CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

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

World Series time! Enjoy Premium-level access to most features through the end of the Series!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Over... (04/27)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: The... (04/24)
Next Column >>
Lies, Damned Lies: Def... (05/03)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Dan Le... (04/29)

April 27, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies

The PECOTA Top 100

by Nate Silver

This is my favorite column of the year to write, perhaps because there's relatively little actual writing involved. Let's bring the PECOTA Takes on Prospects series to its long overdue conclusion.

The PECOTA Top 100

Below is PECOTA's take on the top 100 prospects in the game, as rated by Upside score. A couple of notes and caveats before we proceed:

  • The Upside rating is designed to evaluate players in terms of value in their pre-free agency seasons. They are not, strictly speaking, intended to speak to who is going to have the most valuable career.
  • Players are eligible only if they have at least 100 professional plate appearances or batters faced available in the PECOTA database. The most prominent players excluded by that criteria this year are pitchers Luke Hochevar and Andrew Miller.
  • Japanese players are not considered for purposes of the PECOTA Top 100. Daisuke Matsuzaka would rank second on this list if he were eligible.
  • Pitchers are shaded in light blue. You'll also notice the presence of a handful of relief pitchers on this list, who we didn't write about in detail because frankly, I think relief pitching prospects are pretty boring beyond their being rare.
  • 'BA' and 'KG' represent a player's placement on the Baseball America and Kevin Goldstein Top 100 lists, respectively.
  • Finally, you'll notice that there are a series of funny-looking colored boxes next to certain players. These are called 'flags', as inspired by the Scouts Inc. NFL Draft rankings, and represent a quick-and-dirty way to express a particular concern about a certain prospect. There are conceivably any number of flags that might be applied to this list, but I've decided to go with just four for the time being:

    image 1

    The Injury Warning flag means that the player is currently suffering from a substantial injury that is unaccounted for by PECOTA. The Sample Size Warning flag indicates that the player just barely met our 100 plate appearance threshold, and that PECOTA may be failing to regress his numbers to the mean sufficiently. The Development flag indicates a player that scouts have very deep concerns about; there are probably a couple dozen players on this list to whom this tag could conceivably be applied, but I've decided to point out only a handful of the most obvious cases. Finally, the Unique Player flag indicates a player who has very few appropriate comparables in the PECOTA database. This usually means that the player is either very, very young, or very, very good. In a few cases, more than one flag might be applicable to a given player, but I've stuck with the one most appropriate flag for simplicity's sake.

image 1

Overall, this list contains a pretty good mix of pitchers and position players, and older and younger prospects. A couple of parting thoughts on the players that PECOTA has rated much higher than the scouting-based lists, with an emphasis on 2007 performance to date:

