Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus and SI.com recently released his list of the 50 Most Valuable Players in baseball. We took Mr. Silver to task for not including Carl Crawford. Let’s just say we aren’t buying Nate a beer anytime soon.

In light of this glaring omission, we thought it would be a good time to update our Tampa Bay Devil Rays Trade Value Index (TVI).

TRADE VALUE INDEX

The TVI ranks every player on the current 40-man roster and the top prospects in the organization. Our goal is to determine which players in the organization are the most valuable to the team. Ultimately, when looking at the rankings, the question should be, if the Rays could only keep one of two players from the organization, which player would the front office choose to keep.

The rankings consider a number factors in addition to talent and good looks, such as potential, age, contract and depth of position in organization. This last factor comes into effect if one player is stuck behind another player with more ability. For example, Fernando Perez would be a little higher due to his exceptional speed and strong OBP, but loses a little value because he has bad hair, and some more value because the team has Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Elijah Duke and Delmon Young firmly entrenched on the major league roster and either do, or are capable of playing the outfield. Another factor is team needs. A pitcher may be ranked ahead of a more “talented” fielder because the team has a stronger need for pitching at the major league level. (Please see the original TVI post for further explanation).

Feel free to tell us where we screwed up in the comments.

[Rankings follow the notes]

A couple of notes on the rankings…

  • The biggest addition to the list is obviously David Price. Even though he has yet to sign a contract, we don’t foresee that being a problem. When trying to determine where to include Price in the rankings we asked ourselves, “If the Rays did not have the top pick and were allowed to deal draft picks, would the Rays have traded Player X, for the top pick in the draft and a chance to select Price?” The answer was ‘NO’ for BJ Upton, but was a ‘YES’ for Evan Longoria, although we definitely debated the second one. You could probably exchange Longoria and Price and you wouldn’t get much of an argument from us. There is never a sure-thing in the minors, but Longoria is as close as it comes.
  • Speaking of BJ Upton…He jumps up into the top 5 for the first time. We tried to temper our excitement for his hot start, knowing that he was not going to finish the season hitting .350. His strike out totals indicated that he would fall back…a lot. However, despite the recent drop in batting average, he has actually cut down on his strikeouts, recently going 12 straight games without a K. And despite his size, he generates tremendous bat speed. Everything he hits just explodes off his bat, which will equate to more hits. Upton is the real-deal. We just need to prepare ourselves for the re-birth of “BJ Upton, major league shortstop”, because it is coming. Akinori Iwamura is going to need a new home as early as next season when Evan Longoria busts down the door that is holding him back.
  • Jeff Niemann’s ho-hum start to his season at AAA, as well as the emergence of James Shields and the selection of David Price drops his value from #5 to #8. If he doesn’t start to turn it on soon, he will drop out of the top 10.
  • Looking back we were surprised that we had James Shields as highly valued as his #11 spring training ranking. Just goes to show you how scary the pitching situation was before the season began. He had a good start to his major league career, winning his first four starts, but there was no indication that he was going to be as good as he has been this year. The only thing keeping him from overtaking Scott Kazmir for the #1 spot is that Kid K is a lefty and he is two years younger than Shields.
  • Rocco Baldelli takes a big hit, dropping from #4 to #9. If this was the Devil Rays Most Fragile Index, he would be the unanimous #1. Until he can show that he can stay healthy for an extended period of time, he won’t be moving up this chart.
  • Much has been made about the Rays drafting a big power-lefty in the form of David Price. Of course the Rays already have a power-lefty in the majors (Scott Kazmir). Well the Rays have another big power-lefty in the system. Jacob McGee makes his first appearance in the top 10. When he finally receives a (well-deserved) promotion and if he has a strong start at AA, he could jump into the top 5.
  • You would think that Jacob McGee and Wade Davis have been best friends since potty-training. They are always together and mentioned together even more often. Davis obviously does not have quite the same value as McGee as right-hander. Still, #20 is a strong ranking for a single-A right-handed pitcher and a testament to what scouts think about Davis. He might drop a few spots initially, but a switch to “closer-in-training” could bump his value in the long run.
  • Edwin Jackson is holding on to his #12 spot…barely…on talent alone.
  • Elijah Dukes drops from #10 to #15. It would have been farther, but some teams around the league have expressed some interest in Dukes, so he is still considered a valuable commodity.
  • Reid Brignac takes one of the biggest falls, dropping from #9 to #16. His batting average is down in the .250s and he is not hitting home runs. On top of that, after a solid defensive showing in 2006, he is back to his best BJ Upton impersonation at shortstop this season. Remember, Brignac’s strong numbers last year came in the very hitter-friendly California League. Yet another reason to brace ourselves for BJ Upton the shortstop.
  • Chris Mason has made the biggest leap in 2007, from #48 to #24. It is very difficult to gauge players at single-A. We start to get a sense of talent-levels once they hit AA. Mason has dominated at AA this season and looks to be on the fast-track.
  • Josh Butler (#28), Lewis Rollins (#48) and Jeremy Hellickson (#29) are good examples at low-A Columbus. We just don’t know what they are yet. They are dominating low-A, but it is too early to tell how that will translate to higher levels. Rollins is having the best season of the three, but was the lowest draft pick. That indicates to us that the other two have more natural ability. If Rollins can keep it up in Vero Beach and beyond, he will move up the chart quickly.

 
 

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