CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Resident Fantasy Geniu... (06/07)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article The Process: Fixing th... (05/17)
Next Column >>
The Process: When Will... (07/26)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Astros Fi... (06/07)

June 7, 2012

The Process

How to Evaluate Precocious Prospects

by Bradley Ankrom

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

This article began as a comparison of Tigers third-base prospect Nick Castellanos and former Padres third-base prospect Sean Burroughs. Castellanos tore through the Florida State League this season, hitting .405/.461/.553 in 55 games, before being promoted to Double-A earlier this week, though his raw power has yet to manifest itself outside of batting practice.

At the same age more than a decade ago, Sean Burroughs was working on a .322/.386/.467 season at Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League, two levels ahead of Castellanos’ recently-vacated Advanced Class-A assignment. Burroughs was also two levels ahead at age 19, making the task of comparing the players a challenge.

Despite posting impressive slash rates at levels he was quite young for, Burroughs rarely dominated. His .291 average in the Southern League in 2000 was only 11% better than the league average, while his on-base percentage and slugging percentages were better by just 17% and 2%, respectively.

Granted, Burroughs was 19 years old and holding his own against competition several years his senior. But in retrospect, the dominance-to-hype ratio at that point in his career appears to have been heavily unbalanced.

Burroughs put up good-not-great numbers in Double-A at age 19, but Castellanos performed better in the Midwest League, albeit against less-advanced competition, in 2011. His batting average (23%), on-base percentage (18%), and slugging percentage (14%) compared to league average were all better than the figures Burroughs posted in Double-A at the same age.

Is it possible to compare the by Burroughs and Castellanos despite the disparity in the quality of the competition each player faced at the same ages? If so, how much, if any, additional credit should Burroughs receive for holding his own against better players? More broadly, is it better for a prospect to be very good or very young?

* * *

Between 1997 and 2011, 280 players had a combined 424 seasons in which they earned at least 300 plate appearances while being at least four years younger than the average player in their league. More than 65 percent of those players reached the big leagues. The average player who did has been worth roughly five and one-half wins above replacement.

To populate the pool of “good” players who were age-appropriate for their leagues, I sought seasons where the player was no older than age 23, one or two years younger than the league average (which skews high), and had accrued at least 300 plate appearances. In order to pick out the elite performances, I filtered out seasons that fell short of the following:

( (AVG/lgAVG)*100 ) + ( (OBP/lgOBP)*100 ) + ( (SLG/lgSLG)*100 ) + ( (((SOR/lgSOR) + (BBR/lgBBR))/2 )*100 ) >= 475

A total of 453 player seasons put together by 384 unique players met the above criteria, and a little more than one-half of those players reached the major leagues.

Type

Players

Reached MLB

MLB 
PA

MLB VORP

MLB
WARP

Young

280

184

1711

55.7

5.6

Good

384

201

762

24.1

2.4

View complete "young" season pool.
View complete “good” season pool.

Unsurprisingly, the level at which a player performs portends a difference in his future major-league value. By far, more players in the young group qualified while they were in Double-A; the 209 Double-A seasons account for 49.3 percent of the total young player seasons in the study.

Type

Level

Player Seasons

MLB PA

MLB VORP

MLB WARP

Young

AAA

53

2537

75.7

7.5

 

Young

AA

209

1189

37.0

3.7

Good

AA

91

1373

39.6

4.0

 

Young

A+

92

1166

40.4

4.1

Good

A+

173

727

21.0

2.0

 

Young

A

67

964

24.0

3.5

Good

A

144

543

19.8

2.2

 

Young

A-

3

2536

37.6

4.2

Good

A-

21

426

14.3

1.2

 

Good

R

24

473

18.3

2.2

 

Only three qualifying young player seasons were had in short-season leagues—Jorge Cantu (1999), Chris Snelling (1999), and Jose Lopez (2001)—but all three of those players reached the major leagues and have had varying degress of success. Players who had qualifying seasons in Triple-A have gone on to average 7.5 wins above replacement in the major leagues, while those in Class A have experienced the least amount of major-league success, averaging fewer than 1,000 career big-league plate appearances and the lowest WARP in the study.

