by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
On Monday the Braves and Mariners swapped a trio of prospects (along with a player to be named later) in an intriguing trade:
The Braves Acquired – OF Alex Jackson & PTBNL
The Mariners Acquired – RHP Rob Whalen & RHP Max Provse
While Jackson may have the highest ceiling and is the biggest name included in the swap, that doesn’t necessarily make him the key player. Let’s take a look at all three players and what their upside/potential appears to be:
Alex Jackson – Outfielder
Jackson was a first round pick in 2014 (sixth overall), but he’s struggled over his first 686 AB to the tune of a .233 average with 21 HR. He spent 2016 playing at Single-A and posted a gaudy 27.0% strikeout rate, which obviously is a significant red flag. What’s going to happen as he moves up against more advanced pitching who can further exploit his flaws?
Just look at what Baseball America recently said of him:
“Jackson has 223 strikeouts in 190 career games because of an inefficient bat path, which has raised doubts he’ll ever make enough contact to tap into his plus raw power. He still hits the occasional towering home run, but evaluators are increasingly beginning to grade Jackson a below-average hitter at best. The Mariners sent Jackson to extended spring training to begin 2016, the first time this millennium a healthy, non-suspended first-round infielder or outfielder did not begin his second full season assigned to a team. He finally responded to coaching after the move and was bumped to low Class A Clinton in mid-May, but even with improvement in his bat path still struck out in 27 percent of his plate appearances.”
That certainly isn’t promising, though at 20-years old and with a new voice in his ear there’s hope that he can start to turn things around. There is still the power potential (43 doubles and 4 triples), if he can figure out how to consistently make contact.
His stock is obviously falling fast, but for Atlanta he’s a gamble worth taking. They currently lack a true impact outfield prospect, with Mallex Smith graduating in ’16 (and you can argue against him as an “impact” prospect anyways). It will be interesting to see how Jackson responds and develops.
Current Grade – C+
Rob Whalen – Right-Handed Pitcher
Acquired by the Braves in 2015 at the Trade Deadline (as part of the deal that sent Kelly Johnson & Juan Uribe to the Mets), Whalen made an inauspicious MLB debut in ’16 (6.57 ERA over 5 starts). Of course he did post a 9.12 K/9, after owning an 8.35 mark over 18 Double-A starts (he also made 3 starts at Triple-A), and also showed an ability to generate groundballs over his minor league career (1.59 GO/AO).
While he’s not very highly regarded, Whalen does offer depth for a Seattle team who just sent Taijuan Walker to Arizona and could ultimately function as a long man out of the bullpen.
Current Grade – C
Max Povse –Right-Handed Pitcher
It’s possible that Povse, a 6’8” 23-year old, ultimately becomes the best player in this deal. For a player with his height he’s shown a surprising ability to command the strike zone this early in his career, with a 2.0 BB/9 over 283.1 IP. He also began generating more and more groundballs last season, with a 1.24 GO/AO, and while he hasn’t mowed down hitters (7.5 K/9) there is a bit more upside in that regard as well. Just look at the scouting report, courtesy of Baseball America:
“using his size well to hide the ball and make for uncomfortable at-bats for hitters at every stop. His fastball sits 90-92 mph and can get up to 94 and his main secondary offerings are a solid overhand curveball and changeup with improving depth. His stuff plays up because his extension makes the ball jump on the hitter quickly, while his long limbs constantly move in his delivery to throw off hitters’ sense of timing and ability to locate the ball.”
That’s a promising makeup for a pitcher and it will be interesting to see if he continues to improve and develop. He spent 70.2 innings at Double-A last season, so he likely will start the year off there. However it may not be long before he is pushed to Triple-A and may not be long for the Majors. There’s some potential here, despite the lack of talk about him, and that makes him an intriguing name to monitor.
Current Grade – B-
Sources – MILB.com, Baseball Reference, Baseball America, Fangraphs
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: