#15 – David Wright, 3B, New York
It has been an interesting few years for Wright. After being a complete hitter in 2008, he lost his power and started striking out a ton last year. This year, he has regained his power but is still striking out at a high rate. The overall package is remains good, and Wright is in the argument for best third baseman in baseball, but the inconsistency in skills has to make you pause. In terms of his contract, he’s signed through 2013 for a total of $45 million. Given that those three years are his age 28-30 seasons, his salaries are team friendly compared to what Wright would receive on the open market.
#14 – Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis
The Cardinals star young outfielder has had a breakthrough sophomore season by sacrificing contact in order to generate a lot more power. While his strikeouts are way up, Rasmus has already matched last season’s home run total and has shown the ability to drive the baseball consistently. At just 23, he already provides a lot of offense for a center fielder, though his current performance is likely above his actual abilities – its almost impossible to hit .280 while striking out so frequently. Still, even if he settles in as more of a .260 hitter, his power and patience will make him a weapon, and the Cardinals will get to enjoy his production for at least four more years.
#13 – Robinson Cano, 2B, New York
At 27 years of age, Cano is well on his way to having the best year of his career. Always a high contact guy, he has continued to develop power while also improving his defense, and has turned himself into one of the best second baseman in the game as a result. The Yankees own his rights through 2013, and they are only on the hook for $39 million over the next three seasons. While that is decent money, it’s far below what he’s actually worth, and as a player headed into his prime years at an up-the-middle position, Cano provides significant value above and beyond what he costs.
#12 – Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee
This one was tough for me. Braun was a monster in his rookie 2007 season, but he has never been able to repeat those kinds of power numbers. In fact, his isolated slugging has declined in each of the four years he has been in the big leagues, moving in tandem with his strikeout rate, which has also fallen each year. Braun has apparently made the opposite choice that Rasmus made, and unfortunately, it hasn’t helped Braun. The skills are still there for him to be a star, but Braun is going the wrong way. That said, his contract is still far below his value, as he is locked up through 2015 for a grand total of $40 million. He might not be as good a player as he was his rookie year, but given how little money he is scheduled to make in his prime, Braun is still a bargain. And, who knows, perhaps he’ll realize sooner than later that he was better off as a monster slugger and live with the strikeouts. The skills are still there.
#11 – Justin Upton, OF, Arizona
Another tough one. Upton is not having a great year, as his power is down and his strikeouts are up over last year’s performance, but we have to keep in mind Upton’s youth. He doesn’t turn 23 for another month and has already accumulated 57 career home runs. Guys who are this good and this young almost always develop into superstars. Unless Upton screws it up, he can look forward to greatness ahead of him, and the Diamondbacks have already locked him up through 2015 for a total of $50 million. He’s not a star yet, but not only could he become one, he could be the best player in baseball. At this price, his upside would make every team in baseball get in on the bidding if he became available.