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BCB Mailbag 48: Deadline musings

Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros
Wilson Ramos.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

What a game last night, eh? Jesus Aguilar has really been something else this year. I was at the game with a couple of friends and my buddy Joey (a former pro soccer player in Europe and South America) totally called the walk-off blast in the ninth inning. Thanks for saving Junior from another hard-luck loss!

Anyways, on to your questions:

Lerch&Brouhard asks:

I assume you are a pretty big Wisconsin sports fan but if were not allowed to be a fan of Wisconsin teams what state would you pick and why?

If there are multiple pro teams in one sport (three basketball teams in Texas for example) pick the one in the state you would follow.

We have relatives in the Dallas area down in Texas and we used to drive down there almost every year when I was growing up and stay with them for a week or so, sometimes during summer vacation but also other times during the year. I remember one year we went down there for Christmas and stayed with them, and it ended up snowing in Dallas. No one knew how to drive in it, of course, and they were throwing sand down on the roads and it was just a huge mess. Like, this is why we came to Texas in the winter, to get away from the Wisconsin weather! It was around 70 degrees the next day and all the snow melted right away, at least. My dad is planning on retiring from the police department before too long, and my parents have always had it in their mind that they’ll be moving to somewhere in Texas once he hangs ‘em up.

Anyways, I have long had a soft spot for Texas teams, although not specifically Dallas. I’m not a huge NBA fan but I don’t mind the Mavericks, so I suppose they’d be my pro basketball team. Football would be the Texans, I’ve rooted for them since Ron Dayne played there (and won me my fantasy football league championship in 2006 with his 150+ yard, multi-touchdown game in Week 17). Now JJ Watt plays in Houston and I think he’s a pretty cool cat. The first year I really got into baseball was back in 2005 and I remember rooting for the Astros over the White Sox because I was a big Roger Clemens fan. The Astros didn’t win back then but they sure seem like they’d be a fun team to be following right now.

bs81 asks:

Is it possible to put together a package for deGrom

without including Hiura that the Mets would accept? (and not reject 2 days later)

In a word, no.

In a few more words, Hiura is the only premium prospect that the organization possesses right now. He’s the one top-50 talent left according to the newest MLB Pipeline update, the one potentially-elite bat coming up through the system right now. On Fangraphs it was recently surmised that a hypothetical deGrom package would require pretty close to the same level of prospects that exchanged hands in the Chris Sale and Jose Quintana deals. That would mean a deal starts with both Keston Hiura (who isn’t rated as highly now as Jimenez or Moncada were) and Corbin Burnes (who is on par with Cease’s rankings but below Kopech’s). Then it would take two other pretty good prospects on top of that, too. The Brewers couldn’t unload Domingo Santana in the offseason and his value is only lower now, and Orlando Arcia doesn’t carry a ton of value either as a guy who looks more like a utility player right now that and is also only a year away from arbitration after 2018, so those guys aren’t helping out a deal like this in any major sort of way.

If you want premium talent on the trade market, you have to be comfortable giving up premium players in return. The Brewers have an average farm system right now, and in order to get a player on the level of a deGrom, Syndergaard, Realmuto, Machado, etc, they will almost surely have to be willing to give up Hiura. And honestly, that’s not the type of move I am expecting will happen for Milwaukee this summer.

drezdn asks:

What would Giannis have to do

To make you love him more than Michael Redd?

Be a player that I became obsessed with when the Bucks drafted him when I was 9? Score 57 points while I am sitting front-row for my 15th birthday? Drain hella three-pointers? I don’t know. I don’t think Giannis - or anyone - will ever dethrone Michael Redd for the title of the best player in the history of the Bucks’ franchise.

BeerCity asks:

Now that the bullpen is human again

What part of the team needs to perform their best/better to continue the team’s success: Starting pitching ( to continue their dominance they’ve shown of late) or.. Offense to step up and give a little more run support?

I think the biggest boost for this team would be for the offense to get things on track. They’ve righted the ship a bit of late and are up to eighth overall in the NL in scoring with 4.40 runs per game but there is still room for improvement at the bottom of the lineup. Orlando Arcia, Domingo Santana, Manny Pina, and Eric Sogard have all come to the plate at least 100 times and have posted OPS+ marks below 80. You don’t need superstars to improve over that level of production. The starting staff should continue to be average to above-average going forward, and even though the bullpen is “human” the group is still really, really good. I’m less worried about run prevention for this squad than I am run production.

roguejim asks:

Which direction will Slingin’ Stearns go at the trade deadline?

Will their be a blockbuster move, or another measured deadline approach like what ended up happening in 2017?

With the state of the team, and the state of the farm system, I expect a measured approach from Slingin’ Stearns again at the deadline this summer. As I mentioned above, this team doesn’t need superstars to greatly improve. They are already getting star-caliber production out of Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw, and Jesus Aguilar. They are getting near ace-level run prevention from Junior Guerra and Jhoulys Chacin, and the bullpen trio of Hader-Jeffress-Knebel could stand up proudly among any group in all of baseball. Now, how much better could the lineup look by replacing Orlando Arcia (32 wRC+) with a rental like Jose Iglesias (95 wRC+)? Or even by giving Brad Miller (108 wRC+) a chance? What about swapping out Jonathan Villar (87 wRC+) with Jed Lowrie (126 wRC+), or Manny Pina (76 wRC+) with Wilson Ramos (123 wRC+)?

The farm system is short on impact talent, which will make it difficult to get an impact player with team control on the trade market this summer. But the rental market can typically be a place to find stronger short-term values at more reasonable prices, like Stearns and company did last summer with Neil Walker and Anthony Swarzak. Those are the kinds of moves - along with some internal prospect promotions and healthy returns of guys like Zach Davies and Wade Miley - are more of the types of moves I would be on the lookout for this summer.

Spaul149 asks:

What Low level (rookie or below) prospect do you believe in the most and why?

Honestly, I could find one reason or another to be excited about just about every low-level prospect in Milwaukee’s system. But here are two arms like I’ll be keeping an eye on this summer in short-season ball: Max Lazar in Helena, and Michele Vassalotti in Maryvale. Lazar was drafted last summer as a 6’3”, 165 lb projectable right-hander out of high school in the 11th round and signed to a well over-slot bonus of $475K. He didn’t light things up in his Maryvale debut, but so far in two starts in the Pioneer League he has allowed one earned run in 11.1 innings. According to a scouting report from Baseball Census, Lazar sits in the 89-92 MPH range and he should be able to add more velocity as he matures and puts on good weight. He’s got a solid curveball and a developing slider and changeup, but perhaps most exciting is a future 60 grade for his command (although he’s more control-centric at present). He works fast, has a repeatable delivery, and could have a future in the starting rotation.

Vassalotti was signed by the Brewers as an international free agent out of Italy and pitched in the Dominican Summer League last summer as a 16 year old. Wait, did I say pitched? I meant dominated - he compiled a 1.63 ERA and 32:8 K/BB ratio in 38.1 innings against competition that was an average more than two-and-a-half years older. That was enough to garner a mention from Eric Longenhagen within the Fangraphs top prospect list for the Brewers, with the note that he already sits in the 90-93 MPH range as a 6’2”, 180 lb teenager. This summer he’s making the jump stateside as a 17 year old, and in his debut game in the AZL (where he’s 3.7 years younger than the median age) he tossed five innings while allowing only one run. There’s not much scouting information to go on here, but based on his age and some stat-line scouting, there’s some reason to be excited about this kid.

Thanks for the great questions this week, my friends! Now do your best to get on out to Miller Park this week and root on our beloved Cream City Nine against those hated red birds from St. Louis!

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference