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February 23, 2004

Prospectus Roundtable

Top 50 Prospects, Part III

by Baseball Prospectus

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Baseball Prospectus Top 40 Prospects lists:
2003
2002
2001

Baseball Prospectus Top 40 Prospects Roundtables:
2003 Part II
2003 Part I
2001

Baseball Prospectus Top 40 Prospects Reviews:
2000 Part VII
2000 Part VI
2000 Part V
2000 Part IV
2000 Part III
2000 Part II
2000 Part I
1999 Part VII
1999 Part VI
1999 Part V
1999 Part IV
1999 Part III
1999 Part II
1999 Part I

In preparing the annual top prospect list for Baseball Prospectus 2004, BP authors participated in the annual extended roundtable discussion of baseball's top prospects. The ranking and review process balanced translated statistics, scouting reports, and injury reports with the strong personal opinions of BP's finest…all with the goal of putting together the "best damn prospect list the world has ever seen." In Part III today we begin sorting the top prospects into 50 slots, with plenty of debate along the way. You can click here to read Part I and here to read Part II.

Part IV, which includes continued discussions leading into the final list, will run Tuesday. We'll also unveil the final list on Tuesday, with the Top 50 prospects (we've expanded from prior years' Top 40) revealed. Rany Jazayerli will be along to discuss the Top 50 list and the process that went into compiling it in Tuesday night's Chat.

Rany Jazayerli: I've constructed a preliminary Top 50, taking into account everyone's feedback, which is much appreciated. I've added comments along the way to justify any selections which I suspect might be met with anything less than unanimity.

1. Joe Mauer
2. Andy Marte
3. Rickie Weeks
4. B.J. Upton
5. Zack Greinke

One of the reasons why Joe Mauer was such an easy #1 was because it was so difficult to determine who was #2. I think Andy Marte has the most complete combination of performance, age, and scouting reports, though I must admit that I didn't expect him to be #2 myself. This may be too much of a Miguel Cabrera effect, but then who's more deserving? Rickie Weeks has had a month of pro experience, B.J. Upton made 56 errors last year, and Zack Greinke, who I would personally be comfortable with at #2, is a pitcher. (And unlike Josh Beckett, who was #2 a few years ago, there isn't even a consensus that he's the best pitcher in the minors.)

6. Prince Fielder
7. David Wright
8. Alexis Rios
9. Edwin Jackson
10. Delmon Young

I appreciate the rare confluence of opinions that Edwin Jackson is a better pitcher than Greinke. But as Nate pointed out, Dayn's research on the best pitchers in baseball today showed that most of them did *not* have dominant K rates in the minors. Dayn's research backed up a little-read article that David Rawnsley wrote for Rivals.com a couple of years ago, which planted the seed in my head. I did move Jackson up, ahead of Scott Kazmir.

I moved Delmon Young behind Alexis Rios; I don't want to imply that professional experience no longer matters at all. I think #10 is a good ranking for him, balancing the absence of a track record with his Hall of Fame potential.

11. Jeremy Reed
12. Justin Morneau
13. Kazuo Matsui
14. Scott Kazmir
15. J.J. Hardy

PECOTA convinced me that my fear of Jeremy Reed was irrational, so I've moved him up a fair amount. I know that a lot of people don't think Kazuo Matsui is as good as the hype, and a few people don't think he should be eligible for this list. To the first group, I say that Clay's most recent translations of Japanese numbers should reassure us that KazMat is going to be a very good player, and to the second group, don't talk to me, talk to the BBWAA.

16. Ryan Wagner
17. Guillermo Quiroz
18. Bobby Crosby
19. Grady Sizemore
20. Casey Kotchman

Given Guillermo Quiroz's pedigree, his defense and his power numbers, I'm comfortable making him the #2 catching prospect. Bobby Crosby moved up a little; the more I analyzed him, the more I felt that there was definite separation between him and Khalil Greene/Russ Adams. Sickels actually ranked him #2 behind Mauer among hitting prospects, which I find interesting but not convincing.

