The Boston Red Sox
Another A.L. East competitor, the Boston Red Sox could use some help on the infield corners. Once rated as the worst third base group, Boston’s hot corner has been bolstered by the additions of under-prospect Rafael Devers on July 24 and former San Francisco Giant Eduardo Nuñez on July 28, two days after he was traded. Both are equipped to steady infielders and Devers might be a spectacular sight to see. The first base position for the Sox is in flux though as 2016 Gold Glove winner Mitch Moreland has not been pulling his weight with the bat. In 335 at-bats, Moreland has a batting average of .236, OPS. of .726, and a wRC+ of 88, a below average mark. Also, he isn’t contributing as much with the glove as Boston was counting on.
Instead of bringing gold glove caliber defense, the 31-year-old has only one defensive run saved. In the beginning of the season, Moreland was having a good season, accumulating a 1.1 WAR by the end of June. But, July has caused his numbers to drop across the board and his .149 batting average for the month lowered his replacement -level stat to .6 WAR. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez isn’t a better option. He too is having a down year in terms of overall value. Although he has a .256 BA, .340 OBP, and 17 home runs, shoulder injuries have limited him to two games in the field. These shoulder concerns may come back more times and take Ramirez out of the first base conversation. Besides that, HanRam hasn’t been a good fielder lately. In contrast, Yangervis Solarte is a consistent hitter and someone who can play first each and every day. In his career, he has logged 268 innings at the position. Again, Solarte isn’t a stellar defender but he is capable and won’t embarrass a team.
Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox’ farm system is not loaded anymore. They do have some high-quality minor leaguers though. Third baseman Michael Chavis is a possible target. Drafted 26th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, Chavis stands out most for his above-average power. With it, he has smashed 25 round-trippers in 2017. This total matches the number of homers he had hit in the previous three seasons. Additionally, the young man has improved drastically at hitting for contact. From being a low .200 average type player, Chavis has hit for a .306 batting average while reaching Double-AA Portland. His ability to get on base has risen by about .60 points from last year. Today, it stands at .371. Lastly, his OPS. has risen approximately.300 points, now coming in as .977.
What changed between his prior seasons and this one is not his strikeout percentage which is in the 20s nor his walk percentage which is below ten, but his “pitch recognition, two-strike approach, and ability to handle breaking balls” according to MLB.com. This year has dramatically improved the stock of Michael Chavis. He now projects as an everyday regular who hits for average and power. The third baseman’s defense is a cause for concern. Even though he was a shortstop in high school and should be at least an average fielder at the hot corner, he sadly isn’t. His plus arm is an asset to any team he plays for, but his weak range of 2.65 per game gets him into trouble. He’s also not very good at managing the amount of errors he makes as he carries a .901 fielding percentage. As such, he would probably fit better as a DH in the American League but since San Diego doesn’t have any talented third base prospects in the upper minors, Chavis would be a good get for the team. Besides, Chavis’ defense is not a lost hope as scouts still project him to be an average fielder. The Padres are used to this type of defense in the form of Yangervis Solarte.
It’s unlikely that Chavis is enough for the Padres to trade Solarte. As a result, a projectable arm such as right-handed starter Bryan Mata should be attached. Mata is an 18-year-old Venezuelan who signed for $25,000 on Jan. 27, 2016. He has a 60-grade fastball that tops out at 94 mph right now but is sure to get faster, a 55-grade change up with good sink, and a 50-grade curveball with power that needs to improve. Overall, he has a solid three-pitch mix that will help him stay as a starter. What will also aid him is a walk rate in the two range. This season it’s at 2.23 which is exceptional for someone his age. The arsenal and command that Mata possesses has allowed him to pitch to a 2.79 ERA over 48.1 innings. The ceiling is limited for Mata who has only K’d 44 hitters and thus does not have the whiff rate an ace has. Instead, he will likely settle in as a middle of the rotation pitcher, but he and Chavis would be good acquisitions for two years of Yangervis Solarte.
