2009 MLB Trade Value: Recap

The countdown is finally over – this afternoon, we unveiled the top five pieces in our annual Trade Value series. Since this is a recap post, here’s the whole list in one convenient spot.

1. Evan Longoria
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Justin Upton
4. Albert Pujols
5. Matt Wieters
6. Brian McCann
7. David Wright
8. Ryan Braun
9. Tim Lincecum
10. Chase Utley
11. Zack Greinke
12. Grady Sizemore
13. Dan Haren
14. Matt Kemp
15. Troy Tulowitzki
16. Joe Mauer
17. Felix Hernandez
18. Colby Rasmus
19. Adam Jones
20. Jose Reyes
21. B.J. Upton
22. Curtis Granderson
23. Justin Verlander
24. Stephen Strasburg
25. David Price
26. Jay Bruce
27. James Shields
28. Chad Billingsley
29. Clayton Kershaw
30. Josh Johnson
31. Dustin Pedroia
32. Ian Kinsler
33. Ubaldo Jimenez
34. Jon Lester
35. Nick Markakis
36. Josh Hamilton
37. Roy Halladay
38. Clay Buchholz
39. Jason Heyward
40. Tommy Hanson
41. Josh Beckett
42. Joba Chamberlain
43. Ryan Zimmerman
44. Max Scherzer
45. Adrian Gonzalez
46. Elvis Andrus
47. Robinson Cano
48. Cole Hamels
49. Jered Weaver
50. Prince Fielder

Honorable Mentions: Ben Zobrist, Kevin Youkilis, Javier Vazquez, Gordon Beckham, Pablo Sandoval.

The biggest riser from last year? Matt Kemp, who went from unranked (whoops) to #14. I just missed the boat on him last year. The biggest faller was Brandon Webb, who dropped off the list after ranking #14 last year. Shoulder problems that cost you a full season without a firm diagnosis will do that to you, especially as you head towards free agency.

Overall, I’m happy with the list. After receiving some feedback, there are a few things I’d change, however. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the clause in Troy Tulowitzki‘s contract allowing him to void his deal if he’s traded. That’s a pretty nasty contract kicker, and one I really should have been aware of. That’s my fault, and had I known about that, he would have ranked lower, certainly.

However, I did find that the uproar about his true talent level exposed the fact that Tulowitzki is a pretty underrated player by a lot of the readers here. He’s a 24-year-old shortstop with above average defense and power who has significantly upped his walk rate this season. Players with his skillset are remarkably valuable. We love WAR around here, obviously, but this is not a list of what players have accomplished to date, so quoting Tulowitzki’s inferior WAR to other players simply doesn’t work as an argument about his present trade value. He’s a really, really good up the middle player headed for his prime. There aren’t many guys out there with his projected future value.

A lot of the “why isn’t this guy on the list?” questions came from fans of National League teams with good-but-not-great young pitchers. Yovanni Gallardo, Adam Wainwright, Matt Cain, and Jordan Zimmermann are all valuable assets, but trying to make an argument for them based on their non-league adjusted numbers simply doesn’t work. Put simply, the National League is vastly inferior to the AL right now, and the lack of a DH allows for pitchers who pitch in the senior circuit to post superficially better numbers than their AL peers. Simply put, you stick a guy like Chamberlain in the NL, and he’d look like Cy Young. Sorry, NL fans, but your pitchers aren’t as good as you think.

And, finally, I guess I should address the whole Sandoval thing. As I said in the Honorable Mentions post, I like Sandoval – the kid can hit. But based on the comments early on in the series, Giant fans need to pull back on the hyperbole train. 503 major league career plate appearances is simply not anything close to enough to establish his current batting line as his true talent level. There’s a reason ZIPS projects him for a .357 wOBA going forward despite his tremendous start to the 2009 season – he simply cannot maintain a .360 batting average on balls in play over the long term, which is the driving force behind his .400 wOBA this year.

The foundation of his offensive performance to date is, unfortunately, not a repeatable skill. For a player with that kind of developed body, you simply can’t project future growth like you can with most 22-year-olds (where strength is tied to added muscle as the body develops, which simply won’t happen with Kung Fu Panda), so there’s less upside here than with most players his age. He’s a good player, not a great one.

That’s it for this year’s Trade Value series. Hope you enjoyed it. We’ll do it again next year.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


136 Responses to “2009 MLB Trade Value: Recap”

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  1. Chris says:

    “vastly inferior” is quite an overstatement.

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    • Tom B says:

      would you prefer “grossly overrated?”

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    • YC says:

      The expression “vastly inferior” is a rather appropriate hyperbole, I think. This is because the American League has a statistically quantifiable talent advantage over the National League, that has certainly proven to be something more than simply random variation. The American League, aside from the DH factor, has the best of the best managed teams in baseball, such as the Red Sox, Yankees and the Rays, which contributed to their advantage. When it comes down to the best individual players, especially considering the superstars in the NL like Mr. Pujols or Hanley Ramirez, the NL might match the AL in premium talent. But if you look at the remaining 95% of the players, the AL has a sizeable advantage in talent, and this has been a trend for the last several years. Since this gap is more than just statistical noise, it must be accounted for, when considering a player’s true talent level.

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      • Chris says:

        The AL better, yes. But not “vastly” better. It’s roughly the talent difference between a 78 and 84 win team.

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      • alskor says:

        “It’s roughly the talent difference between a 78 and 84 win team.”

        Interesting that its the difference between winning and losing…

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      • B says:

        I don’t like this whole “AL is better than the NL” stuff. Looking at the divisions throughout baseball, there are 5 divisions that aren’t that far apart from each other in talent, and then there’s one that’s so head and shoulders above everyone else it’s ridiculous (the AL East, of course). Of course there’s some effect on the rest of the AL from this (in addition to DH effects), but it’s more of a “one division is vastly superior” than “one league is vastly superior”.

