MLB Trade Candidates and MLB Spotlights

by Corey Pieper
Fantasy Baseball All-Stars

In this edition of the MLB spotlights we focus on returning first-round talents and MLB trade candidates, including Luis Robert and Garrett Crochet.

What you won't see this week is an upcoming prospects report. It's certainly not due to a lack of recent call-ups. A question was recently asked in the Fantasy Six Pack Discord (which you should join with the link below) about when the Super Two deadline was. Considering all the promotions that we saw in the last week, it's safe to assume that date has passed.

In the last week, we have seen six highly regarded prospects make their major league debuts. The pitcher promotions were San Diego Padres' Adam Mazur, Baltimore Orioles' Cade Povich, Atlanta Braves' Hurston Waldrep, and Chicago White Sox Drew Thorpe. None of them has to be rostered in a redraft league, but all have enough upside to be considered. The hitter promotions weren't as numerous as the pitchers, but Colorado Rockies' Adael Amador and Seattle Mariners' Tyler Locker could make a fantasy impact too.

Speaking of impact, the players below all have the potential to make big impacts on your fantasy team going forward. Read the sections below to see lists of MLB trade candidates and returning 1st-round talents in this week's edition of the MLB spotlights.

MLB Trade Candidates and MLB Spotlights

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MLB Trade Candidates?

The MLB trade deadline is still seven weeks away. Yet, we're starting to hear more and more rumors every week.  That's because teams with issues that need resolving want to get their new talent in as soon as possible. There are already rumors about the three players listed below. Read on to see how that would change these MLB trade candidates' fantasy outlook.

Luis Robert Jr., OF, Chicago White Sox

The biggest offensive name that we could see moved in this trade deadline is Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert.

Any discussion of Robert has to start with his injury history. He has spent time on the injured list every season of his career except for his rookie season in 2020 which was already shortened by the Covid pandemic. He has missed a large portion of this season with a right hip flexor. It's the second time in his career he has dealt with that injury.

Because of that injury, we've only seen Robert play in 13 games this season. While his average is only .192, he is still showing the power and speed combination that fantasy owners crave. He has five home runs and a stolen base already. We saw the upside over the 145 games he played last season. He contributed 38 home runs and 30 stolen bases with a very usable .264 average. The downside was that while he had 38 home runs, it came with only 80 RBI. His five home runs this season have come with only eight RBI.

A trade would help him with the counting statistics of runs and RBI. The White Sox have averaged half a run less per game than the Miami Marlins, the second-worst offense in baseball. It's hard to envision his runs or RBI totals increasing dramatically without a trade to a contender.

Players of Robert's caliber who are under team control for three and a half seasons don't often become available. There are reports that the White Sox are looking for a trade package similar to what the Padres received for Juan Soto. If that is true, there are not many teams with a combination of need and prospect capital to make that happen. A couple of teams that make sense would be the Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals. Interestingly, he is playing against the Mariners this week and he demonstrated his home run prowess against them on Monday night.

Even though he is a borderline top-10 outfielder already, if he were to be moved, Robert's fantasy value would assuredly rise.

Garrett Crochet, SP, Chicago White Sox

One of the biggest pitching breakout performers this season has been Garrett Crochet of the White Sox. Much like with his teammate, Luis Robert, any discussion of Crochet has to start with his injury history.

Crochet has pitched 75.2 innings already this season. He has been a professional since 2020. From 2020-2023, he pitched a combined 85.1 innings. He missed the entire 2022 season with Tommy John surgery and lost three months last season with shoulder inflammation. The White Sox, who are already 26 games back in the AL Central, have no reason to overdo his innings.

If he is moved to a contender, they will want to get more innings from him than the White Sox. Much like the Robert situation though, if a team trades for Crochet it isn't a rental situation. He will be under team control through 2027 so the team would want to capitalize on the entirety of his contract.

Crochet is the qualified leader in strikeouts per nine innings at 12.25. He also doesn't issue many walks which has helped him to be second in all of baseball in K-BB% at a fantastic 28.7%. Add in his top-10 batting average against of .190 and you can see why contending teams would be lining up to trade for this budding ace.

