2009 MLB Trade Value: Recap

The countdown is finally over – this afternoon, we unveiled the top five pieces in our annual Trade Value series. Since this is a recap post, here’s the whole list in one convenient spot.

1. Evan Longoria
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Justin Upton
4. Albert Pujols
5. Matt Wieters
6. Brian McCann
7. David Wright
8. Ryan Braun
9. Tim Lincecum
10. Chase Utley
11. Zack Greinke
12. Grady Sizemore
13. Dan Haren
14. Matt Kemp
15. Troy Tulowitzki
16. Joe Mauer
17. Felix Hernandez
18. Colby Rasmus
19. Adam Jones
20. Jose Reyes
21. B.J. Upton
22. Curtis Granderson
23. Justin Verlander
24. Stephen Strasburg
25. David Price
26. Jay Bruce
27. James Shields
28. Chad Billingsley
29. Clayton Kershaw
30. Josh Johnson
31. Dustin Pedroia
32. Ian Kinsler
33. Ubaldo Jimenez
34. Jon Lester
35. Nick Markakis
36. Josh Hamilton
37. Roy Halladay
38. Clay Buchholz
39. Jason Heyward
40. Tommy Hanson
41. Josh Beckett
42. Joba Chamberlain
43. Ryan Zimmerman
44. Max Scherzer
45. Adrian Gonzalez
46. Elvis Andrus
47. Robinson Cano
48. Cole Hamels
49. Jered Weaver
50. Prince Fielder

Honorable Mentions: Ben Zobrist, Kevin Youkilis, Javier Vazquez, Gordon Beckham, Pablo Sandoval.

The biggest riser from last year? Matt Kemp, who went from unranked (whoops) to #14. I just missed the boat on him last year. The biggest faller was Brandon Webb, who dropped off the list after ranking #14 last year. Shoulder problems that cost you a full season without a firm diagnosis will do that to you, especially as you head towards free agency.

Overall, I’m happy with the list. After receiving some feedback, there are a few things I’d change, however. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the clause in Troy Tulowitzki’s contract allowing him to void his deal if he’s traded. That’s a pretty nasty contract kicker, and one I really should have been aware of. That’s my fault, and had I known about that, he would have ranked lower, certainly.

However, I did find that the uproar about his true talent level exposed the fact that Tulowitzki is a pretty underrated player by a lot of the readers here. He’s a 24-year-old shortstop with above average defense and power who has significantly upped his walk rate this season. Players with his skillset are remarkably valuable. We love WAR around here, obviously, but this is not a list of what players have accomplished to date, so quoting Tulowitzki’s inferior WAR to other players simply doesn’t work as an argument about his present trade value. He’s a really, really good up the middle player headed for his prime. There aren’t many guys out there with his projected future value.

A lot of the “why isn’t this guy on the list?” questions came from fans of National League teams with good-but-not-great young pitchers. Yovanni Gallardo, Adam Wainwright, Matt Cain, and Jordan Zimmermann are all valuable assets, but trying to make an argument for them based on their non-league adjusted numbers simply doesn’t work. Put simply, the National League is vastly inferior to the AL right now, and the lack of a DH allows for pitchers who pitch in the senior circuit to post superficially better numbers than their AL peers. Simply put, you stick a guy like Chamberlain in the NL, and he’d look like Cy Young. Sorry, NL fans, but your pitchers aren’t as good as you think.

And, finally, I guess I should address the whole Sandoval thing. As I said in the Honorable Mentions post, I like Sandoval – the kid can hit. But based on the comments early on in the series, Giant fans need to pull back on the hyperbole train. 503 major league career plate appearances is simply not anything close to enough to establish his current batting line as his true talent level. There’s a reason ZIPS projects him for a .357 wOBA going forward despite his tremendous start to the 2009 season – he simply cannot maintain a .360 batting average on balls in play over the long term, which is the driving force behind his .400 wOBA this year.

The foundation of his offensive performance to date is, unfortunately, not a repeatable skill. For a player with that kind of developed body, you simply can’t project future growth like you can with most 22-year-olds (where strength is tied to added muscle as the body develops, which simply won’t happen with Kung Fu Panda), so there’s less upside here than with most players his age. He’s a good player, not a great one.

That’s it for this year’s Trade Value series. Hope you enjoyed it. We’ll do it again next year.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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14 years ago

“vastly inferior” is quite an overstatement.

Tom B
14 years ago
Reply to  Chris

would you prefer “grossly overrated?”

14 years ago
Reply to  Chris

The expression “vastly inferior” is a rather appropriate hyperbole, I think. This is because the American League has a statistically quantifiable talent advantage over the National League, that has certainly proven to be something more than simply random variation. The American League, aside from the DH factor, has the best of the best managed teams in baseball, such as the Red Sox, Yankees and the Rays, which contributed to their advantage. When it comes down to the best individual players, especially considering the superstars in the NL like Mr. Pujols or Hanley Ramirez, the NL might match the AL in premium talent. But if you look at the remaining 95% of the players, the AL has a sizeable advantage in talent, and this has been a trend for the last several years. Since this gap is more than just statistical noise, it must be accounted for, when considering a player’s true talent level.

14 years ago
Reply to  YC

The AL better, yes. But not “vastly” better. It’s roughly the talent difference between a 78 and 84 win team.

14 years ago
Reply to  YC

“It’s roughly the talent difference between a 78 and 84 win team.”

Interesting that its the difference between winning and losing…

14 years ago
Reply to  YC

I don’t like this whole “AL is better than the NL” stuff. Looking at the divisions throughout baseball, there are 5 divisions that aren’t that far apart from each other in talent, and then there’s one that’s so head and shoulders above everyone else it’s ridiculous (the AL East, of course). Of course there’s some effect on the rest of the AL from this (in addition to DH effects), but it’s more of a “one division is vastly superior” than “one league is vastly superior”.

14 years ago
Reply to  YC

“I don’t like this whole “AL is better than the NL” stuff.”

Most NL fans don’t. Its more than one division. The AL is stronger across the board. If you name the top 15 teams in baseball it would be stacked with AL teams.

14 years ago
Reply to  YC

It may or may not be, but I’d be interested if anyone did any studies on this at a divisional level to see how each division stacked up. My guess is we’d get 5 divisions not too far apart (I’m not going to guess an order), and 1 division by itself…