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      • alskor says:

        “I don’t like this whole “AL is better than the NL” stuff.”

        Most NL fans don’t. Its more than one division. The AL is stronger across the board. If you name the top 15 teams in baseball it would be stacked with AL teams.

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      • B says:

        It may or may not be, but I’d be interested if anyone did any studies on this at a divisional level to see how each division stacked up. My guess is we’d get 5 divisions not too far apart (I’m not going to guess an order), and 1 division by itself…

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  2. Jakemake says:

    “Simply put, you stick a guy like Chamberlain in the NL, and he’d look like Cy Young”

    …Let the complaining commence….

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    • Richie Abernathy says:

      …speaking of hyperbole.

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    • VolsnCards5 says:

      control problems are the same in both league…i think

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      • Jake says:

        They are. And you can get away with them much easier in the National League.

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      • Antonio says:

        It’s not Joba’s control — it’s that he feels he must work harder and throw his breaking stuff more because the hitters he faces in the AL (especially the AL East) are that much better, which puts him deeper into counts. In the NL, you can throw fastballs all day and strike those guys out. The AL East makes the NL East look like Triple-A. I agree — he’d be lights-out in the NL this season because he’d be throwing more fastballs and whiffing another 1.5-2.5 dudes per 9.

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  3. Chris says:

    The AL is better than the NL, no doubt, but the AL won 54.5% of the games this year.

    Does that mean that the difference between the AL and the NL is the difference between a .545 and .455 team?

    NO. IT DOES NOT.

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    • Tom B says:

      is interleague any indication of cross league performance metrics?

      no it is not.

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      • Chris says:

        It’s a decent indicator of relative strength. Does it work in doing individual stat translations, no. But if the AL wins 54.5% of the games, that means, roughly, that they’re a .520 caliber team, and the NL is a .480 team. That is not “vastly inferior”.

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    • rw23 says:

      Off topic, but since interleague isn’t going away, why not have the winning league of interleague host the World Series rather than the AS Game? It provides a much better indication of league strength than an AS Game, and is more fair than simply alternating years or going by W-L record that can be obscurred by league strength.

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      • alskor says:

        Does it matter? The AL will end up hosting it every year either way…

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      • AngMohClay says:

        because having the winning AS team host the WS isn’t about fairness, it’s about marketing, and generating excitement for an event that people had (have) lost interest in. Fairness is completely and entirely irrelevant.

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  4. Joe says:

    That would be great if we could move Joba to the NL. Would really help out my fantasy team.

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  5. JV says:

    Joey Votto doesn’t figure in at all in this?

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    • Isaac says:

      I’m wondering the same thing, as he’s under team control through 2013!! He’s not extremely young, as he will turn 26 in a couple of months, but his career line of .312/.384/.531 is significantly better than say, Evan Longoria. Seeing how he A) projects to have a longer and healthier career than Prince Fielder and B) is a better defender than Prince, he should definitely be on this list.

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    • kwk says:

      I wonder if Votto will be able to maintain that .401 BABIP he has so far this year?

      He’s a good hitter, but he’s probably not a .390 wOBA true talent. Neither his power, patience, or contact rates are extraordinary for an average-ish defender at first. He’ll be 26 this year, and could very well be past his prime in his last couple years under team control.

      He’s a fine player, but it’s not some great travesty that he’s not on this list.

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  6. Joe R says:

    Salary breakdown for Curtis Granderson:
    2009: $3.5 million, 2010: $5.5 million, 2011: $8.25 million, 2012: $10 million, 2013: $13 million club option w/$2 million buyout, 2014: Free Agent

    Now Tulo:
    2009: $750,000, 2010: $3.5 million, 2011: $5.5 million, 2012: $8.5 million, 2013: $10 million, 2014: $15 million club option w/$2 million buyout, 2015: Free Agent

    Tulowitzki has had one great season, one mediocre one, and on pace for a solid one. Granderson has had 2 solid seasons, on pace for a 3rd, and one MVP caliber year. Park factors also don’t seem to do Rockie player stat inflation justice, they almost always drop off more. Essentially for an average of like $2,000,000 a year less and one extra year on the contract, you’re saying Tulowitzki > Granderson. There is no way if I’m Colorado that I wouldn’t do Tulowitzki for Granderson straight up. I think the low end of the deal is Tulowitzki = Granderson on field (which is a loss, but a minor one). High end is Granderson reverts to 2007 form, while Tulowitzki continues on as between 5 and 10.

    Even if I’m wrong, still, 7 places apart? Tulowitzki in the top 20 sucks no matter what.

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    • Joe says:

      You seem to have forgotten about defense. Good defense at a premium defensive spot helps gives Tulo his rank.

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      • Joe R says:

        CF isn’t exactly a sloucher position either, something Granderson is far more proven at than Tulowitzki is at this stage as a SS.

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    • JH says:

      Tulowitzki’s also 4 years younger than Granderson. When Tulo’s contract is up after the 2014 season, he’ll be 1 year older than Granderson is today. Granderson’s contract takes him through his age-32 season. A player with Granderson’s athletic ability shouldn’t decline too much during those years, but he shouldn’t improve too much either. Tulo, on the other hand, is a pretty good bet to add a little more pop to his game.

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    • BlackOps says:

      “There is no way if I’m Colorado that I wouldn’t do Tulowitzki for Granderson straight up.”

      That would be a mistake.

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      • Joe R says:

        His career road split is .254/.324/.396, and he’s probably a .270/.340/.430 guy outside of Colorado. I could be wrong, but so far all I see offensively is a decent player who’ll probably lay 3-4 WAR seasons down like clockwork. But Granderson’s been doing that and shows no signs of stopping in the duration of his deal.

        That’s what gets me.

