A while back, I wrote an article on each team's worst penny-for-penny player and on the strength of that piece's success here is a look at the other side of things, with each team's best penny-for-penny player.
To determine each player's penny-for-penny worth, I took a mathematical approach that I will now attempt to explain.
Assuming that one Win Above Replacement (WAR) is worth $4.5 million, as established by FanGraphs last year, I multiplied each player's WAR on the year by 4.5.
From there, I took three-quarters of the given player's 2012 salary (since we're at roughly the three-quarter point of the season) and simply plugged the numbers into the following equation.
(Player's 2012 WAR X $4.5 Million) - (Player's 2012 Salary X .75) = Player's Net Value in $$
Whichever player had the highest net value for each team was then considered their best penny-for-penny player.
Here's a look at the results.
Player: CF Adam Jones
Salary Thus Far: $4.613 million
Net Value: $12.488 million
Jones signed an extension this offseason that will keep him in Baltimore through 2018 and will earn him a maximum salary of $17 million. However, he's making just over $6 million this season and has emerged as a legitimate star and the face of an up-and-coming franchise.
Player: Cody Ross
Salary Thus Far: $2.25 million
Net Value: $9.45 million
After a subpar season last year, Ross received limited interest on the free-agent market and wound up signing a one-year, $3 million deal. He's hit with a .277 BA, 18 HR and 59 RBI to this point, and has been a pleasant surprise on a disappointing Red Sox team.
Player: 2B Robinson Cano
Salary Thus Far: $10.5 million
Net Value: $13.8 million
Cano is by no means cheap, as he will make $14 million this season, but he is head and shoulders above everyone else at his position, which makes him supremely valuable. A free agent after 2013, Cano is no doubt headed for a big payday, but he has proven to be worth every penny.
Player: 2B Ben Zobrist
Salary Thus Far: $3.375 million
Net Value: $13.275 million
One of the most versatile players in all of baseball, Zobrist has recently made the move to shortstop after primarily playing second base and right field. He doesn't hit for a particularly high average, but he has great on-base skills and plus power for a middle infielder.
Player: DH Edwin Encarnacion
Salary Thus Far: $2.625 million
Net Value: $14.025 million
It took him until his eighth big league season, but Encarnacion has finally realized his potential, leading the Blue Jays offense all season long. He earned a three-year, $27 million extension for his play this year, but he remains a steal at $3.5 million this season.
Player: SP Chris Sale
Salary Thus Far: $370,000
Net Value: $17.63 million
Sale has been phenomenal in his first season as a starter, leading a surprising White Sox team to contention. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014, and if he can stay healthy, there is no reason to think he won't be making some serious money down the road.
Player: CF Michael Brantley
Salary Thus Far: $371,475
Net Value: $10.879 million
While Matt LaPorta was the big name in the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, it is Brantley who has made an impact for the Indians. He is by no means a superstar, but the 25-year-old should continue to post solid numbers.
Player: CF Austin Jackson
Salary Thus Far: $375,000
Net Value: $21.675 million
Acquired in the three-team trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, Jackson struck out a whopping 351 times over the past two seasons and posted a subpar .331 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot. While he missed some time with injury, he has taken a huge step forward this season. With a .400 on-base percentage, he is among the best table-setters in baseball.
Player: LF Alex Gordon
Salary Thus Far: $4.5 million
Net Value: $13.05 million
A highly touted prospect after being taken second overall in the 2005 draft, Gordon struggled to establish himself over the first four seasons of his career—however, he finally broke out last year. While he has not matched that production this season, he has been solid once again this year and leads the league with 38 doubles.
Player: RF Ben Revere
Salary Thus Far: $369,375
Net Value: $12.231 million
Revere flashed his impressive speed in his first extended big league action last year, but he has taken a big step forward this season, as he's hitting .317 atop the Twins lineup and has gone 28-for-34 on stolen-base attempts. Still just 24, he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014.
