Wil Myers won the AL Rookie of the Year Award last year. He must have dominated all other rookies in all stats, including advanced stats. That is actually not true. His WAR in Fangraphs was 2.4. The exact same WAR as David Lough, who was last week traded by the Royals to the Orioles in exchange for Danny Valencia.
Last year, Lough had a slash of .286/.311/.413. Not too bad, if not exactly great. Myers by comparison had a slash of .293/.354/.478. In every way, Myers is a better hitter than Lough. Valencia last year over 52 games had a slash of .304/.335./.553 and had a WAR of 0.9 (again, only 52 games, which held his WAR down). Valencia appears to be a better hitter than Lough, and if you cry small sample size, Valencia’s career OPS is around .700. Which also would put him around the same level of Lough.
But that doesn’t really matter, because even if Valencia was traded for Lough, he is not the one replacing Lough. That would be Norichika Aoki, who last year had a slash of .286/.356/.370. So in all 3 cases, it appears that Lough is the worst hitter, if you assume Aoki’s higher on base trumps Lough’s higher slugging pct.
Lough really has that inflated WAR due to his defense. But his defense has become irrelevant at this point, as the Royals have made the decision to go with Aoki in the outfield instead of Lough. On top of that, even the most ardent supporters of advanced stats and WAR will tell you that defense is the hardest aspect of it to calculate. The first comparison between Myers and Lough can be answered in the fact that Myers accumulated his WAR mostly with offense, and Lough with defense, meaning Myer’s number is more set and measurable.
But instead of measuring Lough and Valencia against each other, it’s better to look at the Royals’ needs. And that’s where Valencia comes in. The Royals are an easy team to root for. Their young players give them an underdog image. And because of that, people tend to hope/expect every player at each position to play to their highest potential. But that has not been the case so far, and it may be naive to think it’ll be the case next year. The two biggest question marks in The Royals’ otherwise solid lineup is at shortstop, with Alcides Escobar, and at third base, with Mike Moustakas. Escobar had a very down year last year, compared to 2012. And Moustakas has simply never developed into the player he was supposed to be as a prospect. It’d be great if both players could break through and live up to their potentials next year, but Valencia is a nice insurance package in case that doesn’t happen.
There were some groans on Twitter after the trade. People didn’t understand why they let Lough go for a player not much better than a replacement level player. But Valencia is reliable and it’s known what is expected from him. If Moustakas or Escobar continue to fall apart next year, he’ll be there to catch them. Maybe The Royals didn’t win the trade, but Valencia gives them the best chance at winning games. And that’s all that matters.