The Cleveland Indians
Lastly, the Cleveland Indians may be an interested suitor even though a potential match isn’t as obvious as one with the Yankees or Red Sox. The reason why the Tribe might consider Solarte is because they are without Jason Kipnis currently. He was placed on the 10-day DL with a right hamstring strain on July 9 and has gotten injured twice this season already. Ever since, Jarrod Ramirez has taken his place as the Indians’ primary second baseman and light-hitting rookies Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez. Neither have had more than 74 at-bats, reached base safely at a minimum of .300, or hit more than two home runs. This below-average hitting can definitely be improved on by someone like Solarte.
For Solarte, Preller will be wise to ask for under-the-radar type prospects since Cleveland’s best, Francisco Meija and Triston McKenzie, are most likely untouchable. Regarding that, third baseman Nolan Jones would be a great addition since the Friars could always use more infielders in their farm system. Rated as one of the best pure hitters in the 2016 MLB Draft, Nolan Jones had a .636 BA during his senior year of high school. As a result, Cleveland picked him up at pick 55. So far this season, his average, .232, has not lived up to its potential. Yet, he has shown the patience necessary to reach base at an above-average clip, .362. This is the product of his 23 BB/30 K numbers over 112 at-bats.
Otherwise, his plus raw power has yet to play in games as he only has one homer in 2017. However, there should still be hope on that front just as there is for Blake Rutherford‘s power. The incredible bottom line is that Jones carries a 107 wRC+ which is above-average. It’s crazy to think how great he can be if his contact and power rates trend up like they are projected to. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old is an average defender who has the tools to become better than most. Once a shortstop in high school, he had to slide over to third due to less than desired speed and therefore not enough range. The above-average arm that allowed him to play short in the first place is still a weapon he uses. Also, he shows potential for soft hands and clean actions even though his fielding percentage is .855 over 33 games. Even though one would not be wrong to call Jones a player who has underperformed, the young third baseman can turn into a quality regular.
Since Preller can’t get Cleveland’s prospects, he can get a package of quality players. As such, Connor Capel can be added to Jones in a trade for Solarte. Drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Capel has the potential to be a five-tool talent so long as his contact-rate improves. The Texan’s best tool is speed as scouts rate his a 65. He has yet to take full advantage of such quickness due to poor reads. In 19 attempts, the 20-year-old has only stolen 11 bases. In short, he needs to try stealing more bags and be more efficient. If he does, the sky’s the limit for him. Outside of his lightning-quick feet, Capel has impressive power for a man who is twenty as well as 6’ 1″ and 185 lbs. In 321 at-bats, he has hit 15 home runs and 36 total extra base hits. Plus, it’s not crazy to think that some of those doubles and triples will become homers as he adds more strength to his frame.
The offensive tool that Capel needs to further refine is his hitting. He does a good job at getting on base, .307, even when his average is low, .227. There are signs that he will improve with time though as scouts have noticed that he recognizes pitches well and barrels the ball often. On top of his tantalizing potential, Capel has an okay floor due to his above-average defense and speed. With electrifying speed, good instincts, and 55 grade arm strength, he, at the very least, could be a valuable late inning defensive replacement or massive stolen base threat. A quick note, Capel was rated as the 73rd best prospect in his draft class by MLB.com.
Lastly, George Valera is a prospect that Preller should keep his eye on. The Dominican outfielder might be a true five-tool talent. Recently signed for $1.3 million dollars on July 2, the young 16-year-old has a smooth, left-handed swing, an all-fields approach, and a disciplined demeanor. As a result, his hit tool garnered a 60 when signed. This great skill should allow him to make the most out of his average power and speed. He may very well out perform his average ratings. In addition to solid offensive skills, the outfielder combines raved about routes, solid defensive actions, and above-average arm strength to play a mean right field. Overall, he is super talented and could become a top prospect one day. The risk of him falling flat is worth the chance that he becomes a great player.
In conclusion, Yangervis Solarte may not get the prospect haul that Brad Hand does, but the Padres can surely benefit from trading him. Moreso than keeping him on a club that won’t compete until 2020.