Execs pick their top 10 players for 2013

For MLB executives, there is Mike Trout ... and everyone else. Mark L. Baer

The American League Most Valuable Player debate last summer illuminated the significant difference between the way folks in front offices evaluate players and how uniformed personnel view them. For managers, coaches and players, Miguel Cabrera was a no-brainer selection as he became the first hitter in 45 years to win the Triple Crown.

But for many general managers, assistant general managers and scouts -- baseball's talent evaluators -- the whole question seemed ridiculously simple, summed up neatly by the offensive and defensive metrics of Mike Trout.

"Taking a home run away with your glove means the same thing as hitting a home run," one GM said with incredulity.

It was a debate that execs believed wasn't really debatable.

So the results of a poll of 21 talent evaluators shouldn't be a surprise. In conjunction with the "Baseball Tonight" 500 -- the top 10 of which will be unveiled at 10 tonight on ESPN -- I asked those 21 execs to rank the top 10 players in the majors for 2013, 1 through 10, and the votes reflected the way they feel about overall value. The middle-of-the-diamond guys, including pitchers, fared very well.

In tabulating the votes, I gave the players points according to where they were placed on ballots -- 10 for first place, 9 for second place, etc.) .

1. Mike Trout | OF, Los Angeles Angels

177 (out of 210 possible) points; 13 first-place votes

"Best player in the game, period," said one front office type. "Special, a freak talent."

2. Buster Posey | C, San Francisco Giants

164 points; 5 first-place votes

"Elite hitter at a premium position who has led his team to two World Series titles."

3. Justin Verlander | RHP, Detroit Tigers

132 points

"Most dominant pitcher in the game."

4. Miguel Cabrera | 3B, Detroit Tigers

130 points; 2 first-place votes

"Probably the best pure hitter in the game."

5. Clayton Kershaw | LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

93 points

"Injuries from last year hurt his ranking a little, but he's one of the best."

6. David Price | LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

68 points

"For me, he's right there with Verlander -- and he's younger, and left-handed."

7. Joey Votto | 1B, Cincinnati Reds

65 points; 1 first-place vote

"I think he's headed for a big year at the plate, and he's a good defender."

8. Robinson Cano | 2B, New York Yankees

63 points

"He's got the best swing in baseball."

9. Ryan Braun | LF, Milwaukee Brewers

62.5 points

"There are questions about the stuff in Miami, but he performs at an extremely high level every year."

10. Andrew McCutchen | CF, Pittsburgh Pirates

56 points

"He may be the most complete player, and does it on bad team."

Other players who got votes: Giancarlo Stanton finished 11th, with 27 points; Matt Kemp 26; Evan Longoria 25; Felix Hernandez 19; Joe Mauer 11; Stephen Strasburg 11; Adrian Beltre 6.5 Bryce Harper 4; Troy Tulowitzki 4; Chase Headley 1.

Bradley's scouting report

A talent evaluator had this scouting report after watching Jackie Bradley Jr. play as an amateur at the University of South Carolina.

"Player carries the 'it' factor. Presidential presence to game. Regal. However, the player has been the most popular man in Columbia, S.C. from the 1st day he walked on campus and he had me glued to the TV last year watching the College World Series. Mesmerizing defender. Jaw-dropping defensive skills. Patrols CF with a determined grace, with flare. Would have happily paid good money just to watch his pregame batting practice and infield. Acrobatic and skilled. Catches every ball with flare. Covers ground like a gladiator. Plus handles the glove in CF like Omar Vizquel would in the infield. Amazing defensive skills. Innate ability to hawk the diamond. Better defender in center field than majority of major leaguers right now... [You] can't teach the things this kid can do defensively.
Made the parallel play coming directly in on a ball ala 1998 Andruw Jones. Sick defender."

If the Red Sox open the season with Bradley, Jr. in the big leagues -- two years after that scouting report was placed -- his defense will be one of the biggest reasons.

Bradley has proven he belongs. Is he one of the best players in Boston's camp? Absolutely.

From a business standpoint, would it make sense to wait until April 12 to promote him and gain an extra year of team control? Absolutely.

Around the league

• Maybe the most notable maneuvering this week has been the Angels' scramble to add pitching. Their bullpen has been something of a puzzle this spring, so GM Jerry Dipoto got a reliever in a deal with the Rays, signed Mark Lowe and traded for Elvin Ramirez from the Mets.

• On Wednesday's podcast, one of the things Jerry Crasnick and I chatted about, in discussing Royals catcher Salvy Perez, was a catcher I covered who had an OCD issue that drove pitchers crazy.

• Evan Gattis made the Braves' roster, the culmination of an incredible comeback story.

• This is a good sign for the Giants: Pablo Sandoval was able to go through a workout.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Derrick Goold wrote Wednesday morning that the Cardinals were on the verge of a deal with Adam Wainwright, and by last night, the agreement was in place, for $97.5 million.