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    • Sky says:

      Seven places apart? We’re complaining about seven places? That’s a rounding error.

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  7. Nick says:

    Zimmermann is pretty damn good. A 3.53 FIP is amazing for a 22 year old, no matter how big the league disparity.

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  8. Edwin Nelson says:

    You’re always going to invite criticism when you blog on a stat crazy site about something that is hard to statistically measure. Is the AL the better league? Common sense, and my own eyes tell me yes, but I don’t have any compelling statistics that will conclusively back it up.

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    • Sky says:

      You want data? From MGL at THT, circa July 2006.

      http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/is-the-al-really-superior-part-3/

      “The difference in offensive talent is somewhere around .4 to .5 runs per game, which would give the average AL team around a 55% advantage over the average NL team, assuming that the pitching were equal. If it is true that the AL has the better pitching overall as well (and there is some suggestion in the data that that is true), then the AL advantage may be as high as 56 or 57%.”

      Sure, that’s a little old, but AL has maintained its advantage in inter-league play since then. Circa yesterday:

      http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/7/19/936780/graph-of-the-day-interleague

      “Let’s take a hypothetical 0.500 team from the AL and from the NL from the past five years. The interleague records tell us that the “average” AL team should beat the average NL team to the tune of a 0.566 winning percentage. In order to get the AL team to beat the NL team with a 0.566 winning percentage using the odds ratio and PythagenPat, we have to give the AL team a 26-run bonus to both offense and defense, while simultaneously giving a 26-run penalty to the NL team on offense and defense. That’s a 52-run adjustment PER TEAM!”

      A .570 advantage means .535 and .465 true talent level for AL and NL respectively. In other words, a 75.5 win team in the AL is comparable to an 86.5 win team in the NL. To me, an 11 win swing constitutes a vast difference. That means the White Sox have been as good as the Phillies, the Orioles have been as good as the Cubs, and the Royals have been as good as the Mets.

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  9. Grant says:

    Pablo Sandoval an honorable mention but Miguel Cabrera isn’t? You’re telling me the Gaints wouldn’t deal Sandoval for Cabrera straight up? You are seriously underrating Cabrera here. The Yankees would definitely deal #42 Joba for him, and he would yield more return in a trade than guys like Fielder or Cano.

    -15 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JI says:

      Why would the Giants do that? Not is Cabrera signed to a expensive LT deal, but he has underachieved in Detroit and his defensive value has evaporated.

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      • Nick says:

        Miguel Cabrera won the HR crown his first season in Detroit, has a 950 OPS in his second season, and he’s a plus defender at 1st. So, what the hell are you talking about?

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    • VolsnCards5 says:

      that would be a terrible trade for the giants in every way possible

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  10. CCW says:

    The Giants couldn’t afford to pay Cabrera’s salary, so no… Next person who ignores salary, which is the ENTIRE point of this exercise, should be banned.

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  11. Joe says:

    Where are the Yankees going to play Cabrera? They need pitching, not offense.

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  12. dan l says:

    NO Votto means this is a completely useless waste of time.

    -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CCW says:

      That’s a little strong, but I bet Votto’s on the list next year.

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    • Fuitant462 says:

      Agreed, Votto is the biggest mistake on this list. Or rather, off of it. Not going to go to that level of hyperbole, but it is a glaring mistake. Weaver shouldn’t be anywhere near here.

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  13. Dave Davidson says:

    Sandoval and Votto are pretty huge omissions. Undeserving players who made the list include Ryan Zimmerman, who is a good fielder but doesn’t have very much upside and has not improved since he entered the league.

    Plus Jered Weaver. There’s no way I’d trade Votto for someone with his inconsistency.

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    • JH says:

      Ryan Zimmerman, when healthy, has put up a 4-win season and a 5-win season, and has already racked up 3 WAR this year. Ha’s a great defensive 3B who’s 10-15 runs above average with the bat and signed to a long-term deal that slightly underpays him. He’s a guy with ~6.5WAR upside and ~3.5WAR downside (excluding injury). That makes him one of the most valuable trading properties in the game, hands down.

      Sandoval’s been beaten to death. If you really think he’ll hit .330 every year, then yeah he probably belonged towards the back end. The list of players with his frame who’ve sustained that high a batting average (i.e. guys who don’t pad their BA with infield hits/bunt singles) begins and ends with Tony Gwynn, who didn’t have near Sandoval’s power. Players just don’t repeat the kind of line he’s put up in 2009. If he proves to be a crazy, once-in-a-generation type exception who can sustain that batting average, I’m sure Dave will re-evaluate in a year or two. By then his arby years will be coming up, though.

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      • Dave Davidson says:

        RE: Ryan Zimmerman vs. Sandoval

        Zimmerman is a great player, don’t get me wrong. He and Sandoval are roughly even in value for this season overall. I just believe Sandoval has a better chance of improving in the next few years, whereas Zimmerman will continue to plateau. Pablo’s batting average is sustainable, much like Vlad Guerrero’s although with slightly less power. He had a huge 08 at every level, as well.

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      • JH says:

        I don’t know why a 24-year-old amazing athlete who lost most of a year of development to injury is any more likely to plateau than a fat 22-year-old with a BABIP that deviates wildly from the mean. Believing that Sandoval will improve in both power AND overall value means you think he can sustain his contact rate while increasing his power and suffer no hit whatsoever to his BABIP, all without losing mobility and slipping on the defensive end. Color me skeptical.

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      • Dave Davidson says:

        It’s great that Zimmerman is an amazing athlete. Jeff Francoeur was a great athlete as well. David Ortiz and Ryan Howard were not. The body type eventually becomes secondary to whether the player is actually improving or not. Sandoval has, Zimmerman has not improved.

        I wouldn’t count less than 2 months as most of the season, either. It’s a long time, but he wasn’t even out for half of the season.

