Double-A is where most teams top prospects reside nowadays. If you can play at Double-A, it's assumed your can play in the majors. Triple-A has become more of a place to keep ex-major leaguers who aren't good enough to play everyday in the Bigs, but who might be needed to fill a bench spot in case of injury.
The Trenton Thunder are an example of that -
... the squad at Double-A Trenton is generating plenty of attention from scouts. Some mid-level talents have stepped up with big seasons and could be attractive trade chips come July.
The two players mentioned are Brandon Laird -
A 27th-round pick in 2007 out of a California junior college, Laird has taken the biggest step forward of any player in the Yankees system. The younger brother of Tigers catcher Gerald Laird, Brandon leads the Eastern League in runs (51), RBIs (65) and extra-base hits (33) as part of a .293/.345/.545 line in 67 games; scouts praise his combination of hitting skills and above-average raw power. He's an average-at-best third baseman whose only other defensive option is first, and the big-league squad has some guys you might have heard of at those two positions, so he represents a surplus that the Yankees can deal from.
I've personally seen Laird. While I agree that he's a damn good hitter, I wouldn't exactly term him an "average-at-best" third-sacker. I can't really speak for his range and quickness, but one noticeable trait was his rocket arm (his brother is a catcher after all). He doesn't soft-toss the ball across the diamond.
Hector Noesi is the other -
A 23-year-old Dominican, Noesi is among the best finesse pitchers in the minors, as last year he walked just 15 batters in 117 innings. The thing that makes him unique is that unlike most who pitch with his style, Noesi has some stuff as well. His fastball is fringe-plus and he throws a quality curve/change combination as secondary pitches. Scouts were initially a bit leery about his game working at the upper levels, but the Eastern League has yet to provide any real problems (four earned runs over 29 innings in his last four starts). He's no more than a No. 4/No.5 starter; as a result, he could be attractive for a team looking to reload.
Again, I have to take exception. Noesi sits in the low 90's (another pitcher who sits in the low 90's? Phil Hughes), so I see him potentially becoming a No. 3 starter.
Lower down in the minors, Dellin Betances is continuing his breakout season -
Since his return from elbow surgery last summer, Betances has allowed six hits in 18 innings, while striking out 21 and walking just two. Just as scary, one of baseball's most notable high-risk/high-ceiling pitchers is impressing with his stuff as well, sitting comfortably at 93-95 mph with his fastball, throwing his plus curve for strikes, and showcasing a surprisingly solid changeup.
Of course, trading him now would be selling low.
Cliff Lee's name keeps coming up in trade talks. His season was summed up thus -
When the Mariners traded for Cliff Lee, they knew they were getting a special pitcher. What they didn't know was that he'd only get better. Every single one of Lee's meaningful statistics is better in 2010 than it was in 2009, and a guy who was already a successful strike thrower has only taken it to another level, throwing 72.6% of his pitches for strikes, against an average of 63.5%. He's gone 0-1 on 59% of his batters faced, against an average of 48%. He's gone 0-2 on 28% of his batters faced, against an average of 18%. Cliff Lee is in control. He's always in control, no matter the situation.
What Cliff Lee has done is put himself in excellent position to be traded for a haul. A free agent after the year, it makes little sense for the Mariners to keep him around. And with the way he's throwing, he's put all of the injury questions to rest, and he's made an argument for being the best pitcher in baseball. A guy who might be the best pitcher in baseball is a guy who can make a difference for a contender. There's not a team in the league that couldn't use that kind of arm, and given that Lee is exactly the sort of player that could turn a good team into a great one, look for his name to be all over the rumor sites.
Cliff Lee was already an ace. Now he's something else. Something better.
I'm still of the mind to wait for him to hit the market. On one hand, there's no point to let prospects linger in the minors with nary a chance to help the ML team when they can be traded for pieces that do help the ML team. On the other hand, why give up multiple prospects for a player that can be had only for money (and a draft pick) in a few months?