As MLB’s hot stove ignites, trade rumors will crackle. Inevitably, many will involve highly rated prospects.
That’s usually the only way to swing a seismic swap: You’ve got to give something to get something. In some cases, however, rising stars should be placed on the no-trade list.
Before the dealing begins, let’s examine all 30 teams’ most untouchable prospect, keeping in mind that the degree of untouchability will vary depending on the depth of the farm system in question and the needs of each big league club.
Also, to be clear: Everyone is technically tradable given a lopsided enough offer. However talented your blue-chipper may be, if Los Angeles Angels GM Billy Eppler calls offering Mike Trout and the deed to Angel Stadium, you squeeze the trigger.
Houston Astros: RHP Forrest Whitley
A 6’7″ right-hander taken with the 17th overall pick in 2016, Forest Whitley advanced as high as Double-A Corpus Christi in 2017 and posted a 2.83 ERA with 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings overall.
The 20-year-old can touch the high 90s with his fastball and complements it with a power curveball and emerging changeup. He’s at least another year from making an impact in the big leagues, but he’s a talent the defending champions should nurture behind the trio of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr.
Los Angeles Angels: OF Jo Adell
The Los Angeles Angels’ farm system is mostly barren, but Jo Adell has the tools be special.
The 18-year-old went 10th overall to the Halos in 2017 and slashed .325/.376/.532 in 49 rookie league games. He’s raw and strikeout prone but has a plus hit tool along with an impressive arm and standout athleticism.
Oakland Athletics: LHP A.J. Puk
The Oakland A’s restocked their farm system at the 2017 trade deadline, but their most untouchable piece has been around since they drafted him in 2016.
That would be left-hander A.J. Puk, who struck out 13.2 per nine in 125 innings between High-A and Double-A. He has a high-90s fastball and bat-missing slider that give him the profile of a top-shelf MLB starter.
On a rebuilding Oakland club, the 22-year-old could make his big league debut in 2018 and has the stuff to stick at the highest level.
Seattle Mariners: OF Kyle Lewis
A nasty knee injury that required surgery in 2016 bumped Kyle Lewis down some prospect radars, but the 22-year-old returned to action in June and flashed the tools that make him a potential future star.
Lewis shows plus power that befits his 6’4″, 210-pound frame and has enough range to play center field, though he may profile better as a corner outfielder.
Either way, he’s easily the best prospect in a middling Seattle Mariners system.
Texas Rangers: 2B Willie Calhoun
The central piece in the trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July, Willie Calhoun slugged 31 home runs in 128 games at Triple-A.
Even accounting for the hitter-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League, that’s an impressive total, especially for a second baseman.
Calhoun got a 13-game audition with the Texas Rangers in 2017 and should feature prominently in their plans. One note: He may see more innings in the outfield—where he played in his brief time with the Rangers—with Rougned Odor ensconced at second.
Chicago White Sox: RHP Michael Kopech
If you haven’t heard the legend of Michael Kopech and his 107 mph fastball, read this entertaining profile by Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller.
The 21-year-old won’t throw that hard in the majors. But after posting a 2.88 ERA with 172 strikeouts in 134.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, he’ll get a chance to try.
The Chicago White Sox are bursting with prospects. Kopech might have the highest ceiling of them all.
Cleveland Indians: C Francisco Mejia
After hitting .297 with an .835 OPS in 92 games at Double-A, Francisco Mejia got a taste of the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians. He maintained his prospect status and enters 2018 as a potential franchise player at a premium position.
Yan Gomes (.232 average, .708 OPS) and Roberto Perez (.207 average, .664 OPS) provided little offense behind the dish for the Tribe. Mejia could remedy that.
Detroit Tigers: RHP Franklin Perez
Acquired from the Astros as part of the Justin Verlander trade, Franklin Perez is a 19-year-old stud with the potential to front the Detroit Tigers rotation.
The young Venezuelan augments a mid-90s fastball with a plus curveball and changeup, and a slider that could make him a four-pitch hurler. With that arsenal, he posted a 3.02 ERA and held opponents to a .220 average in 86.1 innings between High-A and Double-A.
Kanas City Royals: 1B Nick Pratto
The Kansas City Royals eschewed a rebuild in 2017 and have a less than stellar system to show for it. If Eric Hosmer bolts via free agency, however, the club could have his heir apparent in first baseman Nick Pratto.
The 19-year-old lefty swinger went 14th overall in 2017 after flashing eye-opening on-base abilities and stellar defense during his prep career. It’s optimistic at this stage, but a Joey Votto comp isn’t outrageous. Plus, he delivered a game-winning hit in the 2011 Little League World Series.
