PDA

View Full Version : Prospect Rankings - Skewing too young?



jmcclain19
01-11-2007, 03:32 AM
This was a post on the Baseball Prospectus Blog today, and since we've been working on our own Redszone Prospect ranking here the last few weeks, I thought this question and answer was worth posting for discussion.


E.W. writes:

I’ve been interested in the Future Shock top prospect ratings and I am curious about the approach you are taking. I’ve looked very quickly through the reports and counted up 21 ‘excellent’ prospects. More than half were drafted in the last two years, and the vast majority haven’t played at higher levels of the minor leagues. There certainly seems to be a bias toward younger players with far shorter performance records at the professional level. That makes it seem as though we are starting with the notion that somebody is an ‘excellent’ prospect and letting their performance disprove the notion rather than the other way around.

Or, put more simply, shouldn’t more ‘excellent’ prospects look like Chris Young and fewer like Bill Rowell? Is it really fair to group those guys together? Young has great skills and a track record that says he can use them. Rowell is an 18-year old with less than a full season of experience above high school. I understand that his youth works in his favor in that he might grow into something greater, but he might just as easily not. The higher standard deviation in expected performance from really young players makes it seem less likely to me that the majority of ‘excellent’ prospects in the game are so young, or that so many of them have been drafted in the last 2 years. Do you think that in 2 years, or in 5 years, that more of this year’s crop of ‘excellent’ prospects will have become major league stars than will have become ‘very good’ or ‘good’ prospects? If not, is it really worth calling so many ‘excellent’ before they have proven that they deserve it? Thanks, E.W.

E.W.,

I got a ton of emails, and most are very much read and react, but yours really made me think.

Now that said, I’d like to explain to you why I’m comfortable with the ratios that bother you. You ask shouldn’t more excellent prospects look like Chris Young and fewer like Bill Rowell. My answers to that is no, and I’d like to explain why. Let’s assume that an Excellent rating also means “potential impact player”. While it’s certainly true that more AAA players at any point in time will MAKE the majors than Low A players, I would argue that true impact players are far more evenly distributed, if not even more so at the lower levels.

Many top players from the 2003 and 2004 drafts, who once ranked as excellent prospects (Rickie Weeks, Nick Markakis, Chad Cordero, Chad Billingsley, Carlos Quentin, Tom Gorzelanny, Justin Verlander, Jeremy Sowers, Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew, Huston Street — pretty big, and also incomplete group) are already in the big leagues and therefore no longer prospects, leaving much of their draft classes as good or lower prospects, and leaving the elite ratings to the two most recent draft classes.

Cream rises to the crop quickly, maybe even more so these days, which is why many top prospects have come from the last two draft years. They seem almost too young to rank so high at times, but I bet a good number of them lose their eligibility for the lists next year with significant stints in the big leagues.

The Author of the answer is Kevin Goldstein, formerly of Baseball America, now the Prospect/Minor Leagues beat writer for Baseball Prospectus. The Emailer's point has always been the same that I've had for a long time about Baseball America. And I don't think that Goldstein really answered it. Top picks seem to start out as "perfect" then are torn down as they move up, rather than vice versa. I don't know if it's simply a cop out, or just the love of what is "fresh & new" that promotes this. Thoughts?

mth123
01-11-2007, 04:32 AM
This was a post on the Baseball Prospectus Blog today, and since we've been working on our own Redszone Prospect ranking here the last few weeks, I thought this question and answer was worth posting for discussion.



The Author of the answer is Kevin Goldstein, formerly of Baseball America, now the Prospect/Minor Leagues beat writer for Baseball Prospectus. The Emailer's point has always been the same that I've had for a long time about Baseball America. And I don't think that Goldstein really answered it. Top picks seem to start out as "perfect" then are torn down as they move up, rather than vice versa. I don't know if it's simply a cop out, or just the love of what is "fresh & new" that promotes this. Thoughts?


I agree with the premise. It seems like guys have to prove they aren't top guys. I think BA has had that approach and everyone else now has it burned into their way of thinking. This is the same as the debate about relief pitchers and position players. While its true that if a Paul Janish becomes an everyday SS that would make him a better prospect than a middle relief guy, the more likely scenario is that the reliever will be mediocre and Janish wil be a utility player. I would say that even a mediocre middle relief guy is more valuable than a "back-up" infielder.

In my mind the younger prospects have to be valued and given a chance to succeed (don't write them-off because they are far away), but probability of making an impact has to be a larger part of the equation.

TRF
01-11-2007, 12:25 PM
I take the opposite approach. 210 AB's in the Pioneer league don't excite me. Especially when you are outhit by 4 teammates, three of which RZ is ranking lower than Stubbs. Another term I hate is "ceiling". Player X has this ceiling, while player Y has a much lower ceiling. Stubbs could become the next great OF or he could be Alex Ochoa, usefull spare part, or anywhere in between. Guys like Shafer and Medlock seem almost a certainty at this point to make a big league team. Also they have much more trade value as they have alread performed at the level Stubbs is 2-3 years away from. I'm a performance guy. I want promotions through the ML to be based on performance, not tools and potential. Stubbs is a big bag of potential, but his numbers were hardly eyepopping. Valaika at least hit. Logan Parker, Danny Dorn and Justin Turner all put a whipping on the ball at the same level. But Stubbs is ranked higher. Is it his draft position that implies a certain level? To be a top prospect you have to play like one. So far, Stubbs has not.

IslandRed
01-11-2007, 12:36 PM
I think both points are valid. A lot of baseball still values potential over proven performance and sometimes "high ceiling" is just another way of saying "we don't know what his flaws are yet." But what Goldstein is saying is that most older prospects by this point are in the majors or have proven they're likely not impact players, and that's also true. The best prospects don't stay in the high minors all that long.

And the reality is, "excellent prospect" is a subjective thing and teams are in the habit of using high draft picks on players they believe are potential impact guys. They'll keep on believing it until the evidence proves otherwise.

dougdirt
01-11-2007, 01:25 PM
I understand both sides of this arguement, but I am more of a youth and cieling type believer over a guy with less skills who can use everything he has, at least up to a point. Obviously, someone like BJ Szymanski has all of these "tools" but he is going nowhere, and you have to adjust accordingly.

Joseph
01-11-2007, 02:34 PM
I think by definition the term 'prospect' doesn't mean good player or bad player, but rather it means potential. An excellent prospect simply has more potential. As others have stated if a guy lasts a few years in the minors the chances are good his flaws have been exposed and he is less a prospect and more an option instead. Young guys who haven't failed yet often have a lot of projections able to be put upon them that are less likely to be refutable by the 'experts' and therefore they are stronger candidates as excellent prospects.

M2
01-11-2007, 05:13 PM
Top picks seem to start out as "perfect" then are torn down as they move up, rather than vice versa. I don't know if it's simply a cop out, or just the love of what is "fresh & new" that promotes this.

Love the way you stated the problem. Floor rises, ceiling drops. What I find particularly bizarre is how guys can from fascinating to largely forgotten to major league. Adam Wainwright's a perfect example. The scouting pubs out there lost interest in him during his awkward phase. Almost every player has one. It's as inevitable as kids going to middle school. It's going to be a strange time and you'll probably realize that Johnny or Jane isn't going to be president during this phase, but that doesn't mean they should be forgotten.

I also think ratings bodies get a little out of sorts when unexpected guys run the minor league gauntlet. "Hey, you weren't a hot prospect three years ago. You must not be one now." It's much easier to concentrate on the newest unproven kid than deal with this messy business of who actually makes it.