There used to be a yearly column in Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus called the Ultimate Fantasy Draft written by BP’s Nate Silver before he became a full-time political analyst. The premise was if every player in baseball were granted free agency, which players would produce the most value over the next six seasons. I wrote a similar article for my now-dead Baseball Mastermind website in 2008 and will do so again here, determining the most valuable assets in Major League Baseball for the next five seasons (2011-2015).
This is not a “Who is the best player in baseball?” article, nor is it a fantasy baseball article, so age and defensive ability factor into the equation significantly as well as injury history. These factors will diminish the value of Josh Hamilton (having the best season in baseball in 2010) and Roy Halladay, the oldest player on the list (even though he is probably the best pitcher in baseball today). I included players like Hamilton, Halladay and Cliff Lee over some younger players because this is a five-year window and two or three MVP-caliber seasons, followed by two decline-phase or even injury-limited seasons are still worth more than five good, not great seasons.
This season was particularly difficult to assess because there are so many good young pitchers in the game today. Combine that with the fact that there have been many injuries and down years from some of the key position players such as Chase Utley, Ryan Braun, Dustin Pedroia, Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis and Grady Sizemore to name a few.
I projected aggressively, yet cautiously with Justin Upton, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Heyward because, while any of these players may break out into superstardom as soon as next season, as we have seen with many young players (Upton, Delmon Young, Matt Wieters), they may scuffle and produce at a below-average rate for a few seasons in making adjustments.
I looked at career statistics, advanced statistics for offense and defense and of course, their age, position and injury history. Again, this is not the MVP award — defense actually matters. Thanks to Vincent Hull, Andrew Grant and Cameron Weiss for consultation with the list. Without further ado, here are the Top 30 Franchise Players in MLB: