With the General Manager’s meetings currently underway in Orlando and the Winter Meetings just around the corner, we are now neck deep in baseball’s Hot Stove League.

This off-season, rumors are already swirling concerning several of the Rays top players (Scott Kazmir, Delmon Young, Carl Crawford, etc.). While the chances of one of those players being moved is slim, the Rays are in the market for a shortstop with strong defensive skills as well as a starting pitcher and relief pitchers with pitching skills.

Therefore it is time for us to update our Tampa Bay Rays Trade Value Index (TVI)…

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 (A or B) from the organization, which player would the front office choose to keep. If the answer is player A, he would be ranked ahead of player B.

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 ahead of him on the depth chart for outfielders. 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.

[More detailed notes about specific players, follow the Rankings]

CLICK HERE FOR THE ENTIRE RANKINGS 1-68



A couple of notes on the rankings…

  • Scott Kazmir retains his hold on the top spot, but now that he is arbitration eligible his lead over the rest of the field is narrower. James Shields along with his dominance, consistency, ability to work late in games and the fact that he is still a year from arbitration, brings him much closer to Kid K. Still, the fact that Kazmir is left-handed still gives the nod.
  • BJ Upton leapfrog’s Carl Crawford and Delmon Young and is now the most valuable hitter in the organization. Young may still end up the best of the trio, but questions remain about his power, his glove (not his arm) and his attitude after lashing out at Joe Maddon after the next-to-last game of the year in 2007. Still, barring a trade or the re-emergence of Rocco Baldelli or Elijah Dukes, the Rays outfield is set for at least the next three years.
  • We always hesitate to give a very high ranking to a player until they have proven themselves above A-ball. And now that Jake McGee has done that, the power lefty makes a big leap to #6. Edwin Jackson finally started to show some of the promise that scouts have long harped about in the second half of 2007. His arm alone gets him a spot in top 10, however, he needs a strong showing in 2008 (12 wins?) to remain an elite prospect. David Price has yet to throw a pitch as a professional, but his status as the top pick gets him a top-10 nod.
  • In the past, there has been a clear distinction between the top 5-6 players and the rest of the field. Now that top-tier includes the entire top-10. Despite his 40 home runs in 2007, Carlos Pena only comes in at #10 because he needs to show that there are no longer holes in swing to be found, he is arbitration eligible and of course his agent is Scott Boras, which means his cost is bound to go up, hurting his value.
  • Jeff Niemann remains an enigma at #11, just outside the top-tier. He has yet to show he can dominate at the minor league level and it is starting to look as if the big right-hander may be destined to be a back-of-the-rotation starter.
  • Rocco Baldelli and Elijah Dukes, both have the talent to be in the top-10, but each have their issues, hurting any value the two outfielders may have.
  • Al Reyes is still a valuable commodity as a proven veteran relief pitcher, but once the season begins, he will start losing value quickly as he is a free agent at the end of the season.
  • Reid Brignac is exactly why we hesitate to over-rank players with big numbers at single-A (ie. Heath Rollins). He is still an elite prospect but until he reestablishes his offense at higher levels, his value to the franchise is hurt.
  • Akinori Iwamura would be further down the list if he wasn’t destined for second base. Most predicted his power numbers to decline, but nobody could have predicted that a player that once hit 40+ in Japan, would only hit 7 in the States. There is still a chance that he will adjust to the AL and if he does, even a slight improvement in his numbers would make for a valuable second baseman.
 
 

7 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    I would not said you “screwed up” any rankings, although I would quibble with quite a few, but I see two that stand out in my mind as wrong.

    The first is Edwin Jackson whom I think you rank much too high. Given the potential, and some improvement in the second half as well as the higher value put on starters, I still cannot see him ahead of any one of the players through Wade Davis on your list, and probably even lower than that.

    While his second half showed improvement, he remained erratic, continued to walk people and did not strike out as many as one might expect. Also, in terms of need, while starters are critical, it is one area where there is intense competition on the Rays, and if ultimately the criteria is whom would the Rays trade first, all things considered, I cannot imagine them preferring to deal Longoria or any of the others you list in the next 8 or so rankings.

    I also think Jennings is too far down the list. Even given his inexperience, age and distance from the majors, after the major league squad, he is by far the best Rays’ outfield prospect in the minors, and would only be dealt if necessary to acquire a top line player while many ahead of him would be included more readily in a package for a merely useful player.

  2. The Professor says:

    Jackson was one of my tougher calls.

    A major part of my reasoning for having him so high is that A) he is still very young and B) he still has a rep as having been one of the better pitching prospects and his second half performance may have caught the attention of other GMs.

    While we are yet to really see that on the field (and I for one am highly skeptical that we ever will) my feeling is that if the Rays tried to trade him, he would command more in return than those below him. I did originally have him below Price and Longoria and i kinda regret not leaving him there, but he has at least shown that he has the ability to perform at the major league level, something the other 2 have yet to do and would be more valuable to teams looking for major league help in a trade.

