Checking in on whether a player with high pedigree has a better major-league career than a non-prospect.
Potential is a funny thing. The team that manages to grab the most players who outperform expectations often wins fantasy leagues. Every spring we hear about breakout candidates and which players stand the best chance of outperforming their projections. Often, these breakout candidates are selected based on their tools and their pedigree—their potential. While this kind of subjective and scouting data is very important, few people outside of Major League Baseball have a database with scouting reports on enough players dating back as far as we’d need to run a study to examine what these things actually tell us—not to mention all of the complications that would go into such a study. But there is one freely available tool that I thought might make for an interesting study: Baseball America’s archive of their Top 100 prospect lists dating back to 1990.
Today, I wanted to run a study using this archive as a proxy for pedigree to see how much pedigree matters for players who have already made it to the majors. Once a player is in the majors, does his pedigree make him more likely to break out?
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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.
Counting down the top 15 farm systems armed with the most promising talent.
15. New York Mets Last Year’s Ranking: 18 Why They Are Here: The system is on the upswing, thanks to a nice group coming from the international market and, for the first time in a while, a draft class (2009) that looks like it will pay some dividends. With four Top 101 prospects and a three-star list that runs into the early teens, there's room for optimism here. Where They Will Be Next Year: The Mets could add another Top 50-type with the seventh overall pick in the draft, their highest slot since 2004, and fourth-highest pick in the last 25 years. Top prospects like Jenrry Mejia and Ike Davis have more of a 2011 timetable, so Fernando Martinez is the only top prospect likely to lose his eligibility this season.
It may seem as though everyone involved in the Aces-for-Prospects swaps came out ahead, but it simply isn't so.
The Blue Jays, Phillies, Mariners, and Athletics put together a blockbuster trade that has rarely been seen in baseball history: nine players will belong to new organizations next year, including two former Cy Young winners very much in their prime.
The prospects positioned to campaign for the top spots in-house and within the game at large.
Prospecting is all about the future, so let's look deep into the coming year and try to figure out who might be topping next year's prospect lists in their respective organizations, as well as who could be moving up, down, or even out, beginning today with the American League.
A review of the top half of baseball's player development systems.
1. Tampa Bay Rays Last Year's Ranking: 1 Why They're Unchanged: Evan Longoria's full-season debut went even better than expected, and they added No. 1 overall pick David Price to the system. Strengths: Yes. There are just tons of prospects everywhere, as 20 of MLB's 30 teams don't have one prospect ranked higher than Tampa's fifth-rated player. Weaknesses: It's hard to figure out what to do with all of this talent. Seriously, they're not just No. 1, they're No. 1 by a mile. Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Unchanged. Even with Longoria in the big leagues, the Rays have more than enough talent to remain at the top, and once again, they have the first overall pick in June.
Everything you wanted to know about the BP Kings Charity Scoresheet Draft.
Peter Gammons' unfortunate incident focused the spotlight on cerebral aneurysms, but my connection is more personal. My mother had a cerebral aneurysm rupture way back in 1977 and was fortunate to survive.
Draft Strategy: Be strong at scarce positions offensively, avoided the dreaded Pitcher-AAA as always, and work on building a better bullpen to compensate for the lack of early starting pitchers. I sort of strayed from that strategy by taking John Lackey relatively early, and I might have a problem at second base if Jose Lopez doesn't pan out. I wanted to build a good core under the age of 30, and I did a fairly decent job of that. One of my harder decisions was my first one--Grady Sizemore vs. Joe Mauer. The consensus seems to be that I went the wrong with Sizemore--the consensus could be right, but I get the idea that three years from now Mauer won't be catching as often, to preserve his knees. Maybe that's too far forward to look, but at the same token, I see Sizemore as basically being risk-free.
I participated in the Mock Draft in the Scoresheet newsgroup, and because of that I expected the draft to be a little more prospect-heavy early-on. With the notable exception of Nate Silver, it wasn't, which suits me fine. I'm happy to have Brignac and Adam Miller among my top prospects.
Draft Strategy: Our only real strategy was to get big bats with the first few picks, then turn to pitching. Other than that, we basically reacted to the draft. We had the third pick, and in a league with an obvious top three, that made things easy. The one who's left is your guy, and that was Joe Mauer, whom we were happy to have. When Vernon Wells fell, we felt, to us at No. 22, we had our theme for the early part of the draft: Young, studly up-the-middle guys.
Now that the team-by-team player rankings are over, Kevin tallies everything and ranks the organizations themselves.
I began by assigning points to each team for the talent it has, giving points at differing levels within the Excellent, Very Good, and Good labels used in the recently completed Top 10 lists. Additional points were granted for average prospects, as well as talent beyond their top 10 that would qualify for that level. The rankings you see here reflect the total raw points. In order to have a little fun with this, and in an attempt to provide some additional information, I then split the talent between hitting and pitching, found the average amount of hitting and pitching points, and then calculated the number of standard deviations above or below that average. Presto! Instant 20-80 scores for each category.
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.
Wright or Marte, Marte or Wright. I love 'em both. I've put Andy Marte ahead for the moment, because of the 10-month age difference and because scouts seem to like him a lot more, but I really feel strongly that David Wright's as complete a prospect as there is in the game. I'd love to hear comments comparing the two, and Nate, I'd love to see what their PECOTA comps look like. Nobody else is that impressive. Dallas McPherson put up some serious numbers last year, and while some of that was in The Hangar in Rancho Cucamonga, he hit .314/.426/.569 in Arkansas. He doesn't have a great defensive reputation, but it's not terrible either, and he clearly outhit everyone else on this list. I don't know if anyone else deserves Top 50 consideration. I know people love the Greek God of Walks, but he hit .165/.295/.248 in Triple-A, over a 32-game sample. Of course, his full-season OBP was still .446, so... Chad Tracy hit .324 and his defense took a big step forward, but he doesn't do much more than hit singles, and it was Tucson. I respect that he's had two good seasons in a row, but he was in El Paso in 2002, so I'm not sure that means anything either. And as much as I hyped him a year ago, I have to concede that Brendan Harris may not be quite as good as I thought he was. But he's still a better prospect than almost anyone gives him credit for.
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.