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  1. It’s Heyward… Anyone else and you’re just thinking too hard.

    Comment by GZ — January 18, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  2. So, I’m guessing Mauer or Longoria will be #1.

    Comment by Brian — January 18, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

  3. pujols, longo, utley

    Comment by Friedman — January 18, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

  4. Part 1, wherein Jonah learns the horrors of leaving tags open

    Comment by Kevin — January 18, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  5. Pujols, Longoria, and Hanley Ramirez, maybe? Catchers age quite poorly, so Mauer isn’t a great bet for a long career.

    Comment by Drew — January 18, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

  6. I can’t see taking Utley over Cano (age, health) so presumably Utley is out.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t take Mauer either (size for position, HR totals)

    Pujols, Hanley, Longoria?

    Comment by John Franco — January 18, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

  7. It’s gotta be Heyward, if you get the player for the rest of his career. Does anyone actually doubt that he’s going to be a superstar? To put up a 5 WAR season playing through injury as a 20 year old is ridiculous. Even if he doesn’t improve (which is a crazy suggestion in and of itself), he’ll still probably accumulate more WAR than anyone else currently in the majors from this point forward due solely to his age.

    Comment by bsally — January 18, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  8. Why Longoria? Obviously, he’s amazing, but a fair chunk of his current value is tied up in his insane, below-market contract. In this scenario, that goes out the window.

    Comment by Anon21 — January 18, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

  9. Chase Utley’s 32 and is coming off a season when he missed close to 50 games. No chance he’s in the top 3.

    Comment by Ben — January 18, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

  10. Hanley is not a good defender, which makes me believe he will not be included in the top three.

    Carl Crawford, anyone?

    Comment by ballgame — January 18, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

  11. Yeah… Pujols and Utley is just silly. When Heyward was in the maternity ward, Utley was learning how to chase tail in middle school. People don’t realize the age difference.

    Comment by GZ — January 18, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  12. Hanley, Longoria, and… Mauer? Shin-Soo Choo?

    I also think it should be Jason Heyward.

    Comment by Bobby A. — January 18, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  13. His contract is part of what makes him valuable, but so is the fact that he’s a 25-year-old infielder who plays great defense, has never gone on the DL, and is as likely as anyone in the game not named Albert to put up 7 WAR next season. He’s guaranteed to be one of the final three.

    Comment by Ben — January 18, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

  14. Assuming that the GMs driving this feeding frenzy realize, as does a lot of the sabermetric community, that advanced defensive metrics are not nearly as accurate or precise as they pretend to be, I don’t think Longoria is the man. Certainly top 10, probably top 5, but a player with a lot of glove value is just subject to more uncertainty because of the limited tools available to compare and project.

    Comment by Anon21 — January 18, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  15. I gotta go with Andrew McCutchen. Best years ahead of him, pretty darn good right now.

    Comment by evanbrunell — January 18, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  16. exactly my thought.

    Comment by backtothesky — January 18, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  17. There’s a good argument for Heyward, especially in terms of total WAR from this point forward. But that’s not all that matters – 5 WAR per season for 15 seasons wouldn’t be as valuable as, say 7.5 WAR per season for 10 years. There’s still some risk that Heyward doesn’t turn into a superstar, and I don’t think it would be shocking to seem him regress next year. I’m guessing you can’t say that about anyone in the top 3.

    Comment by jordan — January 18, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  18. I’m going to join in the “shoulda been Heyward” camp. I don’t care if he’s only had one year, the skills he’s shown in that one (not-even-quite-full year) were incredible for a 20-year-old. But I can understand the arguments for Hanley or Longoria over him. I can’t understand Mauer or Pujols over him at all, though.

    Comment by CajoleJuice — January 18, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

  19. 25 qualified guys beat his .376 wOBA last year. And while there is no question that he is a great defender, just how great is subject to a lot of uncertainty, because our metrics kind of suck.

    Comment by Anon21 — January 18, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  20. Crawford’s almost 30, has one season over 6 WAR, has a BB rate well below league average, and his career wOBA is .347.
    Crawford is not even top 10, maybe not even top 20.

    Comment by JohnnyK — January 18, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  21. Longoria, Heyward, McCutchen. McCutchen is an average CF who is 24, and does everything above average. He is as sure of a bet as there is.

    Also, if you allowed pitchers, where do you think they would fall? I guess around #7 or so someone would draft Felix Hernandez.

    Comment by Look — January 18, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  22. Braun!

    Comment by Homerj24 — January 18, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  23. Well you gotta think – who can you get 10+ years of elite production out of? Youth is a factor here. That said, I think that barring some unexpected injury Pujols could still be playing 150 games with .300/.400/.500 in ten years.

    But certainly a player like Evan Longoria or Jason Heyward, both of whom are certain to win MVP someday. Joe Mauer has already won several batting titles and an MVP so we know what he can do, but how long can he do it? The catching position does wear on a player; He may not be the same kind of player in a matter of years.

    Why no love for A-Gon? If he can hit that well in Petco, you know that guy’s bona fide.

    Ultimately, I don’t think anyone comes close to Pujols in terms of value. He has a proven record of health and consistency and there’s no reason to believe so far that he can’t keep producing into his late thirties.

