If you google "the new moneyball" and take out anything with the words "film", "movie", or "trailer", you'll get something around 1,470,000 results. People want to know what Billy Beane's new strategy is. Obviously, he isn't playing the OBP and HR game like he did in the early part of last decade. Sluggers with low batting averages that walk and hit homers just aren't undervalued anymore. No offensive attribute is. With the advent of statistics like wOBA, describing past offensive performance is, for the most part, completely solved. We know how much a walk is worth. And we can say, with a pretty impressive degree of accuracy, that your average home run is worth something around 4.3 walks.
And young prospects, well, that's done and gone, too. In the past, top prospects weren't valued as much as they are now. Teams are loath to give up top prospects for anything but an obscenely valuable package in return.
So what's left to exploit? Where is a poor team going to get its wins on the cheap?
And that's exactly what Billy Beane has been focusing on recently. The trade targets that Beane's gone after have been hitters that are too old to be prospects, and yet, have great numbers in the minor leagues. And because of a player entrenched at the position in the parent club, they languish in AAA. Think Nelson Cruz. Now, obviously, these trade targets tend to be very volatile players with a high bust rate, but for cheap wildcards, Beane seems to be doing pretty well.
Jack Cust (2007-2010)
Acquired for nothing more than a minor-league contract, Jack Cust is, so far, Oakland's crown jewel of this strategy. Jack zoomed through the minors with a 1.023 career OPS by the age of 21 in AA. That gorgeous line convinced Baseball America to rate him as the #31 overall prospect for the 2001 season. And then? He sat in AAA for seven straight years, mostly because he was a natural DH in the National League. Fast forward to 2007. When A's DH Mike Piazza went down with a strained shoulder, Jack Cust came into the picture. He hit six home runs in his first seven games, and by the time his tenure with the A's had finished, he had put together a beautiful wRC+ of 128 over four years. That's better than any full season in Oakland since Frank Thomas in 2006. All in all, he compiled 7.6 WAR in an Oakland uniform. Not bad for a minor-league pickup.
Jake Fox (2010)
Let me quote Dave Cameron.
For the sake of Pacific Coast League pitchers, can the Cubs call up Jake Fox already? The 26-year-old first baseman is hitting .429/.513/.968 through 150 plate appearances for Iowa, which is ridiculous performance for any length of time against any competition. He has a .600 wOBA. Six hundred.
Oakland was able to free Jake Fox from Chicago for the price of taking on Aaron Miles' contract, along with a few fairly inconsequential minor league prospects. Jake Fox was a popular blogger favorite (that Cameron article is actually titled "Free Jake Fox") due to his amazing PCL line. That said, he ended up being an illustration of why these types of players haven't been valued very highly, since he batted .216/.264/.327 in an Oakland uniform.
Scott Sizemore (2011-Present)
The jury is still out on Sizemore, but to his credit, he has a 108 wRC+ with Oakland so far. When the A's acquired him from Detroit, he was in his third year at AAA, having compiled an .881 OPS at 2B. While those certainly aren't world-beating numbers, it's quite good, and he's been able to translate that into solid production at 3B in Oakland.
Brandon Allen (2011-Present)
Yet another guy with a Fangraphs article to his name (Free Brandon Allen!), Brandon Allen was acquired two weeks ago for Brad Ziegler. I could give a summary of his accomplishments in the minors, but why do that when I can just link to this?
Guillermo Moscoso faces Brian Matusz tonight at 7:05 PM.