Manny Machado is gone. We knew it was coming, but now it’s official. When baseball resumes after the All-Star break, Machado won’t be on the field for the Orioles, and a total rebuild of the franchise may be on the horizon. So while others can do a better job singing hossanas to Manny’s past in Baltimore, allow me to look forward to the future possibilities, with a brief breakdown of the players the Orioles got in return.
Yusniel Diaz – OF (21 years old)
The headliner coming back from the Dodgers is pretty close to a reasonable best-case scenario for trading a rental like Machado. Ranked around the bottom of the Dodgers’ top 10 list by most rankers in the preseason, Yusniel Diaz is a consensus top-75 prospect now after hitting .314/.428/.477 (147 wRC+) in Double-A this season.
He gets good grades from scouts on his athleticism, and his batting numbers speak for themselves so far. Diaz immediately becomes one of the top two prospects in the Orioles’ system, depending on how bullish you are on Austin Hays right now.
He could be playing right field as early as next season, but assuming that the O’s are bad from the jump in 2019, we probably won’t see him until 2020.
Dean Kremer – RHP (22)
The first Israeli-American drafted by MLB has found himself acquired by Dan Duquette, a pioneer of Israeli baseball. Dean Kremer doesn’t get a lot of love from prospect rankings, but so far the results have been there. In particular, Kremer was a strikeout machine at the High-A level, punching out 96 batters in 80 innings last season before improving that to 114 strikeouts in 79 innings before LA promoted him to Double-A this season.
What Kremer lacks is velocity, with a fastball that sits in the low 90’s. That said, Kremer generates whiffs with his four seamer at a much higher rate than the big league average. In ranking Kremer as one of the five most intriguing fringe prospects in the game, Fangraphs’ Carson Cistulli noted that there’s speculation that Kremer may have an exceptional spin rate on the ball, allowing him to miss more bats.
Perhaps not surprisingly then, Duquette was talking about the front office putting an increased focus on analytics last night after the trade. If true, Kremer might end up being a real coup, because if the strikeout ability holds he’ll be able to slot in as a back of the rotation starter or as a David Robertson-esque reliever.
Rylan Bannon – INF (22)
Another fringe prospect from the Dodgers’ system who is putting up big numbers all the same. The Dodgers sent Rylan Bannon straight to High-A, bypassing short season ball altogether, and he’s already mashing to a .296/.402/.559 line and a wRC+ of 159. The Orioles are going to challenge him further by sending him straight to Bowie who, by the way, are going to be well worth the price of admission for the rest of the season.
He does lack an obvious position on the infield, however, but there’s nothing wrong with stockpiling big bats now and letting the rest work itself out later.
Zach Pop – RHP (21)
Drafted a round ahead of Bannon last year, Zach Pop is a relief project, and it’s easy to see why, as he consistently throws his fastball in the mid to high 90’s. Interestingly, however, his strikeout rate fell off quite a bit to less than eight per nine innings after being promoted to High-A this year. The O’s must like what they see, however, because they’re sending him straight to Double-A to face even more advanced hitters.
If the brain trust is quite fond of Pop, it might make them more open to trading Mychal Givens now as well.
Breyvic Valera – INF (26)
The final piece of the package, Breyvic Valera, hasn’t done much in a couple dozen big league games, but he does boast a .314/.377/.437 slash line in 950 AAA plate appearances and can hold his own at second and third. He should be a regular on the Norfolk shuttle, or even a regular utility player off the bench in Baltimore. For a fifth piece, that’s not too shabby.
On the whole, this is a very strong return for a rental player. The Orioles are getting five players in total, all of whom have real potential to contribute at the big league level, and an elite prospect fronts the bunch.
You don’t want to get too carried away, because for any prospect the odds are stacked against them becoming a good regular, let alone an All-Star, but fans should be happy with the way the team handled this process. They leveraged the market and walked away with a package that, while not franchise-altering, will add a ton of depth to a system that desperately needs it.
The work isn’t over yet, but this is a good start, and should provide at least some confidence in fans that the organization knows what they need to do to move forward…and have the ability to do it.