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Cincinnati Reds links - Valuing Jay Bruce on defense, Billy Hamilton on offense

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High-five pics are the best.
High-five pics are the best.
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a damn funny game, one rich with nuance and open to infinite interpretations.  There is no salary cap, there is no salary floor, and MLB is one of the very few professional leagues of any sport that has a dedicated farm system at its disposal to give you tangible views into what a team will look like down the road.  It has 30 different economies of scale in its respective franchises, each of whom go about their business in different ways with different development strategies, draft convictions, budgets, and statistical evaluations than their peers.

Sometimes, the game churns up parallel stories that help portray exactly how difficult it is to place an accurate valuation on the talent we get to watch everyday, and that very thing happened today.

The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan dropped great insight into the Cincinnati Reds and their relationship with speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton, and the conversations with Billy Hatcher, Bryan Price, and Hamilton himself are pretty fascinating.  Hamilton clearly brings certain obvious skills to the table, namely his tremendous range in the outfield and terrifying speed on the basepaths.  He has also, as you're well aware, struggled mightily at other tremendously important aspects of the game, such as getting on base, hitting for power, and hitting for average.  It led the Reds into a bit of a conundrum after his awful 2015 season, even leading them to build in alternate CF scenarios should his offense continue to be so bad it couldn't be out-weighed by his speed and defense.

The term "five tool player" gets kicked around in baseball parlance often, though the reality is that there are very, very few of those types of players actually on display at the big league level.  Hamilton clearly isn't one, but his case does a solid job of highlighting how teams must juggle their acceptance levels of each tool to find flawed players that still can provide enough value to warrant playing time even with deficiencies.

The parallel I mentioned earlier comes from FanGraphs, as August Fagerstrom tackled a similarly confounding issue with Hamilton's OF teammate, Jay Bruce.  Bruce, in this case, is almost the complete flipside of Hamilton, in that he's swung a super potent bat for most of his career (in particular this season), but the same metrics that judge Hamilton to be among the most elite defenders in the game hate Bruce's performance like almost no other.  How the Reds choose to place value on Bruce given these admittedly flawed metrics is vital at this point more so than in previous years, since Bruce continues to rank at the top of potential trade candidates on the market this summer.

With the increased value placed on prospects in this era of Major League Baseball, establishing the exact worth of valuable, yet flawed players like Hamilton and Bruce really exemplifies the toughest part of the job for guys like Dick Williams and Walt Jocketty.  It's the exact conundrum that started the origins of the Wins Above Replacement conversation, too, as attempting to aggregate overall player value becomes harder and harder the deeper you dig. But just like a point of on-base percentage isn't equal in the eyes of run creation to one point of slugging percentage despite their seeming equivalence in OPS, one dWAR may not be as valuable in the eyes of an opposing GM/evaluator as in the eyes of another.  In Bruce's case particularly, let's hope a team out there sees his offense in a bright enough light to eschew the serious questions about his overall defense.


In other news, Baseball America released their mid-season Top 100 prospect list, and much like yesterday's Baseball Prospectus Top 50, you should read it with a grain of salt.  You'll find three Reds farmhands on BA's list, but know that neither Cody Reed nor Jose Peraza was eligible anymore (due to their presence on the big league roster), and also know that none of the recent 2016 draftees were eligible for inclusion, either.  Still, read it to freshen up on at least a few names the Reds might hope to land in trades as the rebuild continues forward.

We found out last night that Adam Duvall will take part in MLB's Dinger Derby, and's Mark Sheldon caught up with the Reds' slugger about that opportunity.  Duvall is "super-excited," to participate, and he drew a 1st round matchup against Wil Myers, the Padres All Star who will be dingering in front of his home crowd in San Diego.

Finally, Sheldon also touched on Anthony DeSclafani's recent solid start against the juggernaut Chicago Cubs, even going so far as to call Disco a 'beacon' for the rest of the Reds' rotation.  Disco's performance has been both a breath of fresh air given the other pitching struggles we've watched and a confirmation of what we largely saw from him in 2015.  It's easy to forget that by at least one name-brand metric, Anthony was the single most valuable rookie pitcher in all of baseball last year, his 3.2 fWAR season suggesting he's got rotation-cog quality at the perfect age (now 26) for such emergence.

To tie this back to the initial discussion in this here reposter, valued qualities in baseball are hard to nail down, especially once you factor in team control and salary obligation.  As I lobbed out after that solid start vs. the Cubs, another pair of solid outings as the trade deadline approaches just might make DeSclafani's combination the most enticing on the trade market of any current Red on the roster.  Not that I'm advocating trading him, but given his performance since being traded from the Marlins, his oblique injury not being a structural issue, his 4.5 years of team control, and his league-minimum salary, it's at least fun to kick around what he might bring back in a trade - especially given the thin supply of available arms on the trade market at this very moment and the weak free agent class expected this winter.