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      • JH says:

        Zimmerman also has a consistently high level of performance when healthy. Francouer did not. He had one good late-season call-up.

        Zimmerman’s injury affected him most of the season. He only lost 2 months of time, but there’s very little doubt it sapped his production and forced him to compensate for it.

        He’s a 24-year-old who’s an above-average hitter with very good peripheral numbers. He’ll add power.

        It’s not that Sandoval’s huge. It’s that he’s huge at the age of 22. He could go plate for plate at the buffet with Ortiz today (Howard’s in significantly better shape. Just as heavy, nowhere near as doughy). That takes a huge toll on somebody’s body. The list of guys who come up hitting like Sandoval at 22 and also looking like him who sustain huge careers is very short. Zimmerman’s career path, on the other hand, is pretty well-defined and calls for marginal improvements over the next 3-5 years as he fills out his frame.

        Sandoval really can’t afford to become any bigger. Zimmerman can and will.

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  14. giantsrainman says:

    Grant,

    No the Giants would not trade (and should not trade) Pablo Sandoval for Miguel Cabrera. You are completely failing to see how the dollar cost of these players effects their trade value.

    Dan,

    You are dead wrong on Pablo’s ability to maintain his high BABIP. One of Pablo’s nicknames (one I usually don’t like) it appropraite here “Fat Itchiro”.

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  15. giantsrainman says:

    Opps, ment “Dave” not “Dan” and “Ichiro” not “Itchiro”.

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    • Joe says:

      So because his nickname is Fat Ichiro we assume he can hit like Ichiro and will maintain his BABIP?

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Viliphied says:

        No, but while his BABIP is (very) likely to regress some, there is no reason to think that it’s impossible for him to maintain it. And I would be completely stunned if it fell much below .330

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      • Choo says:

        In exactly the same way former Portland Trail Blazers center, Arvydas Sabonis, could play a cocaine-fueled Irish/Sicilian gangster in an Oscar-nominated Martin Scorsese blockbuster because his nickname was “Big Giant Ray Liotta.”

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  16. big baby says:

    sorry, the zomg AL is so much better lol NL shit is vastly overstated and a bit tired.

    the AL East is one thing. But major LOLZ at the rest of the AL trying to piggyback on those coattails.

    in all honesty, that joba comment was one of the stupidest things i’ve ever read.

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    • alskor says:

      Ill tell you what’s apparently “vastly inferior”… the analysis of NL fans.

      LOLZ…? Really…? Even if being used sarcastically… awful.

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    • Nathan says:

      Isn’t it funny how easy it is to tell who doesn’t get this site’s analysis?

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  17. Fantastic work Dave!

    The one player I take the most issue with is Jered Weaver. Personally, I’d like to see either Rick Porcello or Brett Anderson in that spot, and you’d have to think Anaheim would jump at the chance to get either one in a straight up deal for Weaver.

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  18. LD4387 says:

    Does anyone know what the AL vs NL record was in NL parks (without the DH in play)? Link?

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    • Kincaid says:

      Through 2008, the NL was 790-688 (.535) at home in interleague play. That’s pretty close to what home teams do in intraleague games since 1997, so without the DH, the leagues have played much more evenly.

      Per Retrosheet gamelogs

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      • Sky says:

        Generic home field advantage is .540, I believe. So shouldn’t the NL teams do better than play “.500″ in games without a DH? After all, a seemingly important member of the AL is stricken to the bench or forced to play the field over a better fielder. NL teams? They have their full complement on the field.

        All else being equal AL teams, outside of the DH, should be worse than NL teams because they need to spend money or other resources on a DH. The NL can spread those resources over pieces of the team that will play every day in NL-style games. It could be another talented reliever, an upgrade in the rotation, or a second baseman who can both hit AND field instead of just one. Whatever.

        This is like saying the Rockies hit like an average team when they’re on the road so they must have an average offense. No. Hitters tend to hit worse on the road, so the fact that they can still be average in away games is a sign they’re actually *above* average overall.

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  19. aaron says:

    love the list, definitely one of my favorite features each year.

    just gotta drop one more vote for YO.

    compare him with NL control group of Billingsley (28th), Johnson (30th) and Jiminez (33rd).

    he ranks (margin) 1st in career K/9 (+.51), 2nd in BB/9 (-.19) and 2nd (-.23) in FIP of the four man control. YO is also 23 compared to 24 for billingsley and 25 for johnson and jimenez.

    extra credit for being one of only three pitchers ever to win a 1-0 game while hitting a home run, striking out more than 10 and throwing at least seven frames. even if it was against the pirates.

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  20. Ender says:

    I’m still not buying it. There are a number of guys the Brewers would never think of trading Gallardo for that are on that list. Cano is a good example (remember defense counts).

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  21. Jacob Jackson says:

    “The AL is better than the NL, no doubt, but the AL won 54.5% of the games this year.
    Does that mean that the difference between the AL and the NL is the difference between a .545 and .455 team?
    NO. IT DOES NOT.”

    You might be right, Chris – the disparity might be even greater than that. Even if we excluded 2009, here are the interleague play results from the previous four seasons, 2005-2008:

    AL 576 wins, 432 losses in 1008 games. That’s a 57% winning percentage. When the AL plays the NL, they are approximately a 93-win team.

    Coupled with this, we also have scouting comments like Keith Law’s, in which he has mentioned several times that, in terms of talent and competitiveness, “the AL is still light-years ahead of the NL.”

    On a far less significant note, we could also point to the fact that the AL hasn’t lost to the NL in an All-Star game since 1997. It’s a small, far less significant sample, but it becomes harder to ignore as it grows to a dozen straight victories.

    There’s also the constant streams of anecdotal evidence in quotes from the players and statlines that players put up after switching leagues.

