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Cashing In at the Deadline Will Require Painful Decisions for Twins


The trade deadline is approaching, and the Minnesota Twins are set to open up shop. 

But the dirty little secret is that if the front office wants to truly capitalize on a clear "sell" opportunity and bring back high-caliber prospects, it's going to require parting with one (or both) of two beloved players who would be extremely painful to lose.

The Twins, destined for irrelevance this season, have a variety of players they'd be more than happy to ship out. Impending free agents like Andrelton Simmons, Michael Pineda, Hansel Robles and J.A. Happ? Why not? Makes no difference really. Those players will be free for anyone to sign come November, and there's no reason to be clamoring for an extension with any of them. 

Even players under control beyond this year, like Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sanó, could be dealt with a viable argument their salary allotment is better diverted elsewhere. 

The problem, of course, is that none of these players are likely to generate significant demand at the deadline. Due either to performance, contracts, injuries, or some combination, they're all burdened by drawbacks that significantly dash their trade value. In any of these cases, the Twins are going to be accepting an underwhelming return. Many trade scenarios would qualify as no more than a salary dump.

When it comes to selling high, the front office has three opportunities, and in only two of those cases will they be able to dictate a market and drive up the asking price. 

Fresh off his All-Star appearance, Nelson Cruz is an elite hitter, and basically the biggest offensive upgrade a team could ask for at the deadline. He's a bona fide difference-maker for a contender, and all but certain to get moved. But as a 41-year-old pure DH with two months left on his deal, Cruz's market is inherently limited. When you narrow down the field of teams that actually have a fit, are willing to pay his remaining salary, and are in contention for a championship, you wind up with a handful at most. 

Cruz will almost surely be traded, but he's not going to bring back a game-changing prospect. That's the nature of the beast.

If the Twins want to sell high and compel another team to overpay at the deadline, they're going to need to trade away either their best starter, José Berríos, or their best reliever, Taylor Rogers. 

Now this is not an endorsement of that course of action. I feel the same reservations as many people reading this do. 

In part, the attachment is sentimental. Berríos and Rogers are both extremely likable, as well as extremely familiar. They are among the longest-tenured Twins players – both drafted in 2012 before making major-league debuts in 2016. They've remained constants in the rotation and bullpen while the team has changed drastically around them. Both are models of durability and consistency.

But sentimentality aside, the more important factor here is that both Berríos and Rogers are critical if not essential to any hopes of the Twins rebounding and returning to contention in 2022.

It's already difficult enough to envision the club fielding a contention-caliber rotation OR bullpen next year, given the sorry current state of both units. But when you remove the top performer (by a wide margin) in each, the task feels insurmountable. 

Berríos and Rogers should theoretically be centerpieces of a retool-and-reset strategy. They are both under team control at a reasonable rate next year, and each is on top of his game. Berríos ranks seventh among AL starters in fWAR, while Rogers ranks fifth among relievers – a first-time All-Star with career highs in K-rate, swinging-strike rate, and FIP.

Of course, these are exactly the reasons they will generate outsized demand. Whereas Cruz has a narrow field of suitors, Berríos and Rogers are attractive to any team that's even THINKING about buying. 

Which brings us back to the point at hand. I don't like the idea of trading either of these long-time fixtures, especially when you'd be subtracting from a clear area of weakness. But no one can deny that if the Twins want to make a real splash and acquire substantial prospect capital to aid whatever scale of rebuild they are about to undertake ... they really have no other choice.

This front office prides itself on being opportunistic, and has never been weighed down by sentimentality. We'll see where they land.

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I could see trading Rogers if I squint real hard but don't love the idea.  Good lefty relievers are hard to find and while he would be missed the pen is in such sorry shape I don't know that losing one more arm really matters at this point.  For the money he will paid next year they should be able to find an arm or two to replace him maybe not completely but hopefully in a way that the return they get makes it worth while.

Moving Berrios though would hurt.  As a long suffering Twins fan always looking at horrible starting pitching losing Jose seems like a bad idea.  If they feel they cannot extend him then I guess they have no choice but if they can make a deal they should because losing a top 20 pitcher with little to no health\arm issues seems like a really bad idea.  He also hasn't been affected by sticky stuff.  I don't think Jose ever quite reaches ace status but number 2 or 3 pitcher's are valuable as well.  I am hoping they find a way to extend him unless there is some crazy deal that is just to good to pass up.  I think losing Jose rocks the confidence of the fan base.

In summary I think they can get away with trading Rogers for a good return but Berrios is gonna hurt in more ways than one.  If there is no possibility of an extension though then they do need to trade him while his value is the highest it will ever be.