  • Dustin Pedroia (PECOTA #6, BA N/R, KG N/R). I've watched quite a few of his plate appearances this year and can't say I'm impressed. Then again, it isn't easy to be impressed by someone who is struggling to hit .200. Still, Pedroia's BABIP thus far this year is a meager .205, versus a career minor league rate of .317. He strikes out so rarely and walks so often that if he can get that number up to a modest .280, he should be good for a .360 OBP, which isn't without value at a middle infield position. Yeah, I'm hedging my expectations a little.
  • Alexi Casilla (PECOTA #7, BA N/R, KG N/R). Basically, Dustin Pedroia with plus speed, which makes him a lot more acceptable to scouting types. The lack of plate discipline so far in the majors is disturbing; getting a 50-60 point walk rate boost to his OBP is essential for a player that isn't going to hit for any power.
  • Felix Pie (PECOTA #9, BA #49, KG #42). Here's one that I think the scouts just flat missed, which is ironic since Pie has something of a 'five tools' flavor.
  • Chris Iannetta (PECOTA #10, BA #92, KG #49). I know he's off to a bad start in Colorado, but I suspect the scouting-based lists are failing to account adequately for his positional value.
  • Kevin Kouzmanoff (PECOTA #11, BA NR, KG #52). Another guy off to a bad start, but I can't fathom how a player who had an OPS in excess of 1050 in the minor leagues last year didn't crack Baseball America's Top 100.
  • Brent Lillibridge (PECOTA #12, BA #93, KG #80). He's held up relatively well at Mississippi this year in the early going, posting a .301/.388/.397 line thus far in one of the toughest hitting environments in the minor leagues. Kelly Johnson has suddenly turned into Chase Utley Lite, so Lillibridge's job opportunity in Atlanta will likely be at shortstop rather than second base. It will be interesting to see whether Lillibridge can force the Braves' hand on Edgar Renteria.
  • Eric Patterson (PECOTA #13, BA N/R, KG N/R). He's not hitting much, either, though the entire Iowa team has played a weird schedule featuring just a handful of home games, and is hitting just .236/.309/.348 as a club. Clearly, one difference between PECOTA and the scouting-based lists is that PECOTA seems to be much more gung-ho on players like Patterson with good on-base skills but limited power. In theory, this is simply a reflection of the fact that on-base skills remain underrated in certain circles. In practice, if guys like Pedroia and Patterson don't get it turned around, I'll have to check and make sure that PECOTA isn't getting something wrong with these guys. There aren't very many .290/.360/.390 type players in the major leagues these days, and perhaps there's something structural in the way the game is playing that makes it harder to sustain those sorts of numbers.
  • Sean Rodriguez (PECOTA #18, BA NR, KG #85). Rodriguez is crushing the ball, with a .323/.443/.600 line on the season to date. He has a much more well-rounded skills set than some of the other players we've been discussing, and I'd be surprised if he isn't generating a ton of buzz within a couple months' time.
  • Kevin Slowey (PECOTA #20, BA #71, KG #84). A former major league exec wrote in last week to take exception to my claim that Slowey is the Dustin Pedroia of pitching prospects. His numbers have been very encouraging in Triple-A so far, including a 20-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

In summary, I endorse most of these ratings, with the potential exceptions being the quartet of middle infield prospects (Pedroia, Casilla, and Patterson, and Lillibridge to a lesser extent) that don't hit for power. In contrast, here are the players that rate in the Top 20 on one of the scouting-based lists but that PECOTA isn't so keen on:

  • Homer Bailey (PECOTA #35, BA #5, KG #4). The pitchers in the Homer Bailey (or Matt Cain) class clearly seem to be underrated by a system that can't account directly for velocity. Still, PECOTA is looking smart so far, as Bailey's 13/9 strikeout ratio in his first 21.1 innings at Louisville are pretty discouraging.
  • Justin Upton (PECOTA #118, BA #9, KG #29). He's been tearing it up lately after a slow start in the California League, and is now up to .333/.428/.478. There may have been some effort issues that undermined his statistics last year, and PECOTA is going to have a very tough time accounting for that sort of thing.
  • Troy Tulowitzki (PECOTA #78, BA #15, KG #24). Tulo creates arguments not just between scouts and PECOTA, but also within the scouting community. Some dissidents in the later group concur with PECOTA's conclusion that he just isn't that special. The sample size isn't large enough to make much out of Tulowitzki's .210 career EqA in the big leagues, but this is a player who was supposed to have a smooth transition to the majors.
  • Carlos Gonzalez (PECOTA #146, BA #18, KG #31). This one has less to do with PECOTA and more to do with how the Davenport Translations handled Gonzalez' extreme hitting environment in Lancaster last year. So far, with Gonzalez hitting just .200/.237/.343 for Mobile, the DTs are looking pretty smart.
  • Adam Miller (PECOTA #82, BA #23, KG #19). I've never claimed that PECOTA does a good job with handling injuries, which undermined Miller's data in 2005. That said, his peripheral numbers in Triple-A haven't been terrific so far.