The players who had good seasons at age-appropriate levels fared significantly worse in the major leagues than their younger counterparts, averaging nearly 1000 fewer plate appearances and, accordingly, about 40 percent less VORP and WARP. These players have also reached the majors at a lesser rate (52.3 percent) than those in the young group (65.7 percent).

The “young” class has produced one 40-plus-WARP major leaguer, third baseman Adrian Beltre, as well as 18 others who have been worth at least 20 wins above replacement. Additionally, two out of five players have earned at least 500 career major-league plate appearances.

WARP

Young

Good

>= 40

0.4%

0.7%

>= 30

2.5%

0.7%

>= 20

6.8%

3.6%

>= 10

13.9%

7.3%

>= 5

21.8%

14.1%

 

PA

Young

Good

>= 5000

4.3%

2.9%

>= 4000

8.2%

5.5%

>= 3000

15.4%

9.1%

>= 2000

22.5%

14.3%

>= 1000

32.5%

21.9%

>= 500

40.0%

29.2%

* * *

So how should this information influence the way we evaluate Nick Castellanos and Sean Burroughs? We have the benefit of hindsight with Burroughs; he never developed the power that scouts projected for him, totaling just 17 home runs in more than 1,800 major-league plate appearances. Since spending his first four years with the Padres, Burroughs has bounced between the Diamondbacks, Twins, and Rays organizations, accumulating more than 100 plate appearances in only one season. He’s totaled 28.9 VORP and 2.7 WARP over seven seasons, falling well short of the average player from the young pool.

Castellanos didn’t qualify for the “good” pool in 2011, though he certainly would have made the cut this year if he’d hung around Lakeland long enough to collect 300 plate appearances. He has put himself in a position to qualify for the “young” group, however, with the promotion to Double-A and, if history holds true, his major-league outlook is much brighter because of it.

Related Content:  Prospects,  Nick Castellanos,  Sean Burroughs

13 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Resident Fantasy Geniu... (06/07)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article The Process: Fixing th... (05/17)
Next Column >>
The Process: When Will... (07/26)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Astros Fi... (06/07)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Minor League Update: AFL Recap for Games of ...
Hot Stove Scouting Report: Max Scherzer
Hot Stove Scouting Report: Nelson Cruz
Premium Article Pitching Backward: Sing, Sing, Sing, for the...
Premium Article Painting the Black: That Time We All Hated t...
Premium Article Raising Aces: Bum Deal
Playoff Prospectus: The Giants Win The World...

MORE FROM JUNE 7, 2012
Premium Article On the Beat: Astros Find New Orbit
Resident Fantasy Genius: Getting Into the Sw...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Kila Ka'aihue Freed, o...
Fantasy Article Value Picks: Starting Pitchers for 6/7/12
Premium Article Collateral Damage Daily: Thursday, June 7
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Thursday, June 7
What You Need to Know: Thursday, June 7

MORE BY BRADLEY ANKROM
2012-06-21 - BP Unfiltered: Futures Game Rosters Announce...
2012-06-15 - Premium Article What Scouts Are Saying: Pitchability Is My M...
2012-06-09 - BP Unfiltered: Taking A Look At Our Preseaso...
2012-06-07 - Premium Article The Process: How to Evaluate Precocious Pros...
2012-05-17 - Premium Article The Process: Fixing the Phillies
2012-05-10 - Premium Article What Scouts Are Saying: Mixed Reviews
2012-05-04 - Prospectus Game of the Week: Harper Overshad...
More...

MORE THE PROCESS
2012-08-17 - Premium Article The Process: Resetting the Astros Roster
2012-08-02 - Premium Article The Process: The Mariners' Missed Opportunit...
2012-07-26 - The Process: When Will We Know Who Won the 1...
2012-06-07 - Premium Article The Process: How to Evaluate Precocious Pros...
2012-05-17 - Premium Article The Process: Fixing the Phillies
2012-05-01 - Premium Article The Process: Post-Draft Rankings: You're Doi...
2012-04-18 - Premium Article The Process: Was Brien Taylor the Worst Numb...
More...