21. Cole Hamels
22. Franklin Gutierrez
23. Jeff Mathis
24. Dallas McPherson
25. Dustin McGowan

After the initial quartet of Greinke/Jackson/Kazmir/Cole Hamels, every other starting pitcher on the initial list was disparaged by someone. Dustin McGowan was probably the only one whose health record, mechanics, and stuff all escaped criticism; throw in his very solid numbers and he's the surprise #5 starter on the list. In a year where almost every hitting prospect has something wrong with him, I feel comfortable listing Franklin Gutierrez this high in spite of his plate discipline, given his immense power potential.

26. Chris Snelling
27. James Loney
28. Gavin Floyd
29. Khalil Greene
30. Dioner Navarro

The consensus high on James Loney makes me comfortable separating him from the Jason Stokes/Adrian Gonzalez class of first basemen with wrist problems. I know Gavin Floyd's strikeout rate isn't where we'd like it to be, but I'm comfortable that his other positives justify a ranking this high. The across-the-board negative vibes about Dioner Navarro are duly noted.

31. Josh Barfield
32. Russ Adams
33. Clint Nageotte
34. Jason Bay
35. Ervin Santana
36. Jeremy Hermida
37. Greg Miller
38. Chin-Hui Tsao
39. David DeJesus
40. Adam Wainwright

I think slotting Jeremy Hermida in the mid-30s, between Jason Bay and David DeJesus, should do a good job of reconciling his undeniable upside with his current lack of power. Greg Miller could be a Top-15 prospect if he's healthy; he could be out of the Top-100 if he isn't. Unless and until we get better information about his current state of health, I think his ranking is fair.

I'm uncomfortable with any Rockies pitcher ranking this high, but I get the impression that if Chin-Hui Tsao were in any other organization he'd be Top-25 material, so I don't know if I can rank him any lower than this. Feel free to encourage me, though.

41. Edwin Encarnacion
42. Gabe Gross
43. Bobby Jenks
44. Matt Riley
45. Scott Hairston

This is probably the point where we're going to see some violent disagreements. I fought for Bobby Jenks last year--OK it wasn't a fight, it was more of a spoiled pout--and he's done nothing in the interim to make me regret his inclusion. We all know his negatives, which are considerable--can't throw strikes, bad mechanics, he could drink Derek under the table, etc. But the man can really throw a baseball, and since last year's AFL he's starting to show he can pitch it too. He's having a very good winter down in Puerto Rico, which may mean nothing, but then no one thought his performance in Arizona meant anything either.

Jonah's defense of Matt Riley crystallized my own thoughts on him, which is that pitchers who have already succumbed to the injury nexus and bounce back deserve our respect. Given his well-documented immaturity before his injury, I'd venture to say that no pitcher in history has ever benefited from Tommy John surgery more than Riley. He had very good numbers last year, he spent half the season in Triple-A and half in Double-A (a much higher level than most of our prospects), and despite all he's been through, he's only 24.

I originally thought Gabe Gross would be a bubble player, but the general weakness among hitters makes his inclusion a fairly easy decision.

46. Sean Burnett
47. Jason Stokes
48. Adrian Gonzalez
49. Kevin Youkilis
50. Charlie Zink

Every year, I reserve the last spot on the list for myself; this year Charlie Zink gets the good vibes. No, Rob (Neyer) did not have anything to do with this decision; I just think that we're not appreciating how rare it is to be a successful knuckler in the minors before turning 26, or how often such a pitcher goes on to have a 20-year major league career.

I see Stokes and Gonzalez as joined by the hip, and in fact plan to write their comments together. I think they're both potential All-Star first basemen who simply had terrible years because of a wrist injury, and I think writing them off is dangerous and gives too much credence to a single year's performance. I'm willing to listen to counter-arguments. I'm also willing to listen to arguments that Kevin Youkilis shouldn't be on the list. Even with his horrible Triple-A performance, he did finish with an OBP over .440, he's in a good organization, and it's not a given that he can't play third base in the majors. Dave Magadan-lite isn't a great player, but is it worthy of a #49 prospect? I'd argue that it is, but I can be convinced.

