On Thursday, the Toronto Blue Jays confirmed they’d moved one of their most appealing pieces of trade bait in right-hander Seunghwan Oh.
Because of Oh’s recent success, his modest price tag, and his $2.5 million team option for 2019, the Korean reliever was attractive to a number of teams — but the Colorado Rockies ultimately pulled the trigger by shipping prospects Forrest Wall, Chad Spanberger and the ever-exciting “player to be named later or cash” to the Blue Jays in exchange for his services.
Assuming the third part of that package amounts to nothing, Toronto has gotten itself a pair of prospects for Oh, but what do the two youngsters bring to the table?
Draft Pedigree: 1st round, 35th overall (2014)
Rank on Rockies’ MLB Pipeline prospect list: 13th
Best Tool(s): Contact hitting and speed
2018 stats: .260/.340/.430 with 9 home runs and 28 steals in 420 PA split between High-A and Double-A
Summary: Wall is a converted second baseman who now plays centre and left field. Turning 23 this season, he’s a little bit old for his level, but his 2017 was essentially wiped out by a dislocated shoulder.
At his best, he could be a line-drive hitter who makes things happen on the base paths and holds his own at a premium position. That would be an exceedingly aggressive projection though. Wall has a long way to go to prove himself as an outfielder and his arm in particular has often been questioned.
He’s also at an age where he needs to show he can hit pitching in the upper minors soon. This year he raked at High-A to a tune of a .305/.382/.453 line, but at Double-A he’s only slashed .211/.296/.367 so far in 186 trips to the plate.
Wall certainly has a lot to prove, but he’s also a good athlete with strong bat-to-ball skills who can play in at least two outfield spots and has a little infield experience.
Position: First Baseman
Draft Pedigree: 6th round, 176th overall (2017)
Rank on Rockies’ MLB Pipeline prospect list: 24th
Best Tool(s): Power
2018 stats: .316/.364/.580 with 22 home runs, 75 RBI, and 16 steals in 379 PA at Single-A
Summary: One thing we know Spanberger can do is mash baseballs. In the first 151 games of his pro career he has 41 home runs and the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is renowned for raw power. His 2018 stats are sparkling, but it’s important to note that he’s playing in a very favourable park for left-handed power with the Asheville Tourists and at 22 you’d be worried if he wasn’t producing at that level.
Concerns for Spanberg are twofold. The first is that he’s a first baseman, pure and simple, so the margin for error for him is pretty slim. He needs to produce at a well above-average clip at every level — including the major leagues — to have value. It’s not impossible, but it’s a tall task, and there’s a reason there aren’t many highly-touted first base prospects in the game. Blue Jays fans may recall Rowdy Tellez looking like a potential building block until he ran into a wall at Triple-A, where he still plys his trade. The moment he stopped putting up big numbers all excitement about him dissipated. That could easily be Spanberg’s fate.
The second issue with the young slugger is his approach at the plate. His 5.3 percent walk rate this season is far from encouraging, especially considering he’s not a contact-hitting specialist (21.6 percent strikeout rate). If he doesn’t control the strike zone better, there’s very little chance of him making it all the way to the majors, but he has time and it is a skill that can be developed with experience.
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