    Comment by Jerome S. — January 18, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  24. Utley is far superior on defense and is, like Cano, helped by a hitter friendly home park. Utley also does not have a long track record of injury and the one last year is rare. I think the defense alone gives him benefit of the doubt here.

    Comment by Ryan H — January 18, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

  25. Hanley >>>> Crawford

    Comment by Bill — January 18, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

  26. I would go with Heyward, but yes I agree with some people here that one year is just too small of a sample size to make a solid judgement. See Justin Upton.

    How about Miguel Cabrera? He’s 90% of Albert Pujols, but 3 years younger.

    Also Miguel has been playing at an all-star level for 7 FREAKING YEARS already. He’s a superstar with almost no risk of skills decline just entering his prime. No player besides Pujols offers that kind of track record and skill set.

    Comment by Scott — January 18, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

  27. Sorry, not close.

    Comment by Noxage — January 18, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  28. Love Cutch, but he doesn’t even have one year of success. I think He’ll be great, though.

    Comment by Bill — January 18, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

  29. Personally I would take Cabrera.

    Sure he doesnt play a premium position, but is there a more consistent middle-of-the-order presence in the game?

    Cabrera brings less question marks than any player listed or not listed.

    He would almost guarantee your team a top #4 hitter for the next 10 years.

    Almost every other player I can think of has question marks.

    Is Longoria’s defense real??? Is Mauer going to stay behind the plate where is 10hr per season plays??? Can Heyward handle superstardom??? Can so and so stay healthy???

    Comment by Jeff — January 18, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  30. “Our top dog has to be pretty damn close to perfect.”

    If this statement excludes Miguel Cabrera, I don’t see how anyone other than Albert Pujols will be chosen as #1, regardless of his age.

    Comment by daft — January 18, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

  31. I would probably name the same three, but in this order…
    1. Longoria, 2. Pujols, 3. Ramirez

    Comment by Xeifrank — January 18, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  32. On second thought, I think Pujols instead of McCutch.

    Comment by Look — January 18, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  33. Heyward is one of the top 2. He might flame out, but a median projection for him for the period from 5-10 years from now would be yearly MVP candidate. The number of players who have significant power and tremendous strike zone judgment at age 20-21 is pretty small, and they tend to arrive in Cooperstown more than 1/2 the time.

    Comment by Mike Green — January 18, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  34. Yeah, I’d love to defend Mauer, but I’m not sure I can given the parameters and the fact of catching. If it was value over the next 8 years, maybe (although then it’s hard to fight off Pujols), but Heyward is a pretty good bet for being an elite player for the next 15 years or so. I think even someone like Longoria or Hanley loses a lot on the age argument with Heyward. Take the youngest, healthiest sure thing out there. That’s Heyward, right?

    Comment by Luke in MN — January 18, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

  35. I think Longo is the kind of defender whose reputation meets the UZR rating given to him. This experiment is actually wrong in some sense, because it largely depends on the salary of the player. Say Pujols will get 30mil in this experiment, then he is not the one I will go after. A player whose ability exceeds the convention price tag is THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in this experiment. You know who I come up with? Daric Barton. Ben Zobrist. Brian McCann(just as good as Mauer).Colby Rasmus.All this secret 3~5 wins player are the one you should go after.

    Comment by Kampfer — January 18, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

  36. @Kampfer: I should have noted that condition too. We’re assuming that every single player in MLB is magically valued exactly right by his future team.

    Comment by Jonah Keri — January 18, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

  37. Guys, its clearly the premier five-tool, NAY all-tool, OF in baseball. None other than Alexis Rios.

    Comment by Big Jgke — January 18, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  38. Your top 3 is obviously:

    Pujols > Hanley > Longo

    Though you may knock Pujols down a peg or two because of age. Debatable.

    My list would be Longo > Tulo > Pujols

    Comment by Telo — January 18, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  39. I am sympathetic to the Heyward argument, but I do think people here are taking the good out of our small sample of his major league play and ignoring the bad. To wit: injury. We have no way of knowing, of course, but the fact that he did spend about a month with a seriously performance-sapping injury and also missed 20 games suggests that his outsize abilities could be constrained by health in the years to come. The difficulty, again, is just that we don’t have enough information to say one way or the other.

    Comment by Anon21 — January 18, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  40. No, most valuable means worth the most, irrelevant of actual cost.

    E Long is a sinch for best contract, and trade chip, but not for most valuable player.

    Comment by joeiq — January 18, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  41. 1. Hanley as a 2B
    2. Evan Longoria
    3. Shin-Soo Choo

    Comment by Matty Brown — January 18, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  42. I think it’s pretty obvious that Pujols is going to be #1.

    “If you’re a first baseman and you want to make this list, you need to be nearly historically great.”

    “Our top dog has to be pretty damn close to perfect.”

    “But our ideal player has to have both many great years ahead and more than one year of success in the majors to convince us he’s a blue-chip talent.”

    If that’s not Pujols, I don’t know who else it could be.

    As for the other two, I think it’s gotta be Longoria and Hanley.

    Personally, I think Pujols is #1, but I agree that Hayward has to be in the top 3.

    Comment by BCK — January 18, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  43. Still has to be Pujols, right? Pujols, Hanley, Heyward.