We can try and bridge the gap between these two schools of thought by creating a hybrid list that combines the yin of PECOTA and the yang of Goldstein into one perfect whole. This is accomplished by taking the geometric mean of a player's ranking on the PECOTA and Goldstein lists, respectively. Where Kevin has not ranked a player in his Top 100, I have assigned him a default ranking of #150. Where PECOTA has not ranked a player because he's ineligible for its list because of sample size issues, I have simply taken Kevin's ranking verbatim and ignored any PECOTA-based forecast entirely.

The Hybrid Top 60


         Player                  PECOTA     KG
 1       Alex Gordon                 1        1
 2       Philip Hughes               5        2
 3       Tim Lincecum                3        6
 4       Evan Longoria               2       10
 5       Chris B. Young              4        8
 6       Delmon Young               15        3
 7       Brandon Wood               21        5
 8       Homer Bailey               35        4
 9       Clayton Kershaw             9       16
10       Cameron Maybin             25        7
11       Jay Bruce                  24        9
12       Yovani Gallardo            16       14
13       Reid Brignac               22       11
14       Andy LaRoche               14       20
15       Andrew Miller              N/A      17
16       Fernando Martinez          17       18
17       Felix Pie                   8       42
18       Billy Butler               19       21
19       Matt Garza                 32       13
20       Ryan Braun                 36       12
21       Chris Iannetta             10       49
22       Luke Hochevar              N/A      23
23       Kevin Kouzmanoff           11       52
24       Andrew McCutchen           47       15
25       Dustin Pedroia              6       --
26       Brent Lillibridge          12       80
27       Jose Tabata                44       22
28       Alexi Casilla               7       --
29       Adam Jones                 26       44
30       Billy Rowell               23       55
31       Jarrod Saltalamacchia      27       51
32       Joey Votto                 28       53
33       Sean Rodriguez             18       85
34       Adam Miller                82       19
35       Kevin Slowey               20       84
36       Troy Tulowitzki            78       24
37       Eric Patterson             13       --
38       Adam Lind                  51       43
39       Travis Snider              55       40
40       Hunter Pence               48       47
41       Jeff Niemann               91       25
42       Jacoby Ellsbury            50       48
43       Nick Adenhart              86       28
44       James Loney                46       54
45       William Inman              34       75
46       Mike Pelfrey               85       30
47       Travis Buck                40       67
48       Cedric Hunter              31       95
49       Ian Stewart                43       70
50       Joba Chamberlain           N/A      56
51       Colby Rasmus               65       50
52       Justin Upton              118       29
53       Daric Barton               57       62
54       Brandon Erbe              133       27
55       Elijah Dukes               37      100
56       Jason Hirsh                89       46
57       Angel Villalona            N/A      64
58       Ryan Sweeney               60       69
59       Brooks Conrad              29       --
60       Miguel Montero             58       76

This list very closely matches my intuitions about the true value of the various prospects. I might go so far as to say that it's the best list of prospect rankings that you'll find anywhere on the Internet.

Returning exclusively to the PECOTA sphere, we can also provide our 'big picture' list of the 50 best players aged 25-and-under in baseball, regardless of prospect status. Note that these rankings do not account for performance in the 2007 season to date; quite a few of these players have had noteworthy seasons. I will attempt to account for 2007 performance as well as a whole host of subjective factors when I publish my list of baseball's 50 most valuable commodities, coming soon to a major media outlet near you.

The Big Picture: Top 50 Players Aged 25-and-Under, Sorted by Upside Score

image 1

Finally, we can take a high-level view of player development through an organizational lens. First, the combined Upside rankings of all true prospects within the thirty MLB organizations:

