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The Dicey World of Trading Prospects

Nothing looks better than an 18 year old raking in the minors.

It's a coin flip (or a bat flip maybe) when it comes to trading prospects.
It's a coin flip (or a bat flip maybe) when it comes to trading prospects.
David Banks

Raul Adalberto Mondesi turned 18 this past Saturday and celebrated by playing in his 93rd A-ball game. He has drawn comparisons to Jurickson Profar, which is exciting. He is considered by almost everyone with any knowledge of the Royals to be the most untouchable of prospects in the system. Without questions, Mondesi might be one of the most exciting prospects to come along in the Dayton Moore era, and that is saying something.

Being compared to Profar is high praise in prospect circles and I have read the phrase 'you don't want to trade the next Profar for a quick fix'. That is certainly good logic, assuming the first Profar eventually does succeed in the major leagues.

That is the rub, isn't it? As good as prospects can seem coming up, it certainly does not always translate into major league wins. As Royals fans, we are all keenly aware of this fact. Following is Baseball America's Top 10 organizational prospects in the Dayton Moore era (and I know including the 2006 year is not technically his, but it is fun year to throw in):

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
Myers Montgomery Hosmer Montgomery Moustakas Moustakas Gordon
Zimmer Starling Myers Crow Hosmer Cortes Hochevar
Starling Myers Moustakas Myers Cortes Hochevar Butler
Ventura Odorizzi Lamb Moustakas Montgomery Wood Lubanski
Odorizzi Cuthbert Montgomery Hosmer Melville Duffy Lumsden
Bonaficio Lamb Colon Melville Duffy Rosa Cordier
Mondesi Herrera Duffy Lamb Gutierrez Pimentel Maier
Selman Adam Dwyer Duffy Rosa Mitchell Huber
Calixte Dwyer Crow Dwyer Ka'aihue Yabuta Buckner
Adam Ventura Eibner Lough Wood Robinson Fisher

Not all Top Ten prospect lists are created equal, especially when you are dealing with just one organization's prospects. Some years, you have the best farm system ever and some years you have Chris Lubanski in your top five.

We are all painfully aware of Dayton Moore's trading of prospects based solely on this past winter's dealing of Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery. There was a pretty in-depth debate on Myers and small sample sizes in yesterday's game recap and, truthfully, we don't know the real outcome of that trade yet, but it hurts to see Myers jack two out of Yankee Stadium.

As an aside, I'm not young and something of a traditionalist, but I think the Myers bat flip is cool and, yes, I think almost all of baseball's unwritten rules are stupid.

Anyway, every organization has more than one prospect trade horror story: David Cone for Ed Hearn, Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb, John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander... and on and on. Still, you look at the above lists and wonder what the Royals might have been able to get in return for Mike Montgomery in 2010 or 2011 instead of him being an throw-in on the Myers' deal. Instead of Yuniesky Betancourt, what might Daniel Cortes have netted if traded a year earlier?

As a former engineer of the Justin Huber train, I used to be firmly on the side of hoarding and nurturing prospects. I fully admit to agonizing over the loss of Carlos Rosa for Rey Navarro (as non-eventful trade result as you can find, by the way). It is certainly revisionist history and pure speculation, but if you could go back to the spring of 2010 and offer a package of Mike Moustakas, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery, what might it have yielded then? Sadly, to date, it would not have to yield much to be more than what the Royals have received from those three at the major league level.

All of this is a long winded way of asking the questions:

  • Should the next Jurickson Profar (keeping in mind that the first Profar has yet to become JURICKSON PROFAR!) be untouchable?
  • Should a 5'11", 180 pound right-handed pitcher with a propensity for high pitch counts be untouchable?
  • Should a 24 year old lefty coming off Tommy John surgery with an equal or worse tendency to throw a lot of pitches per inning as Ventura be a 'hang up the phone' name when an opposing GM inquires?
In retrospect, it sure would have been nice to trade the 2008 number three prospect for the value he surely held then. Or course, it would not have been as fun to trade the 2006 number three prospect, would it?

Trading prospects have been and always will be a terrific/horrific gamble (Joe Foy for Amos Otis for us old guys), but the truth is that we might wake up in 2016 and look at the 2012 Top Ten prospect list and be asking why didn't the Royals trade Ventura or Zimmer or Mondesi when they had the chance. Of course, we might well be looking south and continuing to lament trading three time All-Star Wil Myers as well.

No one said it was easy to be a major league general manager, did they?