    Comment by Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO — January 18, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  44. how can heyward not be in the top 3? 5 win year at age 20? even if he’s “only” a 4 WAR/year player for the rest of his career that’s likely more total WAR than pujols/hanley will over the rest of their careers…

    Comment by Jono411 — January 18, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

  45. I would take Zimmerman over Longoria,

    Comment by Mafrth77 — January 18, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  46. Miggy is great but while the knocks on guys like Hamilton, Mauer, Heyward, and Longoria involve uncertainty, Cabrera’s shortcomings are absolutely certain. Those being universally recognized as an average defender at best and playing a non-premium position. As the article said, a first baseman would need to be historically great to be enough above his peers to warrant top 3 consideration and none of the fantastic 1B’s other than Pujols separates themselves from the pack. How much difference is there between guys like A-Gon, Votto, Cabrera, Texiera, Fielder, Youkilis… over the last 4 years, the best is Cabrera at 21 WAR and the worst is Votto at 16 WAR (he’s only played 3 seasons). Everyone else is in the 19-20 WAR range.

    The players who really separate themselves from the pack (by position are):
    C – Mauer and maybe McCann
    1B – Pujols
    2B – Utley, but he is getting old
    3B – Longoria and Zimmerman
    SS – Hanley Ramirez
    RF – none
    CF – Hamilton
    LF – Holliday/Crawford

    of these players, the ones with the greatest separation from their peers over the past 3 years are Pujols +9 WAR, Mauer +4 over McCann but +10 over everyone else, and Hanley/Utley are + 6. Going by this crude method of evalution, the most surplus value generated by a top pick over the next 5 years would likely come from Pujols, Hanley, or Mauer. I realize that this neglects the top new stars like Heyward, Posey, Santana…etc but I don’t feel comfortable with the sample size issues.

    Comment by Larry — January 18, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

  47. utley? people are really suggesting Chase Utley?

    Comment by matt — January 18, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

  48. I’d have Pujols or Heyward. Pujols has been the man for a decade now and is considered to be about as automatic as anyone in MLB, but Heyward has the potential to be a stud, 5-10 WAR player for the next 10-15 years. I think I take Heyward, but it is close.

    Comment by Clayton H — January 18, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

  49. Fangraphs should sponsor a steel cage match between Longoria and Zimmerman. The proceeds can go to charity. The winner gets automatically becomes more valued. The loser is sent home in shame and can no longer be referenced in any “it’s close between these two” articles.

    Comment by JCA — January 18, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

  50. The problem is that isn’t not for 5 years, it’s for the remainder of their career.

    Comment by bsally — January 18, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

  51. I’d agree, but there is not one person in baseball who’s a lock to average 7.5 WAR over the next ten years. Maybe if we could travel back in time to 2004 and take that Pujols, but he’s 31 years old now. I’d take Jason Heyward’s 21-30 season over Pujols’ 31-40 seasons without any regrets. The other two I’d take are probably Longoria and Han-Ram, which is where everyone else is, but I don’t see either guy as a lock for a 7.5 WAR average over the next several years. Ramirez, in large part because of his bad defense, has only averaged 6 WAR/year to date.

    Longoria is probably as close to a sure thing along those as you’ll get, and he’s still young enough that his best years are ahead of him, even though he’s already a 7 WAR player. It’s hard for me to justify taking two other players over Heyward right now, though.

    Comment by Bronnt — January 18, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

  52. I get that, but something like that is almost impossible to predict. 5 yrs is much easier and even 10 yrs is reasonable. However, predicting anything beyond that is almost all guesswork. No one knows who will have produced the most 15 yrs from now.

    Comment by Larry — January 18, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  53. I’m a big Utley fan but for this, I disagree. First, the home park is irrelevant here according to the premise. Second, Utley’s no spring chicken. He’s 4 years older than Cano and while he’ll still probably be very good for a while it’s pretty likely his best years are behind him.

    Comment by don — January 18, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

  54. Pujols, Hanley, Cabrera.
    Tulowitzki is a close 4th.

    Comment by gnomez — January 18, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  55. Well, that’s why I’d go with the guy who’s a lock to still be around and producing at a high level in 15 years, which would be Heyward.

    Comment by bsally — January 18, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

  56. “…has never gone to the DL…”

    J.J Putz pegged him and fractured his wrist on Aug. 7th 2008. He was on the DL from August 11th till September 13th.

    And he missed over a week of games at the end of last season. Of course it was a mix between a quad injury and resting him for the post season, the injury was still there.

    Although it may seem like I’m arguing against Longoria being the MVP of baseball. He is valuable player regardless of his contract status and is improving in nearly every single statistic that matters for a position player. I know park factors are not included in the discussion, but he is a better hitter at home (.397 wOBA vs .357 in ’10) despite playing in a neutral park (more pitcher friendly, if you ask me)

    Comment by Matt0611 — January 18, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  57. Oh, and his defense speaks for itself despite playing on turf, which I can’t quite say really makes a great difference. But I thought it could be worth a mention when comparing him to other great current defensive players.

    Comment by Matt0611 — January 18, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  58. Home wOBA – .354
    Road wOBA – .358

    Those are the career home road splits for Cano… can folks stop with the ridiculous strawman about the home park for Cano? (His ISO is also about the same)

    Comment by Joe — January 18, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

  59. Tulo and Heyward should be getting some more love, IMO.

    Pujols, Hanley, Longoria have to be the choices.

