2016 Trade Value: #31 to #40

Over the last few days, we’ve started off the Trade Value series with the introduction, the honorable mentions, and the first 10 names of the series. I strongly encourage you to read all of the linked articles for an explanation of the question we’re trying to answer, and some context for who we’ve already discussed.

As we move to the second group, you’ll note that this tier is heavy on prospects and guys without a substantial big-league track record. These guys are always controversial, as some people value history over potential, but there’s no question teams are becoming more and more protective of their top young minor leaguers, especially the ones who can come up and make an impact on the big-league team. That is mostly what sets this group of prospects apart from the ones who didn’t quite make the cut: these guys have present value, and could mostly play in the big leagues today. The ability to impact a team in the second half of the year, as well as turn into a franchise cornerstone with more development, is what makes them so valuable to major-league clubs.

Also, thanks to Sean Dolinar, we’ve significantly upgraded the way we’re presenting the information here. On the individual player tables, the Guaranteed Dollars and Team Control WAR — which are provided by Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projections — rows give you an idea of what kind of production and costs a team could expect going forward, though to be clear, we’re not counting the rest of 2016 in those numbers; they’re just included for reference of what a player’s future status looks like. And as a reminder, we’re not ranking players based on those projections, as teams aren’t going to just make trades based on the ZIPS forecasts. That said, they’re a useful tool to provide some context about what a player might do for the next few years.

On to the second part of the series.

Five-Year WAR +16.7
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 23 +3.3 Pre-Arb
2018 24 +3.5 Arb1
2019 25 +3.3 Arb2
2020 26 +3.3 Arb3
2021 27 +3.3 Arb4
Pre-Arb
Arb

McCullers is about as high-risk, high-reward as a big leaguer gets, as he’s putting up one of the best combinations of strikeout and ground-ball rates in MLB, and doing it as a 22-year-old with high-end stuff. He’s also battled command problems at every stop of his professional career, and he started the year on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder. And while the data hasn’t come to any firm conclusions about the causation of pitch selection and injury rates, his extraordinarily high breaking-ball usage is a red flag for some teams. But right now, McCullers looks healthy, and has shown he is capable of pitching like an ace despite his youth. With the current shortage of available arms on the market, McCullers’ ability to be a difference maker both now and for the future would make him a highly coveted asset.

Five-Year WAR +17.9
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through TBD
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 22 +2.9 Pre-Arb
2018 23 +3.5 Pre-Arb
2019 24 +3.6 Pre-Arb
2020 25 +3.8 Arb1
2021 26 +4.1 Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb

Quick note: Because we don’t know when teams are going to call up their prospects, we have to guess at when they’ll be arbitration eligible, but have put TBD in the control years row to reflect that uncertainty.

As far as prospects go, Crawford is a relatively safe bet, a terrific defensive shortstop who controls the strike zone. While no player is risk-free, it seems pretty likely that Crawford will have a big-league career, with the development of his power determining whether he becomes a decent regular or a high-end star. People optimistic about his development point out that Francisco Lindor was seen similarly a couple of years back, and he’s going to rank very highly in this year’s series, since developing power has made him one of the game’s best overall players. So there’s a pretty high floor and some real upside with Crawford, which makes him a valuable commodity even without reaching the big leagues.

Five-Year WAR +14.9
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through TBD
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 22 +2.2 Pre-Arb
2018 23 +2.7 Pre-Arb
2019 24 +3.2 Pre-Arb
2020 25 +3.4 Arb1
2021 26 +3.4 Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb

On most prospect lists, Benintendi ranks behind Crawford, and behind a few of the players who didn’t make our Top 50 here, so I expect this placement will be met with some pushback. But prospect ranking is primarily an attempt to take the long view, forecasting a player’s eventual career, while we’re more concerned with what teams would value today, and the ability for Benintendi to help the big-league club in 2016 pushes him ahead of some other terrific prospects for our purposes. ZIPS and Steamer both think Benintendi would be something like an average big leaguer if promoted tomorrow, and his high-contact/gap-power game could help him develop into a very good player within a short period of time. Long term, he might not have quite as much upside as other prospects, but his ability to impact a contender down the stretch would make him a highly coveted asset if the Red Sox were willing to give him up. Instead, I’d expect Boston will simply keep him for themselves, and he’ll end the year as their starting left fielder.