Composite Organizational Rankings #1: True Prospects


Team           Hitters      Pitchers      Total     KG
 1. Devil Rays  858.8        458.6       1317.4      1
 2. Yankees     410.8        638.8       1049.6      4
 3. Angels      593.4        411.5       1004.9      3
 4. Twins       605.4        377.6        983.0     12
 5. D'Backs     681.3        269.0        950.3      6
 6. Dodgers     507.2        430.7        937.9      5
 7. Royals      590.0        347.4        937.4      9
 8. Braves      601.4        285.0        886.4     14
 9. Red Sox     530.2        337.3        867.5     11
10. Cubs        611.2        211.2        822.4     21
11. Reds        451.4        356.8        808.2     10
12. Rockies     523.9        280.7        804.6      2
13. Giants      383.8        420.2        804.0     17
14. Padres      578.5        224.4        802.9     29
15. Tigers      490.8        254.0        744.8     15
16. A's         404.3        329.6        733.9     23
17. Indians     265.0        417.5        682.5     13
18. Brewers     318.1        306.9        625.0      7
19. Phillies    409.6        209.7        619.3     26
20. Blue Jays   399.3        216.9        616.2     20
21. White Sox   296.6        316.2        612.8     24
22. Astros      370.2        228.4        598.6     28
23. Mariners    275.6        311.5        587.1     16
24. Marlins     188.9        384.6        573.5     19
25. Orioles     349.3        193.5        542.8     18
26. Mets        270.3        230.5        500.8      8
27. Cardinals   279.4        114.5        393.9     27
28. Nationals   205.8        178.7        384.5     30
29. Pirates     191.6        169.2        360.8     25
30. Rangers     226.8        115.9        342.7     22

Two things jump out as being absolutely frightening--how far the Devil Rays are ahead of the curve and how much the Yankee system has progressed. 'KG' in this table represents Kevin Goldstein's organizational rankings. For the most part, they are very close to the PECOTAs; a lot of the individual quirks in prospect rankings disappear when you're looking at things from at aggregate level. Still, PECOTA has a notably different view of a couple of organizations. PECOTA is down on a whole host of Rockies prospects, ranging from Tulowitzki to Dexter Fowler to Ubaldo Jimenez, and so it rates them as a middle-of-the-road organization rather than an elite one. On the flip side, PECOTA is decidedly more optimistic on the Twins, perhaps because it tends to like high batting averages for position prospects and good strikeout-to-walk ratios for pitching prospects, two things that the Twins system is full of.

These rankings are a bit misleading because organizations are getting punished for having promoted young talent to the majors, which after all is the goal of having a scouting and development system in the first place. The Marlins and Indians, for example, jump up considerably if we instead look at all 25-and-under talent within an organization, without regard to prospect status:

Composite Organizational Rankings #2: 25-and-Under Talent


Team            Hitters      Pitchers       Total
 1. Devil Rays   1388.0        935.9        2323.9
 2. Marlins       906.1       1072.6        1978.7
 3. Twins        1117.0        849.5        1966.5
 4. Angels       1043.6        818.2        1861.8
 5. Braves       1263.5        440.8        1704.3
 6. Indians      1078.4        617.8        1696.2
 7. Dodgers       947.7        590.5        1538.2
 8. D'Backs       954.6        500.1        1454.7
 9. Yankees       719.1        634.5        1353.6
10. Mets          995.9        327.9        1323.8
11. Tigers        476.9        763.6        1240.5
12. Royals        757.0        385.5        1142.5
13. Brewers       725.9        358.1        1084.0
14. Red Sox       594.9        468.2        1063.1
15. Cubs          698.7        333.7        1032.4
16. Mariners      468.1        550.7        1018.8
17. Reds          552.4        371.5         923.9
18. Rockies       536.9        376.8         913.7
19. Giants        330.1        574.7         904.8
20. A's           379.6        513.9         893.5
21. Blue Jays     397.8        473.8         871.6
22. Padres        657.2        213.0         870.2
23. Rangers       329.1        471.8         800.9
24. Nationals     560.3        236.0         796.3
25. Phillies      308.4        471.9         780.3
26. Orioles       381.8        365.2         747.0
27. White Sox     339.5        381.0         720.5
28. Cardinals     339.5        360.9         700.4
29. Pirates       175.9        522.2         698.1
30. Astros        246.2        261.5         507.7

Last but not least, we can drop any restrictions on eligibility altogether, and simply look at the total medium-term stock of talent within each organization, as rated by composite Upside score. This is the cheat sheet you'd use if you were planning on trading entire franchises, USFL-style.