51. Terrmel Sledge
52. Joe Blanton
53. Kelly Shoppach
54. Adam LaRoche
55. Justin Huber
56. Merkin Valdez
57. Brendan Harris
58. Angel Guzman
59. David Bush

These are all the bubble guys, so feel free to make a case for any of them. Terrmel Sledge should step in right away in Montreal, but I'm not convinced that he's going to be more than a .270/.330/.440 player, which may not be worth mentioning. That is to say, I see a big gap between him and Jason Bay. I may be wrong.

Joe Blanton has great numbers and is an Athletic...

 
MID-AA-TEX   35.2 IP,  21 H,  7 BB,  30 K  1.26 ERA, 1.51 RA
KCN-A.-MID    133 IP, 110 H, 19 BB, 144 K  2.57 ERA, 3.18 RA

...but I've also heard comparisons to Jason Arnold, which is a little unnerving. Kelly Shoppach is good, he's just not that good. If Justin Huber doesn't reach the majors behind the plate, he's not worthy of the list. I still like Brendan Harris and am impressed with his PECOTA projections, but I don't want to put him on the list simply to justify his Top-20 ranking a year ago. I'd be happy to put him on the list because someone else wanted him there, though.

Also, two other players came up in the course of putting together this list that I don't know what to do with: J.J. Davis and Chad Gaudin. Davis is a tools monster who's really started to hit the last two years, and may be worthy of consideration. I'm just not sure how well he projects, and the Pirates organization doesn't give me any confidence that they'll know what to do with him. As for Gaudin, the negatives are obvious (he's a Devil Ray, not to mention a former 29th-round pick), but he reached the majors at age 20, and he was lights out in the minors. A lot of pitchers have come through the pike the same way (Curt Lyons, anyone?), but Gaudin also threw 40 innings in the majors with a 3.60 ERA, so there may be something special here.

At the moment, the list breaks down as 34 hitters, 16 pitchers, which is a good balance; if anything, I'd prefer to have another pitcher on the list, given that the strength in the minors at the moment appears to be on the mound.

THE DEBATE

1. Joe Mauer
2. Andy Marte
3. Rickie Weeks
4. B.J. Upton
5. Zack Greinke
6. Prince Fielder
7. David Wright
8. Alexis Rios
9. Edwin Jackson
10. Delmon Young

Nate Silver: If I were doing the list completely on my own, I suspect that I'd rank the top 10 as follows:

1. Mauer
2. Reed
3. Weeks
4. Greinke
5. Jackson
6. Marte
7. McPherson
8. Morneau
9. Hamels
10. Crosby

Reed had the best year of any player in the minors last year and has a very high probability of being an excellent player. I think a top-five ranking would be a just reward, and consistent with our emphasis on performance rather than tools. I absolutely do not understand why Reed would rank below Alexis Rios. He is Rios' equal in every attribute except for plate discipline, where he has a substantial advantage, and his PECOTA profile is considerably better. I don't think a couple of good weeks in Puerto Rico are enough to overcome that.

Weeks is a stud and I think the objections to him are a bit overstated. I would like to get a scouting report or two on his defense, since his numbers were quite bad.

I'm also not on board with the fear of ranking pitching prospects highly, though I'm sure there will be advocates for the opposite point of view. I think the *top* tier of pitching prospects is unusually good this year as compared with the top tier of hitting prospects, and I think we should make adjustments accordingly. If you want to get a bit more analytical about it, I don't think it's a matter of our overrating the risk associated with pitching prospects so much as it is our *underrating* the risk associated with offensive prospects, especially offensive prospects who have yet to reach Double-A.

I like Marte a lot, and he has no real negatives, but placing him as high as #2 implies a scouting judgment of sorts; his numbers were good, but not overwhelming.

I think we'd be jumping the gun a lot by ranking Upton that high, and I'd be more comfortable with something in the #11-13 range. The defense is a problem that might or might not get resolved, and PECOTA can identify a large number of players with a similar profile who did not develop into much of anything.

