Major League Baseball's trade deadline falls on Aug. 1 this year, meaning that teams have about a week and a half to complete their shopping for the stretch run. So much of the time, our deadline preview coverage centers on the big-league players likely to be headed elsewhere. Today, we're going to flip the script by focusing on some minor-league prospects who could be on the move.
Below you'll find one prospect for each of the eight American League teams with at least a 30% chance at cracking the playoffs, according to SportsLine. To be clear: we're not reporting that these prospects are definitely available or are being discussed in trades; we're using them more as examples of who the organization might part with based on a variety of factors, including roster construction, option and Rule 5 eligibility status, and timing. (Next week, we'll return with the same exercise for the National League.)
Let's get to it. (Note that the teams are ordered based on their winning percentages.)
1. Baltimore Orioles: SS Joey Ortiz
Baltimore has Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, and a few veteran types already in place on the big-league roster. They have Ortiz, Colby Mayo, and Connor Norby in Triple-A. And they have Jackson Holliday, , coming over the next 12 months. At some point, the Orioles will have to consolidate some of that depth. Why not start that process this summer?
Ortiz, by virtue of already being in his mid-20s, seems like a decent candidate to go. He's a quality fielder who has posted some impressive exit velocities at Triple-A this season. He scuffled during a big-league cameo earlier this year, but his minor-league performance suggests he's ready for an extended look.
2. Tampa Bay Rays: INF Osleivis Basabe
Writing that the Rays have more infielders than they do spots to play them all is an understatement. On the big-league roster alone, they have Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Díaz, Isaac Paredes, and Taylor Walls. Then, in Triple-A, there's Curtis Mead, Kyle Manzardo, Jonathan Aranda, Greg Jones, former top prospect Vidal Bruján, and yes, Basabe, who was originally acquired a few winters ago from the Texas Rangers as part of the Nathaniel Lowe trade.
"It's a MIRACLE! It's OVER!"— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) July 5, 2023
Plenty of reasons to smile in Durham last night after #Rays No. 6 prospect Osleivis Basabe topped off an improbable six-run ninth to earn @DurhamBulls the walk-off win!@smile_doctors | #PlaysThatMakeUsSmile pic.twitter.com/Zo55658M38
Basabe occupies a sweet spot for this kind of piece. He's about as close to being "blocked" as a prospect can be; he's already on the 40-player roster, meaning options are an increasing consideration with each passing season; and he lacks the super-high ceiling that motivates teams to move heaven and hell (or, at least, an aging veteran) to fit a player onto their roster.
Don't get it twisted: Basabe should have a big-league future as a contact-driven second baseman. The above factors just make it easier to see the Rays parting with him to upgrade their pennant chances than with some of the other top prospects in the system. And oh, by the way, two of those other top prospects, Junior Caminero and Carson Williams, also play the infield.
3. Texas Rangers: OF Dustin Harris
Harris, originally snatched from the Oakland Athletics in the 2020 trade for Mike Minor, does a lot of things well at the plate. He minds the zone; he makes a good amount of contact; and he hits plenty of balls in the 10-to-30-degree window. We're including him because we think he might lose the numbers game in Texas. The Rangers have received surprising production this season from Leody Taveras, Travis Jankowski, and Ezequiel Duran, and at some point they'll need to clear room for top prospect Evan Carter. Whoever employs Harris should see him reach the majors sometime over the next year.
4. Houston Astros: UTL Joey Loperfido
You could slot in a few other Astros outfield prospects here and it would be fair. We chose Loperfido because we think he's the most interesting of the bunch, if not necessarily the best. He's a former seventh-round pick who has performed well against Double-A pitching by drawing walks and hitting the ball hard. The Astros have prepared him for a super-utility-like role in the majors by tasking him with playing all over, including both right-side infield spots and center field. It wouldn't surprise us if some teams view him as a potential second-division starter. The question is whether or not the Astros do.
5. Toronto Blue Jays: INF Leo Jimenez
The Blue Jays infield could undergo some changes before next Opening Day. Matt Chapman will qualify for free agency this winter, and Whit Merrifield has a mutual option worth $18 million for next season. The Blue Jays have several internal candidates to throw at those potential holes, ranging from Santiago Espinal (a year removed from being an All-Star) to Addison Barger to the resurgent Orelvis Martinez. It's easy to overlook Jimenez as a result. He has a good feel for contact and the zone and, at least in the short term, he should be playable at shortstop. Depending on how the Blue Jays rank their internal options, it wouldn't be surprising to see teams ask about Jimenez this summer.
6. New York Yankees: RHP Clayton Beeter
The Yankees have a few arms stashed away in Triple-A who could appeal to teams -- sort of like last deadline, when they moved Hayden Wesneski, JP Sears, and Ken Waldichuk in various deals. Beeter, obtained from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Joey Gallo, has big-time stuff and small-time command. His control issues are nothing new, but he's walked more than 12% of the batters he's faced this season in the minors. Ordinarily, we'd say that makes it hard to see him starting for long at the big-league level; given the changing nature of the starting pitcher position, it's at least possible some team would overlook his walks to gain his bat-missing ability in the rotation.
7. Minnesota Twins: OF Matt Wallner
Maybe we're being a hair too cute when we compare Wallner to Brent Rooker, but there are some legitimate similarities. Like Rooker, Wallner is a former Twins first-round pick with an extreme offensive profile. He has top-of-the-scale raw power, yet he swings and misses with such alarming frequency that he could end up being known as a Quad-A player. As with Rooker, the Twins have limited Wallner's exposure at the game's highest level. Minnesota eventually traded Rooker as part of the deal that landed them Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan. We suspect a similar fate awaits Wallner, be it this summer or over the winter, when he'll celebrate his 26th birthday.
8. Cleveland Guardians: INF Juan Brito
Not to be outdone by the Rays and Orioles, the Guardians too have a growing infield logjam on their hands. Even with Amed Rosario nearing free agency, Cleveland has José Ramírez and Andrés Giménez locked in place and Gabriel Arias and Tyler Freeman on the bench. Plus the Guardians have Brayan Rocchio, Angel Martínez, José Tena, and Brito stored away in the upper minors. Something will have to give eventually. We're highlighting Brito, a contact-driven second baseman with success in Double-A, but the reality is you can insert almost any of the other names and the larger point remains true.