    Kyle Lohse, who derisively refers to the American League as “Arena Baseball,” was essentially kicked out of the AL and is now an effective NL starter. (http://www.athleticsnation.com/2008/6/27/559947/arena-baseball-the-americ)

    The reversal of fortunes (and perceptions?) for Raul Ibanez and Matt Holliday this season.

    Look at the numbers of Javier Vazquez, Brandon Phillips, Joel Piniero, Ted Lilly, Dan Haren, Derek Lowe, Orlando Hudson and more when they go to the NL – are all these guys suddenly finding a new true talent level?

    I realize anecdotes aren’t the strongest part of the argument. But trust me, you can’t come up with nearly as many, nor nearly as potent ones, to refute the uptick in performance on a switch from the AL to the NL, or the downturn in a switch from the NL to the AL.

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    • Chris says:

      Jacob the problem with looking at winning % during interleague is that it necessarily exaggerates the differences. as an analogy The dodgers are a .600 team for instance. However if they played the nationals (.400 team for the sake of this analogy) 100 times they would win far more, say 75, games than that. That doesn’t mean that the difference between the two is the difference between a .750 team and a .250 team.

      Likewise if the AL wins 55% of their games against the NL that’s the expected outcome when an 84 win team plays a 78 win team.

      A true 93 win team wins that many against (in a perfect world) .500 competition.

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  22. Jacob Jackson says:

    Thanks for producing such a great series, Dave. Very enjoyable, thought-provoking read all the way through.

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  23. baseballfan says:

    I don’t get why you think Sandoval can’t maintain that BABIP, or something close to it. BABIP makes up the majority of BA, BABIP and K rate that is. Sandoval has a reasonable K-rate. Why would he be less likely than any other high average guy to sustain his BA?

    It seems to me that you stat guys often hide behind BABIP, but it really doesn’t tell you all that much more than BA does. Yeah, not many guys hit .335 for extended periods of time, but that’s just pointing out something obvious and doesn’t address why a particular player can do so.

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    • big baby says:

      batters earn their BABIP. so i do agree.

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      • Drew says:

        Yeah, certain guys can will the ball away from gloves. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a guy like Sandoval, a true hitter’s hitter who won’t settle for a walk, figures out how to have a BABIP of over .500 one year. Maybe even 1.000 if he can will the ball really well.

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      • B says:

        Sounds like a lot of sarcasm from Drew. Either it’s sarcasm and Drew needs to realize offensive players do have some level of control on their BABIP, or it’s not sarcasm and it’s just ridiculous. :)

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    • B says:

      Well, baseballfan, you say, “I don’t get why you think Sandoval can’t maintain that BABIP”, but what about the opposite – what if I say, “I don’t get why you think Sandoval CAN maintain that BABIP”? The truth is there are huge fluctuations in BABIP in samples that small, so the hard part is figuring out if it’s just a fluke or if it’s for real. Most times it’s a fluke. For some really good players, it’s for real, and there’s no perfect way for figuring out which it is, so it’s a fair question to ask.

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      • Jon says:

        sorry if this sounds naive:
        I’ve been hearing about this guy’s hitting ability for two years now. He has impressed me in that he is exceeding expectations in the power dept, on top of meeting expectations in Batting Average.
        So, can’t you tell if BABIP is sustainable by watching the player, recognizing and hearing what Jon Miller (Does SF Giant’s radio) or the BBTN guys say about Sandoval’s talent? Doesn’t this kind of stuff affirm the stats as non-outliers?

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      • B says:

        I’m a Giants fan myself, so I’m more inclined to believe it’s real, but you have to realize that other players have looked good like this for a while and failed. Not that I think Francoeur is a good comparison for Sandoval, but just the fact that Frenchy is a terrible hitter despite initially looking good is the type of thing I’m talking about. Sometimes players just aren’t what they seem at first in small sample sizes.

        In the end what this means is there’s some level of uncertainty with what Sandoval will do going forward. We can argue over how much uncertainty there is, and nobody really knows what the right answer is, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s at least some. And I don’t see a problem with holding that uncertainty against Sandoval.

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      • Drew says:

        I don’t think that players “earn” their BABIP, but, yes, I do realize that some players are able to maintain high BABIPs because of their hitting style.

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    • brian says:

      The interesting thing about Sandoval’s BABIP is that in a way he’s pretty much sustained it for a long time now.

      In 2008 between A+ and AA, he hit .350 with a .368 BABIP over 485 PAs. Over the last two seasons with the Giants, he’s hit .333 with a .353 BABIP over 507 PAs. That’s nearly 1000 PAs now hitting .341 with a .360 BABIP.

      This isn’t to suggest that he’ll continue to hit like this–obviously the level of competition isn’t the same in A+/AA compared to MLB–but it does suggest that it’s possible.

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  24. BleacherSeats says:

    You left off Juan Pierre! Oh, my bad, I thought you were talking about worst trade candidates!

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  25. Brian Recca says:

    Absolutely loved the series Dave. You really put your heart and soul into all your work on this site and it shows.

    I would like to talk about Pablo Sandoval for a second now. I can understand why he isn’t on this list right now. He is a rather risky player to bet an entire future upon because there aren’t many players in the history of the game who has done what he has.
    I don’t believe he will be a .330 hitter for the rest of his career, but I do think he will be around a .315 hitter. Sure, his BABIP is very high, and I’m sure he will regress but you also must realize that he doesn’t strike out a ton (13.8% career) and he hits an above average amount of line drives (21.8% career). If we do the old 12% + LD Rate he would be a player with a .330 BABIP. Now we are dealing with a small sample size here, which is why I understand why he isn’t on the list.
    Maybe it’s my HOMERism working here, or maybe my love for panda’s but I think that Pablo Sandoval will be on this list next year.

