When it comes to gaps in the Rays system, the Cardinals depth offers what the Rays are lacking, and could offer a deep trade that would diversify risk for the Rays’ key trade chip.
It starts with the outfield, where the Rays depth is almost entirely left-handed through the top three levels of the system. Here the Cardinals have an outfielder they have found to be superfluous in 2018: stud Canadian outfielder Tyler O’Neill.
St. Louis has given O’Neill two cups of coffee this year when he otherwise has a 171 wRC+ in Triple-A. Ranked with a 50+ FV, the 23-year-old has 25 home runs in the minors in half a season of work, a walk rate above ten percent, and an average above .300. Power is the calling card, but his 50-to-55 grade arm and speed make O’Neill a tantalizing outfield prospect. He’s the best position player in the Cardinals system and ranks No. 48 overall at MLB.com, but only No. 66 at Baseball America despite this write-up.
O’Neill is short but cut like a bodybuilder with bulging muscles in his arms, legs and backside. He leverages that massive strength with lightning-quick bat speed, producing massive home runs observers recount with disbelief.
Yeah, that’s a headliner.
Next, Tampa Bay’s depth at catcher includes Nick Ciuffo (who was suspended to start the year) and recently acquired Michael Perez (who was a minor league free agent this offseason). Neither are top prospects, despite a major league projection based upon solid defensive abilities. Perhaps the Rays already have answers for the 2019 backstop in these two, but an upgrade for the front line catcher is not out of the question.
Here the Cardinals have two key prospects, both playing at Triple-A level this season with known Top-100 catcher Carson Kelly and helium glove Stephen Knizner that some evaluaters (such as Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen) see as the better overall catching prospect. The Rays have their priorities for catchers (read: framing) so there are aspects that may lean a possible trade one way or the other, but either way, only one will be able to back up Yadier Molina. This is an easy piece for the Cardinals to deal.
Finally, the Rays would need a starting prospect back to fill the Archer void, and preferably one with a starter’s workload in his outlook. Again, the Cardinals offer several pieces, and given the expense of the trade it’s safe to say that the Cards would look beyond their top arm Alex Reyes in building a deal. Tampa Bay should be fine with that as well, as Reyes is rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
Among the other starters, groundball pitcher Dakota Hudson (a 2016 first round pick already in Triple-A) holds 60-grades or better on his fastball and slider but needs some work to find K’s at the major league level; he would be the key focus. And yet there is again an embarrassment of riches here for St. Louis: Ryan Helsley (DL), Austin Gomber (current MLB longman), Jake Woodford (Plant High product), or even Daniel Poncedeleon (near no-no in his debut this week) are all plausible additions.
St. Louis has enough for the Rays to mix and match their way to a fair deal that meets the mid-west team’s unending interest in Chris Archer.
What say you?
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