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August 26, 2003

Prospectus Today

No Such Thing, Redux

by Joe Sheehan

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A couple of weeks ago, I spelled out the argument that there's no such thing as a pitching prospect. Just as a follow-up, I want to point out something Rangers' Director of Player Development Grady Fuson said in an interview with Jamey Newberg:

"And most of these kids that we're signing out of high school or junior college or college, for the first three or four years of their careers they are still growing. They are still adding muscle mass and growth, and at least my perception of developing pitchers is most don't come into their prime until at least their mid-20s. And I think that all has to do with body growth and body mass and finding that one delivery that helps repeat. And I think that all takes two or three years to build into your system."

(The whole interview can be read at Newberg's Texas Rangers Web site.)

Fuson makes the point that is central to TNSTAAPP: Most pitchers in the minor leagues are still developing physically, which is what makes them such risks. Pitching professionally is hard enough on the arms of grown men; it's moreso on ones not fully mature.

Anyway, that's not really why I'm writing about this again. This e-mail is:

"The argument would be more persuasive if you could show that there IS such a thing as a position-player prospect--because it's possible that TNSTAAPP because TNSTAAP (no such thing as a *prospect*), which implies TNSTAAPP.

--J.W."

I thought that was a fair point, so I went back and looked through the same lists from which I pulled the pitchers: BP's Top 40 Prospects from 1999 through 2001.


Player              AB   AVG   OBP   SLG  Comment
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Eric Chavez       2508  .276  .345  .499  One of the game's top 3Bs
J.D. Drew         1841  .281  .374  .496  Hitter; can't stay healthy
Alex Escobar        72  .181  .213  .389  Lost 2 seasons to injuries
Pablo Ozuna         80  .313  .333  .413  AgeGate added 3 years
Nick Johnson       656  .253  .371  .424  Lost 2000 to hand injury
Jeremy Giambi     1417  .263  .377  .430  Lousy glove, attitude Qs
Carlos Beltran    2745  .286  .349  .475  Great, underrated player
Ruben Mateo        700  .259  .313  .397  Broken leg in 2000
Russ Branyan      1003  .229  .320  .480  411 Ks keep him on benches
Ben Davis         1283  .243  .317  .369  HS catcher; bat never came
Chad Hermansen     483  .199  .259  .335  Defense and contact issues
Lance Berkman     2031  .299  .404  .565  MVP candidate in 2001
Mitch Meluskey     405  .286  .390  .454  Bum shoulder ruined career
Marcus Giles       909  .278  .354  .472  Breaking through in '03
D'Angelo Jimenez  1197  .267  .345  .377  Car crash altered career
Michael Barrett   1773  .254  .310  .388  Bat never really came
George Lombard     329  .225  .279  .343  Missed most of 2001
Ben Petrick        615  .259  .341  .457  Still might pan out as UT
Peter Bergeron    1061  .226  .305  .312  Never hit
Carlos Febles     1656  .250  .328  .354  Fragile; out of majors
Calvin Pickering   115  .217  .343  .391  Weight problems
Ronnie Belliard   2065  .266  .343  .392  Underrated player
Dernell Stenson     26  .269  .345  .577  Just reached majors
Gabe Kapler       1824  .271  .335  .430  Power and health issues
Daryle Ward       1192  .261  .306  .440  One-half dimensional
Joe Crede          683  .264  .306  .433  Coming on strong this year
Angel Pena         187  .209  .256  .326  Weight and attitude
Tom Evans          102  .255  .347  .343  No clean chances at a job
Jackie Rexrode     N/A                    Never as good as 1998

Pat Burrell       1956  .253  .350  .478  Tremendous power
Sean Burroughs     594  .283  .344  .384  Still just 22
Vernon Wells      1347  .292  .328  .488  Came slowly, but got there
Rafael Furcal     1957  .283  .347  .401  AgeGate added 2 years
Corey Patterson   1094  .260  .293  .419  Hurt knee in July
Michael Cuddyer    203  .246  .313  .409  Constantly changing POSs
Dee Brown          605  .231  .278  .334  Flop
Jack Cust          102  .176  .315  .333  DH; major contact issues
Chin-Feng Chen       6  .000  .143  .000  Advanced slowly
Esteban German      35  .200  .300  .200  Lapped by Mark Ellis
Milton Bradley    1094  .264  .345  .411  Attitude Qs persist
Aubrey Huff       1495  .291  .339  .478  More valuable as a 3B
Matt LeCroy        637  .262  .311  .462  Finally a regular in 2003
M. Restovich        55  .309  .424  .491  Hitter in crowded org
Adam Piatt         498  .253  .327  .430  Meningitis cost him a year
Alfonso Soriano   1878  .281  .320  .495  Great power and speed
Jayson Werth        94  .234  .298  .383  Not a C anymore
Jason Romano       121  .207  .254  .256  One good year
Travis Dawkins      98  .163  .241  .204  Not our finest moment
M. Encarnacion      69  .203  .276  .217  Another AgeGate case

Jose Ortiz         449  .243  .305  .379  Sent to Japan; still 26
Ichiro Suzuki     1883  .335  .381  .445  2001 AL MVP; prospect?
Jimmy Rollins     1856  .262  .315  .391  Adds value with glove
Antonio Perez      117  .256  .338  .376  Broken hand in 2001
Josh Hamilton      N/A                    Back and personal problems
Carlos Pena        803  .252  .329  .461  Disappointment so far
Hee Seop Choi      247  .215  .340  .409  Badly mishandled this year
J.R. House         N/A                    Coming back from injury
Kevin Mench        491  .275  .341  .452  Broken wrist in 2003
Adam Dunn         1160  .241  .379  .484  Still developing
Austin Kearns      664  .292  .388  .480  Excellent player
Brad Wilkerson    1025  .259  .356  .451  Multi-talented player
Albert Pujols     1653  .333  .407  .610  Pretty good hitter
Keith Ginter       350  .266  .359  .431  Older prospect; now a UT
Craig Wilson       725  .270  .362  .484  Mishandled; still hits
Luis Rivas        1318  .266  .315  .381  Maybe rushed
Wilson Betemit       3  .000  .400  .000  Stopped hitting in 2002

I'm not going to pretend that we can draw conclusions by looking at a three-year sample of Top 40 Prospects lists, so take this with a grain of salt. I do believe that we see fewer washouts and more contributors when looking at the position players, and there aren't as many traumatic injuries that cost players whole seasons.

This little project has convinced me of one thing: I'm too quick to get excited about young players. I look at someone like Michael Cuddyer, who first appeared on the list in 1999 and about whom I wrote in that year's book that his ETA was late 2000. Cuddyer has 203 major-league at-bats and has gone through more position changes than Jenna Jameson. There are guys like that all over the list, players for whom I projected rapid advancement who either didn't develop or who developed just fine on a more realistic timetable.

While I stand by TNSTAAPP, I'm not prepared to extend the notion to say that there's no such thing as a prospect, period (TNSTAAP,P?). Position players are more predictable than pitchers at any age, largely because they don't face the same injury risk. Even the most impressive young pitchers in the minor leagues today are immature physically, and they're performing against competition that bears little resemblance to what they'll face in Major League Baseball.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Grady Fuson

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