The Cardinals and Angels hooked up on a trade on Friday afternoon that brings to light the need for gradation of the term blockbuster. Sending third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas to the Angels for center fielder Peter Borjous and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk didn't exactly send shock waves through the baseball world the way the Prince Fielder/Ian Kinsler trade did the day before, but it's certainly notable in a number of aspects.
There are a number of different angles from which to look at this deal, and Twitter is abuzz with opinions galore about the trade itself. But this is a prospect site, so I want to focus on the sole prospect involved in the deal.
By now, you know one absolute fact about Randal Grichuk - that he was selected one pick before Mike Trout in the 2009 draft - creating a fun fact to impress the lesser baseball fan that means nothing in terms of anything. Both picks were made by the Angels. For all we know, they submitted them alphabetically.
This trade pushes Grichuk into the spotlight as a prospect, however, with different phrases being tossed around to describe him. The most common one is "top prospect," a misnomer that implies a more definitive future in the majors for Grichuk than we should assume is imperative.
Grichuk was only a top prospect within the context of the Angels terrible farm system. Baseball Prospectus released their Angels Top-10 last week and Grichuk came in sixth. Baseball America hasn't yet released their Angels Top-10, but J.J. Cooper tweeted that he was planning on putting Grichuk second on his list, an aggressive spot.
Grichuk can do some positive things on a baseball field but at this point is very much a flawed prospect. As a 21-year-old in Double-A, Grichuk hit 22 home runs in 2013 with a .218 ISO. That's impressive, especially for his age. He also hit just .256 with a .306 on-base percentage and a below-average 5.2 percent walk rate. Even with the power production, he made a ton of outs this season. He's a solid defensive right fielder, which helps his overall profile.
In the BP report, Jason Parks calls Grichuk a "second-division regular." That's a solid player to have and something the Cardinals want in their farm system, but is not what I think of when I hear top prospect. In the Angels system, it may be, but in the Cardinals system, it certainly is not.
Grichuk is a solid player, and considering the Cardinals were looking to move Freese to make room for Kolten Wong anyway, he's a nice secondary return in addition to Borjous. He'll have plenty of time in the Cardinals organization to develop properly, spend a full season in Triple-A in 2014 and more time there the following year if necessary. He's potentially a solid player for the Cardinals future, but he's not a star in the making the way top prospect implies.
Because of the trade in which he's a part, the poor system from which he came and because he's been acquired by the Cardinals, who get the benefit of the doubt in every move, Grichuk's future impact has been inflated slightly in this deal, but he is a solid player and a nice addition for the Cardinals organization.
Just be sure to read the label carefully.