Jonah Keri: I like Reed too, and was going to stump for him before Nate did. We can quibble over where in the Top 5 he belongs, but he does belong there. Nate talks about the importance of performance--but BP has also gone out of its way to reward players being young for their levels in the past (Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, etc.), and Reed turned 22 in June and mangangulated Double-A. That doesn't make him the next Robin Yount age-wise, but it does mean that he could be crushing major league pitching by his 23rd birthday, which isn't all that common.

It's tough for me to embrace Weeks as a Top-5 guy given his limited track record--you can never be TOTALLY sure. Top 10 would work.

Chris Kahrl: I'm not wild about having Weeks and Upton this high, and in terms of the middle infielder gaggle behind them, I'd rank Crosby ahead of Hardy, although I really like Hardy. To answer Nate's question about Weeks' defense, if even the sunshine-y Brewers publicly admit he has problems, he has problems. Everyone says he's bright and will work at it, and thankfully, Hardy's an outstanding shortstop, but I keep seeing a lot of Johnny Ray or Steve Sax in Weeks. That's still a very good player, of course.

I'll also parrot Nate's comments on Reed and Justin Morneau; I'd like to see them move up.

David Cameron: Greinke versus Jackson, a comparison:

Performance: Advantage Jackson.
Stuff: Advantage Jackson.
Command: Advantage Greinke.
Mechanics: Advantage Jackson.
Workload: Advantage Jackson.

Unless there is a strong belief that command is, by far, the most important aspect of being a pitching prospect, I don't see the case for Greinke being better. I like Greinke, was extremely impressed when I watched him pitch, and am not trying to degrade his status as a quality prospect. I just don't see a real good justification for why he's the best pitching prospect in the game.

Rawnsley's piece on T1 was a backwards article. He ranked Ben Sheets as the best prospect in the game, then went and found arguments to support his position after the posters on the board challenged him on it. I did some work on this same issue back in the strikethree.com days, and came to similar conclusions Dayn did, but I think this is stretching the limited understanding we have too far.

Back the hype machine up. Delmon Young, Hall of Fame potential? Based on what? Before Lastings Milledge allegedly pulled an R. Kelly and got himself in some trouble at school, Young wasn't even considered the best outfield prospect in the past draft. I talked to several of the guys who scouted Josh Hamilton coming out of high school and also scouted Delmon Young this year, and I can't get one person to say that Young has the edge in any area, except maybe more sane parents. Josh Hamilton is a great name to keep in mind when ranking Young, and I don't think there's any way we can write the words "Hall of Fame" anywhere near Young's name without looking premature at best, and more likely just wrong.

Also, I'll reiterate that Prince Fielder should be lower than Morneau and Casey Kotchman. The difference in offensive potential isn't large enough to offset the fact that both of the latter can actually play major league quality defense in either league, while Fielder is likely going to be DHing by his mid-20s.

Alexis Rios has a great chance to be a player we call overrated for the next 10 years. I don't see him as a top-10 prospect.

Will Carroll: Just spoke with Tom House and asked if he'd seen either of these guys. He's seen Jackson and didn't care for him, though on scouting terms rather than pitching--"too skinny." Greinke's no Prior, but he is pretty darn good mechanically and I think he's genetically incapable of throwing something straight and flat.

Gary Huckabay: Mauer: yes.
Weeks: too high.
Upton: too high.
Greinke: best pitching prospect in baseball?
Fielder: clearly better than say, Morneau?
Jackson: prefer to Greinke.
Reed: way too low, should be top five.
Morneau: prefer him to Fielder.
Wagner: best relief prospect = best Antarctic political columnist.
Quiroz: would prefer him to say, Kazmir.
Sizemore: I (heart) Grady.
Mathis: would prefer to see more upside potential at this point.
Snelling: ouch! damn!
DeJesus: should be higher--don't be afraid of the light, Rany.
Gross: higher than this.
Jenks: can't decide if should be higher or lower, so OK.
Riley: higher than this, already past catastrophe, rebound.
Zink: is an x% chance of being Charlie Hough enough?