Player: CF Mike Trout
Salary Thus Far: $360,000
Net Value: $30.69 million
Trout is having a rookie season the likes of which the league has rarely if ever seen, and given his rookie salary, there is no better discount in all of baseball right now. He currently leads the AL in batting average, runs and steals, and the 21-year-old is a bona fide superstar already.
Player: RF Josh Reddick
Salary Thus Far: $363,750
Net Value: $18.086 million
Picked up in the deal that sent closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox, Reddick is in his first full season in the big leagues after a solid .280 BA, 7 HR, 28 RBI line last season. Though largely unproven with just 375 big league at-bats under his belt, Reddick entered the season counted on to be a run producer in the middle of the A's lineup, and he has exceeded expectations with a .251 BA, 25 HR, 60 RBI line.
Player: 3B Kyle Seager
Salary Thus Far: $363,225
Net Value: $10.887 million
It's been a rough season for the Mariners, especially on the offensive side of things, and one of the lone bright spots has been the play of the 24-year-old Seager. With 13 home runs and 68 RBI, he leads the team in both categories, as he has 22 more RBI than second place Jesus Montero.
Player: SS Elvis Andrus
Salary Thus Far: $1.782 million
Net Value: $17.119 million
Andrus has gotten better each year since coming over from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade and serving as the Rangers' everyday shortstop in 2009 at the age of 20. Always a slick fielder with plus speed, he has career highs in all three triple-slash categories this season at .297/.367/.395. He has grown into a terrific No. 2 hitter.
Player: RF Jason Heyward
Salary Thus Far: $423,750
Net Value: $21.626 million
Heyward endured the dreaded sophomore slump last season when he hit just .227 as injuries limited him to just 396 at-bats. He's back this season, though, with a modest .271 BA, 19 HR, 59 RBI and 16 SB, and the 22-year-old still has as high a ceiling as any young hitter in the game.
Player: RF Giancarlo Stanton
Salary Thus Far: $360,000
Net Value: $14.49 million
It's probably not a good sign for the Marlins that their most valuable player from a financial standpoint has been limited to just 88 games this season, as it has been a disappointing season all around in Miami. That's not to take anything away from Stanton, though, as he continues to display perhaps the best pure power in all of baseball and has cut down his strikeouts and improved his batting average to a career-best .283.
Player: 3B David Wright
Salary Thus Far: $11.25 million
Net Value: $15.3 million
Wright is making plenty of money at $15 million this season, but he has been so productive at a premium position that his value is still incredibly high even as one of the highest-paid players on the team. He's a free agent at the end of next season, so it will be interesting to see how the Mets approach things after they watched Jose Reyes walk and got nothing but a compensatory pick in return.
Player: C Carlos Ruiz
Salary Thus Far: $2.775 million
Net Value: $19.725 million
Few catchers break out at the age of 33, but Ruiz has done just that with a fantastic line of .335 BA, 14 HR, 58 RBI, and a WAR that already ranks as his career-best. With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missing time, Ruiz carried the Phillies offense in the first half. While the team has struggled, he has certainly done his part.
Player: SP Gio Gonzalez
Salary Thus Far: $2.438 million
Net Value: $16.013 million
The Nationals gave up four top prospects to land Gonzalez from the A's this past offseason, but the fact that they managed to get him to agree to a very cost-effective five-year, $42 million extension makes it all the more worth it. He leads the NL with 15 wins and joins Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann to give the Nationals three of the best starters in baseball this season.
Player: SP Jeff Samardzija
Salary Thus Far: $1.98 million
Net Value: $10.62 million
Samardzija spent the first four years of his career being shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation, as well as between the big leagues and Triple-A Iowa. An unquestioned part of the rotation for the first time this year, he has shown ace stuff at times and is pitching his best baseball of late with a 3-3 record and 2.41 ERA over his last eight starts. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason.
