May 16, 2023

MLB trade deadline: Ranking 15 best prospects traded as Mets, Cardinals, White Sox boost farm systems

Major League Baseball's trade deadline passed on Tuesday evening, bringing an end to a mad stretch that saw Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander moved, among others. (You can relive all of the deadline deals by clicking here.) Much of the immediate focus at the deadline is on the veterans who were dealt -- they're the ones on display right away, and they're the ones impacting pennant races. Yet we'd be remiss if we allowed too much time pass without evaluating the prospects.

Below, you'll find CBS Sports' ranking of the top 15 prospects traded this deadline. The players are presented in order of their perceived ability. We will note that there were more than 15 compelling candidates for this exercise; we just have to draw the line somewhere, lest we end up ranking every single traded prospect.

Quero, 20, is a switch-hitting backstop who has held his own this season despite an aggressive Double-A assignment. The hope here is that he could in time post average or better marks in each of the triple-slash categories.

Edgar Quero gets his first base hit with the Barons! 💪

His glovework isn't as far along as his bat, and he might top out as a fringe defender. Young catchers are an attrition-prone lot, but that Quero has achieved a measure of success in Double-A at his age bodes well for his likelihood of becoming a big-league contributor. The White Sox lack the Angels' Ohtani-shaped incentive to fast-track Quero, suggesting that if he's to debut next season, it'll come later in the year.

Before you ask, yes, this is Ronald's little brother. This Acuña is an infielder who has been an above-average hitter at Double-A as a 21-year-old. Acuña has above-average power potential, but it's hampered by his aggressive approach and tendency to top the ball into the ground.

What a week for @acunita13‼️ The 21-year-old hit .360 with 3 2B, a grand slam and 2 stolen bases. Acuña is hitting .323 with an .828 OPS thru 15 games this season for @RidersBaseball.

In theory, he could stick at short at the game's highest level. In practice, he's unlikely to convince the Mets to slide Francisco Lindor to another position. Acuña could reach the majors as soon as next season, it's just to be determined with what team and at what position.

Were it not for injury, including Tommy John surgery, Eder may already have reached the majors by now. He's started six times at Double-A this year, showing off a fastball-slider combination as capable of missing bats as the strike zone. Given his lack of recent repetitions, we're willing to overlook a little wildness.

MLB's No. 9 LHP prospect Jake Eder (@Marlins) was lights-out for @BlueWahoosBBall 😤5.2 IP1 H1 ER2 BB10 K

The White Sox will have to be mindful of increasing Eder's workload (he's thrown 110 innings since being drafted in 2020), and that adds some risk to the equation. If they do it right, they might end up with an above-average starting pitcher.

Manzardo, currently sidelined with an undisclosed injury, is a hit-over-power first baseman. He torched right-handed pitching before going down, batting .282/.381/.525 with the platoon advantage and recording an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher on more than 50% of his batted balls. Manzardo did struggle mightily against lefties (though his underlying data suggests he was a bit unlucky), and that's something to watch for when he eventually makes his big-league debut.

Vargas, an 18-year-old converted catcher, might end up being the steal of the deadline relative to his pre-trade standing. In 33 complex league games this season prior to the trade, he batted .283/.457/.442 with bright green advanced statistical indicators regarding his ability to put the stick on the ball. There's danger in getting too excited about data posted at the lowest levels -- when was the last time anyone got hot and bothered about Heriberto Hernandez? -- but it's a gift from above to get this kind of profile in return for a rental reliever.

Roby was in the midst of a breakout season at Double-A before experiencing shoulder trouble that has sidelined him since early June. Ruh roh. You can understand why the Cardinals took him on anyway. He has an arsenal full of potentially above-average pitches, as well as a history of missing bats. There's mid-rotation upside here if Roby can make a full recovery from his injury.

The well-rounded Saggese has continued to overachieve since being drafted in the final round of the truncated 2020 draft. He might not have a plus tool to the naked eye, but quantitative analysts are sweeter on his offensive potential than his array of average (or thereabout) grades indicate. Saggese has experience at both second and third base, and he should find himself on the big-league roster sometime next summer, attempting to become a second-division starter instead of a reserve.

Gilbert, a first-round pick via Tennessee in 2022, boasts an above-average glove and an all-out playing style. Scouts have had reservations about his offensive upside dating back to his amateur days.

Drew Gilbert can throw too, confirmed.@ESPNAssignDesk | #SCTop10T7 | TUL 0 HBCB 1

His below-average performance at Double-A this season, fueled in part by an overly pull-happy approach, has vindicated those concerns. Gilbert's secondary skills should still get him to the majors, but it's possible he's more of a fourth outfielder than starter.

The Dodgers have more than their fair share of intriguing young arms stationed in the upper minors, making it easy to overlook someone like Nastrini. He's a well-built righty with an above-average heater-breaker combination. Nastrini's biggest blemish is his command. He's walked at least four batters per nine innings at every professional stop, including this year at Double-A. You've read this a million times before, so what's once more? The range of outcomes includes mid-rotation starter and high-leverage reliever.

Clifford, a former 11th-round pick, will go as far as his bat will take him. He has well-above-average strength and a good plan at the plate. Some scouts see him as just a first baseman or designated hitter type because of his athletic limitations, however, and that means he's going to have to continue to mash in order to have a sustained career in the majors. Clifford has homered 16 times in 250 High-A plate appearances, suggesting he just might be up for the challenge.

You might remember Robberse from his recent Futures Game appearance. He's originally a product of the Netherlands who signed with the Blue Jays for just over $120,000 Now, he'll fly with a different flock. Robberse has already established himself at Double-A as a 21-year-old. He projects to have several average or better offerings, including a quality changeup, and good command. That combo should enable him to stick in a big-league rotation, perhaps as soon as next summer.

Bush, a second-round pick in 2021, had the start of his season delayed by oblique and groin injuries. His performance since returning to the mound may not jump off the Baseball Reference page, but his mid-rotation upside has long intrigued evaluators. Bush is a tall lefty with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a couple superior secondary offerings. In theory, he could reach the majors late this season or early next. In practice, the White Sox may opt for a slower pace. Bush has cleared the 100-inning threshold just once, with that being last year.

The Orioles have so many talented young infielders that Prieto had little chance of breaking through. He's an interesting prospect in his own right.

Cesar Prieto grand slam!!

He has appreciable bat-to-ball skills, resulting in a 93.5% in-zone contact rate against right-handed pitchers, that help him overcome an aggressive approach and a lack of thump. Prieto has experience all around the infield, and he should be able to slot in as a contact-driven option off the bench sooner than later.

Lee, 20, is a bat-first infielder who lacks the arm for the left side and will likely end up as a full-time second baseman. He's shown an aptitude for making contact and drawing walks, and that's a good thing because power is unlikely to be a big part of his game. Lee has had an above-average offensive season at High-A, suggesting that he's about ready for the ever-crucial jump to Double-A.

Showalter, an 11th-round pick in 2022, was beginning to climb prospect lists in recent weeks. In six appearances at A-ball, he struck out 25 batters in 20 innings behind a low-to-mid-90s fastball and developing secondaries. The combination of his 6-foot-1 frame and release point should make him a perfect fit in the Vertical Approach Angle Era. He's one to watch for heading forward.