    Whatever team comes away with Zimmerman and Cabrera will be pretty happy as well

    Comment by filihok — January 18, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  60. I see Pujols slightly ahead of Heyward in the next 10 years (that’s being conservative on Heyward), but after that pujols will be 41 and Heyward will only be freaking 30! It’s not even close, Heyward is my choice

    Comment by chel — January 18, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

  61. Best value per dollar paid in 2011 (outside of those ineligible for arb)- I say Choo with that ~$4MM deal.

    Bets overall player- by any and all metrics of total performance the dicussion has to begin and end with Pujols. Whether your are charting the last 8 years, last 5 years, last 2 years, or the next 2 to 3 years, he is the absolute most valuable player in baseball on a day to day basis.

    Best future value if we are talking 5 years from now- Heyward has all the makings of an absolute stud. He could put up 7 WARs in his sleep if he can stay off of the DL.

    Comment by nutz — January 18, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

  62. kinda reminds me of JD Drew that way

    Comment by phoenix — January 18, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

  63. So it’s really, who would fetch the biggest contact (AAV?) given said conditions, right?

    Comment by futant462 — January 18, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

  64. It is too small of a sample size to be sure, but in my opinion, the risk is worth the reward with Heyward. I sure wouldn’t mind Ryan Zimmerman either.

    Comment by matt — January 18, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

  65. “Can Heyward handle superstardom???”

    Like, what? A guy who has been groomed his entire life to do what he’s doing now won’t be able to handle the mythical pressure?

    Comment by BlackOps — January 18, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

  66. longoria > choo. longoria made $950k last year.

    Comment by matt — January 18, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

  67. the problem i see with heyward, as stated in the article, is his lack of service time. he has played one year. a great year with great peripherals that tend to both age well and be fairly predictive. but again, it’s only one year. he is only 20 which means that he may improve, flame out or just stay in the almost stardom state but never getting to the next level. he has only had one year (in which he did get injured) so we don’t have an accurate picture of how healthy he can be (that’s a skill too). basically, i think he has a good chance of being the best player over the next 15 years, but i don’t have enough information or track record to be anything more than 50% sure. and i am 99% sure that, barring an unforseeable super injury, pujols will be the most valuable player in baseball for the next 5. i am about 80% sure he will be the most valuable for the next 10 years. i need to see more of heyward to be sold on him yet.

    Comment by phoenix — January 18, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  68. If the Yankees’ refusal to move Derek Jeter to another position is any indication, then my guess is that Robinson Cano is staying at 2B, no matter how bad he is at the position.

    Comment by Robbie G. — January 18, 2011 @ 8:27 pm

  69. Robinson Cano is a great defensive 2B..why would the Yankees moce him anywhere?

    Comment by Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO — January 18, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  70. Pujols, Heyward, longo

    Comment by Connor — January 18, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

  71. Hanley’s ability to stay at SS is too big of a question mark. He might be 3, but no higher.

    Pujols is great, obviously, but come on guys, he just doesn’t have the years left. At some point he will start to decline. It might be 33 or 37, but he’s going to start getting old, accumulating injuries, and losing skill sooner than later.

    Longoria is the clear number one. While defensive metrics are somewhat suspect, remember they are suspect in both the positive and negative directions and that this is true for ALL players. Thus its no more of knock on Longoria, or other defensive-wizes, then anyone else. So while Longoria’s career UZR/150 is ~17 it might just as well be 22 as it is 12. Just like Pujols might be 2.5 or 12.5, or HanRam -14 or -4. Plus, its not like UZR is the only information here. Longoria is a great defender by all metrics, including scouting reports and fan perceptions. There is very little doubt this guy’s defense is excellent.

    He’s also about 6 years younger than Pujols. As good as Pujols is, that’s just too much time. Longoria is also 2 years younger than HanRam. This could amount to something like 30 WAR that Pujols would have to make up for over the roughly 10 years he has left. Meaning Pujols might need an extra 3 WAR over Longoria in the equivalent part of their careers. I just can’t see how that would be even a remotely reasonable prediction. For Hanley it might only be something like 12 WAR, but that’s still almost 1 WAR per season, no small task at all.

    Too me this is between Longoria and Heyward, and I can’t decide which. Heyward might be more risky, but he has HUGE upside relative to all these guys. An extra 4 years even over Longoria(!), that’s pretty hard to ignore even in the face of such small sample size (if we must ignore how he crushed every level of minors while being at least 2-3 years younger than most guys). And this probably isn’t 4 years of seasoning where he’s accumulating just 3 WAR, but instead its probably more like 6+ WAR.

    Comment by Wally — January 18, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  72. Yeah, it’s not as if Utley has been one of the best players in MLB or something. Obviously, people suggesting that are not thinking long-term when they suggest Utley, but it’s not as if he’s not a great player.

    Comment by David — January 18, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  73. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Kemp. Last year didn’t help his cause, but he deserves to be in the conversation.

    Comment by Jeff — January 18, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

  74. The Yankees have been building their great teams from the mid-90s forward with Jeter at SS, Williams in CF and Posada at C, and recently (compared to the others) added in Cano at 2B to their most recent World Series team. All excellent offensive players, but ones that people have questioned if perhaps they should moved elsewhere. Williams was a good defensive player earlier in his career, and Cano’s defensive stats have been all over the place, from the plus, to the negative, to the break even, all over the span of a few years. It’s to such a degree that the stats probably should be questioned.