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I do not want to subtract the two positives from a negative pitching staff with the hope that we can find someone who someday maybe can be almost as good as what we trade.   No thanks.  Develop what we have in the minors, sign quality instead of quantity in FA and keep moving forward.  I am sorry Cruz is going, but we can possibly replace him.  Rogers and Berrios we cannot.

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When it comes to this topic, the majority of comments are people typically complaining about a "rebuild" and how trading players like Rogers and Berrios for "prospects"  isn't how to win..  Granted they are an anomaly and its salary related, the Rays are "rebuilding" every year, yet compete in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox and consistently win year in and year out with, while maintains a top 5 farm system, and bottom of the league payroll... How do they do that? making moves like this. Sometimes you've gotta make tough decisions, sometimes they hurt as fans, we all get it. But if they are 2 weeks from the deadline, neither player has an extension, and you aren't competitive, you need to take a step back and do what's best for the organization as a whole. I don't care about competing in 2022 frankly if your on pace to finish with 85+ loses. Why would next year be different? are we gearing up for a 5+ year run with a cheap core? . If this is a move that makes you better in 2023, 2024, etc.. Then you do it. 

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It is pointless to trade these players for anything less than primetime prospects like C. J. Abrams and the sort. The Twins do not need any more AAA players. Players like Simmons, Happ, Shoemaker .... sure send them on.

I'm going to keep this short - keep Berrios, Buxton, Rogers, Cruz, Polanco, JD, Arraez, and the rookies. 

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1 hour ago, tony&rodney said:

It is pointless to trade these players for anything less than primetime prospects like C. J. Abrams and the sort. The Twins do not need any more AAA players. Players like Simmons, Happ, Shoemaker .... sure send them on.

I'm going to keep this short - keep Berrios, Buxton, Rogers, Cruz, Polanco, JD, Arraez, and the rookies. 

Why? so you can lose them for a single comp pick in free agency? The Twins and Berrios + Rogers are the only two parties that know where they stand on an extension. If you are parting ways and the Twins front office see it as likely, you absoutlely do not keep either. You field offers and try to maximize value.. Lets say they do keep them though, lets say they finish middle of the divison in 2022 and can't resign either because of financial restrictions.. Then we head toward a re build right? Then taking a single player, in 2023, with our one comp pick, is the plan of attack. We have leverage right now, a wider pool of players to select from other teams vs the draft and comp pick. MORE PLAYERS POTENTIALY.. I don't get how people don't understand this. You can't be stubborn here.

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We have to be realistic about next year. I want the twins to be true contenders and that is not likely in 2022. I don’t think it’s Likely we extend them.  It hurts but hope springs eternal. 2024 is our year.  Don’t blow it trying to win a few meaningless games next year.

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3 minutes ago, mikedialect said:

When was the last twins fire sale? I haven't had my coffee yet and my head is fuzzy. 20....16? 17?

The Twins haven’t had a legit fire sale since the 90s. 2011 came so fast and hit so hard they didn’t have any good pieces to move by the time 2012 rolled around (other than Mauer and I’m pretty sure he had a no-trade clause).

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1 minute ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

The Twins haven’t had a legit fire sale since the 90s. 2011 came so fast and hit so hard they didn’t have any good pieces to move by the time 2012 rolled around (other than Mauer and I’m pretty sure he had a no-trade clause).

Ok, this makes a lot more sense. I haven't really missed many games since the mid 2000's and I simply couldn't recall one. I appreciate the reply!

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FalVine have yet to demonstrate they can put together the "sustainable" pitching staff that their words in 2016 suggested we'd have by now.  For them to deal away both Berrios and Rogers would be, as the trope (which I used once already today) goes, "a bold move, Cotton," moving them farther from the goal rather than closer.  They really would be gambling that their heretofore unproven prowess was about to be triumphally confirmed.

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Just now, mikedialect said:

Ok, this makes a lot more sense. I haven't really missed many games since the mid 2000's and I simply couldn't recall one. I appreciate the reply!

The team was competitive from 2001 to 2007. They moved Santana in 2007 but then also traded for Delmon Young. Then they were good from 2008 to 2010. And 2011 hit like a load of bricks and all their previously good players were injured. By the time 2016 rolled around, they had no one good to trade. 

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You don't trade either pitcher. This is not a 'rebuild' team. And at the deadline you WON'T get value for either. Teams that want them will still be offering what little it takes. If Twins take that bait, they aren't playing with a full deck. Plus why are some SO sure Twins can't or won't afford to pay their core stars when the time comes? If you offer any of them..including Cruz or Donaldson...ask for the moon. If someone is dumb enough to pay the price....pull the trigger. If not, forget it.

