Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/20/14

Honorable Mentions #50 to #46 #45 to #41 #40 to #36 #35 to #31 #30 to #26 #25 to #21 #20 to #16 #15 to #11 And now we come to the best of the best. These guys are both the present and the future of the sport. They’re great now, they’re going to be great for a while, and they’re the kinds of players that we’ll be telling our grandkids about.   #10 Carlos Gonzalez (OF) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld BsR WAR 27 395 9.6 % 26.6 % .302 .370 .610 .414 153 5.2 4.9 4.5 Under Team Control Through 2017: $11M, $16M, $17M, $20M A few years ago, in one of the least prescient things I’ve ever published, I wondered whether the Rockies squandered a lot of money by signing Gonzalez to a seven year, $80 million extension.  He was coming off one good year, had been traded multiple times before, didn’t control the strike zone particularly well, and looked like a pretty strong regression candidate.   Gonzalez did regress, but the rest of what I wrote was really wildly wrong.  Salaries in baseball have exploded, and at age-27, Gonzalez is once again looking like a superstar.  Yeah, Colorado makes his numbers look better, but he’s still running a 153 wRC+ even after we strip out the effects of Coors Field.  He still strikes out a lot, but the power has reached a level where they don’t matter so much, and he’s refined the rest of his game to add value even when he’s not hitting the ball over the wall.   Gonzalez only has one more “cheap” year left on the deal before his salaries escalate, but even at an AAV of $16 million per year over the remaining four years on the deal, he’s still a huge bargain.  Those four years cover his prime seasons, leaving little chance for dead money, especially given the prices teams are paying for power hitters at this level now.  Gonzalez’s inconsistency and injury history makes him imperfect, but he’s still a terrific player signed to a deal that pays him a fraction of his market value.   #9 Paul Goldschmidt (1B) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld BsR WAR 25 406 12.1 % 20.2 % .313 .395 .557 .405 157 6.2 1.7 4.2 Under Team Control Through 2019: $1M, $3M, $6M, $9M, $11M, $15M option A couple of years ago, Goldschmidt was considered something of a fringe prospect, a guy who was interesting but had limited upside.  Baseball America never ranked him higher than 11th in the Diamondbacks Top 30, so he wasn’t even considered a premium prospect within their organization, much less baseball overall.   Yeah, I think we missed the boat here. 1,200 plate appearances into his career and Goldschmidt has a 135 wRC+, and he’s athletic enough to add value with both his glove and his legs.  If he keeps hitting like he has so far this year, he’s going to get first place MVP votes at the end of the year.  Oh, and he’s going to make a million bucks next year. If the Brewers decision to sign Carlos Gomez this spring was the best decision of the year, extending Goldschmidt before he had this breakout ranks a close second. They now own his rights for six years, and none of the five guaranteed years are going to cost them any real money.  Even if Goldschmidt regresses, this is still a pittance for he’s likely to be.  And if he doesn’t regress, this might turn into the best contract in baseball.   I don’t know precisely how Goldschmidt went from being a mediocre prospect to an elite hitter, but it happened, and now the Diamondbacks have one of the best first baseman in baseball signed through his age-31 season for just a little bit more than Alex Rodriguez will make this year alone.  Buying power on the open market is crazy expensive, but the Diamondbacks aren’t going to have to worry about doing that for a while.   #8 Giancarlo Stanton (OF) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld BsR WAR 23 224 13.4 % 26.3 % .250 .357 .458 .357 128 -3.9 -0.6 0.7 Under Team Control Through 2016: Arbitration If David Price is the player on this list most likely to be traded, Stanton isn’t that far behind. The price that the Marlins are able to extract for their star right fielder is going to be fascinating.  A couple of months on the DL with a bad knee and the dissipation of an extra year of team control have hurt his value, but he’s still perhaps the game’s most exciting young slugger.  He’s 23 and has a career wRC+ of 138.  The players who have done what Stanton has done at this age are mostly in the Hall of Fame.   In some ways, his situation is pretty reminiscent of Miguel Cabrera, and not just because they both came up in Miami.  Cabrera was absurdly great early, then saw his stock fall slightly as he got closer to free agency and concerns about his durability arose.  The Tigers swooped in, signed him to a long term deal, and you know the rest.  There’s a real chance that something similar could happen with Stanton.   Yes, right now, he’s only got three years of team control remaining, but a team acquiring him is acquiring him for the right to lock him up, and his cost is going to reflect that right.  