Five-Year WAR +16.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through TBD
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 23 +2.7 Pre-Arb
2018 24 +3.1 Pre-Arb
2019 25 +3.4 Pre-Arb
2020 26 +3.5 Arb1
2021 27 +3.5 Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb

Bregman is, in many ways, the infield version of Benintendi. He might not have as much upside as some other prospects, especially ones who are more likely to play shortstop in the big leagues, but Bregman could help any team in baseball tomorrow, and he probably won’t be a minor leaguer for much longer. What position he’ll eventually play in the majors is yet to be determined, but few question his offensive abilities, and even if he ends up settling in as a third baseman, he looks like a good player without needing much further development. If it weren’t for Luis Valbuena’s strong first half, Bregman would likely already be the Astros’ third baseman, and even with Valbuena playing well, Bregman is forcing his way into the picture. Expect him to be up soon, and for the Astros to rebuff any suitors trying to extract him from their organization.

Five-Year WAR +15.4
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 20 +2.5 Pre-Arb
2018 21 +2.9 Pre-Arb
2019 22 +3.1 Pre-Arb
2020 23 +3.5 Arb1
2021 24 +3.4 Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb

The full list of 19-year-olds who could strike out 27% of the batters they faced in the majors probably starts and ends with the Dodgers’ young lefty. Urias is a pretty special pitching prospect, and while age matters less for pitchers than it does for hitters, his polish at this point of his development is a very good sign for the future. If inning workloads weren’t an issue, Urias would rank higher still, but with enough innings saved for him to pitch out of the bullpen in the second half of the year, he retains some present value in addition to his long-term upside. For a team that wanted to build around young pitching, Urias would likely be one of the most sought after players in the game, as he’s proving why the Dodgers were unwilling to move him over the last few years.

Team Control WAR Total +11.0
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2019
Previous Rank #13
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 26 +3.7 Arb1
2018 27 +3.8 Arb2
2019 28 +3.5 Arb3
Arb

The most difficult players to place on this list every year are pitchers dealing with minor injuries, and Cole is perhaps the best example of that this year. Last year, in the midst of his breakout season, he was knocking on the door to the top 10, but this year, he’s now made two trips to the disabled list — including the one that has him sidelined currently — while posting the lowest strikeout and ground-ball rates of his career. But a triceps injury isn’t as scary as an elbow or shoulder injury, and unless the Pirates are covering for a larger problem, it’s perfectly reasonable to think Cole will be back on the mound and pitching like a front-line starter in the not too distant future. A contender with a healthy appetite for risk could probably make a case for Cole being in front of a bunch of guys still to come, and perhaps I’m overreacting his 2016 first half, but there’s certainly some real risk in giving up elite young talents for a presently injured pitcher who is performing worse than he ever has before. I could see an argument for Cole still being in the top 25 just like I could see an argument for him not being on the list at all, so he ends up here instead.

Team Control WAR Total +12.7
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2020
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 27 +3.3 Arb1
2018 28 +3.4 Arb2
2019 29 +3.1 Arb3
2020 30 +2.9 Arb4
Arb

Speaking of difficult-to-place pitchers, the wide range of opinions on Salazar is nearly unmatched among players on the list. On the one hand, he’s developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball on a per-innings basis; on the other hand, he’s still regularly getting lifted for pitch-count reasons in the sixth inning, and he’s missed starts with elbow soreness enough times — including the fact that he won’t pitch in the All-Star Game tonight because of what is being called minor elbow discomfort — that many of the game think it’s inevitable that his repaired UCL is going to give out sooner than later. But, of course, predicting injuries is a fool’s errand, and Salazar remains adamant that he’s making his first start out of the break, a start in which he very well could again look like one of the best pitchers on the planet. So, as with Cole, I don’t really know what to do with Salazar: he’s a quality starter making no money with four years of team control remaining after this season, but he’s also seen as something of a ticking time-bomb, so how much future value he’ll have remains in question. Like Cole, he ends up in the middle of the list, but without a strong conviction for his placement; one could reasonably move him up or down by a good amount.

