Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Read top prospects list with grain of salt

US Presswire photo
Ross Detwiler ranked way ahead of Jordan Zimmermann following the 2007 draft.
Later today, Baseball America will reveal its annual Top 10 Prospects list for the Nationals, a rite of the offseason that gives everyone some perspective about the state of the franchise's farm system.

There's no mystery who will sit atop the Nationals' prospect list (hint: his name rhymes with Rice Tarper) but I'll be curious to see where the organization's top 2011 draft picks land. Anthony Rendon, Matt Purke, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin all should be included somewhere in the Top 10, with Rendon potentially No. 2 behind You-Know-Who.

This would provide some confirmation to all those who touted the Nationals' draft haul as perhaps the best in baseball this year. But it should also be taken with some level of healthy skepticism, because these draft classes tend not to pan out as everyone believes they will at the time.

For evidence of that, we need only to look back at some of Baseball America's previous Top 10 lists for the Nationals. Like the 2008 list, which reveals just how much can change in a short amount of time.

The Nationals' top prospect entering 2008, according to BA: Chris Marrero, who did finally reach the majors in September but who faces an uncertain future.

More striking is the order in which pitchers are listed. Ross Detwiler (the club's first-round pick in the 2007 draft) ranks second. Collin Balester, a holdover from the Expos days, is third. Fellow 2007 picks Jack McGeary and Josh Smoker are fifth and sixth.

You have to scroll all the way down to the No. 7 spot to find Jordan Zimmermann, who admittedly didn't receive a lot of attention coming out of Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point but without question has enjoyed the most success to date of anyone on the list and surely would be re-ranked No. 1 if the editors could go back and do it again today.

It's not like this was a one-time misread by Baseball America. Almost every year's list, in hindsight, includes some gross mistakes.

Ian Desmond ranked 10th on the list in 2007, behind such busts as Colton Willems, Kory Casto and Glenn Gibson.

Danny Espinosa didn't even make the 2009 Top 10 list after getting drafted a few months earlier, but Michael Burgess, Adrian Nieto and Esmailyn Gonzalez did.

My point isn't to mock BA's annual prospects list. It's a valuable resource and does give us some sense of where the organization stands.

Just be careful giving too much credence to this year's list. Several of the top names may well develop into big-league stars. But history suggests there are going to be some big-time mistakes made, as well.


Joe Seamhead said...

I take those lists much l take the "what's in, what's not" on New Year's Day in the Washington Post., I.e. mildly amusing, but without any real substance.

BTW- Rice Tarper went 1-4, with 3 K's last night. Worse, he had his fourth error in LF. He did score one run in a 2-0 Scorpian win. 4 errors is a lot for an OF'er in so few games.

Joe Seamhead said...

Jeez, I have a tough time typing on the iPad!
I take those lists much like I take the Post's.

joemktg said...

It's BA's take on projectability, and not the club's prospect board. If the BA staffers were that good, they'd be sitting next to the GMs at staff meetings. Ingest with more than a grain: try a shaker.

Hate the word "projectability": it's as if the young player needs flaws that the club can fix and improve the player's value. A polished young player?: has no upside, i.e., no projectability.

Jeeves said...

Injury often is a key factor in high picks panning out. Of the 2008 class McGeary, Smoker, Deitweler, and Zimmermann suffered significant injuries. This year's group already have concerns with Purke and Rendon.
Before 2008, there were practically no good prospects to begin with.
Still, back to the 2008 group there is a lot of promise. Despite missing a full year ( almost) Marrero, at 23, had a successful triple A year. Deitweler might turn out to be the real thing. Smoker had a good year as a reliever and McGeary is back on the scene. Ballester is a disappointment, although even he has shown moments of promise. And, of course, Zimmermann.
Obviously picking future major leaguers is a bit of a crap shoot, but BA does give Information about the players which is helpful for this fan to evaluate the possible future of the franchise. And before 2008 I didn't see much of a future.

Will said...

One thing that is misleading about these top prospects lists by team is that it insinuates that there is some sort of parity between all teams, which isn't even close to being true. The 11th best prospect on the Royals or Rays would probably rank in the top 2 of the Phillies or Brewers, for example.

As we saw in 2008, we had a lot of junky players that weren't really prospects (see: Gibson and Willems), but had their status elevated because there was simply a lack of other decent players.