Franchise players like this aren’t available in their early-20s very often, and even coming off a down year and somewhat concerning knee issues, the price is going to reflect the rarity of a player like this on this on the trade market.   Stanton is going to bring back a mint when the Marlins trade him.  The price is probably going to blow us all away.   #7 Matt Harvey (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 24 130.0 10.18 1.94 45.4 % 2.35 2.17 2.70 4.3 4.2 Under Team Control Through 2018: Pre-Arb, Arbitration Contract included, Matt Harvey is the most valuable pitcher in baseball.  Just 24, he’s already turned into a legitimate ace, succeeding in every possible aspect you could think to measure.  His velocity is trending up, not down.  He doesn’t walk anyone.  He strikes out everyone. His FIP is actually better than his ERA, which is hilarious considering that his ERA is 2.35.  He’s been better against lefties than righties.  He’s efficient.  There are no nits to pick here.  This is pretty close to the perfect young pitcher season. But he is still a pitcher, and it could all go terribly wrong tomorrow.  Mets fans don’t need a reminder about the risks of young pitching.  Baseball fans, really, don’t need that reminder either.  Before there was Matt Harvey, there was Stephen Strasburg. Before Strasburg, Mark Prior.  Before Prior, Rick Ankiel.  Before Ankiel, Dwight Gooden.  These stories don’t always end as well as they start.  They usually don’t end as well as they start.   But there’s also Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, and the rest. Some great young pitchers become great older pitchers.  And it’s not like hitters are risk free either, so while Matt Harvey might be peaking right now, every team in baseball would sign up for the right to see if Harvey could be more Kershaw than Prior.  It’s basically impossible for a pitcher to have more trade value than Matt Harvey does right now.     #6 Buster Posey (C) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld BsR WAR 26 367 9.5 % 11.2 % .325 .395 .536 .398 162 -2.6 -0.6 4.1 Under Team Control Through 2022: $11M, $17M, $20M, $21M, $21M, $21M, $21M, $21M, $22M option Buster Posey has followed up last year’s 163 wRC+ by posting a 162 wRC+ this year. Buster Posey is a catcher.  Catchers don’t hit like this.  Most first baseman don’t hit like this. That is probably the lingering question hanging over Posey’s head, however.  How much longer will he be a catcher, because a lot of his current value is tied to his ability to produce offense at a position where offense is scarce.  If he moves to first base, he’d still be an excellent player, but he would be less excellent.  So, how long can he stay behind the plate? My guess is longer than we might think.  Posey’s not the kind of bat-first catcher that you eventually move out from behind the dish because you can’t handle his defensive issues anymore.  He’s not Carlos Santana or Mike Napoli.  He might not be the best defensive catcher in the game, but he’s not actively hurting the Giants back there.   I don’t see any reason to have Posey stop catching until it begins to wear him down physically.  And given what he’s doing over the last year and a half, good luck proving that catching is hurting his offensive production.  The contract the Giants gave him was a win for both sides.  Posey will be well compensated and has long term security, while the Giants have a premium player under team control for the bulk of his career.  He’s not cheap in the sense that other players on this list are, but the value associated with having this kind of player at a good price is still immense.   #5 Evan Longoria (3B) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld BsR WAR 27 399 11.0 % 22.3 % .278 .356 .507 .367 138 10.8 -1.0 4.4 Under Team Control Through 2023: $8M, $11M, $12M, $13M, $14M, $15M, $15M, $19M, $20M, $13M option Here’s a fun fact: Evan Longoria, known for his superlative defense and not really considered one of the game’s best hitters, has a career wRC+ of 136.  Prince Fielder, a bat only player who got $214 million as a free agent, has a career wRC+ of 141. Evan Longoria is Prince Fielder’s offense combined with Adrian Beltre’s defense. Evan Longoria is an amazing and still under-appreciated baseball player. And you know, there’s his contract.  If they exercise the 2023 option, the remainder is $140 million over 10 years, taking Longoria through his age-37 season.  On the one hand, Longoria probably won’t be a star in 10 years.  On the other hand, $13 million isn’t going to be a lot of money to a baseball team in 10 years either.   Longoria’s health issues are the only real detracting factor here.  If he was perfectly healthy all the time, we’d just rename this thing the Countdown to Evan Longoria. That he’s likely to spend some time on the DL each season makes him just great instead of practically perfect.  There’s a reason the Rays chose this guy to build their franchise ...

1 Comment:
  • I think a package could be put together consisting of Omar Quintenilla, Ike Davis and Neuenhuis could be put together. Take these guys, PLEASE!

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