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Orioles trade targets: Surveying the Dodgers farm system

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A Manny Machado trade could come as soon as this week and the Dodgers have most recently been described as a favorite in the chase. Let’s look at their farm system to see who the O’s should or might target.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Los Angeles Dodgers
The Orioles won’t be trading for Yasmani Grandal. He just had the best “Here’s a guy on the Dodgers” picture.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Some time in the next 22 days, and maybe a lot sooner than that, the Orioles will trade Manny Machado and hopefully alter the future of the franchise for the better. Their stunningly poor play has made this a necessity for months now. The only questions to answer are when they will trade him, where they will trade him, and who they get back.

If the Orioles are fortunate and savvy as they negotiate with the National League teams who are now rumored to be vying for Machado’s services, they will get a good group of players in exchange. It’s likely that the O’s will get players who, even if they are good, most O’s fans have likely not heard of and almost certainly have never seen play baseball.

The Orioles could potentially get more or better players in a Machado trade if they are willing to include another one of their trade assets in the same deal. Whether they would do this is another thing entirely.

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 between now and when Machado is traded. Friday saw a look at the Diamondbacks system. I promised the Braves would be next, but it sounds like the Dodgers and Brewers are bigger favorites and a trade could happen this week, so, let’s skip to the Dodgers.

The prospects are listed below according to their MLB Pipeline prospect ranking, with additional information drawn from Keith Law’s preseason prospect rankings and the Fangraphs ranking of the Dodgers system from May.

The Dodgers have five of the most recent MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects in baseball.

#1 - OF Alex Verdugo

2018 stats, Triple-A: .350/.393/.513 in 57 G, 7 HR, 32 K, 17 BB

Verdugo, the 22-year old second round pick from 2014, has also gotten a nine game cup of coffee at the big league level this season. He is the #27 prospect in the game, according to MLB Pipeline, where he is described as “one of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball.” That’s an exciting thing to hear, though a concern is that an expected power development hasn’t arrived yet. He has played a lot of center field but is likely to be bumped to right.

According to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, Verdugo came up in trade talks between the O’s and Dodgers, but he hasn’t been made available, so, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up.

#2 - C Keibert Ruiz

2018 stats, Double-A: .243/.307/.364 in 63 G, 7 HR, 20 K, 15 BB

Ruiz, a switch-hitting catcher who’s at Double-A even though he doesn’t turn 20 until later this month, rates as Pipeline’s #44 prospect in the game. The Dodgers signed him out of Venezuela for just $140,000. The Orioles miss out again and again.

Law rated Ruiz as his #97 prospect before the season, praising him as “a solid receiver with elite framing skills.” The evaluators are more of a fan of Ruiz as a lefty batter, and Fangraphs described him as having “elite hand-eye coordination, so he hits everything.” These certainly sound like good things to have.

I figure the Orioles won’t prioritize getting a catcher because they have Chance Sisco. Whether this is wise given some of Sisco’s MLB struggles is something else. Still, probably not a name to know for a trade.

#3 - RHP Mitchell White

2018 stats, Double-A: 12 GS, 49 IP, 6.24 ERA, 42 K, 24 BB

White is Pipeline’s #83 prospect in the game, though those Double-A results certainly don’t look impressive. Law liked his potential preseason, labeling him as a potential sleeper in the Dodgers system, but thought he “needs to show he can bring plus stuff every time out and still make 25 starts a year.” He has battled both injury and consistency problems at times, and the 2016 second round pick is already 23.

He tossed just 73.2 innings last year between High-A and Double-A. The results were better, with a combined 2.93 ERA and 88 strikeouts, but even in a good year he had a 3.8 BB/9. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess White is not going to be a top 100 guy the next time lists get updated. I certainly hope the O’s don’t view him as a headliner.

#4 - OF Yusniel Diaz

2018 stats, Double-A: .301/.410/.461 in 55 G, 36 K, 36 BB, 8 SB

Any time you get a guy with over a .400 OBP, you’ve got to sit up and take notice. And Diaz has an equal number of walks and strikeouts, too. The 21-year-old Cuban cost the Dodgers a total of $31 million to sign due to penalties on his signing bonus. They thought he was worth the expense and it looks like he’s justifying that belief so far, taking a big step forward with his performance this season.

If you’re a big believer in the O’s current crop of outfield prospects, you may not want to see them “waste” a Machado trade on adding a right fielder to the mix. But what if Diaz is better than, say, Austin Hays, who was hurt and struggling at Double-A this year? Getting a better prospect is still a plus: Not everybody is going to make it.

#5 - RHP Dennis Santana

2018 stats, Double-A/Triple-A: 10 GS, 49.2 IP, 2.54 ERA, 65 K, 16 BB

Santana, 22, is yet another inexpensive Latin America signing, coming from the Dominican Republic for $170,00. He is a converted shortstop. Santana has put up an impressive K/BB ratio this season and that may lean more towards Fangraphs calling him a “no. 4 starter and trending up,” but both Law and Pipeline see that he might have more of a future in the bullpen because of problems against lefty batters.

Worth noting that the reliever comments were written before the season. It’s possible that Santana’s 2018 performance has answered those concerns somewhat. And if he’s trending up, the Dodgers probably won’t trade him anyway, so I guess why should we even get excited? I seem to be feeling morose about trading Machado today.

#6 - OF DJ Peters

2018 stats, Double-A: .241/.328/.476 in 83 G, 18 HR, 111 K, 30 BB

The MLB Pipeline scouting report says he’s “built along the lines of Aaron Judge,” which is exciting; Fangraphs says he “has Adam Dunn’s frame,” which is much less exciting. Keith Law compares him to Jayson Werth, which is in the middle of those two somewhere.

