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February 21, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Roundtable: Top 50 Prospects, Part I

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Baseball Prospectus

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.

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


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July 30, 2003 12:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies: Leading Off

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Nate Silver

One of the perks of traveling for work--I've been doing a lot of that lately--is the USA Today planted in front of your hotel room door. Sure, for the most part, McPaper's articles are about as substantive as the "continental breakfast" you're likely to eat while reading it--but now and then, in its own glossy, Technicolor way, USA Today stumbles across something significant. Last Wednesday's sports page featured a headline on leadoff hitters--it seems that there aren't very many good ones these days. As the article pointed out, none of the league's leadoff hitters are among the top 30 players in OBP. Among qualified players, the highest-ranking leadoff hitter is Ichiro Suzuki, 39th as of this writing (Jason Kendall, who has occupied the leadoff spot in Pittsburgh since the departure of Kenny Lofton, ranks 31st). And it's not as if Suzuki or Kendall are walking machines in the mold of Rickey Henderson--Ichiro is a fine player who can hit .340 consistently, but his walk rate is well below league average, while Kendall's OBP is boosted in part by his fearless desire to lean into pitches. Then again, players of the Rickey/Tim Raines profile have never been terribly common. It also doesn't help when teams insist on placing mediocrities like Eric Young or Endy Chavez in the one-hole. Is anything going on here, apart from a one-year fluke?

Last Wednesday's sports page featured a headline on leadoff hitters--it seems that there aren't very many good ones these days. As the article pointed out, none of the league's leadoff hitters are among the top 30 players in OBP. Among qualified players, the highest-ranking leadoff hitter is Ichiro Suzuki, 39th as of this writing (Jason Kendall, who has occupied the leadoff spot in Pittsburgh since the departure of Kenny Lofton, ranks 31st). And it's not as if Suzuki or Kendall are walking machines in the mold of Rickey Henderson--Ichiro is a fine player who can hit .340 consistently, but his walk rate is well below league average, while Kendall's OBP is boosted in part by his fearless desire to lean into pitches.

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Last year, I started messing around with something I call the Walk Gap, which is just the difference between a team's walks drawn and walks allowed. Because we've spent so much time hammering home the importance of plate discipline and throwing strikes, I thought this might be a good indicator of team success.

Last year, I started messing around with something I call the Walk Gap, which is just the difference between a team's walks drawn and walks allowed. Because we've spent so much time hammering home the importance of plate discipline and throwing strikes, I thought this might be a good indicator of team success.

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While sporadically entering data for a follow up column on the Walk Gap, the following arrived in my inbox. Suffice to say Mike Rice does more justice to the topic than I can, so I'll turn it today's column over to him:

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One of the things we're always yammering about is control of the strike zone. We evaluate players based on their on-base percentage and walk rate and pitchers by their strikeout-to-walk ratio. We emphasize--some would say overemphasize--plate discipline for hitters and control for pitchers when we talk about minor leaguers, and often tout players for no apparent reason other then they have this one very important skill.

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Before getting into this week's column, I would like to make a pair of comments regarding last week's feature on the amazing Ichiro Suzuki:

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