Blake Snell trade shows limitations of White Sox’s prospect list

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws a pitch during the Tampa Bay Rays versus Baltimore Orioles game 1 of a MLB double header at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 17, 2020 in Baltimore, MD. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

When the Blake Snell trade news broke last night, I turned to the Offseason Plan Project spreadsheet to see how many of our architects targeted him in their plans.

The answer was zero, which surprised me given how much time P.O. Sox and Twitter questions asked me to consider him.

Perhaps if the O.P.P. commenced after Game 6 of the World Series, when a dominant Snell was lifted after 5⅓ innings because he allowed a one-out single while holding a 1-0 lead, it probably would’ve been a different story. Snell, who won the Cy Young Award in 2018 and settled into an above-average starter mold since, expressed dissatisfaction with Kevin Cash’s decision. With Snell o the books for three years and $40.8 million — a reasonable total to just about every team besides Tampa Bay — that was enough to set the highly transactional Rays in motion.

Two months later, Snell is going to San Diego for a package of non-slapdick prospects.

  • Padres receive: Blake Snell
  • Rays receive: Luis Patiño, Francisco Mejía, Blake Hunt and Cole Wilcox

This is the kind of trade the White Sox’s lack of prospect depth makes difficult. Judge them by their place on Baseball America’s organizational top 10s, and the Padres traded their No. 3, 9 and 10 prospects. That’d be the equivalent of trading Nick Madrigal, Andrew Dalquist and Luis Gonzalez, which the White Sox should want to do every time.

If you use the Future Value system at FanGraphs, it’s a different story. The Padres traded a 60 in Patiño and a 50 in Hunt, whom Eric Longenhagen says will be a top-100 prospect when the 2021 list comes out. If Wilcox — the Padres’ overslot second round pick from 2020 — has a similar status of the White Sox’s overslot secound round pick from 2020, that makes the White Sox equivalent Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech/Madrigal and Jared Kelley. The Padres also kicked in Mejía, a former top prospect who hasn’t quite capitalized on his potential, yet has four years of control and addresses an immediate glaring need up top. Zack Collins doesn’t quite compare there, although Collins isn’t all that far behind.

The Padres gave up a lot, and the Rays seemed to extract themselves from a sticky situation fairly well. That said, the Padres can deal a Patiño because they’ll have more intriguing starters than rotation spots, especially when Mike Clevinger returns from Tommy John surgery. They can trade a promising young catcher like Hunt because they have a higher-ranked backstop in Luis Campusano blocking him. The trade could turn out to be a disaster, but they’re insulated from being shaking to their core.

The White Sox, conversely, are in a bit of a corner right now. They could stand to be more transactional to avoid a pile-up of like players, and they could have afforded Snell, but such a trade would have wiped out their reserves. And while the lesson of the widow’s offering suggests there’s virtue in giving up everything, Rick Hahn wouldn’t be able to count on his eternal reward to outweigh losing a deal Longenhagen likened to the Chris Archer trade.

Hahn ended up solving the same roster gap for a lower price by trading for Lance Lynn. Lynn commanded said lower price for real reasons — he’s a rental starter and 5½ years older — but if Lynn can meet expectations and warrant an extension, the White Sox might have solved the same issue for more than a season, just with some assembly required. The Sox have struggled to get that “meet expectations” part out of recent starter trades, be it Jeff Samardzija, James Shields, or Iván Nova. Thankfully, Dallas Keuchel proves that it’s not impossible for a veteran arm to immediately resemble his best self in a White Sox uniform.

Still, the Snell deal is a reminder that the White Sox could really use a robust minor-league season to attempt to restore their system depth. The pandemic caught everybody at a bad time, but the White Sox were hoping to use 2020 to recover from a 2019 that produced no new names to the rebuild, as either future fixtures or trade fodder (draft picks don’t count because every team has those). The good news is they’re talented enough to win during a compromised 2021, but I’d consider it slightly troubling that the White Sox rebuild never reached a Padres-like stage of “too many prospects” when they were hoarding them.

(Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

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Paying the price for the Nick Hostetler era. Shirley appears to be an upgrade.


I am confident Shirley’s first round picks will outperform Hostetler’s.


The first round picks weren’t the problem with Hostetler. Madrigal is contributing at the major league level and should be solid. Fangraphs gives Vaughn a 60 FV. If he hits that, then 2/5 of Hostetler’s first rounders would have been above average major league players. That’s pretty good.

The issue is the complete lack of success outside of the first round. Here are the only players drafted outside of the first round that are currently on the Sox major league depth chart:

  • Adam Engel, LF (or backup/platoon option once DH is filled)
  • Danny Mendick, backup INF
  • Aaron Bummer
  • Codi Heuer
  • Matt Foster
  • Jace Fry

Basically the only contributions that non-first rounders have made to this roster is in the bullpen and even there only Heuer and Foster were drafted by Hostetler. Meanwhile, the Jared Kelley represents the only non-first rounder rated higher than 40+ FV and he’s only a 45 FV.