2. The Tigers will huddle to discuss the fate of Bruce Rondon.

3. Each time a contract is signed, the deals are assigned average annual values separately by Major League Baseball, and the union assessed Kyle Lohse's deal at about $10.7 million annually. Lohse's deal was first reported at $33 million over three years, and it includes $7 million in deferred money, which is the reason for the difference.

4. Vance Worley will be the plow horse for the Twins, they hope, and he's getting the ball on Opening Day.

5. The Twins' projected payroll is at $81 million, writes Mike Berardino.

6. Gorkys Hernandez was pulled from a game Wednesday, and it could be that the Marlins are preparing a trade, as Joe Capozzi writes. Total speculation: Arizona has had its outfield depth tested this spring by injuries to Adam Eaton and Jason Kubel.

7. J.A. Happ got a contract extension, to go along with the No. 5 spot in the Toronto rotation.

8. Clayton Kershaw doesn't want to talk about his extension talks.

9. The Padres' Opening Day roster is all but set, writes Bill Center.

10. Jon Lester is getting the ball on Opening Day, as Dan Shaughnessy writes.

11. Jason Hammel is getting the ball on Opening Day for the Orioles.

Dings and dents

1. The Braves are waiting on the news about Jonny Venters. No matter what the doctors say, his status as an elite setup man will be in doubt as the season opens.

2. Willie Bloomquist will open the year on the disabled list.

3. Jair Jurrjens was nailed by a comebacker.

4. Phil Hughes will open the year on the disabled list.

5. Derek Jeter won't play in a minor league game until next week, at the earliest.

The fight for jobs

1. After all the work Matt Carpenter put in at second base this spring, he'll open the year at third.

2. Devin Mesoraco found the competition to be a good thing.

3. Nick Tepesch will be the Rangers' No. 5 starter.

4. Jeff Niemann, vying for the No. 5 spot in the Tampa Bay rotation, had a really good outing.

5. Brandon Maurer and Blake Beavan will be the No. 4 and No. 5 starters in the Seattle rotation, writes Geoff Baker.

6. Daniel Bard had a really tough day.

7. Some bullpen intrigue remains for the Nationals, writes Amanda Comak.

8. The Phillies have to pick a backup catcher.

9. Jeff Locke will open the season as the No. 5 starter for the Pirates.

Wednesday's games

1. Daisuke Matsuzaka had good results.

2. Bob Melvin yanked a lot of his starters from Oakland's last exhibition in Arizona.

3. Jon Niese finished spring training strong.

NL West

• The Rockies' roster is taking shape.

• Mark Kiszla doesn't want the Rockies to jinx Jhoulys Chacin with an Opening Day start.

Ted Lilly is unsure about starting the season on the disabled list.

• For the Dodgers, questions remain, as Bill Plunkett writes.

• The Padres know all about the fragility of pitching, writes Tyler Kepner.

NL Central

• The Cubs are brimming with optimism as they break camp.

• Kyle Lohse is eager to take his turn in the Milwaukee rotation.

A.J. Burnett is thinking about retiring after the season.

NL East

Chris Coghlan has had a strong spring, writes Joe Capozzi.

• The Mets have faith in Bobby Parnell, writes Mike Puma.

Shaun Marcum says he'll find a way to pitch.

Wilson Ramos is all the way back.

• As Roy Halladay gets the ball today, questions about him persist.

• The Phillies hope that Michael Young is an influence on Delmon Young.

AL West

• For Jurickson Profar, it's hello, Round Rock, writes Randy Galloway.

• Kevin Sherrington talks about the Rangers' prospect not named Profar or Olt who is the next big thing.

Mitch Moreland has been a spring star for Texas.

• Chip Bailey writes about the Astros' rotation.

• The Astros got a glimpse of their future.

• The Angels have a star-laden lineup.

AL Central

• Terry Francona is eager to see his speedy lineup take off. Francona gave some clues about how he's going to structure his lineup.

Lorenzo Cain hopes to bring a sprinter's approach to center field, writes Bob Dutton.

Addison Reed is putting in work this spring, as Mark Gonzales writes.

Dayan Viciedo seems primed for a breakout year.

AL East

Ricky Romero had a difficult time with the news that he was sent down. Pitching coach Pete Walker blames himself for not making changes with Romero's delivery earlier in spring.

• The Yankees need to have a 2013 version of Aaron Small to win, writes Joel Sherman.

Other stuff

• Major League Baseball is not ready to approve padded caps, writes Willie Weinbaum.

• The Cardinals will wear a patch to honor Stan Musial.

• Mike Rizzo relies on scouting and analytics, as Adam Kilgore writes.

• Tim McCarver is set to retire. He has taught us a lot of things, and he has always been honest, a frankness that cost him jobs with the Mets and the Yankees.

Manny Ramirez debuted in Taiwan, as Brandon DuBreuil writes.

And today will be better than yesterday.