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  26. As far as I can tell, I was the only one who mentioned Cain, at least in the thread I commented in, and I compared Cain with another NL pitcher, Billingsley, who was on your list. He’s better but not that much better than Cain, and he should be getting much more in salary through arbitration than Cain will through the contract he signed with the Giants.

    Cain and Billingsley are comparable by FIP, and Cain has a cheap contract while Billingsley, who has an additional year of control, but is also arbitration eligible, and arbitration victories of the past few years, like Chad Cordero and Oliver Perez, suggest that Billingsley will get contracts that cost a heck of a lot more than what Cain will get for his next two seasons. Plus, Billingsley pitches in a pitchers park while Cain is in a neutral park. (FYI: AT&T Park has not been a pitchers park for many years now, it has been neutral for a while now)

    Also, if you are going to use AL vs. NL as a defense of your leaving Cain off the list , then I don’t see how you can justify Billingsley above Weaver. Billingsley has performed better than Jered Weaver, but not only does he has a NL advantage, he also pitches in one of the most extreme pitchers park, while Weaver pitches in more of hitters environment (as seen by BP’s park factors in recent years). How does he rate over Weaver, given this?

    And if you discount (rightly I think) Sandoval’s half season of superlative play, then how does Kershaw warrant ranking up with Billingsley as his FIP and ERA in 2008 was not that great, in fact, higher than Cain, and only this season has he started performing great? Are you counting his MLE’s prior to that? If so, then why isn’t he above Billingsley, as he has another year and has pitched much better than Billingsley, based on his MLE’s and this season?

    As I noted, I totally agree with you on Sandoval. It is much too early to say that he is that good a hitter, particularly since his MLE’s were not that impressive last year and his strikeout rate is elevated this season. But when is the correct time for Giants fans to think that his performance is real?

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    • joe says:

      “(FYI: AT&T Park has not been a pitchers park for many years now, it has been neutral for a while now)”

      Blame San Fransisco’s failoffense for that, its still a pitchers park.

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  27. Colm says:

    If Pablo makes it onto this list in 2010, does his second chin get listed in 2011?

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  28. Frug says:

    Good series, but I would still like to hear why Yunel Escobar didn’t get at least an honorable mention.

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  29. Josh says:

    Unfortunately I don’t think they award points for being extremely cocky, because if they did I think Yunel would be near the top of this list. Escobar plays the game with the swagger of a HOFer when in reality he is just a good shortstop. That said he is a good player and I love watching him play. If he could find a bit more power he would definitely warrant consideration.

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  30. Mr. S says:

    Walter Silva?

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  31. Dave Davidson says:

    Another point in favor of Sandoval over most of the bottom of this list is versatility. He can play not just first and third, but catcher as well. He could be a top 5 catcher with no problem at all if traded to another team without Buster Posey waiting in the wings.

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    • alskor says:

      Wow… he can play three positions poorly.

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      • B says:

        “Wow… he can play three positions poorly.”

        He doesn’t seem to be playing 3B poorly this season, despite his lack of experience. 1B would be easier than 3B, so he should play it better than he does 3B now. C…well, C is a hard position to evaluate to begin with, he certainly lacks experience and hasn’t been working on it this season, but BA had good things to say about his D at the position in the minors, so I don’t know if your statement really is accurate at all.

        That said, obviously defense is a hard thing to argue and I don’t know if we can make any sound conclusions at this point…

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      • Dave Davidson says:

        Catcher was his best defensive position for most of his Minors career.

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      • alskor says:

        He’s average-ish at 3B but his range will decrease soon with all that weight. There’s no reason to believe he’ll be great at 1B b/c he’s okay now at 3B. It doesnt work that way. Flawed logic. He is not a great defensive catcher according to every scouting report Ive ever read. He’s huge (height wise too for a catcher, not just a fat thing) and isnt good crouching or blocking balls. He is, apparently, a decent receiver, decent arm and game calling skills. Further, with his built, one would imagine the beating of full years behind the plate would not be good for him – or for his bat.

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      • B says:

        Sandoval isn’t tall for a C, if that’s what you were saying. I don’t see why 3B wouldn’t translate to 1B, the skillset is similar, and it’s not even that he would be better per se as much as he would be relatively better, since his peers at 1B are worse than his peers at 3B defensively. He would mostly lose the use of his arm (which is good) over at 1B, though.

        “Further, with his built, one would imagine the beating of full years behind the plate would not be good for him – or for his bat.”

        It’s certainly true, but I think for the purposes of this series it’s irrelevant, his rookie contract will be expired by the time this is a problem.

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  32. Grant says:

    God, I’m really getting hammered on the Cabrera thing. Perhaps the Giants wouldn’t trade Sandoval for Cabrera, but perhaps they would, we don’t know how much budget they have for a deal like that or if they would be willing to take on salary at all. My point is that I think you are underrating guys with large contracts. Just a year and a half ago the Mets traded for Santana despite knowing that he would immediately require a massive contract. I’m not completely ignoring salary, I’m just saying that there are teams willing to take on massive ones for the right player.

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    • Sky says:

      Think of it this way. You could have Miguel Cabrera and a replacement level player, or you could have Pablo Sandoval (or another young guy) plus $20M per season. That $20 would buy you a 4 to 5 WAR player, aka an All-Star. So do you want Miggy and a scrub or Pablo and an All-Star?

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      • Grant says:

        That’s a good point, but you are assuming that the $20 million would be well spent on an all star, when in reality it is often squandered. Whereas with Cabrera you know you are getting a star. He’s also still quite young and often worth more than the $19 million he will be receiving on average over the course of his current contract.

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      • Wally says:

        Really Grant? Your defense is that teams often throw away $20M? Well sometimes you get an all-star for 400K, too. But generally, the more you have to spend on a player, the better the player you get.

        You have to take the contract into consideration. And you can’t wash away $20M, because some GMs are stupid and give that kind of Money to Barry Zito….

