Trade season is upon us, and many of the names in this week’s Future Rookies have been bandied about in the rumor mill. A couple of the prospects highlighted this week already were dealt as part of the biggest deadline trade to date this year.
Michael Choice, OF, Oakland A’s, 22 years old
Choice was having a forgettable season at the Double-A level heading into July. He really heated up in July, though, hitting .435/.493/.710 with four home runs with a solid 15.5 percent strikeout rate. Unfortunately, Choice’s season has come to an end according to Midland manager Steve Scarsone. A broken hand will sideline Choice for the rest of the year.
Engel Beltre, OF, Texas Rangers, 22 years old
Beltre has tools, but his failure to actualize them, his lack of on-field production, and knucklehead behavior that includes throwing a trash can into a group of fans has resulted in Beltre’s prospect stock dropping significantly. He failed to crack Baseball America’s list of top-30 Ranger prospects heading into the season, and earned just a “C,” grade from John Sickels. His season slash isn’t spectacular, and his walk-to-strikeout rate is still troubling, but Beltre’s production has taken a huge step forward this year while repeating the Double-A level. Even more encouraging, he has been scorching hot in July. This month, he’s hitting a blistering .319/.358/.602 with 15 extra base hits (six of which are home runs), 12 stolen bases, and a promising walk-to-strikeout rate of 6-to-20 in 122 plate appearances. If these gains prove to be more than a blip on the radar, his potential to be a five-category contributor in fantasy leagues makes him an intriguing prospect.
Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers, 22 years old
The Angels made a big splash prior to the trade deadline dealing for Zack Greinke. Included in the package for Greinke was Segura. The Brewers lacked a player that projected to be a long term answer at shortstop in their farm system, and Segura fills that void. He brings a nice mix of tools to the table, and projects to be an offensive asset at a position lacking in offensive contributors. He has a bit of developing pop, a strong hit tool, and is an above average runner. He received one major league start for the Angels in place of an injured Erick Aybar, but was optioned back to the minors after being acquired by the Brewers. He is playing for Double-A Huntsville, and could get back to the big leagues as soon as next year, though, it’s unlikely he’ll be back up this year.
Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers, 23 years old
As the trade deadline approaches and rumors of the Rangers being interested in someone like Josh Johnson swirl, Olt’s name continues to come up as the trade chip that would be moved. The Rangers are rightfully reluctant to deal Olt, but until the deadline passes, the rumors will likely persist. Olt has seen time at first base and in right field this year, and there is a reasonably good chance he’ll get to the bigs this year even if he isn’t dealt. Olt strikes out enough that he’ll probably struggle to hit for a high average, but he is a patient enough hitter to make up for it by drawing walks, and his power is above average. A move off third base would hurt Olt’s fantasy value long term, but he has enough stick to be a good fantasy player at any position.
Johnny Hellweg, SP, Milwaukee Brewers, 23 years old
Hellweg joined Segura as part of the Greinke package. He is an unfinished product, but one with a high ceiling. Hellweg is very tall, standing 6′9″, and he packs an explosive heater that flirts with triple digits and sits in the mid-to-high-90s. He gets oodles of groundballs, with a 52.2 percent groundball rate according to Minor League Central, but he must refine his secondary pitches and sharpen his control to fully realize his potential and stick as a starter. His control has been its best in July, as he has walked just seven batters in 30.1 innings. Hellweg has work to do to, but he’s a prospect worth keeping tabs on, and rostering in many dynasty leagues.
Carlos Martinez, SP, St. Louis Cardinals, 20 years old
Martinez cruised through Low-A last year, but found things to be much tougher in his first exposure to High-A. He began the year by repeating High-A, and he had much more success, earning a promotion to Double-A, where he has been even better. Martinez ranked 26 on Baseball America’s midseason top-50 prospect list, and 24 on John Sickels Top-120 prospect midseason revision. He is a groundball inducing machine. His fastball lights up radar guns, but it also has plenty of movement, making it one of the best in the minors. There are some questions whether he’ll be able to stick as a starter because of his delivery and slight build, but for now, he’s succeeding while being developed there. The ceiling is very high for Martinez, whether it be as a starter or a lock-down closer.
Allen Webster, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers, 22 years old
The Dodgers have been rumored to be interested in acquiring a starting pitcher from the Cubs, namely Ryan Dempster. Webster’s name has come up as someone the Cubs covet in such a deal. His season line doesn’t inspire much confidence, but since the calendar flipped to June, he has been outstanding. Over the last two months he has started nine games spanning 49 innings. In that time, he has walked 21 batters while striking out 46 and putting together a 2.20 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Webster induces groundballs at a high rate, with a 51.1 percent groundball rate this year. Webster has a three-pitch mix that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a change-up and a slider, which Kevin Goldstein described in his most recent Monday Morning Ten Pack. His recent play suggests he might be ready to tackle the Triple-A level.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays, 21 years old
I discussed Lee coming out of his season-long funk a few weeks ago. He has been even better since then, raising each of his triple slash marks. He’s in the midst of a Montgomery Biscuits record for consecutive games reaching base at 41 games and still going. Since the start of June, he has 24 stolen bases in 25 attempts (talk about super efficient). The Rays have Tim Beckham playing shortstop at Triple-A Durham, who needs everyday at-bats himself, so it’s probable we won’t see Lee playing in Triple-A this year. His play this summer provides optimism that he’ll have enough bat to be a solid fantasy shortstop, where his speed and stolen base ability will appeal to owners.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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