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Ranking the Dodgers prospects as potential trade chips

MLB: Spring Training-Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Dodgers Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Opening day is in the books and despite what looks to be the deepest and most well-rounded roster in the Andrew Friedman era, the Dodgers will inevitably look to the trade market to improve their team. As I’ve done the past two seasons, I’ve re-ranked the top Dodger prospects to reflect their trade value (as in the value provided to acquiring teams and the Dodgers ability to mitigate the loss of value in the system). Six players from last year’s list were traded between the start of last season and this past off-season, with numbers one, four, and five being included in the biggest trade deadline move for Los Angeles.

Like the previous two lists, I limited the rankable players to the top 20 from the prospect countdown. I followed the same guidelines from 2015 when making this year’s list, so here is my explanation of the variables that I wrote last season:

Overall talent: This is self explanatory. Essentially each player started in their ranking I gave them in the Top Prospect Prospect List.

Future value to trading club: This is essentially the same thing as the above factor, but additional weighting was given to players closer to providing value to the major league team. If a trading club is parting with a valuable major league piece, they may want a more immediate return on their investment.

Present value to parent club: The closer to filling a need for the current team, the less incentive the team has to trade the player. As you’ll read below, some players are too high up the organizational depth chart that trading the player might create a decent enough hole behind them to make any trade a wash or even a loss.

Organizational depth chart: Similar to present value, but speaks to primarily how replaceable a player might be. If a prospect has several major league names to leapfrog to reach the Dodgers, they might be of less present value than a player with few alternatives or a placeholder in front of them.

Distance from the majors: Like the depth chart, but time to mature factors into trading players as well. A player may have a high ceiling but could be three years away, giving the Dodgers both time to replace the player’s potential, but likewise time for the player to lose luster, struggle to develop, or fall short of his ultimate upside. Until recently, you rarely saw teams trade for players below A ball.

Lastly, this is a reminder that this list is completely arbitrary and primarily a discussion starter.

20. Brendon Davis: Davis’ struggles in 2016 likely dampens his appeal to other teams, and he will require plenty of development to reach the big league level.

19. Ariel Sandoval: Considering how far ahead of consensus I am on Sandoval, I would expect that opposing teams would also have tempered interest in the free-swinging outfielder. Should he play to his tools, he will climb the list quickly.

18. Mitchell Hansen: Approaching two years removed from his draft day and has yet to play full-season ball. Hansen looked to have righted the ship in 2016, but his distance from the majors lessens his value to inquirers.

17. Yadier Alvarez: His eventual ceiling is still too tough to determine, and given that the outcome of ace remains a decent possibility, it would be hard to part with Alvarez this early. Might be the one true “untouchable” in the system.

The Dodgers have high hopes for Yadier Alvarez.
Photo credit: Tomo San | LA Dodgers

16. Andrew Toles: Close to holding negative trade value, given that he’s already providing for the big league club as a cost-controlled asset with upside.

15. Imani Abdullah: Abdullah hasn’t developed enough of a track record to warrant heavy consideration to front a trade, but the Dodgers have plenty of young pitching prospects and could add Imani in the right deal.

14. Johan Mieses: Mieses is more complementary than centerpiece in terms of trade value, and teams will probably want to see him hit in Tulsa before parting with anything of value. Still, he’s toolsy and a good season in the Texas League will have him on the big league doorstep.

13. Will Smith: An athletic catcher that can play multiple positions and run is an attractive asset, but his hitting track record might give rivals pause. However, the more he proves his offensive value, the more valuable he will become to the Dodgers.

12. Gavin Lux: Lux’s value in trade comes primarily from his title of “former first-round pick.” That’s not to diminish his talent, but the high floor prep product has yet to play full-season ball and is still quite far from the major leagues.

11. Walker Buehler: Like Alvarez, he’s probably more untouchable than he is available, and his value will only increase as he proves himself all the way back from Tommy John surgery. Selling now would feel like selling too early.

10. Yusniel Diaz: Diaz has a famous name and a reputation for toolsiness. That he hasn’t taken the California League by storm might not matter to a team that feels it has a better evaluation on him from Cuba and they wouldn’t be on the hook for paying a large bonus to acquire him.

9. Cody Bellinger: The previous top-ranked prospect, Corey Seager, was unranked last year as a trade piece. Bellinger’s placement of ninth is less a downgrade in his talent compared to Seager than it is a reality of the availability to find a suitable replacement for a first baseman. While Bellinger will be untouchable in most all trade offers, he shouldn’t be completely unmentionable.

8. Brock Stewart: Had he not dealt with injury issues in the spring, Stewart had an outside chance to make the major league rotation on his talent and potential alone. As it stands he might still be worth more to Los Angeles than an opposing team, but with a crowded rotation picture, it’s possible he could be moved at the right price.

7. Trevor Oaks: To teams that prioritize pitch efficiency and ground balls, Oaks could easily rank in the top three in the Dodger system. He will appeal to rebuilding teams that want a stable arm in the middle of their rotation, but he might lack the strikeout stuff to tempt first-division competitors.

6. Josh Sborz: Sborz may not be a flashy trade candidate, but he’s produced at every level and maintains the flexibility to be used out of the pen or in the rotation. Might have more value to a rebuilding team looking for pitchers that can eat innings.

5. Jordan Sheffield: I ranked Sheffield ahead of Sborz and Oaks because his electric stuff is likely to excite an acquiring team more than the safe floors of the other two. Sheffield’s start in Great Lakes does leave him further away from a big league role, but in relief he could move fairly quickly and provide a faster return on investment.

Jordan Sheffield will open 2017 with Class-A Great Lakes.
Photo credit: Amanda Ray | Great Lakes Loons

4. Edwin Rios: If he keeps hitting in 2017 the way he clubbed his way through 2016 he will look even more appealing to opposing teams. Right now, he probably needs to provide more evidence that he can hit upper-level pitching, but as a “third baseman” presently with a question mark as his future position (but likely first base), Rios has no easy path to an everyday role in Los Angeles.

3. Mitchell White: A quick-moving recent draftee that could make early waves in the bullpen, the Dodgers might be loathe to part with him so early, but the system is deep in pitching talent and his value to traders will remain high if he stays on the fast track.

2. Willie Calhoun: Could have been number one on this list if he provided a bit more positional utility, but Calhoun has a quality big league bat with no playable position. He’ll carry more value for an American League team until his defense improves, but the bat could be tempting enough for any team to give him a shot.

1. Alex Verdugo: Talented offensive player that might have more hype than ceiling, a year away from reaching the major leagues, but stuck in a crowded position with the Dodgers. Verdugo might be the most qualified player for this list yet, and last’s year’s number one helped net Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. Verdugo could be a centerpiece to a splash trade at this year’s deadline if need be, with plenty of outfield talent in the system to cover his loss.