MLB’s trade deadline falls on Aug. 1 this year, meaning that contenders have just a few more days to get deals done and shore up any weaknesses before the stretch run. We’ve spent plenty of time focused on the big leaguers who could be changing teams and shifting playoff odds, but now let’s switch gears and focus on the prospects who could be heading in the other direction.
Below are eight prospects, each of whom currently plays in a contending organization — and each of whom stands a good chance of serving as the centerpiece of a deadline trade as those contenders look to capture a World Series title. These aren’t simply the best Minor Leaguers in each organization; rather, they’re the most likely to get moved, whether due to promixity or position or fit or a combination of all three.
2023 MLB trade deadline: Top prospects to know
Joey Ortiz, INF, Baltimore Orioles
Really, take your pick — this could be one of any number of young Orioles infielders, from the recently promoted Jordan Westburg to top Minor Leaguers like Coby Mayo and Connor Norby. (And that’s not even mentioning No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday, who figures to be untouchable in trade talks but should be knocking on the door to the Majors as soon as next spring.)
No other contender is as well-positioned to make a deadline splash as Baltimore, and Ortiz profiles as the most likely of their deep pool of position players to get moved at some point in the next few days. For starters, he’s the oldest of the bunch, having just turned 25 this month. He also has the lowest ceiling, as most scouts don’t expect him to stick at shortstop and he doesn’t project to hit for much power. Still, Ortiz has stung the ball at every level of the Minors — he currently owns a .984 OPS at Triple-A — and he can excel at both second and third base.
Curtis Mead, 2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays
Regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the Minors — and on the fast track to Tampa — at the start of the year, Mead got off to a brutal start, hitting just .221/.286/.361 at Triple-A Durham before a wrist injury knocked him out for nearly two months. It took a while, but since the infielder returned to Durham’s lineup on June 30, he’s been on an absolute tear, with an 1.170 OPS, 13 extra-base hits and nine multi-hit efforts over his last 16 games.
Third-ranked @RaysBaseball prospect Curtis Mead (MLB No. 33) put together his first career five-hit game.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 15, 2023
Four of those knocks registered at least 104.6 mph, as he upped his @DurhamBulls slash line to .292/.362/.475: pic.twitter.com/EYKerZ66YF
He’s finally scorching the ball the way a top-50 overall prospect should, and it leaves the Rays with a tough decision to make as the deadline looms. Tampa is absolutely stacked with infield talent: the big-league roster alone features Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Díaz, Isaac Paredes, and Taylor Walls, and that’s not even counting top prospects like Kyle Manzardo, Junior Caminero and Carson Williams or other young players like Vidal Brujan and Jonathan Aranda. Something’s gotta give here, is the point, and while the Rays could opt for a smaller deal involving someone like Aranda or Osleivis Basabe, they’re also equipped to swing for the fences should they so choose.
Justin Foscue, 2B/3B, Texas Rangers
A first-round pick back in the 2020 draft, Foscue continues to hit at every level, slashing .271/.389/.477 with 11 homers and seven steals with more walks (48) than strikeouts (40) in 74 games at Triple-A this season. He’s among the most polished hitters in the Minors, capable of 20-homer power with a plus batting average and even chipping in a few steals. The problem? He splits his time between second and third base, positions at which the Major League club have Marcus Semien and Josh Jung locked in for the foreseeable future. With the Rangers desperately needing rotation help if they hope to make a postseason push, don’t be surprised if they dangle Foscue to selling teams.
Clayton Beeter, SP, New York Yankees
Beeter needed some time to get settled after being called up to Triple-A in June, but he’s been dynamite over his last two starts, allowing just one unearned run on four hits and three walks with 13 strikeouts across 8.1 innings of work. Command has always been the righty’s big issue, so those walk totals are encouraging — and when he’s around the strike zone, his stuff is electric.
The Yankees seemingly churn out these sorts of arms on a yearly basis, and they dipped into that pool to acquire Major League talent at last year’s deadline — parting with JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski. With New York desperate to stay in the Wild Card race — and Beeter not yet polished enough to help this year — he could be next if he keeps pitching like this.
Matt Wallner, OF, Minnesota Twins
A first-round pick back in 2019, Wallner is finally getting some Major League run recently, and he’s making the most of it:
Matt Wallner just hit one to the second deck. To the opposite field! pic.twitter.com/MNG1FT0p6Y— MLB (@MLB) July 26, 2023
The 6’4, 220-pounder has a .861 OPS across 20 games in Minnesota this year after tearing up the Minors over the past couple of seasons. The problem, however, is the Twins are squeezed at the corners, with Alex Kirilloff, Joey Gallo, Trevor Larnach and more all vying for playing time. For a team with other holes to fill in its lineup, they figure to move at least one of their power-hitting, defensively-challenged lefties before the deadline, and Wallner is likely the cleanest to fit into a trade.
Spencer Schwellenbach, SP, Atlanta Braves
Schwellenbach is a fascinating story: A three-year starter at shortstop for Nebraska, the righty had also pitched in high school but didn’t take to the mound for the Cornhuskers until his junior year in 2021. He was so good as the Huskers’ closer that he won the John Olerud Award winner as the best two-way college player, landing in the second round of that summer’s draft to Atlanta — who saw enough in his arsenal to try him out as a starter for the first time in his career.
Reviews so far have been positive, with a 2.63 ERA across 13 starts in A ball — not bad for a guy who’s just now focused full-time on being a starting pitcher. The righty boasts a big, high-90s fastball with a usable slider and changeup, and if he continues to progress, he could be a mid-rotation option at some point a couple of years down the line.
The problem is that Atlanta needs rotation and bullpen help now, and they also have gotten very good at finding pitching prospects like Schwellenbach on a seemingly yearly basis. He’s much more valuable to rebuilding teams than he is to the Braves, in other words, which makes him likely to get dealt.
Dalton Rushing, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Friedman has long been among the game’s most aggressive deadline wheelers and dealers, and with the Dodgers taking control of the NL West, the same is bound to be true this season. Rushing has emerged as one of the best catching prospects in the game, hitting .247/.423/.457 in High-A after getting taken in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft. The only problem is that he shares an organization with another of the best catching prospects in the game, Diego Cartaya, who’s currently in Double-A. And, of course, there’s current Major League All-Star Will Smith, under team control until 2026. That depth needs some consolidation, and don’t be surprised if Rushing fetches a premium return in the next few days.
Heliot Ramos, OF, San Francisco Giants
Marco Luciano’s promotion is awfully exciting, but the Giants still stand in need of some middle infield and rotation depth ahead of the trade deadline if they hope to keep pace in the rugged NL Wild Card race. Enter Ramos: a former first-round pick and top-100 prospect, he’s lost some of his shine as he struggled in two brief stints in the Majors, but his Triple-A performance of late is bound to have turned some heads.
Long criticized for hitting the ball on the ground and to the opposite field too much, Ramos has tweaked his swing to tap into more of his considerable pull-side pop, and the results have been impressive:
*Heliot Ramos No-Doubter Animation* pic.twitter.com/p74VIqhnM7— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) July 8, 2023
After scuffling in the high Minors last season, he’s raked to the tune of a .291/.340/.543 line with seven homers in 34 games at Triple-A. It’s easy enough to talk yourself into him still possessing that sort of dynamic upside — his strikeout and walk rates trended in the right direction in 2022, he’s still a quality defender and making a swing change mid-season is no small task — and some team is bound to think that they’re the ones who can unlock it.