In previous posts, I covered the Padres who currently have negative value and those whose value is so close to zero that we should just consider them valueless. Today, we finally get to take a look at the players who have actual value to the organization.
There will be no honorable mentions list: if a player isn’t named in the top 20 and wasn’t named in the zeroes or negative posts, just assume the player value is somewhere between ‘no value’ and the 20th most valuable Padre. There are no participation trophies at Gwynntelligence.
With no further ado, here are the 16th-20th most valuable Padres:
20. Nick Vincent
I’m generally hesitant to rank relievers high on this list, but Vincent warrants inclusion since he still has another year of pre-arbitration. That makes him a bargain at least in 2015, not to mention that the Padres also hold his rights until he turns 32. That’s basically his entire prime.
My main worry with him, though, is that his rates might be a mirage. ~100 innings is not very many, so we should tread carefully when complimenting his sparkling ratios.
Why might it be a mirage?
- The highest flyball rate on the staff. That plays at Petco, yes, but it doesn’t mean his value is the same across baseball.
- His fastball velocity is less than Despaigne or Stauffer’s.
- He’s had relatively good luck with batted balls. For example, despite being the Padres arm most likely to have a ball hit in the air against him, he has never been the victim of a bloop single (as classified by Fangraphs’ Inside Edge). Ever.
I like Nick and I like the fact he’s a San Diego product through-and-through, but that wouldn’t convince a team playing at a stadium with fair tendencies that Nick would succeed.
19. Michael Gettys
This is more emblematic of the value of high draft picks than anything else. Gettys is off to a reasonable start in the AZL (traditionally favorable for pitchers, by the way) and has rave reviews from scouts.
Regardless of how remote the odds, the value of a potential superstar under team control for six seasons in San Diego is immense. Arguably, if examined on a World Series odds per dollar scale rather than an abstract “value” scale, there’d be more raw toolsy prospects on this list.
There were a number of guys that were similar to Gettys in this respect: Dustin Peterson, Jordan Paroubeck, and some of the Dominican Academy graduates, in particular.
18. Taylor Lindsey
The most “name” player of the Huston Street haul, Lindsey is basically the other end of the Gettys prospect spectrum: he’s not 18 and he’s probably not going to grow as a player much more.
However, he does have playable BB and K rates, hits enough extra base hits not to be hollow offensively, and does play a demanding defensive position. And, of course, he’s both close to MLB ready (although I’d prefer more time in AAA) and controllable for the next six seasons.
He’s hardly a superstar in the making, but he’ll likely far out-produce the $0.5M he’ll earn in each of his first three seasons.
17. Joe Ross
Joe, the brother of Tyson, was a Padres first round pick back in 2011. While he’s never put up elite numbers, indicating it’s very unlikely he’ll ever be a staff ace, his rate stats continue to improve despite moving up levels:
His walk rate has reduced from roughly 9% down to 7.5% and now about 5% in 2014, despite jumping up two leagues. (He’s throwing in AA after throwing in A+ earlier in 2014 and A in 2013.) Additionally, he doesn’t surrender the long ball very frequently – less than 15 per 200 innings – a good sign that his stuff is either a) not very hittable or b) well controlled within the strikezone.
The latter point is what makes him fairly projectable, despite being just 21, and valuable outside the Petco environment.
His numbers don’t wow, but they’re still excellent numbers given his age. As someone who could conceivably reach the majors at age 22 or 23, and contribute with solid ratios over the six years of team control, he’s well worthy of this spot on the list.
16. Joaquin Benoit
This is where it gets tricky. Reliever value isn’t as straightforward as looking at their WAR plus salary and saying “he’s worth five million more than his $/WAR”. Wins above replacement is built on the assumption that the only thing that matters is a player’s non-contextualized value – that someone worth 1 WAR is, over a million seasons, worth one more win per season than a player with 0 WAR. This is not true for relief pitchers.
Relief pitchers do not pitch in a non-contextualized world. Generally, they pitch very discrete roles which have very different leverage indices attached to them. What this means is that pitcher A who is generally worth 1 WAR over a season can be worth significantly more than the one win difference in WAR he has over pitcher B, the aforementioned 0 WAR reliever.
A better way of thinking of this is that the $/WAR plot is very bent / curved for relief pitchers, to a significant degree more than other positions.
Enter Joaquin Benoit.
Benoit has proven himself to be one of those able-to-be-significantly-leveraged relief pitchers over the past decade of his career. In fact, he’s put up 0ver 1 full WAR in 8 of his previous 9 full seasons – a rare feat at relief pitcher.
His contract is also favorable: he’s under contract in 2015 for $8 million, with a team option for 2016 at $8 million (and a $1.5 million buyout). The option vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015, but that vesting option is irrelevant since you’d certainly exercise the option in 2016 if you’re using him to close 55 games in 2015. The buyout should really be included in the 2015 salary – making is a $9.5 million deal – with the potential of having a bargain $6.5 million closer in 2016.
In many ways, Joaquin Benoit is simply an older, healthier version of Huston Street. Contractually and productively, they’re very similar value. Street fetched the 18th player on this list (and other guys who just missed the list), so placing Benoit above 18 was a no-brainer.