Composite Organizational Rankings #3: Total Talent Stock


Team           Hitters       Pitchers     Total
 1. Twins       1642.2        1619.0       3261.2
 2. Indians     1778.2        1245.1       3023.3
 3. Yankees     1575.1        1443.4       3018.5
 4. Devil Rays  1716.8        1277.9       2994.7
 5. Angels      1556.1        1426.9       2983.0
 6. Red Sox     1290.6        1308.7       2599.3
 7. Braves      1595.0         877.5       2472.5
 8. D'Backs     1299.8        1142.6       2442.4
 9. Marlins     1223.6        1202.7       2426.3
10. Mets        1458.8         945.7       2404.5
11. Tigers      1263.0        1094.9       2357.9
12. Dodgers     1258.2        1033.2       2291.4
13. A's         1028.7        1211.0       2239.7
14. Cubs        1257.6         953.3       2210.9
15. Phillies    1225.8         970.7       2196.5
16. Brewers     1072.5        1037.3       2109.8
17. Padres      1144.4         911.3       2055.7
18. Orioles     1052.1         941.6       1993.7
19. Cardinals   1263.9         727.9       1991.8
20. Rangers      974.7        1012.4       1987.1
21. Blue Jays    874.5        1110.6       1985.1
22. Reds        1016.0         961.5       1977.5
23. Mariners     960.4         974.0       1934.4
24. Rockies      992.6         840.3       1832.9
25. Royals      1004.3         803.1       1807.4
26. Astros       922.8         850.6       1773.4
27. White Sox    846.7         904.0       1750.7
28. Nationals   1107.3         633.5       1740.8
29. Giants       762.2         890.2       1652.4
30. Pirates      833.1         785.9       1619.0

The Twins have a relatively healthy lead in spite of having perhaps the fewest financial resources in baseball--does this mean that Terry Ryan the new Billy Beane? It's also interesting that the six highest-ranking organizations are all members of the American League, which means that the talent gap between the two leagues isn't likely to close any time soon.

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

1 comment has been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Over... (04/27)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: The... (04/24)
Next Column >>
Lies, Damned Lies: Def... (05/03)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Dan Le... (04/29)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Octo...
Pebble Hunting: An Illustrated Guide to the ...
Raising Aces: Ghosts of World Series Past
Playoff Prospectus: PECOTA Odds and Game 3 P...
Playoff Prospectus: A Decade of Planning an ...
Playoff Prospectus: Never-Wrong Ned?
Playoff Prospectus: PECOTA Odds and Game Fou...

MORE FROM APRIL 27, 2007
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Overreaction
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Bunches of Bunching
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: The Race to the Middle
Fantasy Article Market Movers

MORE BY NATE SILVER
2007-05-14 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Tweaking the Market Size ...
2007-05-04 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part T...
2007-05-03 - Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part O...
2007-04-27 - Lies, Damned Lies: The PECOTA Top 100
2007-04-24 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: The Cruelest Month
2007-04-20 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: PECOTA Takes On Right-han...
2007-04-13 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Snowbound Schedule
More...

MORE LIES, DAMNED LIES
2007-05-14 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Tweaking the Market Size ...
2007-05-04 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part T...
2007-05-03 - Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part O...
2007-04-27 - Lies, Damned Lies: The PECOTA Top 100
2007-04-24 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: The Cruelest Month
2007-04-20 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: PECOTA Takes On Right-han...
2007-04-13 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Snowbound Schedule
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-04-15 - PECOTA Takes on Prospects
2008-03-28 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: PECOTA Takes on First Bas...
2007-08-28 - Unfiltered: Tim Purpura: The Case Against
2007-05-04 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: One Month Down
2007-04-27 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Overreaction