Player: 1B Joey Votto
Salary Thus Far: $7.125 million
Net Value: $14.475 million
Votto agreed to a massive 10-year, $225 million extension this past offseason that will eventually have him earning $25 million annually. However, for the time being, he remains a terrific bargain at just $9.5 million this year. How quickly he can return from a knee injury for the stretch run will go a long way in determining the Reds' fate.
Player: 2B Jose Altuve
Salary Thus Far: $362,250
Net Value: $10.438 million
After hitting .389 in the minors last season, Altuve showed enough in a late-season call-up to be pegged as the team's starting second baseman to open the year. Though he stands just 5'5", he has packed a punch offensively with a .305 BA, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 25 SB season. At just 22 years old, he appears to be a solid building block for the future in Houston.
Player: LF Ryan Braun
Salary Thus Far: $4.5 million
Net Value: $19.35 million
Braun is an absolute steal at $6 million this season, and he is set to earn $30.5 million over the next three years before his salary bumps up to $19 million annually. After a controversy-filled offseason, Braun has not missed a beat at the plate this season and currently leads the NL with 29 home runs despite no longer having the protection of Prince Fielder in the lineup.
Player: CF Andrew McCutchen
Salary Thus Far: $375,000
Net Value: $26.625 million
The Pirates inked McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million extension this past March, and they have looked like nothing short of geniuses for doing so. With a .358 BA, 24 HR, 72 RBI line, the 25-year-old has been arguably the most productive player in baseball this season, as he single-handedly carried the Pirates offense in the first half.
Player: C Yadier Molina
Salary Thus Far: $5.25 million
Net Value: $15.9 million
Set to hit free agency at the end of the season, the Cardinals inked Molina to a five-year, $75 million extension in March, and now the most complete catcher in the game will be in St. Louis until at least 2017. Always a premier defender with a cannon arm, Molina had career highs across the board last season at .305 BA, 14 HR, 65 RBI, and he is on his way to surpassing those marks again this year at .312 BA, 16 HR, 54 RBI.
Player: SP Wade Miley
Salary Thus Far: $360,750
Net Value: $14.489 million
Miley broke camp with the Diamondbacks as a left-handed reliever out of the 'pen, but after Josh Collmenter struggled through his first three starts, Miley was moved to the rotation and has not looked back since. Overshadowed by top prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs, Miley has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the NL this season with a 12-8 record and a 3.02 ERA, and he has to be viewed as the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner.
Player: CF Dexter Fowler
Salary Thus Far: $1.763 million
Net Value: $11.737 million
Fowler has always shown terrific speed and good on-base skills, but he has cut down on his strikeouts and improved his power this season to rank among the best outfielders in the NL. He's no doubt headed for a hefty raise in his second year of arbitration, but for now he is a tremendous value with a salary of $2.35 million this year.
Player: C A.J. Ellis
Salary Thus Far: $367,500
Net Value: $14.933 million
The 31-year-old Ellis had seen sporadic big league action over the past four years, tallying 206 at-bats while never appearing in more than 44 games in a season. However, he was handed the starting catching job this season and far exceeded expectations, as he has been the only consistent contributor behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. His .386 on-base percentage is his most impressive stat, but he has also shown solid pop with 10 home runs.
Player: 3B Chase Headley
Salary Thus Far: $2.606 million
Net Value: $19.444 million
Perhaps the most sought-after player at the trade deadline, the Padres opted to hold onto Headley, as they look to make a return to contention sooner rather than later. He has hit .272 BA, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 12 SB this season and has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, as he'll no doubt get a big boost from his current $3.475 million salary.
Player: C Buster Posey
Salary Thus Far: $461,250
Net Value: $22.039 million
It was a devastating blow when the Giants lost Posey for the season last year, but he has come back strong with a .330 BA, 19 HR, 76 RBI season. With Brian McCann showing signs of age and Joe Mauer not the player he once was, Posey can now claim the title of best offensive catcher in baseball.