It will be nice to see which 5-10 players don't make the list this year, who arguably deserve to, and then next year complain about Baseball America failing to predict their success.

Gonat said...

Last night a good discussion was had on Tyler Clippard and whether he is lucky. The conclusion is scouting exists because visual observation along with stats tells a much more detailed story.

On these lists, the same thing has to occur and I remember discussions on Tyler Moore. Most of us have never seen him play so we go by stats. Power hitter with too many strikeouts, not enough walks.

Eury Perez last winter looked like he was ready to breakout and then had a lackluster year in High A.

I always say the organization itself is in the best position to evaluate their own talent not BA. Rankings from team to team are never the same. The Nats best pitcher was Tyler Clippard, can you really compare him to the Phillies best pitcher Roy Halladay. Can the best prospect in a bad farm system be the best prospect in the Nats farm system? These ratings are extremely subjective to their own teams also.

Constant Reader said...

I'd like to second Jeeves. A team shouldn't be held responsible for injuries to top prospects (and, no, I'm not trying to start a conversation about how predictable injuries should be for pitchers with violent throwing motions). Brien Taylor was only the second #1 pick never to make the bigs. Was that because the Yankees missed on him or because on the cusp of the majors he suffered a career ending injury in a fight I'm making the case for two kinds of busts: misses and injured.

Sue Dinem said...

There's a reason why I both praise (begrudgingly) and mock (relentlessly) BA on my site. For all its strengths, BA still has its fetishes for youth and recency (wait 'til you see how many have the same pro experience that you do). When they officially release the list, I'm not going to pass up the "o'kaysion" to do so again.

Anonymous8 said...

Sue, how do you like Jonathan Mayo's Top 10 compared to BA's?

Gonat said...

The value of a closer just went up. The Phillies look like they will pay Madson $11 million per year. Most thought he was worth $8 million for 3 years.

I wonder if the Phillies got nervous when he was rumored to be talking to Jayson Werth.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it is a valuable resource, the prospect ranking. It adds or detracts perceived value to guys in what is at the end of the day a fairly random manner. One trade can remake a club's farm in a significant way, and as Zuck points out, the Kory Casto's of the world abound.

Predictions for a club's 2015 lineup (which is included in the ranking info) are crazy as can be -- there might be 5 guys on the Nats 2011 club that were on the roster during 2008.


Gonat said... The Nats list looks to be the 1st one posted by BA

Gonat said... if you don't have an account

MicheleS said...

Where is T Milone? Why isn't he on this list?

Anonymous said...

To add some perspective, here is what the BA people saw for us back in 2009 in terms of 2012 predicted lineup:

Catcher Jesus Flores
First Base Chris Marrero
Second Base Esmailyn Gonzalez
Third Base Ryan Zimmerman
Shortstop Cristian Guzman
Left Field Elijah Dukes
Center Field Lastings Milledge
Right Field Michael Burgess
No. 1 Starter Jordan Zimmerman
No. 2 Starter Ross Detwiler
No. 3 Starter Scott Olsen
No. 4 Starter Collin Balester
No. 5 Starter John Lannan
Closer Garrett Mock


jd said...

Mark'd and Anon8,

To counter your counter to my argument. Mariano Rivera who is arguably the best reliever of all time has a lifetime BABIP of .262; last year he was at .275 and he has never in any year had a BABIP below .200. This is a pitcher who is known to induce weak grounders because of his killer cutter.

You tell me that Clippard's .197 BABIP (was .284 in 2010) did not have a large element of luck and you explain this to me logically not just by saying 'visual observation'.

Clippard is an exceptional reliever, just not quite as good as he was last year.

Mark'd said...

dfh21, look at that outfield. I give them credit for seeing Garrett Mock for what he was---a reliever at best.

Seeing Dukes on there reminds that trading with Tampa for a high ceiling outfielder is a mistake.

Drew8 said...

One of the very encouraging things about the new BA list is that there's another wave of talented guys right behind it:

Tommy Milone, Robbie Ray, Destin Hood, Kevin Keyes, Danny Rosenbaum....

Taylor Jordan, Rafael Martin, Brad Meyers, Matt Skole...

Jason Martinson and his 19 homers at shortstop, Kylin Turnbull...