Minnesota Twins: SS Royce Lewis
The No. 1 overall pick in 2017, Royce Lewis hit .279 with a .381 on-base percentage and 18 stolen bases in 54 games between the rookie league and Single-A.
The 18-year-old possesses game-changing speed and athleticism, and has the skills to join MLB’s burgeoning shortstop revolution for the emerging Twinkies.
Baltimore Orioles: C Chance Sisco
After slashing .320/.406/.422 in 112 games at Double-A in 2016, Chance Sisco spent most of 2017 at Triple-A and got a 10-game look-see with the Baltimore Orioles.
The 22-year-old rates a tick behind Mejia among the game’s can’t-miss catching prospects, especially defensively, but could become a legitimate big league backstop in the near term. With incumbent Welington Castillo a free agent, that’s particularly crucial for the O’s.
Boston Red Sox: 1B Sam Travis
The Boston Red Sox are probably going to sign a first baseman this winter, but they should also hang on to Sam Travis as a possible long-term solution at the position.
The 24-year-old hit .263 in 33 games with Boston in 2017 yet maintained his prospect status. He’s a solid contact hitter with untapped power potential and good hands, a combination that could earn him an everyday job in 2018 if the Sox are unsuccessful on the free-agent market.
New York Yankees: SS Gleyber Torres
With Didi Gregorius signed through 2020, the New York Yankees don’t technically need a shortstop. Gleyber Torres will challenge that notion.
The 20-year-old slashed .287/.383/.480 in 55 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017 while displaying excellent defense before an elbow injury derailed his season.
Now, he’s on the mend and poised to join the up-and-coming Yankees in 2018.
“Next year, we want him and everyone else to push to get up here, whether as an injury fill-in or to take the job over from somebody,” general manager Brian Cashman said, per Dan Martin and George A. King III of the New York Post.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Brent Honeywell
A sinking fastball, plus changeup and curveball, and signature screwball give Brent Honeywell an enviable set of weapons. The 22-year-old righty used them to post a 13-9 record with 172 strikeouts in 136.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A and knock on the door of an MLB debut.
It’ll happen in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays, where Honeywell can join a rich succession of homegrown hurlers.
Yeah, the Rays have depth in the rotation, but Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer are trade candidates, other top prospects such as Jose De Leon are less locked in and Honeywell is primed to assume a predominant role.
Toronto Blue Jays: INF Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. backed up his famous name with a strong season in 2017, hitting .323 with a .910 OPS between Single-A and High-A.
The 18-year-old flashed eye-opening bat speed and notable plate discipline, as he drew 76 walks next to 62 strikeouts.
With the final year of Josh Donaldson’s contract looming, Guerrero profiles as the Jays’ third baseman of tomorrow, though a move to first base or the outfield is possible.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Jon Duplantier
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ best prospect, Pavin Smith, plays first base, a position occupied at the big league level by a guy named Paul Goldschmidt. That makes right-hander Jon Duplantier the most untouchable prospect in a ho-hum MiLB system.
The 23-year-old struggled with a shoulder injury in college but posted a 1.39 ERA between Single-A and High-A in 2017 while striking out 165 in 136 innings.
His mid-90s fastball, power curve and competent changeup give him the weapons to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter with the possibility for even more.
Colorado Rockies: SS Brendan Rodgers
After a breakout rookie season in 2016, Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story hit .239 with a pedestrian .765 OPS last year.
That leaves the door wide open for Brendan Rodgers, who hit .336 with a .940 OPS between High-A and Double-A while playing exemplary defense. The third overall pick in the 2015 draft appears on the fast track to The Show.
Los Angeles Dodgers: OF Alex Verdugo
After getting within a win of their first championship since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers will do what it takes to hoist a Commissioner’s Trophy in 2018. If that means trading MiLB assets, so be it.
That said, they should strongly consider hanging on to outfielder Alex Verdugo, who slashed .314/.389/.436 at Triple-A and could slot into a muddled outfield depth chart in 2018.
Verdugo needs to work on his power, but he’s a polished hitter with command of the strike zone and a strong opposite-field approach.
San Diego Padres: LHP MacKenzie Gore
The third overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft, MacKenzie Gore posted a 1.27 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 21.1 innings in his rookie league debut.
The 18-year-old flashed increased velocity on his fastball along with a head-turning curveball, hard slider and occasionally excellent changeup.