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      • Joe Twinsfan says:

        Wally you’re actually slightly understating Pujols’ greatness. Pujols’ rookie year was 2001, a year before Fangraphs has WAR values, and it wsa better than his 2002 season anyway. In 2002, Pujols posted a wOBA of .402, his lowest`of his career. Cabrera has exactly matched that once and beaten it in (only) one other year.

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      • Joe Twinsfan says:

        And that was actually supposed to be directed at NadavT’s comment @ 10:30 a little ways down. Oops.

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    • NadavT says:

      It’s not Dave who’s underrating guys with large contracts, it’s Major League Baseball. If clubs didn’t care about large contracts, then Manny Ramirez would’ve been snatched up as soon as the Sox put him on waivers a few years ago. Aside from the Yankees, all teams operate with a limited budget, and GMs who don’t make the most of their resources — by acquiring players who provide high value at low cost — will not succeed.

      The question isn’t whether a team like the Giants or the Mets would acquire a certain player. That obviously has a lot to do with the specific needs of a team and the amount of money they have available at a given time. Rather, the point of this exercise is to try to rank top players by their overall value in the MLB trade market. As Dave said in the beginning, many of these guys wouldn’t ever be traded by their teams, but if one of the higher-ranked players became available, their GMs would have a hard time saying no right away.

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    • brian says:

      “My point is that I think you are underrating guys with large contracts.”

      Have you been paying attention to the economy lately? Adding a $20M/year contract isn’t all that easy.

      But let’s attack this from a different angle. Say Dombrowski calls Sabean this winter and offers Cabrera for Sandoval straight up. There’s $126M left on Cabrera over six seasons compared to five years of a cost-controlled player. The Tigers would have to send money with Cabrera, or at least add a chip or two to offset the difference in price and team control, which significantly reduces the return on Cabrera, i.e. his trade value.

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      • Grant says:

        Yes because Brian Sabean so frequently shies away from huge contracts. I guess this is a different thing from what I originally imagined. What Dave did is list the values if he was the GM of all 32 teams, but what I have been doing is imagining actual GMs and every individual team with all of their individual needs and differences.

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  33. Bobby A says:

    I agree that Miguel Cabrera should probably be on this list. Compare him to Albert Pujols, who’s ranked 4th.

    He’s not the hitter that Pujols is, but he is a top hitter. He is somewhat young. He makes a lot of money, but so does Pujols. Over the next 6 years, Cabrera is getting paid $20 mil, $20 mil, $21 mil, $21 mil, $22 mil, and $22 mil. Pujols is scheduled to get $16 million in each of the next two years, then an even bigger pay day than Cabrera’s 4 yr / $86 million dollar commitment.

    Pujols is better than Cabrera, but considering the salary, if Pujols is #4 on the list, Cabrera should be somewhere.

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    • Wally says:

      But the jury is still out on whether or not Cabrera is even worth that $20+M/year salary. Pujols on the other hand, is probably worth more than any team is going to actually give him. Meaning, he’s worth more than $30M/year.

      Cabrera is a very good player, maybe a great player, but his contract pays him like he’s definately a great player. That’s not such a valuable trading chip. Especially with his body.

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    • NadavT says:

      Check out the WAR stat on each player’s fangraphs page. Aside from his rookie season, Pujols has not had a season with a WAR less than 7.7. Miguel Cabrera’s highest WAR was 6.7 in 2006. Since 2004, Pujols has been worth about three wins per season more than Cabrera, meaning that as a free agent he would be worth about $15 million more per year. Even if Pujols signs a contract that pays him $30 million per year, he’ll still be a more valuable asset than Cabrera.

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    • brian says:

      Pujols is already a better hitter than Cabrera, but Pujols’ superior defense and baserunning make the gap between the two even larger.

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  34. Brian Recca says:

    The Johan Santana situation is completely different than the one you are suggesting. The Mets play in, arguably, the largest market in the entire world. They are able to sign top performers to large contracts. The Giants can only take on one salary of that caliber and they wasted it on the great Barry Zito.

    Besides Pablo Sandoval has been a more valuable player this year than Miguel Cabrera (3.2 WAR to 2.8 WAR).

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    • Grant says:

      Cabrera’s track record indicates that he should be better in the future. Also, Cabrera plays in the AL, which, as shown before, is the tougher league to play in.

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      • Dave Davidson says:

        The AL is the tougher league to play in for pitchers, because of the difference between facing the DH and a pitcher. But there is little to no difference for hitters.

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      • Sky says:

        No, the AL is more difficult for hitters, because the pitching is better.

        To generalize, the hitters in the AL and NL are of the same caliber, but AL lineups are better because of the DH. The pitchers in the AL are better than the pitchers in the NL (for some reason) so hitters in the AL come out looking worse than they should relative to NL hitters in raw stats.

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  35. dan says:

    no mention of Andrew McCutchen? Granted, he’s only been in the majors for a short time, but he’s been productive, had a good minor league track record, is an outstanding athlete, and is under team control for the next 6 years.

    I guess most players on the list have more MLB service time under their belts, and thus, a bigger sample size, but if Wieters is #4 posting significantly worse numbers, then I’d think McCutchen should at least be an honorable mention.

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    • Chris says:

      Players of the Wieters mold are much more rare than that of McCutchen.

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      • dan says:

        i was trying to illustrate that clearly major league performance and contract value aren’t the only thing taken into consideration for this list, and that potential is obviously a large part of it if Wieters is ranked that high. I’m not comparing the two, and i’m especially not saying McCutchen is a top 10 in trade value. He’s not. He should at least be an honorable mention though.

        Also, Strasburg has no business being on this list, simply because there’s no minor league performance data or salary numbers to go on. why not rank Bryce Harper as well? its asinine.