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14 minutes ago, insagt1 said:

You don't trade either pitcher. This is not a 'rebuild' team. And at the deadline you WON'T get value for either. Teams that want them will still be offering what little it takes. If Twins take that bait, they aren't playing with a full deck. Plus why are some SO sure Twins can't or won't afford to pay their core stars when the time comes? If you offer any of them..including Cruz or Donaldson...ask for the moon. If someone is dumb enough to pay the price....pull the trigger. If not, forget it.

Please elaborate on why they won’t get value for either player, also elaborate on your rationale of not trading Cruz (expiring contract)

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20 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

The team was competitive from 2001 to 2007. They moved Santana in 2007 but then also traded for Delmon Young. Then they were good from 2008 to 2010. And 2011 hit like a load of bricks and all their previously good players were injured. By the time 2016 rolled around, they had no one good to trade. 

The word on the street is that 2011 happened because I moved out of the state the year prior. Unconfirmed but believed in some circles to be true. I used to help manage Rapid Park and my office was approx where home plate is now and I remember in 2010 how weird it was that there was a stadium where I used to drive a golf cart around in the mornings drinking coffee.

Appreciate the breakdown @Brock Beauchamp :) I was definitely watching but getting old messes with my memory (could also be all the whiskey)

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Pohlad said unequivocally on the Sunday Twins show that yes absolutely the Twins were in a position to extend or sign Berrios and Buxton and keep them around after 2022. @Tim @insagt1

My two cents:

i think the painful decision would be trading one of Polanco or Arraez (though various posters here make a good case that Arraez might be suitable at third base).

I think the painful painful painful decision would be to part with Larnach or Kirilloff for a solid controllable pitcher. What do people think of that?

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25 minutes ago, insagt1 said:

You don't trade either pitcher. This is not a 'rebuild' team. And at the deadline you WON'T get value for either. Teams that want them will still be offering what little it takes. If Twins take that bait, they aren't playing with a full deck. Plus why are some SO sure Twins can't or won't afford to pay their core stars when the time comes? If you offer any of them..including Cruz or Donaldson...ask for the moon. If someone is dumb enough to pay the price....pull the trigger. If not, forget it.

What this says. 

I'm willing to take on players like C. J. Abrams ( reference pull the trigger), but give me names that a team will give up. I was willing for the Twins to sit on Santana and I'm willing to sit on Berrios and Jose is not even in the same class of pitcher. The Twins should not be interested in getting hosed by other teams just to get something..

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4 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

Pohlad said unequivocally on the Sunday Twins show that yes absolutely the Twins were in a position to extend or sign Berrios and Buxton and keep them around after 2022. @Tim @insagt1

My two cents:

i think the painful decision would be trading one of Polanco or Arraez (though various posters here make a good case that Arraez might be suitable at third base).

I think the painful painful painful decision would be to part with Larnach or Kirilloff for a solid controllable pitcher. What do people think of that?

They can say that all day long, can’t see it happening at all. 
 

The Larnach and Kirilloff idea - Yes. The Marlins are a fantastic match too.

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Yep, the Twins were also in a position to sign Yu Darvish in 2018, and there has pretty much never been a signing which would have made more sense. Basically, just because the Twins could sign Berrios, Buxton and Rogers doesn't mean they will or they expect to.

I consider the Twins to be masters of saving face in the public eye by making lowball offers which aren't exactly "insulting" but are also unlikely to get guys to sign. The Twins claim they made a good offer and shucky darn, some other team just came along and paid more. What can ya do?

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Nick, a tremendous OP. You are logical in everything you state, complete with the angst of making hard moves that we aren't sure have to be made.

I am a fan and a lover of the players on hand. I'd also like to think I'm smart enough and practical enough to look at the larger picture.

It's funny how many really good players we COULD trade away, Berrios, Buxton, Arraez, Polanco, Rogers, Donaldson, etc. So if we have that many good players to trade,  boy, it sure looks like we still have a good nucleus to keep and re-tool instead of blowing everything up!

Funny how we talk sometimes about going ALL IN and then want to blow it all up after a disappointing year. 

Forgetting extensions for the moment, I would keep both Berrios and Buxton for 2022 and have the best season we could have with a re-tool. Unload them mid-season if things fall apart. (I don't think that will happen). Keep Rogers as well. The pen needs to be re-worked and we give up our best arm? Again, I'm talking about a good nucleus of talent to rebound and re-tool. 

