Fellow Astros Fans: All Top 100 Prospects Are Not Created Equal

There has been a lot of discussion over the last few days about the Astros and potential trades sending Hunter Pence to the Phillies in exchange for Domonic Brown.  In case you didn't already know, Brown is a corner outfielder who was Baseball America's 4th best prospect in baseball for 2011.  He's MLB-ready now and has superstar upside.

I am sure Ed Wade has asked for Brown in a deal, but asking and receiving are obviously two very different things.  Before I get into the meat of this story, I will just say straight-up, Brown is probably off the table in trade talks.  That is the safe assumption to make, and I see little reason to think otherwise.

With that said, I have seen many trade proposals involving Brown from optimistic Astros fans.  Some are moderately ridiculous, but perhaps plausible only as an early Astros offer to begin bargaining.  For instance, a scenario where the Astros send Pence to the Phillies in exchange for Domonic Brown and the Phillies' top first base prospect, Jonathan Singleton.

Other proposals are so ludicrous that if Wade actually made them the Phillies would likely hang up the phone and never call back.  For example, suggesting that Pence is worth Domonic Brown plus two or three other substantial pieces--top 100 prospects along the lines of Singleton.

Believe me, I understand the impulse which drives these thoughts--Pence is a relatively young fan favorite, under inexpensive team control.  I'll even go so far as to say he's a borderline star player--he has, after all, been the Astros' all-star representative twice.

I think what might be driving these proposals is a distorted view of the value of prospects.  For those of you who do not follow the minor leagues too closely, you may not have a good grasp on the way teams actually value their young players.  There is a vast difference between the quality of the 100th best prospect in baseball and the best prospect in baseball.  In dollar value, we're talking about orders of magnitude here.  As a very rough range, let's just say that the best prospect in baseball is worth 5-10 times as much as the 100th best.

This is why we talk about Domonic Brown as being an unrealistic trade target to receive in return for Hunter Pence.  As the fourth best prospect in baseball, especially being MLB-ready, his value by himself is greater than Pence's.  This may be hard to grasp since he is not an established player and yes, Pence is a proven player in his prime.

There are two things you need to understand: Firstly, if all works out well, Dom Brown could be much, much better than Hunter Pence.  His floor once he adjusts to the majors is close to what Pence is now.  Second, Hunter Pence will likely be making in excess of $10M next season, and more than that the year following.  Domonic Brown will be making $0.4M in that time frame and will continue to be less expensive for years after.

Value-wise, Hunter Pence for Domonic Brown straight up is within the realm of possibility, although it would still be a very decisive trade win for the Astros and I would be surprised if it happened.  But if there is any untouchable prospect or young player in the Phillies organization, it is Brown, so I would be surprised if they are even willing to go that far to make a deal.

In short, getting back Domonic Brown plus additional top 100 prospects in exchange for Hunter Pence is simply ridiculous.  Stranger things have happened--but it would be like you going shopping for a sports car and asking to get 50% off the MSRP.  That would be a job-losing deal for the car salesman, and if Ruben Amaro did it, he would deserve to lose his job as well.

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