    Regardless, the Yankees have valued putting top offensive players, even ones with marginal defensive skills, up the middle, the very positions that historically people have said should have strong defensive players. Guess again. They’re about to do it again with Jesus Montero.

    So, no, they have no intention of moving Cano off 2B. Even if we are to believe the advanced defensive stats, he’s still break even with the glove, while providing offense. He’s not moving.

    Comment by MikeD — January 18, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  75. Oh, and AGon, but he’s a 28 y/o 1st baseman.

    Comment by Jeff — January 18, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

  76. so…
    who else is there, other than albert?

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  77. LOLNYS?

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

  78. ah, the ever-forgotten shin-soo choo, definitely one of the best, but i dont think he’s even better than two of his own teammates (healthy sizemore and carlos santana)

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  79. i think heyward’s what, .396? OBP in 2010 should answer your question about if he can handle it, not to mention his epic opening day dinger

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  80. hanley as SS is inferior to tulo, but he would certainly be the best for 2nd given utley’s age and injury last season

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

  81. tulo’s h/r splits have improved every season, something conveniently omitted by everyone trying to denounce him as a LOLCOORZ

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

  82. Barry Bonds.

    Comment by R M — January 18, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

  83. the one name absent from every single comment here is carlos santana, why is he not in the mix, certainly given hanley’s turrible defense and declining(?) bat someone like santana should overtake him

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  84. Bryce Harper

    Comment by Scott Boras — January 18, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  85. I think the slight gamble on Heyward would be the right call. You can point to his thumb injury, and a sore back that he had in the fall league as a question mark, but in reality, you can’t label him as an injury risk and ignore the risk factor for any other player. Pujols has had a few injury concerns over the years, and is just as likely, if not more likely, to be injured due to his age and the wear and tear on his body.

    Heyward was a thumb injury away from posting incredible numbers as a 20 year old rookie. His numbers outside that month+ that he played through a tear in his thumb are incredible for a player of his age.

    I truly believe that if this question is asked after this coming 2011 season, it will be Heyward in a landslide.

    I hope my homerism isn’t showing too much.

    Comment by Maverick — January 18, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

  86. He doesn’t even have one year of success?!? Holy smokes. I’m not sure how you define successful but apparently only, like, six people on the planet earth will ever achieve it.

    (And Chuck Norris is three of ’em.)

    Comment by Jason B — January 18, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  87. “is there a more consistent middle-of-the-order presence in the game?”

    Jeff, meet Al Pujols. Al, Jeff.

    Comment by Jason B — January 18, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  88. I’m surprised Braun’s name isn’t showing up more, FWIW. Not saying he’s a definite top three, but should be in the discussion at least.

    Comment by Jason B — January 18, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

  89. In fact, I think I might go Hanley, Longoria, and Braun in some order. Pujols is obviously other-worldly but could decline or collapse in 3-5. We just don’t know once they get beyond thirty, particularly with nagging injuries that may worsen over time (granted, haven’t really slowed him much thus far).

    Comment by Replying to self — January 18, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

  90. Regardless of Jonah’s ultimate answer, I really like the premise of this article. Thought-provoking, generates a lot of discussion amongst the users, without being needlessly combative (that’s the usual tack to generate interest and debate – just take some off-the-wall position; i.e., the “I’m pretty sure Paul Assenmacher was the best pitcher ever!” gambit).

    Comment by Jason B — January 18, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

  91. apparently 6.6 WAR in your first two seasons isnt successful enough for you?

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  92. dude assenmacher’s FIP didnt match up with his xFIP and ERA every year of his career, therefore it was all luck and he’s not that good

    Comment by fredsbank — January 18, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

  93. To be fair though, the thumb injury that rendered him useless for over a month and then DL’d him was just a freak incident, sliding headfirst and jamming his thumb into the bag while looking behind him. Could happen to anyway, and it bothered him the rest of the year and he still put up a .303, .411, .460 line in the second half.

    Aside from that and McLouth not being able to call a ball in the outfield, causing a collision……he was healthy.

    But I do agree that it’s an incredibly small sample size, I just disagree with the notion shared by many that he’s more of an injury risk than any given player.

    Comment by Undocorkscrew — January 18, 2011 @ 10:35 pm

  94. I’m curious about that too. If it is AAV then a guy like Pujols will have a serious edge since he will probably only play 10 more years and still be near the top of total WAR put up for the experiment. On the other hand, a player like Heyward will have a longer career and probably produce more WAR (if only slightly) because of this but it may be at a lower yearly rate.

    Comment by Alan — January 18, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

  95. I was thinking the same thing. But, in reality we don’t know the right answer. One of last years rookies is the right answer. It’s just that nobody know which one.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — January 18, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  96. I’m going to throw this out there-Fangraphs/Harball Times/Baseball Prospectus pool their authors, each gets assigned to a team, and they have a 5 round (or so) draft using these parameters. That would make a good, nay, great experiment.