I hate losing Cruz. And he MIGHT defy father time another year or two, God bless him. But with other needs, can you bet on a 41/42yo DH for $15+M? No. Let Cruz bring back whatever you can get and let him chase a ring out or respect for his career knowing you won't have him back in 2022.

Trade Donaldson if you can for the same reasons, if you don't have to give up too much $. Otherwise, keep him for now and let him transition to the Cruz role of DH and mentor while still playing some in the field. (I think he's gone in some sort of deal). 

I'd keep Robles because 30yo RP with a quality history and bring it consistently in the mid 90's and have high K rates aren't always easy to find. He was doing just fine until asked to pitch in 4 straight games recently.

Trade the expiring contracts and Donalson if you can. Does someone believe in Sano enough to move him? We could get burned on that one, and someone could gloat about what they got. But with options available,  maybe it's worth the risk for $ relief for 2022.

Give me a quality SP the equivalent of Maeda and Berrios, a decent/quality SS, a solid RH OF who can HOPEFULLY cover CF with  Kepler and just be a solid offensive producer overall, a quality RH bullpen arm and a semi-decent extra arm with some proven history, and I'm good.

Asking too much? Not really. Trade or FA, the SP costs the most. I'm not asking for Story at SS, just a solid, quality SS until someone else is ready. Simmons, Galvin, SOMEONE?! Tell me we can't find a quality RH OF that won't break the bank? Same with a $5-7M RP to team with Rogers. 

Quit complaining about the lack of SP produced by the FO. Dobber, who still has potential and gave us a huge boost in 2020, and Ober are just the first wave. You can't just WISH that Duran, Balazovic, Winder, Canterino, Sands, Enlow, Vallimont, Rijo, etc, will just all be healthy and skip over missing 2020 and be ready to become instant mainstays, much less immediate studs.

There is too much talent available here to blow things up and begin again. Keep what you have, make some trade and FA moves to augment what you have, try like hell for extensions for Berrios and Buxton that make sense. But don't implode what you have because of a disappointing season.

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6 hours ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

Pohlad said unequivocally on the Sunday Twins show that yes absolutely the Twins were in a position to extend or sign Berrios and Buxton and keep them around after 2022. @Tim @insagt1

My two cents:

i think the painful decision would be trading one of Polanco or Arraez (though various posters here make a good case that Arraez might be suitable at third base).

I think the painful painful painful decision would be to part with Larnach or Kirilloff for a solid controllable pitcher. What do people think of that?

Considering that Rosario was let go for nothing and had a better career OPS as a Twin there wouldn't be much pain to let one go in a trade. The thought that a team could trade one above average outfielder for a solid controllable  pitcher is the painful part. The Red Sox traded Benintendi for lottery tickets. The last controllable pitcher traded was ______________. Jake Odorizzi? 

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Only the front office has a feel for whether they can actually re-sign Berrios, Rogers, and Buxton. As for what JP said about the topic, that and $8 gets you a Big Mac meal deal. What else was he going to say? I don’t think this is about whether the team should keep them, it’s about whether it can. If they will return, and JP will cough up the cash for them, sure keep them. If not, then it’s a no brainer to move them for something worthwhile while they are at their most valuable. And remember, this isn’t as simple as one of them. If for example Berrios and Buxton aren’t going to re-up, then Rogers value you to us is limited. 

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Everything came together for them in 2019.  They were good but they still were not a serious contender.  There were a bunch of question marks in 2019.  Several guys had career years.  Garver / Polanco / Sano and Kepler had career years.  Arraez burst on the seen.  The BP was vastly improved. They signed a 39 y/o FA (Cruz).  That’s risky and he was phenomenal.  Odorizzi was at his best and we got him without giving up anything.

2022 would require everything come together like it did in 2019 but there are some differences.  The biggest difference is the FO must choose between keeping assets like Rodgers / Berrios and Buxton or targeting 2023 and beyond.  They did not need to risk the future to succeed in 2019.  The prospects that would come back from those trades could have a huge impact for several years.  Of course, they could all flame out.  Odds are some good even very good players would come out of trading these high value assets.

It comes down to a couple things.  Do you believe we can retain Berrios / Buxton and Rodgers.  Do you believe Sano will return to his 2019 form./  How about Kepler / Garver?  Will they return to 2019 form? Can Nelson Cruz continue to perform at this level.  Can we even sign him with universal DH likely?  Can we replace his bat for $13M?  Can we completely rebuild the BP in 2022?  How will we fill the holes after Berrios / Maeda by opening day 2022?  

What are the odds we can contend and is it a good idea to go all-in for 2022.  If we target 2023, are our odds much better?

