Projecting the Prospects of the Trading Deadline: Part One

The headlines don’t usually focus on the prospects, but minor leaguers always play a part in baseball’s annual trading deadline shuffle. Occasionally, teams acquire future stars such as Scott Kazmir or Jason Varitek in July. Others acquire less spectacular but useful minor leaguers such as Zach Miner or Ted Lilly. And, of course, there are plenty of transactions involving minor league ballplayers that never really get a chance in the big leagues.

During the next couple weeks, I will take a closer look at some of the minor leaguers involved in this year’s deadline deals. The summaries include projections derived from a technique that considers similar minor leaguers’ development. The sets of numbers that follow represent the average expected performance, so you should remember that any player has a 50% chance of outperforming (or underperforming) these particular projections. Additionally, I have listed each players’ 2006 statistics with their previous organization.

Jeff Keppinger

NY Mets to KC Royals | Position: Second Base | DOB: 04/21/1980

2006  AAA .300 .353 .359
2007  MLB .300 .347 .383	
2008  MLB .301 .347 .383
2009  MLB .299 .344 .388

Keppinger is not an impact player, but he is adequate at second base and his contact skills are about as good as it gets in the minor leagues. Like many good contact hitters in the minor leagues, he doesn’t walk much and his on-base skills are not as strong as they could be. He is a much safer bet to become an adequate big leaguer in the near future than Ruben Gotay, however. A lot of folks think the Mets got the better end of this deal, but Keppinger is capable of replacing Mark Grudzielanek‘s production at a fraction of the cost in the near future. It certainly was not a bad trade for the Kansas City Royals.

Ruben Gotay

KC Royals to NY Mets | Position: Second Base | DOB: 12/25/1982

2006  AAA .264 .322 .404
2007  MLB .250 .309 .383	
2008  MLB .249 .305 .380
2009  MLB .253 .310 .389

Gotay has a higher ceiling than Keppinger because he is younger and has some power. He is an athletic player who is still at an age when a Jose Reyes-like leap in production is still possible. His projection, however, suggests he will probably split his time between Norfolk and a part-time role with the Mets over the next few years. He is not remarkably different from Anderson Hernandez, so Gotay won’t be rushed into a starting role with the parent club like he was in Kansas City.

Max Ramirez

Atlanta Braves to Cleveland Indians | Position: Catcher | DOB: 10/11/1984

2006    A  .286 .408 .449
2007   A+  .258 .373 .395	  	
2008   AA  .262 .369 .403
2009  AAA  .251 .350 .374

The Indians will probably take their time with Ramirez because he has only been catching for a few years. Ramirez’s .285 batting average for the Rome Braves could be a high mark for his career, but he does have some pop in his bat and he is very patient at the plate. He could develop into a very useful big league catcher if he continues to improve his defense behind the plate. Alternatively, the Indians could move him to a corner infield position if they want to get his bat in the Cleveland lineup by 2009.

Justin Ruggiano

LA Dodgers to TB Devil Rays | Position: Outfield | DOB: 04/12/1982

2006    AA  .260 .367 .438
2007   AAA  .266 .342 .427
2008   MLB  .249 .320 .409	 
2009   MLB  .248 .322 .403

Ruggiano was recently revealed as the player to be named later in last month’s deal that sent Mark Hendricksonand Toby Hall to Los Angeles. He isn’t a top prospect, but he’s more interesting than most PTBNL’s. Ruggiano fell to the 25th round of the 2004 draft after a subpar season at Texas A&M. He rebounded with a .917 OPS at hitter-friendly Vero Beach last year before posting more average numbers at Double-A Jacksonville this year. He’s already 24 years old, so don’t expect much growth here. He instantly becomes on of the Devil Rays’ most patient prospects at the plate, but the outfield is so crowded there that it’s hard to see how he fits in the team’s future plans.

Other minor leaguers changing organizations last week: Fabian Jimenez Angulo (Cubs), Joel Santo (Cubs), and B.J. Lamura (Dodgers)

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