As we approach the middle of the list, we end up with a group of young players who are mostly more about future value than present production. These are some of the very best players in the game, and this is about as high as a player can rank without establishing himself as a big leaguer.
Under Team Control Through 2019: $1M, $3M, $5M, $7M option, $9M option, $10M option
Moore hasn’t had a big breakthrough yet, as his command still comes and goes, making him more of a good pitcher than a great one. Perhaps most disconcerting is the velocity loss, as he’s sitting closer to 92 than the 94 he was at a year ago, though it hasn’t yet made him worse. Still, you’d like to see improvement in command in order to offset the normal degradation in stuff, and Moore’s command hasn’t yet improved.
But, that contract is still so friendly that Moore would be a highly coveted asset in trade. In a worst case scenario where he gets injured or falls apart, they’d be out just $13 million after three years, having paid the buyouts on all of his options. More likely, those are all exercised, and he ends up earning $35 million over the next six years.
Soon enough, though, Moore is going to have to start throwing strikes. As the stuff erodes, it will get harder and harder to compensate for all the walks, and the cheap years are going to start disappearing sooner than later. Moore is at a spot where he’s either going to become the ace that he was projected as, or he’s going to settle in as a quality starter on a solid contract, but not one that teams are willing to try and build around. Where he goes from here remains to be seen.
Under Team Control For Six Years: Pre-Arb, Arbitration
Despite not yet reaching the big leagues, Bogaerts is already one of the most coveted players in the game. With most prospects, you can point to some kind of glaring hole that would keep them from producing in the Majors, but Bogaerts doesn’t really have that. His defense at shortstop has improved, and it’s no longer a given he’ll have to move to third base. He has more present power than you’d expect from a 20-year-old middle infielder. He doesn’t chase pitches out of the strike zone, and will take a walk when it is offered to him. He’s hit at every level despite being much younger than his peers.
Major League teams covet cost controlled franchise players more than anything else, and that’s exactly what Bogerts projects to be, and fairly soon. He’s a prospect in the sense that he doesn’t have a big league track record yet, but it’s not clear that he needs much more time in the minors, and his combination of offensive skills and ability to play defense are likely to make him a quality player in the very near future, with MVP upside as he continues to develop.
The Red Sox aren’t going to trade him, but he’s the kind of chip that would open the door to acquiring the best players in the game. Expect Boston to keep him and make the foundation of their future instead.
Under Team Control For Six Years: Pre-Arb, Arbitration
While my own biases would probably lead to a preference of Bogaerts over Buxton, consensus within the prospect community and team officials is that Buxton is the #1 prospect in the sport, with his crazy athleticism making up for the fact that he’s a couple of years away from contributing at the big league level. His utter domination of the Midwest League showed that he was more advanced than expected after being drafted out of high school, and while he’s got a long ways to go, there’s no question that he has superstar potential.
There’s probably a bit more risk here than with Bogaerts, though. Not just in proximity to the big leagues, as more problems can become apparent as he rises through the system, but there’s a pretty long line of super toolsy center field prospects who never amounted to much. Center field is becoming something of an offensive position, and the offensive bar is higher at this up-the-middle spot than any of the other three. Having the physical skills to handle center field is great, but Buxton’s going to have to hit to live up to the hype, and projecting how well a guy like this will hit when he’s a 19-year-old in A-ball is difficult.
But, the upside is simply too high to ignore. If he hits, he’s in the conversation for best player in the game, and he hasn’t given any reason to think that he won’t hit, at least not yet. He’s a very high risk/high reward asset for this high on the list, but the reward is high enough to justify it.
|26||374||12.0 %||22.2 %||.301||.383||.514||.385||149||-4.6||1.9||3.4|
Under Team Control Through 2017: Pre-Arb, Arbitration
Kipnis’ next extra base hit will make his 2013 total equal to his 2012 total. The power surge has taken his game up a notch, and was really the missing ingredient in his overall package of skills. If he can keep driving the ball the way he has been, he’ll settle in as a perennial All-Star.
And yet, he’s two spots lower on this list than he was a year ago. How does a player fall on the trade value list while having a breakout year? This is the nature of depreciating years of team control. Since last year’s list, he’s lost one year of league minimum control, and so the Indians have essentially banked a huge premium in his performance over the last year. That’s value that was transferred from Kipnis to the team, and can’t be acquired by another team. Even as players improve, their trade value diminishes as they march closer towards free agency.
Really, just holding his ground is a pretty big accomplishment, as most of the players around him on last year’s list found themselves much lower or off the list entirely this year. If the Indians would have been able to lock him up over the winter, taking advantage of his poor second half to get him at a discount, he might have ended up much higher.
He’s still a highly valuable player, of course, and is one of the main reasons the Indians are hanging around in the playoff race. He’s just going to cost a lot more to lock up now than he would have a few months ago.
|20||155||7.7 %||19.4 %||.235||.309||.346||.293||76||-1.7||-1.1||-0.2|
Under Team Control Through 2019: Pre-Arb, Arbitration
Because of the instant success from some other recent prospects, it seems like Profar is already being treated as a disappointment for posting a 74 wRC+ in his first 172 plate appearances. Reminder: he’s 20, and a shortstop. It is unusual for a player this age to step right in and be a good big leaguer right away. We’ve been spoiled by Trout, Harper, and Machado. What they’re doing is historically unique. Not playing at that level before you can drink does not make you a bust.
Now, there’s an argument to be made that Profar’s more of a high floor prospect than a super high ceiling guy. In some ways, he’s kind of exactly the opposite of what we expect a 20-year-old infielder to look like. He’s a disciplined hitter who controls the strike zone pretty well, but probably isn’t going to turn into a serious power bat. He’s more of a walks-and-doubles prospect than a dingers guy, but because he can play shortstop, walks-and-doubles are more acceptable for his position.
I know some teams aren’t in love with him due to the lack of superstar upside, but Profar still projects as a quality two way player, and with some patience, he could be one of the game’s better shortstops within the next few years. Of course, the enduring question is whether that future will come in Texas, as they gave Elvis Andrus a lot of money to hold down the fort in Arlington for the foreseeable future.
Because of that, Profar may have more value to other teams than he does the Rangers, and it wouldn’t be terribly shocking to see him get traded this winter. But Texas won’t let him go cheap. He’s still a terrific young talent, and one of the most valuable trade chips in the sport.