Dayn Perry: I agree with the vocal minority that Weeks and Upton shouldn't be in the top five. Just to clarify, the pitching research I did found that the sample group of successful major league pitchers bested the sample group of unsuccessful major league pitchers in *only* H/9, HR/9 and average age relative to level. So, for what it's worth, is also an indictment of K/BB as much as it is of K/9 as auguries of future success. I think Reed should be higher than Young and Rios. I'm particularly surprised by how much support Rios is getting. He's had one good season in the minors. Granted, it was in the high minors, but his walk rate didn't improve, and his Isolated SLG was still well below .200. Puerto Rico aside, how much stock to we want to put in what's at this point a statistical outlier of a season in which much of his value was tied up in a .352 AVG? I just think Rios is a major reach at #8, and I can't see a good argument for why he should be ahead of Reed.

Keith Woolner: Rickie Weeks has a month of pro experience. I think there's a good case to be made that no one can be the #3 prospect in baseball with less than 100 professional at-bats, period. And quite possibly not even the top 50. Maybe the Baseball America list, but not the BP list, if we're weighting the objective record more heavily than the rest of the world.

Nate: Why are Weeks' college numbers not part of his objective record? (We should be translating those damned things by now, anyway.) Weeks hit the snot out of the ball in college, and he hasn't done anything as a pro to suggest that his offensive prowess *isn't* legit.

Keith: Note that I'm arguing for the sake of the process, not because I have any particularly strong feelings about Weeks (other than a recent discovery that he and I went to the same high school) Weeks' college numbers are part of his objective record, so are his high school and Little League stats. But we lack the context to be able to use those data points. We don't translate those, nor have we done any substantial work on it (IIRC), so we don't know how to consider them properly. One-hundred AB just isn't enough to show he is *or* isn't legit. That's the point. You can't tell a thing from that small a sample.

Will: While I agree on Weeks' college numbers meaning something, it will be very difficult to get a read on what the "level" of a college baseball program is. I don't think it could be broken down as D1, D2, D3 and even breaking down by conference or ranking is going to change significantly from year to year. The difference in competition from the top of the Big 12 to the bottom was staggering, but the difference when we played a smaller school was even bigger. Add in that some JCs are better than D1 programs and that some players (and I'll wager that Weeks would fit here) are so much better than their team, I just can't imagine how anyone could get an accurate track. In the face of Weeks' success at every level, I think the sample size issue lessens and that the non-flukiness of his college numbers must be considered.

Clay Davenport: I found the time to grab and run some numbers from the winter leagues. No park effects, and until I can do it more in-depth I cannot make an assessment of league quality, so I am using the same skill levels I determined last year. There was widespread opinion that the AFL quality was down this year; if true, I am overrating them.

Weeks' performance in the AFL was entirely consistent with what he did at Beloit:


Year Team     Lge  AB  BA   OBA  SA    EQA EQR  Val Pk
2003 Beloit__ Mid  68 .221 .351 .382  .255   9   2 323
2003 Peoria__ AFL  72 .250 .333 .347  .248   8   1 320

Translation gives him 6-1 SB in the AFL vs. 1-0 in Beloit, which explains how he can have a nearly-equal EqA despite a lower OPS.

In contrast, the Puerto Rican league had a very high offensive level this year. Alexis Rios' performance at .274/.352/.438 was an improvement over his 2003 season, although not as big as you might think (and if he's getting helped by his park, as I think he might, since he translates to having more homers than doubles, it might be none at all). It certainly does not qualify as "monstrous"; I'm giving better translation marks to Edgar Clemente, Lou Lucca, and Hiram Bocachica. It is a positive sign that he is maintaining his newfound productivity into winter ball, but I don't know if we can say much more than that.


2003 New_Havn Eas 527 .288 .333 .467  .264  68  27 316
2003 Caguas   PRL 155 .290 .317 .574  .280  23   9 319

Will: I'd like to see Delmon Young slightly lower. There's a chance--however small--that he's not as good as everyone thinks. If we make him Top 10 on potential alone and he fails, that reflects on us. There's almost no chance he won't be in next year's Top 50 list and I'd rather see him #1 next year, assuming he's earned it, than having to say we overrated him. Yes, you could say the same thing about Weeks, but Weeks hit at three professional levels plus college. Young hit well against suspect AFL pitching.

