Today on Big Hype Prospects, we’ll consider the most important prospects dealt at the trade deadline. For a full recap, check out Mark Polishuk’s review of the American League and James Hicks’ rundown of the National League. C.J. Abrams has used up his rookie eligibility, so we’ll skip him.
Five big hype prospects
Robert Hassell, 20, OF, WSH (A+)
346 PA, 10 HR, 20 SB, .299/.379/.467
James Wood, 19, OF, WSH (A)
236 PA, 10 HR, 15 SB, .337/.453/.601
The Nationals said they wanted a mix of major and minor league talent in return for Juan Soto, and the Padres obliged. Hassell typically finds his way into conversations about the top 10 prospects in the league, even though most list-makers have him ranked around 25th-best. He’s young for his level and could get a taste of Double-A in the waning months of the season. Hassell combines discipline and an advanced feel for contact. He’s a high-probability future big leaguer, but he might not be an especially exciting one. Each promotion will be a test — can he continue to post an over-10 percent walk rate, sub-20 percent strikeout rate, while showing 20 home run power? Trent Grisham — prior to his absentee 2022 season — serves as a loose comp.
By production, Wood has played like a Hassell clone, but one year behind on the development curve. However, Wood is an absolute mammoth. Most young players of his size either have a sizable strikeout issue, or they’ve sold out for contact. Wood has looked comfortable in Low-A, hitting for power while demonstrating both discipline and a high rate of contact. One can dream on the size, athleticism and precocious ability. There’s potential for a truly elite player here — one who might eventually justify dealing away Soto. Of course, with all of the challenging levels of the minors awaiting him, Wood is more concept than proven commodity. He should get a late-season trial in High-A.
Noelvi Marte, 20, SS, CIN (A+)
394 PA, 15 HR, 13 SB, .275/.363/.462
Edwin Arroyo, 18, SS, CIN (A)
410 PA, 13 HR, 21 SB, .316/.385/.514
Many analysts believe Marte was the best prospect traded at the deadline (excluding Abrams), while others wondered aloud if the Mariners know something we don’t. You may recall some earlier debate within this column. To summarize, the folks at Baseball America have cooled on Marte, bumping him down to 46 on their midseason top 100. Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Keith Law favors Marte and ranked him 12th. FanGraphs lists Marte as one of their 13 60-grade (on the 20/80 scale) prospects. MLB Pipeline has him ranked 17th.
On the face of it, Marte was quite a high price to pay for a season-and-a-half of Luis Castillo if the majority opinion turns out to be correct. Especially when considering the Mariners also sent well-regarded 18-year-old Arroyo (more on him below) and a pair of pitching prospects. Even if the more pessimistic Baseball America ranking is accurate, the Reds made out well in this trade.
Baseball America actually has Arroyo ranked one spot behind Marte. Other outlets are less enthusiastic about Arroyo. With Elly De La Cruz ranked in their top 20, it’s a good time for shortstops in the Cincy system.
Interestingly, Arroyo is a switch-hitter and a switch-thrower. He throws right-handed as a fielder but pitched left-handed in high school. That latter element will only come into play if he has to convert back to the mound in the future, or if he injures his right arm and moves to the outfield. As a hitter, reports indicate Arroyo sells out for power but has a sufficiently compact swing to do so without painful strikeout rates. His swing from the left side has a classic lefty-loop to it. His bat path is flatter from the right side, but he still produces plenty of fly ball contact.
Ken Waldichuk, 24, SP, OAK (AAA)
47.2 IP, 13.22 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 3.59 ERA
Waldichuk emerged from the lost COVID season to post one of the most effective pitching lines in the minors last season. After he replicated his success early this season, he found himself landing on top-100 prospect lists. Many premium pitching prospects have excellent stuff but need to learn more about the craft of pitching. Waldichuk, a southpaw, sort of comes from the other perspective. He’s polished and deceptive, which allows him to outperform his stuff. But that’s not to knock his repertoire, which is both deep and effective. His delivery has a reliever-ish look to it, but he has the weapons to thrive as a mid-tier starter. In particular, he has an excellent slider and changeup, both of which help his mid-90s fastball to play up. Sent to Oakland in the Frankie Montas trade, Waldichuk should get a taste of big league action in the waning months of the season.
Logan O’Hoppe, PHI (22): O’Hoppe was one of the most glaringly obvious trade chips. The Phillies have no apparent role for a quality catching prospect (even though such things can change suddenly). O’Hoppe is well-regarded as both a defensive and offensive catcher who should one day be a league-average starter. He’s benefitted from more time at Double-A than he needed in a particularly friendly offensive environment. The discipline and contact skills he showed this season exceeded anything he teased in the past. We’ll see if they withstand a move to the Angels system and subsequent steps up the ladder.
Jordan Groshans, MIA (22): After hitting just one home runs in 279 Triple-A plate appearances, Groshans is trending toward a super-utility role. Once a well-regarded prospect, evaluators started grumbling about something missing — impactful power — shortly after he debuted in 2019. He continued to hit well enough for list-makers to conservatively continue including him in the top 100, but that’s evaporated as he’s reached the upper levels of the minors.
Seth Johnson, BAL (23): A promising pitcher from the Rays system, Johnson will miss the remainder of this season and most of 2023 due to Tommy John surgery. He’s an interesting case for the Orioles. He’ll be Rule 5-eligible this winter, can be stashed on the injured list and might hold his own in the bullpen when he returns in 2024. Will the Orioles roster him or try to pass him through the Rule 5 gauntlet?
Esteury Ruiz, MIL (23): Presumably, the Brewers acquired Ruiz to help complement Tyrone Taylor in center field. Taylor has played near replacement level, and Ruiz has impactful skills that could help win ball games. For now, he’ll build upon his legend in the minors. He has 60 steals in 379 minor league plate appearances. His 27 plate appearances in the majors yielded little — a .222/.222/.333 line and one steal in three attempts.
Spencer Steer, CIN, (24): While not exactly a top prospect, Steer will soon grace a major league roster and could lay claim to a regular role. He has a short, impactful swing and enough discipline to hold his head above water. Great American Ballpark is the ideal venue for him. He doesn’t have big raw power but hits a ton of fly balls. He might wind up as Eugenio Suarez redux.