Over the past five to ten years, it has become a staple in baseball circles to determine the value of a player. The best way to determine the value of a player is to do it in the terms of a trade where you must take all the factors of a player into account: age, years of control, contract, position scarcity and most importantly, ability.
Bill Simmons started the craze at ESPN (and now on Grantland) with NBA players, which led Dave Cameron to adapt it for the Trade Value rankings of MLB players at Fangraphs. Jonah Keri has joined in for the last few years at Grantland for baseball, too. Here at TPOP we will do our own Trade Value Top 25, but it will be just for the Pirates. The theory is that the player ranked 15th could be traded for the player ranked 22nd plus something else. Remember, years of control and contract status are VERY important in trade value. The number in parentheses is the player’s age during the 2015 season (using the standard July 1st cutoff date) and their projected 2015 level assignment is shown, as well. On to the rankings:
25. Adrian Sampson (23) RHP – AAA – 6 years of control, pre-arbitration
Sampson did not meet his Delilah this year; just the contrary. He ?d probably be on my short list for breakout Pirate prospect in 2014. When you look at Sampson two things stand out. First, he ?s young for reaching AAA as he ?s only 23. Second, he has great control. In 148 AA innings this year he averaged only 1.8 BB/9. While his K/9 rate wasn ?t great at 6.0 it wasn ?t horrible either. It wouldn ?t surprise me if he stalls outs and goes the route of Jared Hughes or Tony Watson, but it also wouldn ?t surprise me for him to turn into a Jeff Karstens-type pitcher (extreme control) while hopefully having a couple better seasons.
24. Jeff Locke (27) LHP – ML – 4 years of control, pre-arbitration
Locke is a personal favorite of mine, solely because I ?ve been to the little town he ?s from in New Hampshire and have seen how much of a demi-god he is up in the land of free living. The message board folks often talk of Locke as a soft tosser because of some of his predecessors, but that cast doesn ?t fit. Locke has real stuff, it just is sometimes hard for him to locate it, which led him to lead the league in walks in 2013. He improved his walk rate in 2014 from 4.5 BB/9 to 2.7 BB/9, but he could totally implode and end up back on the ski slopes in New Hampshire, or he could become a #3 starter. With already having some success, his youth and his cheap years of control would be desirable in a trade.
23. Mark Melancon (30) RP – ML – 2 years of control, second time through arbitration
When talking about possible DFA ?s in November, Melancon was briefly mentioned since arbitration projections thought he would get paid higher than the $5.4M he received and the fact the Pirates don’t pay relievers much. Melancon has been VERY good the last two years. His cutter has been mentioned by many (most prominently Buster Olney) as one of the best pitches in baseball. His control is also excellent allowing for some amazing K/BB numbers. Melancon has two problems: his save totals might cause him to get expensive in arbitration and he ?s a reliever. The Pirates have made it a point to jettison relievers as they get expensive, going back to Matt Capps. I think the Pirates will look to deal Melancon at the trade deadline. If not he could be traded for peanuts next fall. Remember, relievers don’t have much value to most teams. A crazy idea would be a team friendly extension, but Melancon might be able to break the bank in two years and probably would never consider it.
22. Cole Tucker (18) SS – Low A – 6 years of control, pre-arbitration
First, Cole Tucker has a great baseball name. Second, Cole Tucker impressed the crap out of the Pittsburgh media upon his introduction. Ironically, he played for ex-Pirate 1B Kevin Young on a summer league team in which his double play partner was ex-Pirate 2B Jay Bell ?s son. The Tucker pick was a lightning rod in the Pittsburgh media. I think this was due to the fact that it surprised everyone, which could be a good thing. I will speak to the Pirates’ new drafting strategy in an upcoming article, but in reference to the Tucker pick, they bought low on a player with considerable upside. If he can stay at SS he could be a Jimmy Rollins-type. Or if he has to shift to 2B then Neil Walker isn ?t a bad comp. I loved the Tucker pick and will speak more on this in an upcoming article.
21. Chris Stewart (33) C – ML – 2 years of control, second time through arbitration
I ?ll admit the fact that a friend of mine knows Chris Stewart and says he ?s a tremendous human being, which clouds my judgement slightly. I ?m also clouded by my new school view of catcher defense and pitch framing. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs and SABR acclaim lists Stewart in nearly every article he writes on pitch framing. That ?s because a) Stewart is that good at it and b) that ?s really all he ?s good at, saving teams dozens of runs over the last few years. Well, it ?s not surprising that on offense he is also good at managing the strike zone. Stewart had an abnormally high .361 OBP in a relatively small sample in 2014 but he has a career BB% of 14.0% in 888 ML PAs. The guy is going to walk and play good defense and will be cheap for another two years. His $1.225M salary in 2015 makes him a tradeable asset.