Rany: I understand the concerns about Weeks' lack of pro experience, but I'm one of those people who think that college performance is absolutely translatable, even at a crappy school like Southern. Even when you take the air out of his numbers, Weeks was awesome in college. We ranked Mark Teixeira and Mark Prior coming out of college based on their college performance and scouting reports, and both of those rankings turned out all right. (Actually, they were both pegged low.) I don't think Weeks is as good as Teixeira was, but he's not that far off.

There was a lot of clamoring for Upton to move down, and I'm fine with that. I know that Marte looks a little funny in the #2 spot, but again, who's better? Jeremy Reed? Possibly, but I'll get to him in a moment.

Several of you think that Greinke should rank behind Jackson, though it's not a consensus. I appreciate the points, but I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. Performance? Combining their performances at every level in 2003, Greinke's translated ERA was 3.82; Jackson's was 4.76. Greinke gave up a translated 9.7 baserunners per 9 innings; Jackson gave up 11.4. Jackson does have the higher translated K rate (7.2 to 5.6), but it's hard for me to see how his performance was better. Stuff? Sure, Jackson throws harder. But Greinke has pretty good stuff himself, unless late movement doesn't count as "stuff," or unless we're not giving extra credit for throwing four above-average pitches. Mechanics? I'll admit to not knowing Jackson's mechanics in detail, but Greinke's mechanics are described as nearly as good as Prior's, which is to say they're near-perfect. Workload? Are you kidding? Greinke threw 140 innings last year, and faced just 554 batters (less than four per inning). Jackson threw 170 innings last year, and faced 710 batters. Sure, Jackson's season extended into September, but how can you say his workload gives him an advantage? Bottom line, I still think Greinke's the safer pick, but it's close. They've been squeezed together a little closer in the list below.

Some people are concerned that Prince Fielder's numbers should be deflated some because he's already a finished product, and that he's probably going to move off of first base by his late-20s. To which I can only say, Frank Thomas could never play first base to begin with, and he's still one of the best players of the last 20 years. Unless we've got compelling evidence that an 18-year-old who hits .313 with 27 homers in a reasonable offensive league *isn't* on his way to being a dominant offensive player, I don't think we should move him down.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the degree of disapproval for ranking Alexis Rios this high. Maybe I'm being seduced by one good year, but I'll admit to having a soft spot for tools players who figure it out. His organization bumps him up a few spots here, given that his biggest weakness right now is his plate discipline, and I am putting a lot of weight on his ridiculous Puerto Rican performance (Ed note: .354/.400/.708 when this discussion took place). Maybe too much weight...he'll be moved down a little.

Delmon Young might be too high, but I don't want to knock him down too much, because I do think he's a special hitting talent, and he did nothing to dispel that notion in Arizona. Please don't tell me that some scouts thought that Milledge was the better hitter before his legal troubles. The better athlete, sure, but who cares about that? Young's never been touted for anything but his bat, but what a bat. He moves down a little to make room for some other guys.

Joe Sheehan: I have an issue with Mauer being #1; he's listed at 6'4", and I think that represents a barrier to success for him. He's hit like hell so far, probably enough to make him a good third baseman down the road, but when you consider that he's both a high-school catcher and a tall catcher, I'm concerned about his long-term value. I concede that there are no obvious candidates for this slot. We say this every year, but Rany's job just seems to keep getting harder.

Next issue; no way is Weeks #3. It's a philosophical issue, one that has been edged around up and down the Top 50, but we're about performance. From Weeks through Dallas McPherson through Zink, most of the debates we're having can be described as a tug-of-war between our established preference for performance and what seems to be a newfound affection for scouting reports and the opinions of a small cadre of friendly analysts.