The strongest rumors involving Crochet have revolved around the San Diego Padres. The Padres rotation has been decimated by injuries to Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove. A trade to San Diego would improve Crochet's win potential and be a slight upgrade in park factor as San Diego's Petco Park is one of the better pitcher parks in all of MLB.

Taylor Ward, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Taylor Ward doesn't have the accolades of the two South Siders, but he has had an OPS+ above 100 (league average) the last four seasons. His current OPS+ is 112.

Ward's statistics are 30 runs, 11 home runs, 34 RBI, two stolen bases, and a .247 batting average. He is slugging .431, but the underlying data shows encouraging signs that his average and slugging should rise even more. His expected batting average is .270  with an expected slugging percentage of .515 which is in the top 5 percentile.

Part of the reason for the highest expected slugging percentage of his career is that he has a 14% barrel rate. His biggest change is that he has traded groundballs for line drives and fly balls which is nearly always a plus for a player's batting outlook.

A team that doesn't have the capital to make a move for Luis Robert could find a cheaper alternative in Ward. The biggest difference between the two outfielders is that Ward doesn't offer the speed component that Robert does. Even without that, he has been a Top-30 outfielder for fantasy teams. A few playoff contenders with outfield needs that would be intriguing fits for him are the Chicago Cubs or Atlanta Braves.

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1st Round Talents Returning

It's hard to believe how many of the top-end talents have already missed time this season with injuries. The top pitcher, Spencer Strider, and the top hitter, Ronald Acuna Jr., from fantasy draft season are each out for the season already. Three other first round talents are also on the injured list, but there is light at the end of the tunnels for their imminent returns.

Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

This one can be short because it sounds like Kyle Tucker's stay on the injured list is going to be a short one.

Tucker went on the injured list last Friday retroactive to June 4th. That was the day that he fouled a ball off his leg that bruised his shin. An X-ray confirmed that it wasn't a fracture, but rather a deep bone bruise. The good news is that Tucker himself indicated that he anticipates playing when he is first eligible on June 14th.

Managers with Tucker will be glad to hear he is returning to provide his consistent five-category production. Even with the absence, he still is third in home runs with 19 long balls. He has 42 runs scored, 40 RBI, 10 stolen bases, and is batting .266. There is not much more that you can ask for from him. Hopefully, he steps back in and picks up where he left off.

Trea Turner, SS, Philadelphia Phillies

It's been over a month since we've seen Trea Turner in action. He last played on May 3rd when he exited the game early with a hamstring injury.

It was a tough blow if you drafted Turner because he was off to such a good start. In only 33 games, he already had two home runs, 10 stolen bases, and a .343 average. People were beginning to reminisce about the classic days of Turner with the Nationals.

Turner has already endured one setback while rehabbing. It caused the Phillies to slow his return, but the latest news is that he is close to returning. It could be as soon as later this week as the Phillies and Turner both believe that he can skip a rehab assignment to get right back with the Phillies.

Gerrit Cole, SP, New York Yankees

By the end of fantasy draft season, Gerrit Cole was far from a first-round selection this year. His FantasyPros Consensus ADP ended at 67, but there were drafts by the end where you could get him outside the top 100 picks. Drafters saw right elbow inflammation and were terrified of him missing the entire season.

The good news is that rest and rehab was all that was needed. He rested until early June but now is out on a rehab assignment. Last week, he made two appearances with the New York Yankees Double-A affiliate at Somerset.

The statistics are what you would expect from a defending Cy Young Award winner against overmatched hitters. He has pitched eight innings and only allowed a single earned run. Most encouragingly is that his pitch count is already climbing. In his first rehab game,  he threw 45 pitches. His second rehab assignment was already up to 57 pitches including 44 strikes.

It has already been announced that Cole will make at least one more appearance in the minor leagues. That will be sometime later this week. The results won't matter. How many pitches he throws and how he feels after the game will matter.

Assuming everything goes well with his next rehab game, we could see Cole making starts for the Yankees as soon as next week. If that happens, his draft value will be the steal of the season.

That was the MLB Trade Candidates. Check out some of the other great fantasy baseball content at Fantasy Six Pack including the Stock Up/Stock Down report.

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