    Comment by Horace — January 18, 2011 @ 11:11 pm

  97. Milton obelle Bradley

    Comment by Sun king — January 18, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

  98. I duno, I’d take can’t bat 0.300 as a bigger strike than the strikes against Cabrera. FG overweights defense in WAR calculations, so maybe a FG writer would pick him, but how valuable can a 3B player be, there aren’t even that many balls *hit* there.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — January 18, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

  99. Yeah. FG way undervalues him in the WAR that he is a catcher that can hit. I think that they have their replacement level way too high for a catcher. That said, I don’t see him as much more than a DH in 5 years, plus he doesn’t really get the PAs because of taking 1 of 6 days off.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — January 18, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

  100. Yeah, the real answer is Cabrera. The fact that he has a “conditioning question” just says that if he wants to, he will last very well.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — January 18, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

  101. Just looking at remaining contract value, It should be disappointing to a Yankees fan not to see ARod not even being mentioned here on people’s lists.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — January 18, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  102. I would rather have some other guys over Pujols, given his age. I expect him to be great for a few more years, at least. But I would certainly take Longoria over Pujols, given his age, position, quality of defense, and that he plays in the toughest division in baseball, in what is notorious for being the tougher league. Longoria isn’t the only one I would take over Pujols either.

    Comment by Joe — January 18, 2011 @ 11:38 pm

  103. Miggy, Longo, Pujols. Ship it!

    Comment by Mike M — January 18, 2011 @ 11:48 pm

  104. If the question is who is going to have the most WAR over the rest of their career, it’s very difficult to bet against Heyward, Upton, and Longoria. Those guys are near locks to put up 50+ WAR from here on out (especially the first two).

    If the question is who would I draft in an all teams are equal sense, it would be Pujols, Mauer, Longoria, and Hanley. Those are the best players in the game right now.

    Comment by rwperu34 — January 18, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

  105. The point is that Heyward is not a lock to be producing at a high level 15 yrs from now, nobody is. That is why current value and wins are worth more than future ones. Besides, Pujols generates more production per year – as was mentioned previously 10 years of 7.5 WAR is worth more than 15 years of 5 WAR. The importance of peak value cannot be understated, and we have no idea what Jason Heyward’s is yet.

    Comment by Larry — January 19, 2011 @ 12:27 am

  106. Yes, Longoria’s defense is real.

    Comment by Mike — January 19, 2011 @ 12:33 am

  107. Don’t forget that Tulo’s defense is elite. There isn’t another shortstop in the game who offers power, average and defense all at elite levels.

    Comment by Mike — January 19, 2011 @ 12:33 am

  108. I’d take Tulo over Hanley ANY day.

    Comment by Mike — January 19, 2011 @ 12:34 am

  109. To me, the question as posed is who is going to have the most total WAR for the rest of their career, starting tomorrow.

    With that framework it’s tough for Pujols to really have a chance, given the limited number of years. The most optimistic reasonable projection for WAR remaining I would think is about 60, which puts him at 140 for his career… Williams and Musial territory. I’d be more conservative at 50 WAR.

    I think there are several players who’s best projection at this point would well exceed 50 future WAR. Personally I’m a riverboat gambler. I’d take Heyward and shoot for 100 or more. But the safest pick is probably Longo, who’s very likely to exceed 60.

    Comment by BillWallace — January 19, 2011 @ 12:56 am

  110. Here’s the way it works: if you are the GM of Team X, if another GM calls and offers you Player 1 for Player 2 straight up, do you say yes.

    So here’s my question: if Frank Wren called the STL front office and offered Heyward straight up for Pujols, what does STL do? I think they pull the trigger and tell Berkman to play 1B in 2011. I can’t think of any other player for whom the Cards would do such a thing. But I don’t think that Pujols for Heyward is inconceivable.

    Heyward, Pujols, Tulowitzki, Longoria, Braun.

    Comment by Dann M — January 19, 2011 @ 2:11 am

  111. Your Dead DEAD WRONG if you think Longoria is better than Zimmermann. Who had more WAR this season? Who has the better glove? Who has an idiot team around him that supressed his Talent? Yes all Zimmermann.

    Put Zimmerman on the Rays and he beats Longoria by a Run or so every season. Teammates matter and Longoria has quality players aplenty around him and Zimmerman does not, yet Zim still was worth more WAR than Longoria.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — January 19, 2011 @ 2:47 am

  112. He is defnitely better and more valuable than sizemore. Possibly more than Santana, though he obviously has the highest ceiling he hasn’t had time to prove it yet.

    Comment by Dustin — January 19, 2011 @ 2:49 am

  113. lol you needed a 2nd thought to come up with that.

    Comment by Dustin — January 19, 2011 @ 2:55 am

  114. Have you seen him play defense????

    Comment by Dustin — January 19, 2011 @ 2:57 am

  115. Simply put, I believe the question is: if you could choose one player to be on your team for the rest of his career, for free, which player would it be?

    Comment by CCW — January 19, 2011 @ 3:47 am

  116. even as a braves fan… HANLEY RAMIREZ!!!!!

    Comment by Josh — January 19, 2011 @ 8:14 am

  117. i feel like there was another top prospect right fielder for the braves that everyone pegged to be a superstar.

    i don’t think you can make such crazy assumptions about a player, even with a great debut and good pedigree.

    Comment by dutchbrowncoat — January 19, 2011 @ 8:30 am

  118. a lot of people were predicting frenchy’s decline. he had a vladian concept of the strike zone and was, by all accounts, stubborn and resistant to changing his approach. heyward combines better physical skills with an immensely better understanding of the game. his patience and poise are crazy.

    but yeah, if it’s career, my vote is heyward. next ten years, i could understand pujols.

