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Fishing for a Mike Trout trade

Building a blockbuster through KATOH projections.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

There's was a lot buzz last week over whether the Los Angeles Angels should trade mega-superstar Mike Trout.

FanGraphs' Dave Cameron touched on the merits of trading a potential future hall of fame talent, which I'll leave to his article to explain. In it though, Cameron glances over the type of prospect haul the Angels would bring in once they decide to burn the ship and trade Trout.

What we know about a potential Trout trade is that a king's ransom of prospects understates what a team will give up for him. Since this is all hypothetical at this point, I'm going to avoid speculating about what exactly the Angels would take. Instead, this is a prospect scavenger hunt of sorts.

Trout is in his fifth full season in 2016, so if we include his fWAR through Sunday's game and his 0.7 fWAR during his 2011 dip in the pool, he's amassed 40.5 career fWAR. To build a trade pool, I decided to do a straight measurement of fWAR and future fWAR to total Trout's 40.5 fWAR. I also narrowed my search to players from 2014, 2015 and 2016 top 200 prospect lists.

Early on I ruled out teams like the Brewers and Braves. While they have highly-rated farm systems, trading everything for Trout becomes a detriment to their rebuilding process. A little speculation there, I know, but sometimes common sense is needed.

I measured wins using FanGraphs' KATOH projections for prospects, which as designed in 2016, lays out a prospect's fWAR in two ways: through their age-28 season and through their first six-years in the league. The formula was changed in January to represent a six-year projection, so a few teams' prospects are still measured through their age-28 season.

According to KATOH, the Angels have the second-worst system in the league. Their top prospect, third baseman Jefry Marte, has a 2.1 fWAR projection through six years. The top five are the Brewers, Astros, Dodgers, Rangers and Yankees. The Brewers are out for reasons above. I'll add the Red Sox, who were mentioned by Cameron, and the Cubs, a large market team that can afford to resign Trout, and called up huge talents a year ago.

Remember, the idea here is to find 40.5 fWAR without mulling the merits of whether the team would make this trade. In short, everyone is on the table considering Trout's generational talent level. The charts lay out KATOH projections, and in cases like Mookie Betts and Kris Bryant, go to 2015 KATOH rankings, while also giving their actual fWAR for any major league service time.

KATOH isn't a perfect replacement for scouting, so the flaw in the measurement might leave out players scouts love, but it's gives us a numerical measurement on value going back and forth.

Let's go see what it takes to trade for Mike Trout:


2016 Prospect KATOH fWAR Total fWAR Prospects in MLB KATOH fWAR Actual MLB fWAR
AJ Reed, 1B 7.1 -- Carlos Correa, SS 7.4 4.3
Tony Kemp, 2B 5.0 12.1 Lance McCullers, RHP 1.7 2.8
Andrew Aplin, OF 4.9 17.0 Tyler White, 1B 1.9 0.2
Franis Martes, RHP 4.8 21.8
Alex Bregman, SS 3.6 25.4
Kyle Tucker, OF 3.5 28.9
Jamie Ritchie, C 3.0 31.9
Joe Musgrove, RHP 2.9 34.8
Nolan Fontana, SS 2.8 37.6
Derek Fisher, OF 2.7 40.3
Elieser Hernandez, RHP 2.6 42.9

KATOH itself didn't debut until winter 2014, so if you're looking for Jonathan Singleton or George Springer, they're not included. We'll run into that with other teams, too.

We can see where former prospects stack up on the right. KATOH is down on White because he's 25, but Correa and McCullers are clearly outperforming their age-28 KATOH to this point, the former displaying his own superstar capabilities.

For Houston, it took 11 current prospects to surpass 40.5 fWAR. Houston was close at Fisher, but I'm going over to account for additional wins Trout can accrue before the summer months. The haul for the Angels is significant and fairly well-rounded position-wise — a nice mix of fielders and pitchers to negotiate, with Reed as the centerpiece of the left-hand column.


2016 Prospect KATOH fWAR Total fWAR Prospects in MLB KATOH fWAR Actual MLB fWAR
Julio Urias, LHP 12.0 -- Corey Seager, SS 12.3 2.2
Alex Verdugo, OF 8.1 20.1 Joc Pederson, OF 18.3 3.6
Austin Barnes, C 5.3 25.4 Trayce Thompson, OF 1.0 1.6
Micah Johnson, 2B 4.8 30.2 Ross Stripling, RHP 0.3 0.8
Zach Lee, RHP 4.1 34.3
Jose De Leon, RHP 3.8 38.1
Cody Bellinger, 1B 3.2 41.3

A favorite of Cameron, the Dodgers have a boatload to offer with only seven current prospects to reach 40.5 fWAR. We can cut that to five with Corey Seager included, who was on the KATOH prospect list to open the season. I agree with Cameron on the Dodgers being the favorite if the market opens, but it will cost a significant portion of the future rotation around Clayton Kershaw. Then again, the Dodgers can spend money.

For talent already in Los Angeles, KATOH is down on Stripling's future because of age, and it doesn't account for his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Thompson has outperformed his projection thus far, while Pederson had a true tale of two halves in 2015, so we need a bigger sample size to understand where exactly he'll fall in with KATOH. On the left, a lot of the players have higher floors than ceilings, with Lee already seeing action in Los Angeles, and Johnson and DeLeon hurt a little by KATOH for their age.


