Per source: The Royals have agreed to a deal with the Brewers for Mike Moustakas for Minor Leaguers Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) July 28, 2018
Moustakas, of course, was one of the more sought after bats this trade deadline, with rumors aswirl that he was landing on several teams. The Brewers were reportedly in the hunt for starting pitching and a second baseman, but apparently settled on a third baseman. They addressed that issue, as early reports are that Travis Shaw will be shifting to second base, a position he has zero MLB games played at.
Last night, the #Brewers made a surprise trade, not adding a second baseman, but adding third baseman Mike Moustakas with the plan of moving Travis Shaw over to second. #ThisIsMyCrew https://t.co/899V1d6pfZ— Reviewing the Brew (@ReviewngTheBrew) July 28, 2018
Moose joins Lorenzo Cain in Milwaukee, hoping to chase their second World Series title together. This, however, is a minor league site. We are not here to discuss the bizarre circumstance of the Brewers side of this trade (although if it works out and they have Moose and Shaw in the lineup, it could go down as a move of diabolical genius). What we are here to look at are the new Royals prospects.
Earlier this season, the Royals trade Kelvin Herrera to the Washington Nationals, and the move was generally panned. Dayton Moore did get some nice pieces back, but nice was a bit light, considering they dealt one of the premier relievers on the market nearly two months before the demands of the MLB Trade Deadline hit. Most felt that Herrera merited a sure-fire star, especially with the reliever market the past few seasons. It seemed the Royals had to hit on this Moustakas trade, which seemingly the whole world knew was coming.
This time they did well, but was it well enough? Considering there were multiple teams in on the Royals third baseman, and the Atlanta Braves and their elite farm system rumored to be one of them (albeit it minimal at best), you have to assume this was the best offer the Royals received. In return, they did get two seemingly (just about) big-league ready players for one of the last remaining ties to the 2016 world champion team whose tenure may have run its course in Kansas City.
Phillips is the prize of the deal. Not only did our own John Sickels have him ranked highly in the Brewers organization, he ranked in the Top 175 (No. 171, to be exact) and saw his grade go up because of it. Here’s why:
Age 23, originally drafted by Houston Astros in sixth round in 2012 from high school in Seminole, Florida, traded to Brewers in Carlos Gomez deal; hit .305/.377/.567 in Triple-A with 19 homers, 45 walks, 129 strikeout in 383 at-bats, then hit .276/.351/.448 in 87 major league at-bats, albeit with 34 strikeouts; his 2017 was much better than 2016 (.229/.332/.397 in Double-A) although the friendlier PCL environment was at least part of that; that said, the power is real and he also has an excellent throwing arm, but opinions about his pure hitting ability remain mixed and contact frequency is still an issue; could have wild swings in batting average and OBP, some seasons where he hits like an All Star and others where he struggles to hit .230; ETA 2018 (UPDATED 3/14/2018, slight grade uptick to match placement on Top 175 prospects list).
Phillips should be able to see playing time pretty quickly with the Royals, teaming with the also newly acquired Brian Goodwin in a new refreshing and young look for fans. His big arm is arguably the best in the minors, and while his power and contact skills seem for real, whether he will produce either at their best on a consistent basis, and at the same time, is all that remains to be seen. Is Phillips a power hitter, or contact hitter, or can he possibly do both? Does he find that consistency in the minors, or is his full-time MLB run finally here with a team clearly heading in a new direction? The Royals are likely to find out pretty quickly.
Lopez has been yo-yo’d up and down from the big leagues to the minors for three seasons now by the Brewers. He has found the most success in the MLB this season, but it is still not awe-inspiring by any means. John listed him the 19th-best prospect on the Brewers heading into 2018. Here’s what he said:
Age 25, second round pick in 2011 from Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, posted 4.25 ERA in 104 innings in Double-A with 105/38 K/BB, 92 hits; has been on prospect lists for seven years now with performances varying between excellent and dismal, leading to frustration for fans, analysts, the team, and the player; seems to find his niche in relief after switching to pen last July, with 3.62 ERA in 37 innings, seven saves in nine attempts, 32/11 K/BB and particularly good pitching in August (1.62 in 17 innings, 13/5 K/BB); he’s always had a fine arm and hit 97 in relief, both curveball and change-up can be quite good although usually not in the same game; still too much here to give up on but a change of scenery might help; ETA 2018.
Well, John certainly hit on the change of scenery, and if he’s right maybe we’ll get to see the prospect many felt he could be. Still 25, there’s no reason to think he can’t be, but he’s clearly ready to serve in the bullpen and will continue to be a project should the Royals decide to try him as a starter again.
While it may look good on the stat sheet for Lopez with a career-best 2.75 ERA and 1.47 WHIP at the big-league level this season, the inconsistencies and command struggles were still very much present, walking 13 batters over 19.2 innings. Most feel his curve is a more effective weapon, and that may simple be because he handles it the best. He has a nice mid-90s fastball, but it is erratic at best, and the command issues have arguably gotten worse the past few seasons.
So, what’s the verdict? The Royals gave up Moustakas, someone they went back-and-forth with signing this preseason as they searched for the right deal and didn’t seem overenthusiastic in keeping much longer than his 2019 option. In return, they receive two of the Brewers top-20 prospects and one of the top 200 in the game. On paper, that seems like a win. However, both prospects are very much question marks. If either reach their full potential, the Royals win this trade. But with both showing many inconsistencies, it may be awhile before we find that out.