With the first round of the draft in the books, do any of the northpaws crack the top tier of right-handed pitching prospects?
Ranking prospects by position has been done—at least, it has been attempted in the traditional sense [read: standard formula, i.e., #1. Best. #2. Second-best. #3. Third-best. You get it.]. Instead of following the standard formula, I thought I would offer something a little different, though the fundamental objective will remain the same: identifying baseball’s best prospects at each position.
Over the next 11 installments, I’ll focus on one position on the field, identify the preeminent talent in the minors at said position, and place them into cute little tiers to contextualize their place in my world. It’s an earnest and sincere exercise, delivered with some (attempted) humor, so hopefully it will be taken as such. I want to embrace the subjective nature of the task rather than pretend to be objective about it, which is great in theory, but not practical in its application. Everybody looks at players through a unique lens, and as a result, personal feelings enter into the equation. I’m cool with this. As I said, I’m going to attempt to deliver a sincere and earnest series, free from the artificiality associated with presenting a universal truth. Opinions change based on the climate of the moment. This is a snapshot of that moment.
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The Rangers prospects are blue-chip talents with rough edges, but will 2011 see them get sanded or beaten down?
Not so long ago, the Rangers' farm system put the sex in sexy, ranking as the top organization in baseball thanks to an assembly line of talent that ran from the lowest complex leagues all the way up to Triple-A. After a few seasons of major league promotion, attrition, and stagnation, the system has lost some of its mainstream shine. As we head into the 2011 season, the overall depth remains impressive, but depth is a drug without immediate effect. However, if you prepare yourself for the developmental hurdles, embracing a system stacked at the lower levels can be a more rewarding high, assuming of course that following the development of minor-league baseball players gets you high, which—believe me—it does.
For this article, let’s move away from the dreams associated with low-level depth, and take a look at the top five prospects in the Rangers’ system, and how their 2011 seasons might end up breaking a few hearts.
Looking ahead to who could top next year's prospects lists in the junior loop.
One of the most frequent questions I get, be it via e-mail, chats, or the comment sections in the articles, is which player on [insert team here] has the best shot at moving into the Top 101. That's a much different question from who is the best prospect not in the Top 101, as the focus needs to move solely to growth potential. Building on last year's "Future Top Dogs" series, let's keep that category in this year's version, while also taking an honest list at last year's prognostications.
Nate introduces this year's PECOTA-based look at ranking prospects. Today, he lays out the methodology, which includes a few key changes to how he approached this project last year.
Last year, we ran our first-ever series of PECOTA-based prospect rankings. This wasn’t necessarily intended to be an annual feature, but it proved to generate a lot of good discussion, so here we are again.
We take a look inside the selection criteria for assembling our Top 50 Prospects list.
For example, BP's Top 50 from 2005, while not without flaws, was better than most. Sure there were pitchers ranked highly (Richie Gardner and Adam Miller) who succumbed to arm injuries. We had thought that Willy Aybar (#34) would develop some power by now and that Edwin Jackson (#45) would improve from his sub-par 2004. Despite those missteps, Baseball Prospectus is proud of the work that went into that list as well as the 2006 version.
With a verifiable cornucopia of prospect lists out in cyberspace, there of course exists a vast array of philosophies governing the compilation of these lists. The king of prospect sites, Baseball America, ranks prospects based on scouting reports, tools, upside, age vs. level of competition and performance. Other sites lean heavily on a player's walk rate. Take, for example, the case of second baseman Travis Denker, in the Dodgers' system. After Denker hit .310/.417/.556 in Low A as a 20-year-old, many sites had him among their top 50 and, in one case, much higher. With a BB/PA rate of .147, Denker has exhibited unusual plate discipline for a young prospect. However, what these lofty rankings ignored were his stone hands, iron glove, .155 EqA upon his promotion to High-A that year, and his PECOTA projections. When different ranking systems rate some pieces of the puzzle higher than other systems, wildly differing outcomes will result.
As a fantasy player, what do you do with a Prince Fielder or Edwin Encarnacion? Erik Siegrist takes a look.
If you're in a keeper league, there isn't a whole lot of thinking involved when it comes to prospects like these. If they're available, and you have a roster spot free, you snap them up. Even if you're in the title hunt it's worthwhile picking up good prospects, as they can make useful trading chips if they aren't making an immediate contribution. In any league where you can carry players over from one year to the next, the value of prospects lies as much in their future potential as it does in their present major league production.
Let's compare J.J. Hardy and Bobby Crosby:
Player Age EqBA/EqOBP/EqSLG
Hardy 20 .240/.316/.380
Crosby 23 .273/.356/.490
Adjusted for park and league context, Crosby's numbers were much, much better. How to balance that against the age differential? I think the question becomes: How likely is it that Hardy will post a line of .273/.356/.490 or equivalent by the time that he's 23? It's possible, certainly, and it's also possible that he'll post a line even better than that. But I don't think that it's *probable*. That's a lot of improvement to make. PECOTA would put the possibility at somewhere around 25%, I'd think, and I think that's enough to render Crosby the stronger prospect.
Jeremy 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.
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 I today we'll listen in on the discussion of the top prospects among pitchers, catchers, first basemen and second basemen. Parts II through IV will run Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. We'll also unveil the final list 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.
As we did last season, we will compare our ranking of each player with the
ranking given to them by two premier publications, Baseball America
and John Sickels's Minor League Scouting Notebook. Both BA and
Sickels have widely disparate methods for putting their lists together, but
the goal is the same: to identify the best prospects in the land. Keep in
mind that BA ranks 100 prospects, and "NR" means not ranked.
Sickels ranks 50 prospects, awards "Honorable Mention" to five
others, and gives a letter grade ranking (A+ to C-) to more than 800 players.