2016 Prospect KATOH fWAR Total fWAR Prospects in MLB KATOH fWAR Acutal MLB fWAR
Joey Gallo, 3B 6.7 -- Nomar Mazara 8.8 1.2
Michael DeLeon, SS 6.7 13.4 Chi-Chi Gonzalez 1.7 0.1
Lewis Brinson, OF 5.8 19.2
Yeyson Yrizarri, SS 3.8 23.0
Ariel Jurado, RHP 3.1 26.1
Jairo Beras, OF 2.8 28.9
Yohander Mendez, LHP 2.8 31.7
Juremi Profar, 3B 2.4 34.1
Drew Robinson, 2B 2.4 36.5
Luis Ortiz, RHP 2.0 38.5
Josh Morgan, 3B 1.7 40.2
Ryan Cordell, OF 1.5 41.7

Without Mazara, the Rangers are up to 12 prospects. With so much top-level talent in Arlington the Rangers could afford to go all-in on Trout and try to win a World Series in the next few years as its aging stars fade out. As with Pederson, Gallo and Mazara provide huge potential from the left-hand side of the plate, something the Angels really lack. Of note, Gallo has a 0.6 fWAR in his cameo appearance in Texas last year.

Texas has a lot of position talent and not a ton of pitching to offer, but have a reasonably talented group. The pieces of Gallo, Mazara and Brinson provide a trio that can be up sooner than later. If this were a year ago the Rangers would still have Nick Williams (4.8 KATOH fWAR), Jake Thompson (3.4) and Jorge Alfaro (2.2) to include, but that trio went to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels trade.


2016 Prospect KATOH fWAR Total fWAR Prospects in MLB KATOH fWAR Actual MLB fWAR
Gary Sanchez, C 7.6 -- Luis Severino, RHP 7.2 0.8
Jorge Mateo, SS 6.9 14.5 Ben Gamel, OF 2.2 0.0
Tyler Wade, SS 5.1 19.6 Greg Bird, 1B 5.2 0.9
Wilkerman Garcia, SS 4.1 23.7 Ronald Torreyes, SS 5.1 0.2
Trey Amburgey, OF 3.3 27.0
Rob Refsnyder, 2B 3.3 30.3
Aaron Judge, OF 3.0 33.3
Abiatal Avelino, SS 2.9 36.2
Luis Cessa, RHP 2.6 38.8
Miguel Andujar, 3B 2.4 41.2

The Yankees are a good example of a few things:  KATOH and scouting can differ greatly on prospects, especially if you compare this to a top prospect list, and the Yankees' farm system is loaded with middle infielders. There isn't a lot of position diversity here at all.

It  took 10 current prospects to meet Trout's fWAR. Fewer if Severino, Bird and Torreyes are involved. Severino and Bird are basically on pace to reach KATOH's evaluation point, though Bird's fWAR projection would be lower after his lost 2016. Torreyes and Gamel don't have enough of a sample size to judge to at this point. Speaking of judging, Aaron Judge, is hurt by high strikeout rates in KATOH's projection.

Red Sox

2016 Prospect KATOH fWAR Total fWAR Prospects in MLB KATOH fWAR Actual MLB fWAR
Rafael Devers, 3B 9.6 -- Blake Swihart, C 4.3 1.6
Sam Travis, 1B 7.3 16.9 Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP 4.3 1.7
Andrew Benintendi, OF 7.0 23.9 Henry Owens, LHP 6.2 0.3
Anderson Espinoza, RHP 6.2 30.1
Michael Kopech, RHP 4.9 35.0
Mauricio Dubon, SS 3.3 38.3
Brian Johnson, LHP 3.2 41.5

Like Houston, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are missing from KATOH. And because Boston's projections were developed before the formula changes, Yoan Moncada isn't listed here. His KATOH was 1.0 fWAR through age 28, but the formula change will help his projection somewhat, thanks to better accounting for base running and speed. The system also dinged Moncada in original projections for a 23 percent strikeout rate and missing all of 2014 while he defected from Cuba.

That said, the Red Sox can reach Trout's wins in seven prospects with room to spare if they dip into major league talent listed on the right. To the negative, Owens' walk rates are becoming a big turn off, Rodriguez is coming off injury and Swihart's defense has Boston working him in left field now. The Red Sox can offer an interesting mix of young pitching and positions for a rebuild, and if Trout hits the market, Dave Dombrowski is just the GM to pull something like this off without a lot of hesitation.


2016 Prospect KATOH fWAR Total fWAR Prospects in MLB KATOH fWAR Actual MLB fWAR
Albert Almora, OF 12.7 -- Kris Bryant, 3B 16.0 8.2
Billy McKinney, OF 11.2 23.9 Addison Russell, SS 13.1 3.8
Willson Contreras, C 10.1 34.0 Jorge Soler, RF 15.6 0.0
Jeimer Candelario, 3B 6.4 40.4 Kyle Schwarber, LF/C 6.1 1.8

Four players to reach 0.1 fWAR short of Trout is the fewest by far. Top prospect, shortstop Gleyber Torres (6.2 fWAR), is next on the list. Even more amazing to consider is the list doesn't include 2014 prospect Javier Baez, who is proving to be a super utility defensive master in Chicago in 2016.

The fWAR projections are through age-28 seasons, not the newer formula, and Bryant and Russell are well on their way to surpassing projections. Soler likely does not, and Schwarber's injury makes him a wait-and-see rehab case. Chicago is outfield-heavy on both sides, but with Torres and some deeper pitching prospects, plus ready-now talent available from Chicago, the Cubs have the most flexibility in an offer.

As you can gather from the six teams above, trading Mike Trout won't be easy in theory or practice. Trout is a generational player, signed through some of his free agency years and yet to hit his "baseball prime" age. While there's immediate and long-term risk for all involved, the everyone-on-the-table mentality will be present in any serious Trout negotiations, considering his historic talent level and age.

Jerry Burnes is a contributor Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @jerryburnes.