I don't know if it's because we all have more access now, or because of our respect for John Sickels, or just a greater confidence in our own opinions, but I think it's dangerous to start thinking we can evaluate guys with thin performance records--and yes, guys who haven't had more than 300 ABs with wood bats have thin performance records--just because we've been doing this for a while. We are NOT scouts, and when we start either ranking like them or letting their information carry too much weight, we lose sight of our raison d'ętre and become just another hype factory for guys with nice asses.

I said in November that Weeks and Young were top-10 guys. I now see how silly that was. Both should be on the list, Weeks much higher because he's played at a higher level of competition and played well. Honestly, as much as I loved what I saw of Young in Arizona, you just can't say a guy with no experience above high school is one of the top prospects in the game. Have him on the list, but if he's above 25, know that it's a staggering break from our established philosophies.

Jackson > Greinke, although I like a number of the position players in this group better than both. Twenty-year-old pitchers get hurt.

Alexis Rios should be lower. Someone in this discussion made a point...I think it was here...anyway, big leaps forward might sometimes be confused with small leaps forward-plus-good luck. It's why we need larger sample sizes on guys who look like they've made a big improvement.

To round out the top 10; I don't know how we can call Young a special hitting talent. Based on What? His high-school stats? Some video? The opinions of people who have seen him?

We're. Not. Scouts. We're performance analysts, which means we have virtually no credible information to use in ranking Young. It's the equivalent of the Josh Gibson debate; I don't know where he ranks, and in the absence of data, will rank him as low as seems reasonable. For Young, that's a number somewhere between Ryan's age and my own.

So, here's a wacky idea...how about Jeremy Reed as the #1 prospect in baseball? The historical record would favor him over Mauer. The performance record favors him over nearly every prospect in the game. He might well win a job in the spring, given Joe Borchard's struggles, the possibility (Ed note: at the time of this discussion) of a Magglio Ordonez trade and the loss of Carl Everett. I'm not saying it should happen. I am saying that he's one of the few guys the majority of us like; it would be a *different* pick, but one more consistent with our message. At least think about it.

By the way, we need to stop giving a damn about what scouts think in compiling this list. If we thought scouts' opinions were all that damn valuable, would we have ever started doing this?

Derek Zumsteg: Joe raises two excellent points.

I agree with Joe's statement that we should almost never reach down to guys with extremely short minor league careers. Regardless of how sweet we think they are, until such time as we can reliably translate their college careers, we just don't have enough information. I think there are cases where we've reached into high-A for super-good guys, but in general, I think we're well advised to keep those to a minimum. Those candidates should have to force their way on the list.

And if that's a shortcoming of the list, I'm comfortable with that. Our strength lies in performance evaluation and finding what those stats mean. The farther we get away from that, the more our picks become gambles. If a player's worth noting because of a great college career but they've got two ABs in the Cal League, I'd note that in the chapter and call it good.

Now to the "worth of scouting" arguments in Joe's e-mail; I think especially in prospect evaluation, this is an excellent question deserving of discussion. I probably have as low an opinion of scouting in general as anyone. But I think taking input from that to make decisions is entirely valid, because it can provide us with "why" answers to questions about which guy is ahead of which. I'd say we should rough-order everyone entirely on performance and then bump guys a limited amount based on what we find out from other sources. For instance, if we're comparing two guys on the list for spots 11 and 12, and we find out Pitcher A's a generic hard-working projectable lad who spends his free time studying his database of opposing batters and Pitcher B is into running underage beef, if you know what I'm saying, and has the workout habits of Ryan Anderson, we'd be entirely justified to drop Pitcher B down.

The problem, of course, is that Pitcher B can become A, and vice-versa, and I've never been sure how much weight to put on things like "this dude is a nut." And if it was important, wouldn't it show up in the stats?

All of which to say is that scouting information has the potential to offer us answers to "why" when we wonder about some player's apparent leap, or another's inability to break out while repeating at Double-A.