Five-Year WAR +19.7
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 22 +3.6 Pre-Arb
2018 23 +4.0 Pre-Arb
2019 24 +4.0 Arb1
2020 25 +4.0 Arb2
2021 26 +4.1 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

If we had done this list a couple of months ago, when Mazara was barnstorming the American League right after getting called up, he might very well have ranked in the top 25, but AL pitchers seem to have found some ways to pitch Texas’ young outfielder, and he’s cooled off quickly after his hot start. But it’s also important to keep in mind that he’s just 21 and is holding his own in the majors, which is a pretty good indicator of a guy with some real big-league abilities. The power isn’t fully developed yet, but with good contact skills and a swing that scouts project for long-term power, there’s plenty of offensive upside here. And like several of the prospects already mentioned, Mazara gets a boost for being able to contribute now, as well, as he’s not just a future-value prospect. There’s risk here, as there is any time you’re projecting power development, but Mazara has enough current and future value to be in high demand if the Rangers made him available.

Five-Year WAR +13.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 24 +2.8 Pre-Arb
2018 25 +2.9 Pre-Arb
2019 26 +2.8 Arb1
2020 27 +2.6 Arb2
2021 28 +2.5 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

One guy you don’t need to project power development for? Miguel Sano. The Twins’ young slugger was miscast as an outfielder because of the team’s logjam at 1B/DH, but there are few young hitters in the game around whom teams would like to build their lineups before Sano. With top-shelf power and the willingness to take a walk, Sano looks like the heir apparent to Chris Davis’ three-true-outcomes throne. The strikeouts and the lack of defensive value might make him a less valuable player than some players with better all-around skills, but Sano’s power is unquestioned, and teams still pay a premium for sluggers who can hit the ball a long way. And Sano can unquestionably do that.

Five-Year WAR +19.7
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #32
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 23 +4.0 Pre-Arb
2018 24 +4.1 Arb1
2019 25 +3.9 Arb2
2020 26 +3.9 Arb3
2021 27 +3.8 Arb4
Pre-Arb
Arb

While Russell’s continuing contact problems make his development into a superstar unlikely, he continues to provide real value to the Cubs by playing a quality shortstop and holding his own offensively, showing enough power to offset some of the strikeouts, and drawing enough walks to keep his on base percentage at a respectable level. As a 22-year-old, there’s still plenty of room for Russell to develop, and as you can see from the ZIPS projections, there’s even reason to think he might take a big step forward as soon as next year. As a quality shortstop with some remaining upside, Russell remains a highly valuable piece of the Cubs’ future, though his swing-and-miss issues might cause him to top out as a good player rather than a great one.

2016 Trade Value, 31-40
Rk Pv Player Age 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
31 32 Addison Russell 22 +4.0
Pre-Arb
+4.1
Arb1
+3.9
Arb2
+3.9
Arb3
+3.8
Arb4
32 Miguel Sano 23 +2.8
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Pre-Arb
+2.8
Arb1
+2.6
Arb2
+2.5
Arb3
33 Nomar Mazara 21 +3.6
Pre-Arb
+4.0
Pre-Arb
+4.0
Arb1
+4.0
Arb2
+4.1
Arb3
34 Danny Salazar 26 +3.3
Arb1
+3.4
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
+2.9
Arb4
35 13 Gerrit Cole 25 +3.7
Arb1
+3.8
Arb2
+3.5
Arb3
36 Julio Urias 19 +2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Pre-Arb
+3.5
Arb1
+3.4
Arb2
37 Alex Bregman 22 +2.7
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Pre-Arb
+3.4
Pre-Arb
+3.5
Arb1
+3.5
Arb2
38 Andrew Benintendi 21 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+2.7
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.4
Arb1
+3.4
Arb2
39 J.P. Crawford 21 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.5
Pre-Arb
+3.6
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Arb1
+4.1
Arb2
40 Lance McCullers 22 +3.3
Pre-Arb
+3.5
Arb1
+3.3
Arb2
+3.3
Arb3
+3.3
Arb4
Pre-Arb
Arb

We hoped you liked reading 2016 Trade Value: #31 to #40 by Dave Cameron!

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newest oldest most voted
bkgeneral
Member
Member
bkgeneral

Salazar must have been hard to place. So put him at #31 with Russell

ChippersJonesing
Member
ChippersJonesing

I was pretty confused by this comment until I read the one below it.