Do any research on 20 year-old Manuel Margot and you will undoubtedly hear about his tools and athleticism.
But it was in 2014 that the young outfielder’s loud tools began to make some serious noise. Margot debuted with the Red Sox in 2012 in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 as a 17 year-old, and hit pretty well with a .285/.382/.423 slash line, four home runs, and 33 stolen bases, not a bad start to his professional career.
Margot’s numbers would drop a little bit in 2013 as he moved up a level, but most noticeably his power vanished. At 6’0″ 170 lbs, Margot has an athletic build but not necessarily a large frame but his lightning quick swing offered raw power upside. Margot hit well enough in Lowell to earn a promotion to Greenville to start 2014, perhaps the team took into account his being younger than the average player in the NY-Penn league by three years.
Although he would get off to a similar start in 2014, eventually his pedestrian pace would skyrocket. Margot hit .262/.333/.379 through the All Star Break, with four homers and 22 steals. But the four homers don’t accurately represent his production over those first two months, as three of the four came in the first week. But it was in the second half that he really took off not only improving his batting average but finally tapping into some of that raw power that had captivated scouts. The speed was always there, but a power-speed combo outfielder is infinitely more valuable.
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In the second half, he cranked his slugging percentage all the way up to .537, and hit six more homers along the way. Margot would also earn a promotion to Salem, and he finished the year with a triple slash of .293/.356/.462 and consistently flashing power, and hitting tools to go along with his always present speed and defensive range. Margot told Ricky Doyle of NESN that he models his game after Adam Jones, and the resemblance in talent is apparent.
Margot plays terrific defense at a premier defensive position, wreaks havoc on the basepaths (although he could be a bit more selective he was caught stealing 13 times), makes good albeit not great contact, and has the bat speed to drive the ball with authority. But he is also blocked by fellow top prospect Mookie Betts, and the recently signed Rusney Castillo at the major league level for the foreseeable future. There is no place for him on the Red Sox roster, so at this point he would appear to be a hefty piece of trade bait.
He has All Star upside, but in a deep Boston farm system, he may be a surplus. The luxury of having such a surplus is that you can spend it on a player who will better fill a need, as the team did by sending Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa to the Diamondbacks for Wade Miley. De La Rosa and Webster were talented young players who were cashed in for a more proven commodity, and the team may decide to take a similar course of action with Margot. Like Jackie Bradley, and now Garin Cecchini after the Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signings, Margot may need to be moved elsewhere to be given a chance to realize his potential at the major league level.
The problem is that other teams do not value him as much as the Red Sox do yet. The Red Sox made an investment in Margot, and he started to provide a return on that investment in the second half of 2014. But to another team, he is a question mark. He has only displayed his full abilities for half a season, has never seen a pitch at the Double A level, and is still probably two full seasons of refinement away from joining a major league club, and possibly even further away from being an impact player for one.
He possesses fantastic ability but whether he can learn to harness that ability into instincts and back it up with technique still remains an uncertainty. Margot is the type of lottery ticket you package with a more proven player to get the star player you want. The rumor is that Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s price for Cole Hamels includes either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, but that price should drop if no suitors step up to meet those demands (I say should because logic would dictate it did but Amaro has not always been one for logic).
If he does decide to lower it to a more reasonable rate, perhaps a package centered around Henry Owens, Margot, Cecchini, and a big leaguer like Joe Kelly or Clay Buchholz would get it done. But a trade does seem to make sense no matter who the prize is, as the team will have a very difficult time fitting Margot into their future plans as the roster is currently constructed.