Peters is 6’6” and has played center before but is headed for right field in the long run. Look at those big home run numbers! But also look at those big strikeout numbers, meaning there is risk. This is not a new thing. He struck out 189 times in 132 games at High-A last year. Will the power survive contact with MLB pitching that’s capable of exploiting his strikeout tendencies more than minor leaguers?

#7 - OF Jeren Kendall

2018 stats, High-A: .228/.319/.371 in 75 G, 9 HR, 107 K, 36 BB, 26 SB

There are just so many outfielders high up in this system. Kendall was the Dodgers first round pick last year, and the good news according to Law is that he has “70 speed, plus power, above-average-or-better defense in center.” The bad news is that he might not make MLB at all due to “a disastrous swing that requires an overhaul if he’s ever going to hit.”

If the Orioles pick up a lottery ticket or two in this trade process, that isn’t so bad as long as they get some more high-probability value as well.

#8 - RHP Yadier Alvarez

2018 stats, Double-A: 5 GS, 15.1 IP, 5.87 ERA, 17 K, 20 BB

Although Alvarez didn’t crack the Pipeline top 100, he was Law’s preseason #52 prospect. Even then, Law acknowledges a “work in progress” - Alvarez can throw 100 but is battling command problems due to an inability to repeat his delivery. I mean, it’s only a five game sample size, but look at that - more walks than strikeouts. Good for a hitter, not so good for a pitcher.

This could mean he is a future reliever, a mold that probably looks a decent amount like Tanner Scott, except right-handed. The Fangraphs guys want to like him but note that he “remains wild and without a changeup.” And we all know how the Orioles are at developing off-speed pitches and improving their hard-throwing pitchers’ fastball command.

#9 - C Will Smith

2018 stats, Double-A: .287/.384/.580 in 52 G, 14 HR, 47 K, 26 BB

I imagine Will Smith going through an arc like Michael Bolton in Office Space. Here is another guy whose 2018 performance may have answered some of the questions about him. Law saw him as “a high-floor guy who should be a very good backup,” mostly because he thought Smith “didn’t project to hit for any power or much average.” And now he’s slugging .580.

Did Smith change something that will stick? If so, the 2016 compensation round pick will see his stock rising in subsequent prospect list updates. I repeat what I said about Ruiz in that I don’t think the O’s will trade for a catcher, although the Fangraphs profile tantalizes with the possibility of moonlighting at second base, which the O’s could use...

#10 - RHP Dustin May

2018 stats, High-A: 13 GS, 72 IP, 3.13 ERA, 71 K, 13 BB

A rumor from last week from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale pegged May as one player the Orioles are insisting be included in any trade with the Dodgers. May is 6’6” and listed at 180 pounds, and comes with what Fangraphs summarizes as a “flaming red, Sideshow Bob look.” That has nothing to do with how well he pitches, but that’s great as long as he avoids rakes.

Why the Orioles might want him is immediately apparent in his K/BB rate as a pro, which is 5.30. He seems to be maintaining that as he gets promoted up the ladder. Holding him back is a “work in progress” changeup but mid-rotation upside is still there. If this is the best guy in the trade, that might be disappointing; if it’s the second-best, it could be an exciting trade.

#11 - 1B/OF Edwin Rios

2018 stats, Triple-A: .306/.354/.470 in 37 G, 4 HR, 47 K, 10 BB

Who wants to add another first baseman/”outfielder” into the Orioles mix? Anyone? No? Well, that’s fair enough. Rios started the year with an oblique injury and that’s why he has only played in 37 games to date. The lefty batter “has done nothing but hit” according to Law - and his minor league lines back that up. He’s already 23 but maybe is ready for his big league chance.

I don’t imagine the Orioles see themselves as the team to give him that chance.

#12 - SS/2B Gavin Lux

2018 stats, High-A: .316/.395/.509 in 69 G, 9 HR, 57 K, 36 BB

Lux is just 19 years old in High-A, after having been drafted in 2016 out of the Wisconsin high school ranks. Wisconsin is one of those colder-weather states where prospects are thought to take longer to develop, so his already hitting the way he’s hitting at High-A is pretty good for him.

MLB Pipeline, usually the most optimistic of the scouting reports, sees a future more at second base, though the others still believe in the shortstop potential. The O’s, of course, just drafted their “shortstop of the future” in Cadyn Grenier (if he can hit) but you may have heard that there’s a coming second base vacancy.

#13 - 3B Cristian Santana

2018 stats, High-A: .237/.267/.389 in 82 G, 13 HR, 101 K, 13 BB

I just looked at the word counter for this article and it’s almost 2000. Let’s just move on.

#14 - C Connor Wong

2018 stats, High-A: .231/.323/.410 in 68 G, 11 HR, 99 K, 20 BB

See the previous.

#15 - LHP Caleb Ferguson

2018 stats, Double-A/Triple-A: 10 GS, 47 IP, 1.53 ERA, 52 K, 17 BB

Picked all the way down in the 38th round in the 2014 draft, Ferguson has worked his way up the ladder with a high enough strikeout rate to make his number of walks a bit less of a concern. The Dodgers even called him up for a six game stint earlier this year, so he would check that Orioles “MLB-ready pitching” box if he’s a guy who interests them.

**

The Orioles might not trade Machado to the Dodgers and if they do trade him there they might dig even deeper into the system - or they might get a player who’s already graduated to MLB. Either of these could make the entire exercise pointless, but that’s baseball writing in a nutshell, really. Hopefully if the O’s do make a deal with LA, we all feel a little bit better informed about the return now.

Who’s your most exciting name in this system? Anybody you really hope the O’s avoid?