    Comment by scott — January 19, 2011 @ 8:46 am

  119. Yeah, but an 8 WAR player over 5 years is more valuable than a 4 WAR player over 10 years.

    Comment by suicide squeeze — January 19, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  120. I don’t know about the replacement level, but the WAR stats don’t capture much of a catcher’s defensive value. Mauer’s reputation is that he does the hard-to-measure stuff very well, but there isn’t a lot in the way of good numbers to back it up.

    But yeah, definitely a good chance he’s a DH or 1st baseman in 5 years. I see him muscling up a little once he gets into that role and being pretty darn good as a pure hitting machine, but the position move would take him out of this discussion I think.

    Comment by Luke in MN — January 19, 2011 @ 9:16 am


    Comment by Jason B — January 19, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  122. he might be better than a hurt sizemore, but in his 4 full seasons sizemore was worth more than 5.4 wins each year, and even posted 2 in his 109-game 2009; he further is/was one of the best defensive CFs in the game while choo’s 3 ‘full-time’ seasons have him at exactly 0 UZR; furthermore, sizemore walks more, strikes out less, posted a higher ISO in each of hill full seasons than choo has in any of his. choo may have posted better wRC+ numbers but he does so with wOBAs within a few points of sizemore, indicating that the league average has changed, and the same wOBA nets you more wRsCed

    Comment by fredsbank — January 19, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  123. Gotta agree with Scott, if you look at Francoeur’s peripherals his decline was inevitable. Heyward put up a better season at age 20 than Francoeur ever did. If you can’t get your BB% above 5-6% then you’ll never be a useful player.

    Comment by bsally — January 19, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  124. heyward, tulo, longo/zimm (i’d prefer evan but it wouldn’t really be a downer to end up with ryan)

    Comment by fredsbank — January 19, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  125. Fair enough, I suppose I might be more optimistic about Heyward than most. A 5 WAR season as a 20 year old playing through injury? Yes please!

    It’s obviously a very interesting question, but as another poster mentioned, I would gladly take Heyward’s 21-30 seasons over Pujols’ 31-40, and then on top of that you get Heyward’s 31-40 as well. Pujols is otherworldly but he will start declining sometime in the near future, while Heyward is obviously in the ascendency.

    If we limit it to the next five years I’d probably take Pujols, but I’d still have Heyward in the top 3-5 in baseball probably.

    Comment by bsally — January 19, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  126. Fangraphs does not overweight WAR with defense. The concern is that the defensive measure itself is not necessarily accurate. But its contribution to WAR is not really in dispute (not that I’m aware of, at least). A player’s WAR is arrived at by calculating how many more total runs they are worth versus a replacement player. I think everyone agrees that a run saved is the same as a run produced; WAR weights those two things equally.

    While I share the trepidation of reliance on UZR that I see mentioned here, I think it’s a little lazy/disingenuous to discount Longoria because his defense is a major asset. There may still be uncertainty with UZR, but Longoria also rates highly in TotalZone, and he meets the eyeball test as well. Scouts rave about his defense, and he won a gold glove (managers and players). No matter who you ask or what method you use to evaluate his defense, you come back to the same conclusion: he’s a fantastic defender that undoubtedly saves runs. Personally, I think it would be foolish to simply ignore that while assessing his value.

    Comment by Ben — January 19, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  127. Um, correct? When we’re having a discussion about the most valuable player in the entire game, I would say that 6.6 WAR in two seasons (even if they’re his first two seasons), is not successful enough. It places him outside of the top 50 over that span.

    I love McCutchen; he’s a fine, exciting player. But he doesn’t belong in this discussion.

    Comment by Ben — January 19, 2011 @ 10:45 am

  128. I think you hit it, Drew.

    Comment by GiantHusker — January 19, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  129. Jay Bruce. He has what it takes, including the right attitude.

    Comment by Doris Waldhelm — January 19, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  130. Leaving out Heyward is just ridiculous. He may have only been around for one year, but Jonah, do you really have any doubts that he’ll be one of the best players in the game in his prime?

    Comment by Marc — January 19, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  131. As a Braves fan I never understood the hype for Franceour. It was completely based off scouting I assume. If you look at his MiL number’s they just aren’t impressive at all. .285 .332 .480 .813 . They obviously pale in comparison to Heyward’s MiL number’s (.318 .391 .508 .899)The only comparison between the two is that they both played RF for the Atlanta Braves.

    Comment by Heyward — January 19, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  132. Also, what exactly is the difference between Longo and Zimmerman? They’re virtual clones.

    Comment by Marc — January 19, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  133. I agree. It is clear Longo outpaces Utley, and Zimmerman is stated on “He’s got a good case for being #4 on the list”.

    Chase Utley is my most favorite player, but he’ll never be in the top 3 in this contest.
    And vote is 1#Pujols, 2#Longo, 3#Hanley.

    Comment by gradygradychase — January 19, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  134. Even Matt Holliday >>>> Crawford

    Comment by gradygradychase — January 19, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

  135. Right NOW, Pujols is very obviously The Man. In two, three, FOUR years??? The bet here is on Miggy C.

    Comment by SteveM — January 19, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

  136. Ben, neither Fred nor I said or implied that he was top three most valuable in the game. Rather we were just quibbling with such a narrow definition of “success”. I think he’s fairly obviously not a top 3 player, and every bit as obviously an unqualified success.