I’d say the first round picks were pretty bad as Vaughn has to hit a ton and Madrigal probably gap power to probably be passable as an every day player judging how last year went. The Collins selection is an all time horrible pick. Fulmer was probably more of an organizational failure and Burger will get an incomplete because of the injuries (they happen which sucks) but it was a very curious pick in the moment.

Yeah, and the later rounds were a mess.

Eagle Bones

Vaughn and Madrigal were also top 5 picks, so not exactly something to be patting themselves on the back about.


Of course Vaughn has to hit a ton to contribute value. That doesn’t tell us anything about how likely he is to contribute value, which is what we care about. Current ratings of him look good – quite a bit better, in fact than when he was first drafted (only a 50 FV at the time).

Sure. Madrigal will need to hit for more power. Both ZiPS and Steamer think that he will. Fangraphs still has him as a 55 FV and his biggest problem last year was TOOTBLANs, not hitting.

Collins and Burger were bad. Burdi was probably bad, but possibly salvageable. Fulmer was before Hostetler’s time.

That’s not great, but not terrible. It’s only particularly egregious because first round picks have been effectively the only source of talent they’ve had in the draft.


Not that it didnt effect every team but the sox are bursting at the seams with “meh” prospects who could of elevated their value or been put away for good had a full 2020 minor league season been played.

The gavin sheets and jake burgers of the world could of caught fire and made maybe vaughn more expendable to headline a snell type deal

The rutherford, adolfo, gonzalez types could of maybe softened the blow of a stop gap like eaton knowing one was a legit prospect and could be the starter in 2022…

The c/dh types like seb, collins, mercedes could of established value/promise as either future back up catchers or dh types

The sp/rp 4a types like flores, lambert, stiever, johnson, burdi also would of heavily benefited from throwing innings at AAA.

Sox system looks ready to graduate their top 4 by years end, and players 5 to 30 look to be all over the map.

Last edited 3 years ago by knoxfire30
Eagle Bones

Sherman reporting that the Padres look to be the favorites for Kim. Would be an interesting signing for them. Apparently he would play second, bumping Cronenworth to the OF (I would assume with Pham / Myers going to DH assuming it’s back in the NL).


Fans of other teams call this roster flexibility, deep bench and depth. It also creates trade pieces – kind of like this piece talks about. If only…


MLBTR reporting Padres are “deep in talks” with Cubs to acquire Darvish. Wow! Preller going for it all in the next 3 years.

Eagle Bones

Yeah this is wild. Good for them for, you know, actually trying to win.


Yeah, I mean I feel like the Friars are the NL version of the Sox. They just have an owner who will actually make the moves to finalize a WS competitive roster.

Eagle Bones

Sounds like Kim is a done deal. And they’re now going after Darvish and apparently possibly a catcher from the Cubs. Wow!


When I first read of the Snell to Padres trade, I immediately wondered why the W Sox couldn’t have offered up a comparable 3 or 4 prospect package themselves. Thank you for pointing out what the Sox’ equivalents would be and , yes that would leave the cupboard bare. But I’m hoping Hahn is sniffing for other trade opportunities because the FA market seems limited. If Tampa Bay is so willing to deal their controllable players, maybe Austin Meadows could be had?


The difference between the Padres and White Sox is that the Padres consistently target high school talent in the draft and younger players in the international free agent pool. So, despite starting their rebuilds at a similar time, the Padres middle tier of prospects is a bunch of 20-23 year olds with upside and trade value. The Sox middle tier of prospects are all 23-26 with little to no trade value.

Even with the Sox (finally) spending in the international market this year (maybe because they aren’t allowed to trade the pool space away), they are getting a 23 year old and a 20 year old. Two of three guys on the whole top 30 that are over the age of 20. And Colas? He’d be 23 if he waits until 2022 to sign.

The reason for taking this older-player focused approach is that the miss rate is supposed to be lower. Except that Fulmer, Burger, Collins have provided nothing as college players drafted highly.


Every once in a while I remember that the 2017 draft happened and wonder what the hell they were thinking. First year in a rebuild and they draft almost all college players with limited upside.


you might remember kade mcclure from such drafts as 2017.


Not Sox related, but I hate this trade for the Rays. Very Marlins like. Even if it ‘works out’ they’re now worse heading into 2021. At some point the future has to come.

Thus I really like it for the Padres.

Not here, but elsewhere, far too many Sox fans think the Sox should sign and trade for every player. Thanks for pointing out that the Sox were never serious suitors for Snell.

We’ll see the return for Darvish, but I think he’s probably a more feasible target for the Sox. Though I would imagine the Cubs would have a Sox ‘tax’ for that type of deal.