Continuing on with the trade value series.
#35: Nick Markakis, RF, Baltimore: 0.5 WAR
After a monster 2008, his follow-up season hasn’t gone as well – his walks and power are down, and UZR no longer loves his defense in right field. The talent is still there, though, and as a 25-year-old with across the board skills, he’ll have more seasons like his 2008 in the future. The contract extension he signed will keep him in Baltimore through at least 2014, and while he’s no longer cheap, the salaries are discounted enough to still make him a big time asset.
#34: Jon Lester, LHP, Boston: 3.4 WAR
The massive jump in strikeout rate (6.5 in 2008, 10.3 in 2009) is nearly unprecedented, and K/9 stabilizes very quickly. His velocity is up a couple of ticks, and it’s made the most impact on his curve, which is now a nasty out pitch. A 25-year-old lefty with this kind of dominance unbelievably hard to find. His contract is definitely team friendly ($30 million through 2013 or $43 million through 2014), but not the bargain basement rate that others are pitching on. If he keeps pitching like this, though, this will still look like its 20 spots too low.
#33: Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Colorado: 3.3 WAR
This is what it looks like when a 25-year-old with the biggest fastball in the game posts a 3.23 FIP while pitching half of his games at Coors Field. Jimenez has the makings of a Brandon Webb-style groundballs and strikeouts ace, with stuff that few can match and improving command as well. He’s also due just $22 million through 2014, and the last $14 million of that is tied to club options for the final two seasons. He’s not a household name yet, but he will be if he can stay healthy.
#32: Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas: 2.8 WAR
His walks and power are up, and he’s worked hard to improve his defense at the keystone, showing that he’s not done improving despite an already strong body of work. He’s a legit 30-30 player headed into his prime and is locked up through 2013 at bargain basement rates. If he can continue to show that he’s an asset in the field at second base, than this is about 20 spots too low. Questions about whether his defensive improvement are sustainable or not hold him back for now.
#31: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston: 2.6 WAR
The reigning AL MVP is unlikely to ever have another power spike like he did in his 2008 campaign, but he doesn’t have to if he keeps hitting .300, racking up the doubles while making obscene amounts of contact, and playing quality defense at second base. The contract extension he signed that pays him just $40 million through 2014 increases his value as well.