    Comment by Jason B — January 19, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

  137. Again, that’s not what was being disputed. The exact quote was: “is there a more consistent middle-of-the-order presence in the game?” Doesn’t say or imply one year from now, or five, or ten. It’s written in present-tense. And the answer is obviously, yes. Pujols trumps Cabrera, at present, without question.

    Comment by Jason B — January 19, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  138. has anyone?

    Comment by Pete — January 19, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  139. The crazy part is that his numbers WERE incredible even with the injury.

    Comment by bsally — January 19, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

  140. i was not at all comparing their qualities as a player, as heyward likely has more power and has already proved he has a very patient bat. my point is that even with hype and a strong start, players will fall on their faces. a decline in performance, injuries, drugs, other off the field problems, bad luck, whatever. impressive as he was this year, i don’t think you can even include him in this discussion til he has proven himself further.

    and i actually think francouer is a decent comp, though on different scales. his ceiling was never as high as heyward’s, but he fell from his solid start down to being a replacement level player. it is entirely possible that heyward will end up being “just” an average-above average player in the 2-4 war range.

    and for what it is worth bsally, it is entirely possible to be a useful player with a low walk rate. vlad, ichiro, carlos gonzalez, adrian beltre, and a bunch of others do it. you just need good contact skills and power, or to be great at one of the two.

    Comment by dutchbrowncoat — January 19, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  141. Braun’s a great player but he’s a huge defensive liability and his ISO has dropped every year he’s been in the bigs. Heyward was more valuable last year than Braun has ever been in a single season. Don’t think he’s top 10, let alone top 3 material to be honest.

    Comment by bsally — January 19, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  142. One year. Other than that, yeah, they’re basically the same player.

    Comment by Ben — January 19, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  143. I’m with bsally here, Braun’s really not in this discussion. For one, he’s not a puppy (27). I realize that’s still young, but you’re talking about SIX YEARS older than Heyward, not to mention two years older than Longoria and one year older than Zimmerman and Tulowitzki. Moreover, he’s never exceeded 5 WAR in a season. Longo, Zimm, and Hanley have all topped 7 WAR in a season already. Tulo had 6.4 last year while Votto was at 7.3. Heyward had 5.0 last year at age 20. Pujols has only not topped 7 once in his career.

    Braun’s a fabulous player and his consistency is impressive. But his power has declined recently (only 25 HRs last year would probably surprise a lot of people), and he’s a brutal defender by all accounts. If you’re going to take a corner outfielder in this hypothetical scenario, it’s gotta be Heyward. For me, Braun’s much closer to Upton and Choo than he is to Heyward in this discussion.

    Comment by Ben — January 19, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  144. Francoeur has a significantly lower walk rate than any of those guys, but you are correct that I was being slightly hyperbolic with my prior statement.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about Heyward though, he’s pretty clearly a unique case if you ask me. He’s incredibly grounded and humble, a tremendous worker, and has character through the roof. One might as well predict off-field issues affecting Pujols down the line. And assuming injury risk is more or less equal for every player, you would much rather have the younger player more easily able to bounce back and rehabilitate. Yet another point in Heyward’s favor over Pujols.

    The other thing is that the Francoeur comparison really isn’t all that valid because every advanced metric showed he was doing it with smoke and mirrors. I appreciate that you’re not saying that they’re similar players, but they really were very different situations. Plus Heyward’s walk rate alone will make him worth significantly more than 2 WAR every year.

    Comment by bsally — January 19, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

  145. Didn’t Atlanta just hire Fredi to manage? I don’t think that would work out in the real world right now. There is something to be said for the “right guys” around any given player, whether it’s attitude for a guy like Hanley or suppressed/added value/exposure for Zimmerman vs. Longoria.

    And also, the whole issue of the Coors Bump needs to consider that the players who play in Coors don’t just play *anywhere* in their away games. Pitcher-friendly parks in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco all likely go a long way to helping lower those away splits for Rockies hitters, historically speaking. CarGo doesn’t have enough of a sample size anywhere other than Coors and the A’s home field. Tulo is at .689 OPS at PetCo, .807 at AT&T, .715 at Chavez Ravine, and .726 at Chase. Matt Holliday, who has posted a 1.072 OPS at Coors, is at .650 at PetCo, .726 at AT&T, .680 at Dodger Stadium, and .787 at Chase. Holliday also has been over 1.0 OPS at new Busch and generally successful home and away since joining the Cardinals. So perhaps the Coors field splits are exacerbated by the more pitcher-friendly West and would balance out if the Rockies were realigned into the Central, swapping with Houston (i.e., away games at Busch, Wrigley, Miller, GAB, PNC),

    Comment by Dann M — January 19, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  146. I’m a huge Heyward fan, and I think he’ll be a monster over the next ten years. That said, if you include Heyward in the discussion, I don’t think you can ignore Posey. Value is relative to the position, and catcher is a premium position. Posey will be awesome there for the next three or four years until the Giants move him to another position (a la Biggio and Murphy). After that, he’ll be a beast at 1st base for another decade.

    Comment by BhamBrave — January 19, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

  147. Wait a minute — does this mean everyone would take Hayward over the ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, Buster Posey?

    Hey-ward’s bet-ter.

    Comment by sddbaker — January 20, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

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