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  36. Sean says:

    I give my bid for Gallardo to be on here–especially over Strasburg who has never played a pofesional inning and hasn’t even signed his contract yet

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  37. Jim says:

    The only really problem I had was you ranked a bunch of guys really high who had not done anything. If your gonna say 503 plate appearances isn’t Sandoval’s true talent level, why the heck is Stephen Strasburg even on the list. Same with Matt Wieters.

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  38. AHHH Real Baseball says:

    I think Kershaw makes a push for 1-5 this time next year.

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  39. DK says:

    Hunter Pence??!

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  40. ecp says:

    Looks to me like Zack Greinke was a bigger riser than Matt Kemp… Greinke wasn’t on your list last year either, and this year he’s at #11.

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  41. nick says:

    where the fuck is santana on this list you put halladay but not santana?

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    • Teej says:

      Santana doesn’t have a ton of trade value. He’s owed a lot of money for a long time. Halladay has been a better pitcher the past few years, and his contract would be easier to take on.

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  42. Nathan says:

    What about Chris Tillman, if Buchholz is on the list? I may be biased as an O’s fan, but Tillman’s got a better FIP at AAA (2.55 in 93 IP) than Buchholz has ever had at that level (his best ever at AAA is 3.12 in 38.2 IP in 2007), is nearly four years younger, and has no major league service time (obviously a big factor in these contract discussions). I’m not necessarily saying that Tillman should be on this list, but I think that if Buchholz is, then Tillman really ought to be.

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  43. prospecttube says:

    Big fan of Tillman as well, but I still think guys like Porcello, Anderson, Cahill, and Cain would have to be considered before Tillman. The Tillman vs Matusz argument will be a fund debate going forward, probably similar to the Cahill vs Anderson argument this past spring training.

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  44. Commodores says:

    Great stuff.

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  45. Ryan says:

    So does the fact that the NL has a 26-24 advantage on this list and an 8-2 advantage in the top 10 mean that the NL is closing the gap on the AL, since the list is mostly young talent?

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    • nick says:

      He’s probably hit his ceiling as a 4 WAR player, though if you were to do this by excess trade value, he’d certainly make the list as he’ll likely produce about 50-60M dollars of excess trade value over the course of the next 4 seasons. I just think they were mainly looking for guys that could greatly improve (tulo) or are already great which yunel falls under neither category. Certainly an extremely valuable trade piece though with the braves lack of SS depth there’s no chance he gets traded anytime soon

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  46. Efrim says:

    Was Yunel Escobar ever considered? He is controlled through 2013 and is still only 26 years old. Not terribly young, but not that old either. Thoughts?

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  47. Robert says:

    What about Mark Reynolds

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  48. Robert says:

    And Aaron Hill or Adam Lind?

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  49. nick says:

    I have a few problems with this list, first and foremost imo is the inclusion of Strasburg especially that high. There is no way I’d take him over 6 years of Tommy Hanson and Clay Buchholz right now yet there he is about 15 spots ahead. Service time and cost are not different enough to skew this and I’d say the greater potential of Strasburg is more than offset by the greater guarantee of success that Clay and Tommy are at this point in time. By extension I also wonder how you have Clay ahead of Hanson though since it’s only two spots I won’t whine about it. The other big problem for young pitchers is David Price, I’d argue that both Buchholz and Hanson have both passed him yet he’s ranked right wher Strasburg is as well. I’d also say Brett Anderson definitely deserves an honerable mention. My other major quip would be Ryan Zimmermann. How does a guy that just posted a 7.1 WAR rank so low here?

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  50. It would be really nice to have a link to the explanation for each player on the list. SEO has it’s place and all, but the player links in this list should be helpful based on the context of the post.

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  51. Jared says:

    Who are your top 10 as of today? Is Longoria still #1? Where is Mauer? Has Felix moved up?

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  52. I think it is interesting that despite ZiPS projection, Sandoval ended up with a .397 wOBA, which is basically the .400 that Dave said that Sandoval would not be able to maintain. I assume his comment meant that it would fall more towards the ZiPS .357 projection than this very minor drop. I wonder what Dave has to say about that?

    The problem with projections is that it (necessarily) has to rely on prior performances to estimate what is going to happen in the future. What it did not see was that Sandoval had not figured out how to hit for power previously, but finally it clicked in during June 2009, and he was able to maintain a higher rate of HR hitting that his prior performances would not have indicated.

    The system (nor outside analysts) also cannot understand Sandoval’s body type and find out via reading that despite his roly-poly stature, he is very athletic. It could not see Sandoval make a beautiful off-the-plate slide to touch home plate and avoid the tag with almost zero margin for error, then the following week see Sandoval somehow leap over the catcher’s mitt to score another run. He is the bumblebee of baseball players. They were plays that almost brought a tear to my eye, they were so beautiful. I’ve seen probably close to 1000 games, so this is not hyperbole, they were displays of great base running.

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  53. Mo's Changeup says:

    Why no Phil Hughes? I think he should at least take Chamberlain’s spot. Of the two young Yankee arms, he’s by far the most proven as of today. I know Joba has good periphs, but he’s simply hittable, there isn’t a yankee fan who won’t tell you Joba’s FIP isn’t deceiving. I think teams would value Hughes more then Joba

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  54. Ttj Trey says:

    Interesting. I log into FG and I see that this post from last summer has been dug up o accuse Dave Cam of stealing the idea from some espn reporter? Are you people serious? Perhaps the ideas are similar, but I personally know that DC wrote a similar column before last season so it’s not entirely out of the question that mr espn was inspired by dave. In fact I’m willing to wager my FanGraphs premium account that that’s exacty what happened. FanGraphs has your back, Dave. We truly are the last great sports site.

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  55. Jash says:

    Simmons has been doing this column for a decade. Give me your password.

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