The Braves made another significant move Friday morning with the trade of outfielder Justin Upton to San Diego for four prospects.
Atlanta receives left-handed pitching prospect Max Fried, infielders Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson (no relation) and outfielder Mallex Smith. There have been some reports the Braves will send a lower-level minor leaguer back to the Padres in the deal, which has not been officially announced.
There is some initial negative reaction that Atlanta did not receive one of San Diego’s top three prospects – either catcher Austin Hedges, pitcher Matt Wisler or outfielder Hunter Renfroe. But the Braves needed quantity as much as quality, as the farm system is barren and in desperate need for more prospects.
Upton had two solid seasons for the Braves, but he is a free agent at the end of the 2015 season. The Braves did not expect to be able to re-sign him for the long term.
Right now, Evan Gattis is the projected starting left fielder. That could change, however, if he is traded before Opening Day. The Braves are still talking with teams about Gattis and they would prefer to deal him for more young talent.
As for the Braves return in the Upton deal, they get a highly-regarded pitcher and three position prospects to add to the farm system.
Fried was the Padres first round pick in 2012 (seventh overall) out of Studio City, California. He had Tommy John surgery last August 20, so he will miss the entire 2015 season. But the Braves valued him as a top prospect, one that will immediately become one of their top arms in the system, even while returning from the elbow injury.
Fried is a left-hander who is 6-4, 185 pounds. He was rated as San Diego’s third-best prospect by Baseball America before last season and the 53rd top overall prospect in the game. Fried battled elbow issues all of last season and pitched in only five games before the decision was made to proceed with the Tommy John procedure.
In 2013, Fried was 6-7 with a 3.49 ERA in 23 starts, with 107 hits allowed in 119 innings, 56 walks and 100 strikeouts.
Fried turns 21 years old on January 18, so he is still very young. He may get some time late next season, but the Braves will obviously try to get him ready for a full season in 2016. If Fried could get a full season in Double-A, he could be a candidate for the 2017 rotation if his recovery process goes well.
Jace Peterson got some time in the big leagues last season. He played in 27 games and hit only .113 in 58 plate appearances, with two stolen bases and 18 strikeouts. Peterson played 14 games (10 starts) at second base and 10 games (eight starts) at third base.
Peterson, a left-handed hitter, was drafted by the Padres in the supplemental first round (58th round) of the 2011 draft. In the minors last season, Peterson hit .307 between AA San Antonio and AAA El Paso. He had three home runs, 46 RBI and 16 stolen bases.
Peterson played the entire 2013 season in High-A Lake Elsinore and hit .303 with a .382 on base percentage, with seven home runs, 66 RBI and 42 stolen bases. He had 51 stolen bases in 2012 with a .378 OBP.
In Peterson’s four seasons in the minors, he played 330 games at shortstop, 26 at second base and 16 at third base.
Dustin Peterson just turned 20 years old in September. He was San Diego’s second round pick in the 2013 draft out of Gilbert High School in Gilbert, Arizona. He’s a right-handed hitter that stands 6’2” and weighs 180 pounds.
Last season Peterson hit .233 in his first full season in the minor leagues, with a .274 on base percentage. Peterson had 10 home runs, 79 RBI and 31 doubles in 126 games. He made 38 errors at third base.
Peterson’s brother is Seattle’s D.J. Peterson. Dustin was a shortstop in high school. Some have wondered if he could wind up in the outfield one day, particularly after his troubles at third base last season. But the Braves have time, so they could give him another chance at third base in High-A Carolina this season and then take it from there.
Smith was drafted by the Padres in the 5th round of the 2012 draft out of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville. He is originally from Tallahassee, Florida and was drafted by the Brewers out of high school the previous year but did not sign.
Smith is a small (5-9, 170) left-handed hitting outfielder with a lot of speed. He started last season in Fort Wayne in the Midwest League and hit .295 with a .393 OBP and 48 stolen bases in 65 games. Then Smith was promoted to High-A Lake Elsinore in the California League and hit .327 with a .414 OBP and 40 stolen bases.
So for the 2014 season, Smith hit .310 overall with five home runs, 31 RBI and 88 stolen bases. His on base percentage was .403. He also had 29 doubles and seven triples. In 2013, Smith was in Fort Wayne and hit .262 with 64 stolen bases and a .367 OBP.
Smith is still young. He turns 22 next May 6. The Braves may push him to Double-A Mississippi to start the 2015 season.
Remember, the Braves recently hired Chad McDonald to join their front office. McDonald was San Diego’s amateur scouting director and drafted Fried, Dustin Peterson and Smith. So obviously he came in handy in the negotiations with the Padres to give the Braves front office personnel a good opinion on the players that needed to be targeted.
This deal further shows the Braves are placing a priority in getting the organization ready for 2017, when the team moves into the new stadium in Cobb County. The farm system needed more talent, and getting four players for a player that was expected to leave next offseason anyway is a major step in that retooling process.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.
Justin Upton traded to Padres
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