#10 – Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia
Probably the best all-around player in baseball, Utley is a true superstar. He’s a +7 win player who does everything well. There are legitimately no flaws in his game. The only reason he’s even this low is his age, as he’ll be 34 when the remainder of the three years on his contract are up. Second baseman generally don’t last much past their mid-30s, and Utley’s body is showing some signs of wear and tear, even if it hasn’t affected his play on the field yet. Still, over those next three seasons, he’s going to be extremely valuable, signed to a deal that pays him about half of what he’s actually worth. He’s the real franchise player in Philadelphia.
#9 – Josh Johnson, SP, Florida
The Marlins ace has gone from a good arm to a true #1 starter, dominating with classic power stuff. If you haven’t seen him pitch, you’re missing out. The fastball has both velocity and movement, the slider is a knockout, and the change-up plays up because of how hard he throws it. He’s also a massive dude at 6’7 and 250 pounds, which is the kind of frame teams look for in frontline workhorses. The only blemish is his arm problems from 2007, but he has shown zero ill effects since coming back two years ago. He just signed a three year extension over the winter that pays him only $35 million over the next three years, a fraction of what he would command as a free agent. One of the game’s premier pitchers, the Marlins asking price for him would be almost unthinkable.
#8 – Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati
While people talk about what Adrian Gonzalez would command in a trade, imagine if he was just 26 years of age and had three more seasons before he became a free agent. You don’t have to wonder what that would look like – just look at Votto, who is basically the same player, just with a much better contract situation. He’s a beast of a hitter, a true middle-of-the-order slugger who can pound the baseball but doesn’t chase pitches out of the zone. Given the going rate of power hitters, Votto’s should be a huge bargain through 2013. I can’t imagine any scenario where the Reds would trade him at this point.
#7 – Jon Lester, SP, Boston
Lester squeaks in front of Johnson mostly due to his contract, which pays him just $38 million through 2014, but it’s not like he’s chopped liver on the mound either. The Red Sox lefty continues to establish himself as one of the game’s best left-handers, and it’s hard to question the work ethic or desire of a guy who has already beaten cancer. His stuff may not be as initially intimidating as a guy like Johnson’s, but he mixes his pitches well and everything moves. This allows him to pitch like more of a power guy even though he doesn’t light up the radar guns as often as others. The Red Sox ability to control one of the game’s elite pitchers at such a low cost gives them a huge advantage in the ultra-competitive AL East.
#6 – Seattle Mariners, Org, Seattle
Okay, fine, here’s the real #6.
#6 – Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington
If there’s one ranking from last year I regret, it’s having him 43rd on the list. That was just not a good call. This is where he belongs as one of the game’s best players, and a guy who every team in baseball would covet. Just 25 years of age, he’s already a +6 win player thanks to his combination of offensive and defensive skills, and he’s signed through 2013 for a grand total of just $35 million. He looks like a bargain at this rate, but he may not be done developing yet – the scary part about Zimmerman is that there’s room for more improvement. At this price, the current performance and ability to provide even more in the future makes Zimmerman one of the game’s best values.