - RHP Taylor Widener
2018 stats, Double-A: 15 GS, 79.2 IP, 2.71 ERA, 101 K, 25 BB
Widener has already been traded once this year, going from New York to Arizona in the three-team deal that also moved around Stephen Souza and Brandon Drury. The 2016 12th round pick is a strikeout machine in part thanks to a high spin rate. He hasn’t yet convinced the prospect ranking crowd of his durability and so is seen as having some “just a reliever” risk.
#5 - OF Marcus Wilson
2018 stats, High-A: .245/.330/.374 in 73 G, 5 HR, 87 K, 34 BB, 10 SB
A competitive balance pick in 2014, Wilson has been slow to develop, but impressed the scouting world at Low-A last season, when he batted .295/.383/.446. That’s not much power, and his power potential is minimal, but his ability to work a walk is a plus, and they think he will stick in center field, too. If you’re happy with the O’s second-tier OF prospects and would rather see them focus elsewhere for a Machado deal, that seems OK to me.
#6 - C Daulton Varsho
2018 stats, High-A: .290/.377/.467 in 57 G, 8 HR, 47 K, 25 BB, 15 SB
What in the heck is going on when a catcher has 15 stolen bases? Turns out that Varsho has an athletic power/speed combination uncommon in a catcher and he may be headed out into the outfield instead. You have to like that on-base percentage in his first full professional season. He suffered a fractured hamate bone in June and is currently on the minor league disabled list.
#7 - RHP Taylor Clarke
2018 stats, Triple-A: 16 GS, 88.2 IP, 4.16 ERA, 83 K, 31 BB
Clarke, a third round pick in 2015, is already 25 years old. The Diamondbacks have seen fit to have ten pitchers start games so far this year, but not Clarke, yet. Don’t get hung up on the ERA in Reno, a hitter’s environment that may be a bad fit for a fly ball pitcher. On the other hand, so is Baltimore, though Clarke at least gets a respectable number of strikeouts.
#8 - 3B Drew Ellis
2018 stats, High-A: .267/.345/.473 in 73 G, 10 HR, 56 K, 29 BB
Fangraphs and Keith Law seem to think Ellis is headed for first base; the more closely MLB-affiliated Pipeline is more optimistic about his sticking at third. Everyone likes the power potential of the 2017 second rounder. Here is another player where it would not be a bad thing if he was in the system already, but is he someone they should try to get for Machado? Maybe not.
#9 - RHP Matt Tabor
2018 stats, short-season A: 4 GS, 16.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 9 K, 4 BB
The 19-year-old Tabor was drafted from the Massachusetts high school ranks in the third round last year and got a $1 million signing bonus. Players from colder weather states are generally thought to take longer to develop - see Ryan McKenna in the O’s system this year - so Tabor is still just in short-season ball.
Fangraphs calls him “a high-risk fourth starter right now,” noting that he could improve his secondary pitches and be better than that. We all know how great the Orioles are at developing high-risk pitchers who need better secondary pitches.
#10 - OF Gabriel Maciel
2018 stats, Low-A: .252/.338/.305 in 52 G, 1 HR, 38 K, 24 BB
Not doing the international thing means you miss out on the Bahamians like Chisholm and the Brazilians like Maciel. The “needs to add strength” on his scouting report is immediately apparent from the above slugging percentage. He impressed with a .389 on-base percentage in rookie ball at 18 last year. Whether the strength will come enough to complement his defense and ability to get on base is the question.
#11 - OF Eduardo Diaz
2018 stats, Low-A: .225/.262/.360 in 33 G, 2 HR, 40 K, 3 BB
Diaz was an international signing out of Venezuela who cost just $100,000. Potential talent is everywhere. I sound like a broken record pointing out that the Orioles are missing it. His .312/.357/.510 batting line from rookie ball last season when he was 19 is more impressive. The scouts believe in his power potential and also his potential to move to a corner outfield spot instead of playing center. The strikeout/walk rate at Low-A is why he’s just the #11 prospect.
#12 - OF Kristian Robinson
2018 stats, rookie ball: .278/.333/.333 in 13 G, 0 HR, 18 K, 5 BB
Here we have another player from the Bahamas, and Robinson, signed last July, is only 17 and making his US debut this year in the Arizona League. Law calls him “a physical monster with plus speed and plus raw power along with a simple swing that should let him make plenty of contact.” That sounds pretty good! The Fangraphs guys note that some people in baseball think of Robinson as the #1 Diamondbacks prospect due to his massive potential, though he is, of course, a long way away from the bigs.
#13 - SS/2B Domingo Leyba
2018 stats, Double-A: .266/.338/.385 in 33 G, 3 HR, 22 K, 15 BB
MLB Pipeline sees utility infielder potential, while Fangraphs says it’s second base or bust, with a history of injuries making the bust seem like a good possibility. It is important to remember that most prospects aren’t going to make it. The Orioles task in this trade situation is to find the ones who are.
#14 - RHP Jimmie Sherfy
2018 stats, Triple-A: 20 G, 22.1 IP, 2.01 ERA, 36 K, 12 BB
Sherfy, a 10th round pick all the way back in 2013, has gotten a cup of coffee at the MLB level each of the last two seasons. Although he found command last season, he has walked too many dudes in his ascent up the minors ladder, including this year, with 16 walks in 26.1 innings between Reno and MLB.
I will lay down this rule: The Orioles should not trade for any reliever whose Baseball Reference page lists his nickname as Wild Thing.
#15 - RHP Jhoan Duran
2018 stats, Low-A: 12 GS, 52.2 IP, 4.27 ERA, 58 K, 20 BB
Oh, look, a 6’5” guy from the Dominican Republic who signed for just $65,000. Doesn’t rate highly because he’s a projectable guy who has hit the projected velocity growth but not really the command/control growth quite yet. The Fangraphs duo notes that a college righty with his stuff would probably be a first round pick. He gets ground balls, too. Can it all get polished into something nice? That’s always the question.
The Diamondbacks should trade for Machado because they’re in a race with the Dodgers and winning the division would have real value for them. Their current shortstop, Nick Ahmed, has a .694 OPS and their third baseman, Jake Lamb, has a .745 OPS. If they do, the O’s will probably get at least a couple of the above names. Hopefully they turn out well!
Next: Atlanta Braves