Please click on the above link for an explanation of the methodology if you haven’t read it yet.
Moving on to the next five, we turn heavily towards to the AL East and look at three five-tool outfielders in the process.
Rank – Player – Position – Team – Past 3 Calendar Year WAR
#45 – Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore: +5.5 WAR
If we view Wieters through the lens of what he was supposed to be, he’s a massive disappointment and probably doesn’t deserve to be on this list at all. However, if we look at what Wieters actually is, he’s a 25-year-old switch-hitting catcher on pace for a +4 win season. He’s not what he was hyped up to be, but there’s still room for future growth and he’s a productive player at a premium position already. Catchers often develop later than other positions anyway, and with four more years of team control after 2011, the Orioles have time to be patient. He might not ever become what he was supposed to be, but given his current value and still-untapped potential, Wieters would command a pretty significant return if the Orioles decided to give him up.
#44 – Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: +13.8 WAR
Already a pretty good player, Granderson’s power spike has made him one of the best players in baseball this year, and with two years remaining on his contract after this season at a grand total of $23 million, he’s also one of the biggest bargains of any current All-Star. However, his inconsistent career and the fact that he’s now 30-years-old depress his value a bit, as it is tough to say exactly what a team would be getting going forward. Still, this kind of present value at such a low salary is remarkably valuable, and even if Granderson isn’t a long term asset, he makes up for it by what he can provide for the next 2 1/2 years.
#43 – Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston: +8.6 WAR
I didn’t set out to have these two next to each other, but it may be for the best that it worked out that way. Like Granderson, Ellsbury offers another 2 1/2 seasons of team control, and like Granderson, his up-and-down career makes it tough to peg exactly what he is. However, his monstrous first half to begin this year has re-established his value after a lost 2010 season, and adding power to an already broad base of skills makes him a guy that should be able to maintain a decent amount of his present value. He’ll get a pretty nice raise in arbitration this winter, but he’ll still be significantly underpaid, and given the dearth of quality offensive center fielders in baseball, Ellsbury is the kind of guy that most teams in baseball would love to have.
#42 – Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees: +14.7
While Cano’s raw stat line has regressed from last year, his performance relative to league average has actually held fairly steady – his 135 wRC+ from this year isn’t that far off his 142 mark from last year. He has established himself as a top-shelf player even in spite of some flaws in his game, and at $29 million in total salary in 2012 and 2013, he offers elite performance at non-elite rates. If you sense a theme in the last couple of write-ups, you’re on the right pace; this is about where I figured that good players with 2 1/2 years of team control at below market (but not minimum-ish) salaries should fall.
#41 – Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis – +8.6 WAR
One of the biggest fallers on this list from a year ago, Rasmus doesn’t have injury to blame for his slide from the #14 position on the 2010 list. Instead, he just hasn’t been that good since we last published the trade value series, hitting .255/.338/.423 over the past calendar year. Rasmus strikes out enough that he has to hit for a good amount of power to offset the whiffs, and when he’s not bashing the baseball with regularity, he’s more of a useful player than any kind of franchise cornerstone. There’s value in a 24-year-old center fielder with a career 109 wRC+, but Rasmus is not yet an elite player and he’s headed for arbitration at the end of the season. There’s still room for him to become a franchise player, but right now, his value is more potential than production.