Prospects in the Mat Latos Trade
On Saturday, December 17th, the San Diego Padres traded starting pitcher Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Edinson Volquez and three prospects: first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal, and pitcher Brad Boxberger.
The Padres farm system was already stacked, but the addition of these three prospects makes it outstanding indeed. Alonso is getting most of the attention so far, but Boxberger and Grandal are also highly-intriguing prospects. Let's take a look at the haul of talent.
Yonder Alonso, 1B: A star first baseman for the University of Miami Hurricanes, Alonso was one of the best hitters available in the 2008 draft and went seventh-overall. Although he was dogged by some injury problems in the minors, Alonso's bat is highly-regarded, featuring above-average power and superior strike zone judgment. He hit a solid .296/.374/.486 in 358 at-bats for Triple-A Louisville in 2011, but was truly outstanding during his major league trial, hitting .330/.398/.545 in 88 at-bats for the Reds. Blocked by Joey Votto in Cincinnati, he is a definite first baseman, lacking the speed or mobility to handle the outfield. His bat is ready for the majors now. Does he compete with Anthony Rizzo for the first base job? Or are there more trades to come for San Diego? Stay tuned.
Brad Boxberger, RHP: Boxberger was a supplemental first round pick in 2009 from the University of Southern California. He struggled in 2010, but turned things around in '11 with a fine season in Double-A and Triple-A, posting a combined 2.03 ERA with a 93/28 K/BB in 62 innings, allowing a mere 32 hits. Note his exceptional K/IP and H/IP ratios. Boxberger has a 92-95 MPH fastball and an above-average slider. A former starter, he will toss an occasional changeup but relies primarily on his harder pitches. He fanned 22 in just 13 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Some scouts see him as a future closer if his command is good enough, and at worst he'll be a solid middle reliever.
Yasmani Grandal, C: Like Alonso, Grandal was a star at the University of Miami, turning his college performance into a first-round selection, going 12th overall in 2010. He was quite successful in '11, hitting a combined .305/.401/.500 with 14 homers and 59 walks in 374 at-bats between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. A switch-hitter, Grandal has very good plate discipline and above-average power. He needs polish on defense, needing to improve his blocking, but he has a decent arm, threw out 34% of runners, and shows some leadership skills. He should be a solid defender with a potent bat. Like Alonso, Grandal was blocked in Cincinnati, ranking behind fellow top prospect Devin Mesoraco.
This seems like a trade that will help both teams, although in different ways. The Reds didn't have room for Alonso and they like Mesoraco slightly better than Grandal. They took two blocked players and a pair of surplus arms and turned it into an established starter in Latos. The Padres add depth to an already-strong farm system, and all three prospects involved are either ready (Alonso) or almost ready (Boxberger, Grandal) to contribute. If these three guys develop to their maximum potential, the Padres will get the better of this trade in the long run.