Ryan Sweeney was ranked as the number one prospect in the White Sox system according to Baseball America. He was later dealt to Oakland in exchange for Nick Swisher. Sweeney had his breakout season in 2009.
Sweeney posted a line of .293/.348/.407 with a wOBA of .330. Those are not eye-popping numbers offensively. His main value comes from his defense. He showed the ability to play above defense in all three-outfield spots. His best position according to UZR was right field where he was 15.5 runs above average. Overall he was worth 24 runs above average with the glove. That’s equal to 2.4 wins, which is fantastic. That is close to Franklin Gutierrez territory.
He is slated to be the starting right fielder for the Oakland Athletics. The move to right field may hurt his value somewhat. The shift from center field to right field is a difference of 10 runs or 1 win. His bat may not hold up well compared to other right fielders, but his glove should be much better there. I still think he has the ability to improve offensively due to his ability to make contact. His contact percentage of 88.6 was well above average. I still think he will be in the 3-4 win range, which is great for the money he is making.
People like to underrate Billy Beane because he hasn’t won a world series yet, but I still think he’s one of the best GM’s out there. He’s able to put a competitive on the field most years without much of a budget. He saw that defensive was being undervalued by most teams and was able to capitalize on the market inefficiency. He saw something in Sweeney that the White Sox may not have valued as highly. He’s quietly putting a team together that can make a run at the AL West with a $50 million payroll.
If Oakland can win the AL West this season you may seem teams pay more for defense much like teams paid more for OBP in the early 2000′s.