The San Diego Padres continued their busy offseason, acquiring versatile middle infielder Jurickson Profar from the Oakland A’s in exchange for catching prospect Austin Allen and a player to be named later.
The move is the latest in a flurry of them by Padres GM A.J. Preller as he looks to position his squad for a 2020 postseason run. After dealing Luis Urias and Eric Lauer to Milwaukee for Trent Grisham and Zach Davies, San Diego had a hole at second base. Ian Kinsler, Greg Garcia, and potentially Ty France were going to compete to start on the infield alongside Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, and Fernando Tatis, Jr. Now, it looks likely that Profar will take that role.
If San Diego does decide to go with another option, however, Profar’s experience playing all infield positions will make him a valuable bench piece.
Instead of analyzing Profar’s fantasy impact following the trade (hint: It’s not good), I’m going to focus on the prospect who changed hands, Allen, as well as a look at how this move could impact two important prospects in Oakland’s farm system: Sheldon Neuse and Jorge Mateo.
We’ll start with Allen. He’s a catching prospect with pop who is ready for the big leagues, having accrued 71 plate appearances last season with the Padres.
As such, he could be a fantasy-relevant player as soon as 2020—depending on how Oakland splits time behind the plate with Sean Murphy and Josh Phegley still in tow.
A fourth-round pick in 2015, Allen has displayed remarkably consistent power over the past three seasons, while gradually improving other aspects of his game as he climbs the ladder.
So as you can see, Allen has kept his power output nearly identical, while keeping a consistent walk rate and steadily lowering his strikeout rate. It’s worth noting that Allen’s 21 home runs came in just 298 plate appearances, although the hitter-friendly PCL mixed with the juiced ball made evaluating home run totals at that level difficult, to say the least.
Defensively, many worry that Allen can’t handle catching at the MLB level, which obviously dampens his prospect status. He played a handful of games at first base last season, including two in the big leagues, and could end up there long term, which seriously derails his fantasy value.
It’s too soon to know what Oakland’s plan is with Allen, but if he works his way into a semi-regular role behind the plate, his sneaky pop could make him valuable in very deep leagues and worth stashing in dynasty formats. Oakland was known to be looking for a left-handed catcher to pair with Murphy, and this could be the move that signals the end of Phegley’s time in the Bay.
The Oakland 2B Competition
Franklin Barreto is no longer a prospect, having spent parts of the last three seasons in Oakland. Over 209 career MLB plate appearances, the infielder has slashed a woeful .189/.220/.378 with nine home runs. His 3.3% walk rate and 40.7% strikeout rate are tremendously concerning, and up to this point he has not looked even remotely like a big league starter.
He will probably get the first chance to start, however, barring a free-agent signing or a trade. If that is the case, he is worth at least keeping an eye on after having an excellent season last year in Triple-A, where he slashed .295/.374/.552 with 19 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and 88 runs scored. I’m skeptical the strikeouts will ever come down enough for him to hold fantasy relevance outside deep leagues, but he’s worth a look.
Next is Neuse, who was primarily a third baseman coming up through the minors but transitioned to second base last year and started 13 games there for Oakland down the stretch.
Neuse, 24, only hit .250/.295/.304 in 61 plate appearances for the A’s, but he also had a monstrous season in Triple-A: .317/.389/.550 with 27 home runs, 99 runs scored and 102 RBI. With back-to-back 500+ plate appearances in Triple-A, it’s clear he is ready for the major leagues.
His versatility might make him a better fit as a utility infielder, however, and there are still questions about his glovework at the keystone—although he went errorless with a 16.4 UZR in 114 innings last season.
Neuse would be an immediate add in AL-only leagues and 16+ team leagues next season if he is the starting second baseman for Oakland. He’s absolutely worth owning in most dynasty formats, as even if he doesn’t start he should get plenty of big league time in 2020.
Last, but certainly not least, is Jorge Mateo. Mateo has yet to reach the big leagues, making it very unlikely he’ll open the 2020 season as Oakland’s starting second baseman, but he might have the best long-term potential at the position.
Mateo, like Neuse, has also put together two straight seasons of over 500 plate appearances at Triple-A, and they are both 24 years old. This is a sign that Neuse is higher on the depth chart than Mateo, but the latter more than held his own at the dish last year by slashing .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases.
He doesn’t draw walks well, has high strikeout totals, and the power certainly came out of nowhere (he’d never hit more than 12 in a single season), but Mateo has speed to burn on the bases, which could make him an extremely valuable fantasy asset.
As such, he’s worth a closer look in dynasty leagues (and potentially AL-only formats) just because of his unique skill set. I suspect he’ll begin the season in the minors once again, but don’t be surprised if he is in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
If at any point he is starting regularly for Oakland, he’s worth a look in 14+ team leagues for those who need speed, and certainly AL-only and other similarly deep formats.
(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)