Yesterday’s three-team blockbuster which sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati included a couple of my favorite prospects from the 2012 season. Trevor Bauer ranked is the third best right-handed starting pitcher and Didi Gregorius ranked as the seventh best shortstop. On Twitter, prospect followers consider Gregorius to be a lesser player than Trevor Bauer and surmised that the DBacks traded the right-hander because he’s not as good as advertised. From four-plus years scouting prospects in person, this may not be the case considering I see more quality starting pitching prospects in one season than I ever have shortstops.
The year 2012 was a particularly strong one for shortstops from my perspective. In counting 12 who profiled as Major League regulars, one could assume there’s plenty to go around. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I think back to prior seasons, I have a difficult time recalling any top flight shortstop prospects other than Rangers Jurickson Profar and Red Sox Xander Bogaerts. However, questions as to whether the Boston product will remain a shortstop long-term adds to my perceived value of Gregorius — an extremely valuable commodity.
When half of all prospect followers primary interest is fantasy baseball, quality prospects are often confused based on real Major League baseball value versus that of a fantasy player. From a fantasy standpoint, Gregorius holds little value. For the Diamondbacks, he solidifies their shortstop position for the next six years.
If one follows reports out of Texas, the Rangers would not part with Elvis Andrus or Profar for “franchise cornerstone” Justin Upton — More anecdotal evidence the value of a quality major-league shortstop is miscalculated by the baseball masses. Back in June, I took Andrus with the 11th pick in our FanGraphs franchise draft ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez. And while those three players have greater name value than does the Rangers shortstop, scouting contacts I bounced the pick off of didn’t question it other than to ask if I considered fellow shortstop Starlin Castro.
Once again, the gap in perceived value is fueling the argument Bauer is more valuable than Gregorius. Of course the fact Bauer has been ranked one of the top prospects in baseball since being drafted in 2011 doesn’t hurt either.
In early May, I wrote a piece on Trevor Bauer after seeing him pitch in Double-A against the Chattanooga Lookouts. Consistently 92 to 95 mph with his fastball, touching 98, the pitch was flat and left up in the zone too often. I worried it would result in his being hit hard at the big-league level.
Additionally, Bauer boasted quality, but inconsistent breaking stuff and requires additional development time for refinement. This was masked by dominant strikeout totals in Double-A and Triple-A. However, limited big League innings resulted in his walking more than seven batters per nine innings and an FIP north of five.
Maybe this, or reports of personality issues did affect his value within the industry, but there’s little doubt Bauer is still a high-quality pitching prospect with the ability to thrive at the major-league level with minor tweaks to his arsenal.
Four-plus years of watching prospects in person has shown shortstops with starter ceilings are harder to find than pitching. In Gregorius, the Diamondbacks found a cost controlled shortstop of the future when their best internal option was suspect prospect Chris Owings. Trevor Bauer may become an excellent big-league pitcher, but the DBacks have a plethora of young pitching in tow. Arizona used an organizational strength to fill a black hole and Cleveland did as well. Consider it a win-win for both franchises.