For the rebuilding San Diego Padres, he’s a future ace worth banking on.
San Francisco Giants: OF/1B Chris Shaw
The San Francisco Giants hit the fewest home runs in baseball in 2017. Chris Shaw clubbed 24 homers in 125 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Yes, he’s blocked at first base by the combination of Brandon Belt and Buster Posey, who will need more time off from catching.
He’s also the only legitimate slugger in a thin, largely punchless San Francisco farm system.
Chicago Cubs: RHP Jose Albertos
The Cubs’ once-vaunted system has been decimated by trades and call-ups. There’s talent remaining, however, highlighted by 19-year-old right-hander Jose Albertos.
Signed out of Mexico in 2015, Albertos posted a 3.14 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 43 pro innings last season and held opponents to a .184 average. His fastball already hits the high 90s, and his changeup might be his best offering.
Cincinnati Reds: RHP Hunter Greene
At age 18, Hunter Greene is already something of a legend. Now, after the Cincinnati Reds took him second overall in 2017, he’s on pace to bring that legend to the Great American Ball Park.
The Reds apparently have Greene pegged as a pitcher, though he can also swing the bat. No matter what role he fills, he’s a headline-grabbing star in the making for a franchise that could use some glitz and glam.
Milwaukee Brewers: OF Lewis Brinson
The Milwaukee Brewers blossomed ahead of schedule in 2017 and challenged Chicago for the National League Central crown. While they came up short, the future is bright thanks to a cadre of up-and-comers, including outfielder Lewis Brinson.
In 76 games at Triple-A, Brinson hit .331 with a .962 OPS before he sipped his cup of coffee with the Brew Crew. A five-tool talent with 30/30 capabilities, the 23-year-old is a name to follow.
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Austin Meadows
After another sub-.500 finish (74-88), the Pittsburgh Pirates may jettison MLB pieces, including former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen.
That would open an outfield spot for 22-year-old Austin Meadows, who has battled injuries but shown superlative plate discipline and above-average defense in his minor league tenure.
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Alex Reyes
Alex Reyes wouldn’t be on this list were it not for Tommy John surgery, which sabotaged his 2017 season and kept his prospect status intact.
Now, the 23-year-old has a chance to emerge as the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals staff, with apologies to Carlos Martinez.
As Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch correctly argued, “[Executive John] Mozeliak and general manager Michael Girsch must make Reyes untouchable so that he can eventually sit at the front of the rotation behind ace Martinez and ahead of Luke Weaver, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright.”
Atlanta Braves: OF Ronald Acuna
Ronald Acuna began 2017 in High-A and advanced to Triple-A, where he hit .344 with a .940 OPS in 54 games.
The 19-year-old has genuine five-tool potential for an Atlanta Braves squad that has already graduated middle infielders Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies and is looking to rebuild and generate excitement in its shiny new stadium.
Philadelphia Phillies: SS J.P. Crawford
The Philadelphia Phillies lost 90 games in 2017 but are hoping to contend sooner than later.
That goal would be aided tremendously by the continued development of shortstop J.P. Crawford, who made his MLB debut last season and is trying to reclaim his top-prospect status.
The 16th overall pick in 2013, Crawford’s path to the big leagues has been bumpy. The 22-year-old has the tools to be special, however, and the Phils should afford him every opportunity to prove he can be.
Miami Marlins: LHP Braxton Garrett
The seventh pick in the 2016 draft, Braxton Garrett underwent Tommy John surgery in June. That’s the bad news.
The good news is Garrett throws an eye-popping curveball and mid-90s fastball that could make the 20-year-old an ace, provided he returns healthy.
For the cost-cutting Miami Marlins, he’s a lottery ticket to stash.
New York Mets: LHP David Peterson
The New York Mets system isn’t overflowing with talent, but David Peterson could join the ranks of homegrown, mound-straddling studs in Queens.
The 6’6″ left-hander has a stout fastball-slider combo and, after going to New York with the 20th pick in 2017, displayed promise in a brief pro debut.
Washington Nationals: OF Victor Robles
The 2018 season may well be Bryce Harper’s last in a Washington Nationals uniform. If it is, the Nats could have Harper’s heir apparent in Victor Robles.
The 20-year-old probably can’t match Harper in either the power or hair-flipping departments, but he hit .300 with an .875 OPS and 27 stolen bases in 114 minor league games, then smacked a double and two triples in a 13-game MLB showcase.
A strong showing in the Arizona Fall League is only boosting Robles’ stock—and his chances of making waves in the nation’s capital.
All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball Reference.