Clay: Delmon Young had only 47 AB at Mesa, but they are a killer 47 AB. A full season like that would make him the best hitter in the minors. At least with Young and Weeks, the limited data we have does support the scouting assessment, which IMO gives us a little more room to go with it, even though the samples are so small as to be virtually meaningless. Josh Hamilton looked this good in a much larger data set, and so did Jesus Cota. Contrast these with Gavin Floyd, whose statistics do not support the scouting judgment.


2003 MES      AFL  47  .340 .367 .532  .299   8   4 346

Jonah: OK, I'll follow up my initially timid anti-Mauer stance by jumping in harder, should have done so earlier. I like Marte and Reed more than Mauer, and if we're sold on either guy, it's worth making one of 'em our #1.

Dayn: Weeks really does need to be bumped down a bit. I like him, but the data sample just isn't there: 63 ABs in Low-A.

I think Upton's ranking is justified. His plate discipline held up in Double-A as a 19-year-old. I'm fearful of the reckless way the D-Rays promote their prospects through the system, but Upton, with the bat, is impressive. If his glove can't handle the position, then he becomes a second baseman with outstanding offensive potential.

I'm again going to argue in the strongest terms possible that Rios should be quite a bit lower. Puerto Rican performances are not fully known quantities, and I don't think they should receive much emphasis in our evaluations. Rios' performance at New Haven last season was unassailably impressive, and NH did play as a notable pitcher's park last season. But...we're talking about a corner defender with these numbers, all posted in the low minors, prior to 2003:


1,450 AB, 79 unintentional walks, .276 AVG/.316 OBP/.362 SLG/.086 ISO
 
 

Second, much of his value in 2003 was tied up in his .352 batting average. He still didn't draw walks at an acceptable clip, and he still didn't show a great deal of raw power. Honestly, I think you can make a strong case that Rios should be lower than Dioner Navarro, who performed very well in Double-A as a 19-year-old catcher, and I'm not that high on Navarro in the here and now. I'm very puzzled that Rios is ranked this high.

Chris: Speaking for myself, I'm comfortable with Greinke over Jackson; they're both good prospects as pitchers go, and neither of them are Mark Prior. It's a God-awful difficult year for ranking the pitchers, which is why I think there's more play to discussing people like Tsao or Ryan Wagner or Sean Burnett, and why I think the shape of the list is pretty encouraging.

Tom Wylie: Do we agree with the theory that catchers' bats develop more slowly because they have to work more on defense, they get banged up more, etc? If Mauer has a potential HoF bat at catcher, but they move him out from the plate soon enough, then he has a reasonable chance to escalate to a HoF bat at his new position, yes? Whereas I'm not aware of anyone who thinks (say) Reed has a shot at the Hall. Perhaps we should leave Mauer at #1 but emphasize he won't necessarily have a career as a catcher.

Derek: Didn't we pretty much debunk this catcher development myth?

Rany: I believe Keith Woolner did a few years ago. I think there might have been a slight trend towards catchers developing later, but overall there was no significant difference between catchers and non-catchers.

Gary: I'd definitely have Reed above Weeks.

Look at Reed's combined line for the year:


AB   H   2B  3B  HR  BB  K  SB  CS   BA   OBP  SLG  ISO
464 163  35   4  11  70  36 45  19  .351 .436 .515 .164 

Yes, his value is heavily concentrated in BA. But 50 XBH in 464 AB at the age of 22 doesn't strike me as indicative that someone lacks power. Quite the contrary.

David says that we should expect a career SLG of .450-.470 from Reed. Gang, it doesn't even take a .500 career SLG to reach the top 100 SLG in history! Isn't that career SLG John Olerud country?

Weeks has significant positional risk. Reed might be the lowest-risk guy on the list not named Mauer, perhaps even including Mauer. If we're indicting a guy by calling him a Rusty Greer clone, isn't that kind of the opposite of damning with faint praise? Rusty Greer's career line, albeit aided by Arlington, is .305/.387/.478. That's not chicken feed. If someone put up that line for 15 years with good defense, they'd be a reasonable HoF candidate.

PLEASE consider moving Reed above Weeks. Playing 2B (a) isn't that intensely valuable, and (b) isn't guaranteed.

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