Retaining Berrios / Buxton / Rodgers is going to require we are top bidder.  2023 probably is not any different if you trade them now.  They will be here if the Twins are top bidder.  However, taking an approach of developing starting pitching and the BP over the remainder of this year and 2022 has a much better chance of succeeding than piecing together a rotation and a BP in 2022.  Targeting 2022 also takes away rotation spots that could be used to develop SPs at this level.  

The difference is that we have whatever assets we would have traded away chasing contention in 2022 and we have some very good additional assets.  Some of them might not be here by 2023 but it’s certainly realistic a couple of them would contribute in 2023.  I do not accept the premise we either have to retool for 2022 or go into a full rebuild.  If targeting 2023 is the best plan, let’s follow the best plan.  I would prefer a “retool” take a year and a half than to pursue a strategy with a high probability of failure, especially when that failure significantly extends the duration of that failure.
 

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I agree with the idea of trading hitters like Cruz, Donaldson and certainly Sano if I can get a decent bag of baseballs for him.  But we will NOT be better in 2022 or 2023 if we trade the best pitchers we have.  Moving contracts like Sano, Cruz and Donaldson would give the twins $$$ to sign some pitching and hopefully a SS of the caliber of a Baez (or bringing Simmons back).  I WOULD consider trading Pineda for the right package and I think they will do this.  They need to sign TWO SP's for next year and give Dobnak innings to see if he fits in their plans.  Maybe Odorizzi could be resigned...they would have some options.  And they still need another SOLID option at the back of the BP, someone like a Rosenthal or Yates.  I think they have enough hitting even if Cruz, Donaldson and Sano are gone, but in ANY year the Twins have been contenders, they have had above average pitching.  You have young guys that are getting close, but the SP's and BP's need reinforcement.  Trading Berrios would be a big mistake.  SIGN HIM.  Rogers is a key player.  To deal him you need a NICE return and you have to have a plan for the BP in 2022 WITHOUT him.

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Great article, Nick.  And great question.

We are going to know a heck of a lot more 16 days from now what the FO really thinks about this team and its future.  My biggest concern is whether or not they will get a FAIR return if they do trade Berrios, Rogers or Buxton.  And really, to make that move the return should be better than just fair.

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51 minutes ago, TopGunn#22 said:

I agree with the idea of trading hitters like Cruz, Donaldson and certainly Sano if I can get a decent bag of baseballs for him.  But we will NOT be better in 2022 or 2023 if we trade the best pitchers we have.  eed a NICE return and you have to have a plan for the BP in 2022 WITHOUT him.

Houston lost Cole / Verlander and Springer.  All three far more impactful than Berrios / Rodgers.  Since the 2019 season, Tampa lost Morton / Snell and traded two of the top three position players in terms of WAR.  Of course, the difference is those teams were great.  Barring a small miracle, the Twins are not contending in 2022 with or without them.

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11 hours ago, Tim said:

When it comes to this topic, the majority of comments are people typically complaining about a "rebuild" and how trading players like Rogers and Berrios for "prospects"  isn't how to win..  Granted they are an anomaly and its salary related, the Rays are "rebuilding" every year, yet compete in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox and consistently win year in and year out with, while maintains a top 5 farm system, and bottom of the league payroll... How do they do that? making moves like this. Sometimes you've gotta make tough decisions, sometimes they hurt as fans, we all get it. But if they are 2 weeks from the deadline, neither player has an extension, and you aren't competitive, you need to take a step back and do what's best for the organization as a whole. I don't care about competing in 2022 frankly if your on pace to finish with 85+ loses. Why would next year be different? are we gearing up for a 5+ year run with a cheap core? . If this is a move that makes you better in 2023, 2024, etc.. Then you do it. 

 

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You are correct. They do compete, usually in a stadium about 1/3 full. The few people I know in the area tell me fans have very little attachment to that team. Maybe because the players are gone before they can get attached?

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The article says Cruz will not bring in a game changing prospect.  What it should say is he will not bring in a top rated prospect.  Only the future will decide if someone is game changing.  I bet when Twins traded away Dave Hollins many years ago the player that was to be named later, who we eventually let walk for nothing, would turn into Boston legend.  A player to be named later is almost never a top prospect, and almost never turns out to be a major player, but it happens.  Point is, just because the player is not a top 100 prospect does not mean they cannot produce at a high level.  

I know there are other examples, but that one always sticks out to me. There are many examples of top rated prospects that get traded only to mainly not produce at MLB level.  Prospect ratings are speculation based on a lot of things, but many flop and many top guys get overlooked. 

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