    As for Jennings. He does have some off-field issues that I took into consideration and after the Dukes fiasco, the team is more likely to let Jennings simmer at lower levels a little while longer to make sure those are only in his past. There is also still considerable depth in the outfield which makes him more expendable.

    Talent alone? He is probably in the 25-30 range.

  3. Robert Rittner says:

    As I said, I would not use the phrase “screwed up” because your reasoning makes sense, and it comes down to where each of us puts his stress. With Jackson, although I am hopeful, I am not optimistic, and if the ultimate criteria (after all the specifics) is who would (should) the Rays deal first, I cannot imagine that they would let Longoria or Price go before Jackson. For example, suppose the Rays were in the running for Santana and having already put Delmon and McGee into the package needed to add another player. Which of the 3 would they most readily include: Longoria, Price or Jackson? And which of the 3 would the Twins least likely want? And I think the same holds for others in the list to Davis and even after. For myself, I would prefer Jackson go than Sonnanstine despite the higher ceiling of Edwin.

    I know there are some questions on Jennings makeup, and I am sure the Rays are very sensitive to that. But his progress on the field this year was quite remarkable, and I do not think there is much outfield depth, at least not reliable depth. After Crawford, Upton and Young, there is not one outfielder who can be expected to perform as better than a reserve. Maybe Perez. But Gomes, Ruggiano and Pridie are either questionable or at best low ceiling. Dukes is entirely undependable. In fact, I think he is far too high on your list because I think if the Rays could get even a mid-level reliever for him today they would jump at it. Baldelli may never stay healthy and is overrated by most Rays’ fans anyway-mediocre power, mediocre to poor plate discipline. Only Jennings has the promise of stardom, so I doubt he gets dealt except in a “must-do” deal while any of the others would be thrown in quite willingly in an ordinary deal that improves the bullpen or infield.

  4. The Professor says:

    When discussing this list with a few people before posting it…we talked at length about Dukes. In the end we felt that Dukes is exactly the type of talent that the Rays would look to acquire if he were in another franchise. That is…a bargain. That being said, we felt if that was true, there must be 10-12 teams out there that think the same way and will try to get Dukes on the cheap.

    the key there is the “cheap”. The feeling is that the more separation we see between a well-behaved Dukes and a misbehaved Dukes, the more other teams would be willing to offer and in the end, they would prefer to have a Dukes on their roster than most of the players below him on the list.

    I might still be projecting a little bit with that ranking. his “current” value might still lower than that.

  5. Robert Rittner says:

    I think we may be responding from different ends of the telescope. You seem to be saying that the important issue is whether other teams desire the player, or in Dukes’ case would like to get him on the cheap. I am focusing not on what the other teams want but on what the Rays want. My reference is this quotation from your statement of criteria:
    _________________________________
    “Ultimately, when looking at the rankings, the question should be, if the Rays could only keep one of two players (A or B) from the organization, which player would the front office choose to keep. If the answer is player A, he would be ranked ahead of player B.”
    __________________________________
    Given that approach, while I agree that other teams might love to pick up Dukes cheaply, and might give up more the longer he stays out of trouble, I think the issue is how the Rays feel about it. And in my mind, they would trade Dukes right now for very little return (much to my chagrin, by the way) while it would take a WOW offer to part with Longoria or Price (were that even possible).

    Or to put it another way, suppose the Marlins offered Dontrelle for Longoria. Would the Rays do it? (Gosh, I hope not!) But I think they would certainly give up Dukes right now.(And doubt that Florida would accept.)

  6. TK says:

    I don’t blame you for being cautiously skeptimistic on Brignac…there’s an interesting take from Chris Constancio of The Hardball Times today in a piece on improved minor league hitters:

    “Brignac experienced a breakout season at the hitter-friendly California League last year, and his plate approach continued to improve as he posted career-best walk rates and strikeout rates in the Southern League this year. His traditional statistics were underwhelming in 2007 as he only hit .260 in a full season with the Montgomery Biscuits. The components of that performance are highly encouraging, however.”

    He probably needs a year at Durham but there’s a lot to like here.

  7. The Professor says:

    By no means have we given up on Brignac and I have stated on here before that his numbers in 2007 were actually a lot better than they appeared on the surface.

    My trepidation stems from two things that we did not see in 2007.

    1. Consistency…he was a bit up and down at the plate and in the field. At one point he went a month without an error, but still finished with near 30 errors.

    2. Dominance…He never had a stretch, not even a week, at AA where he carried the team offensively. He did that all season at Visalia in 2006. And while the California League is an offensive league, his numbers still dwarfed everybody else.

    We are still very much on the Brignac bandwagon, we just think it is not travelling as fast as it used to. Entering 2007 we envisioned Brignac making his debut in 2008. That may happen still, but it might not be until September now.

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