building for the future by trading building for the future by trading

The Justin Upton Trade: One Day Later


Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves continued shipping players and building for the future by trading Justin Upton, along with Aaron Northcraft, to the San Diego Padres for Max Fried, Mallex Smith, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and an international bonus pool slot with a $182,300 value.

As I did with my Jason Heyward trade analysis several weeks ago, I wanted to give myself some time to let this deal settle in before taking a crack at “analyzing it.” My initial thoughts after looking into the prospects coming to Atlanta was, “This seems fair.” After taking a deeper look at the players, that’s still how I feel.

But before we get into this again, I’d just like to emphasize that the Padres paid for just one year of Justin Upton. Yes, he’s arguably the best right-handed power bat on the market this offseason and he is in his prime, but the Padres are only getting a single season of that. This is an important part of the deal and, in my mind, needs to be emphasized.

Now, on to the players Braves fans will be getting to know more of over the next few years.

This deal is different in many ways from the Jason Heyward deal, but the main difference is that the there are no guarantees in this trade. When the St. Louis Cardinals parted ways with Shelby Miller to acquire Heyward, that is exactly what they gave up. But with Fried, Smith, Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson–the Padres were definitely buying one year of a sure thing for many years of risk.


Max Fried

the Braves are hoping the roughly 85% success rate on Tommy John surgeries applies to Fried; he’s not on the table for this trade if he’s healthy. – Kiley McDaniel

Twenty-year-old Fried, in my mind, is the centerpiece of the deal for Atlanta and is a left-handed starting pitcher and previous first-round draft pick. He was taken by the Padres with the No. 7 overall selection in 2012 and has thrown 147 professional innings in rookie and A ball since then.

At 6-foot-4, 170-pounds with three pitches that scouts say have the potential to be above-average, Fried has the most upside of any other player in this haul. According to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, Fried is a good enough prospect that he wouldn’t have been on the table in this trade if he was healthy.

Fried injured his elbow just a few starts into 2014 and had to have Tommy John surgery. He isn’t expected to pitch again until late 2015 (possibly in the AFL) or 2016.

Fried brings a low-90s fastball to the table that peaks around 95-96 as well as a plus curveball and a changeup that was improving and above-average at times. If he’s able to come back and get healthy, continue working on his pitches and add some weight to his 6-4 frame, Fried has the potential to be a No. 2 starter at best.

While there’s certainly a lot of risk, and Fried is anything from a “sure thing” that’s a nice player to have in the system.

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Mallex Smith

Smith could be the most exciting prospect of the group in my mind, thanks to his 80-grade speed. In 265 minor league games, Smith has stolen 169 bases at a 79 percent success rate.

He’s a 5-foot-9, 155-pound outfield prospect who will be 22 in May next year. His game revolves around his running ability, as that is his only above-average tool at the moment. With very little power and issues with his swing, Smith doesn’t project to ever be an above-average hitter, but if he’s able to utilize his speed, put the ball in play on the ground more and strike out less he could be serviceable.

Because of the speed he has the potential to be a great defensive outfielder, but he still has work to do and won’t ever have an arm that strikes fear into runners on the bases.

If everything goes perfectly for Smith with his development, he could figure things out at the plate and one day become a leadoff hitter who saves plenty of runs in center field–the much more likely scenario though is that he becomes a fourth outfield/pinch runner type of bench player.

Jace Peterson

Jace Peterson is the only player in this deal who’s had major league experience–he’s also the only player of the deal without a single above-average tool. Still, he’s pretty solid across the board and profiles as a future utility type player with comps Tommy La Stella thrown at him on occasion.

Peterson was drafted 58th overall in the 2011 draft and finished four seasons in the minors with a triple slash of .287/.381/.411 with almost as many walks as strikeouts. He’ll turn 25 next season.

Peterson played shortstop as a high schooler but seems to be a better fit at third base or second, but could be serviceable or at any of the three positions. If he learns to hit for more power and cleans up some fielding actions, it’s possible that Peterson develops into an everyday type of player, but most scouts see him as a utility guy going forward and at 25 already there’s not a ton of projection left.

Dustin Peterson

Dustin Peterson is the youngest player of this group and the furthest away from the majors. He was taken 50th overall in the 2013 draft out of high school and is coming off of a low A season where he hit .233/.274/.361 in 126 games.

Peterson brings quick bat speed to the table and has the potential for above-average in-game power at some point, but still has a long way to go. He hit 10 home runs in Fort Wayne in 2014, but he’ll need to figure out a position to play at some point as well.

He played shortstop in high school, but is more likely to play third base, second or left field as a pro. If he can’t stick at one of the infield positions, there will be that much more pressure for his bat to carry him into The Show.


In Conclusion

Hopefully I gave you a useful look at each of these players, but if you want more definitely check out McDaniel’s piece linked above and head over to Baseball America for reports on each of these players as well.

In the end, I think the Braves got a good return for a year of Justin Upton and Northcraft. While none of these players are guaranteed to do anything for the Atlanta Braves, the deal strengthens a depleted farm system and gives the team some interesting prospects moving forward.

Because of the success of Tommy John surgery, Fried excites me a lot–the thought of getting another No. 2/3 starter for a year of an outfielder is nice and from everything I’ve read he already has three above-average pitches with more upside in his frame as he fills out.

After that, the other players look to be more on the side of “complementary” pieces than “regular contributors,” but Dustin Peterson is still a long ways off and Smith could wind up being extremely valuable if he can improve at the plate.

All in all, I think this is an extremely fair trade for both teams. The Padres didn’t have to part ways with any of their elite prospects, but threw in some useful players with bonus pool slot to top it off.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the deal and the players involved in the comments below.