I'm encouraged by the impressive group of pitching prospects, but the Nats could use additional dynamic position players.

It will help if Zach Walters (.293 in 30 games at Potomac), Erik Komatsu, Matt Skole or Rick Hague becomes a bonafide prospect.

Paul said...

Regardless of how accurate BA is in their predictions, it is hard not be excited about the quality of talent in the Nats minor league system. Even assuming an attrition rate of 70% from the top 10, there are more likely than not going to be 3 impact major leaguers out of that group. Awesome.

Additionally, BA provides the hype that is necessary for prospects so GMs can make trades. If BA is saying that this is the best draft and a deep system, our prospects have greater value and return more in proven major league talent when Rizzo decides to deal.

Honestly, all faults aside, I couldn't be happier.

John C. said...

FWIW, on another site (Federal Baseball) a fan put up a fanpost last week that listed the BA Top 10 Nats Prospects from the print edition:

1 Bryce Harper
2 Anthony Rendon
3 Brad Peacock
4 AJ Cole
5 Brian Goodwin
6 Alex Meyer
7 Matt Purke
8 Sammy Solis
9 Derek Norris
10 Steve Lombardozzi

It will be interesting to see if this list holds up.

jcj5y said...

I agree with the general point that these lists are to be taken with a grain of salt, but looking at the detailed descriptions of the prospects in 2008 gives a more accurate picture.

Marrero's "massive power," says BA, "gives his a chance to be a star." Somewhere along the line, that power deserted him, along with his star potential.

BA saw Detwiler as having a "chance for three above-average pitches." As far as I can tell, only his fastball is consistently above-average right now. Hence, his failure to stick in the majors.

Balester profiled as a "middle-of-the-rotation" guy, which isn't exactly high praise. In this year's "mid-rotation" guy is Solis, who's ranked 8th. That shows you, more than anything, how far the system has come. Of course a lot of these players won't reach their full potential. But there's a lot more potential in the system, and thus a greater chacne that at least some of it will be reached.

Anonymous said...

I guess Robby Ray and Bradley Peacock have suddenly dropped off? ;)
And where's Tyler Moore?

Steve M. said...

I am still thinking Purke and AJ Cole could be better than Peacock although neither are close to being MLB ready. I'm not a Alex Meyer fan right now until he becomes a pitcher and not a thrower which could land him in the bullpen. Solis really helped his cause with his performance in the AFL. That circle change/breaker from a lefty is a killer pitch. If he doesn't abandon his knuckle-curve, he will have an amazing arsenal of pitches.

Agree with Drew8's assessment as this is great news to see all the names that didn't crack the Top 10. As expected, Derek Norris fell way down the list but managed to stay in the Top 10 and Tommy Milone didn't make the list.

Steve M. said...

Anonymous said...
I guess Robby Ray and Bradley Peacock have suddenly dropped off? ;)
And where's Tyler Moore?

November 9, 2011 10:30 AM

Brad Peacock is #3 and Tyler Moore and Robbie Ray didn't make the list.

Binx Bolling said...

Other prospects include Matt Antonelli INF, Tyler Moore 1B, Justin Bloxom 3B, Zack Walters 3B, Rick Hague SS, Justino Cuvas SS, Blake Kelso SS, Jason Martinson SS, Jeff Kobernus 2B, David Frietas C, Outfielders Erik Komatsu, Corey Brown, Destin Hood, Eury Perez, Kevin Keyes, Pitchers Ross Detwiler, Tom Milone, Brad Meyers, Cole Kimball, Erik Arneson, Shairon Martis, Daniel Rosenbaum, Cory Van Allen, Robbie Ray, Cameron Selik and Neil Holland.

Natslifer said...

Still no word on Rendon's health - too fuzzy for me to be comfortable he's not hurt.

Steve M. said...

By the way, Purke pitched his best inning last night with back-to-back "no run" outings. Last night he struck out 2 in his 1 inning of work. He did give up a single and the runner advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Bryce Harper. Purke pitched around the next batter for a walk and retired the next batter to end the inning.

It is good to see he is improving after those first 2 ugly appearances.

Bryce Harper seemed to have gotten himself back out of stride after swinging for the fences in the Rising Stars game as he struck out a couple times last night but Bryce did manage a single to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.

Steve M. said...

jcj5y said...
BA saw Detwiler as having a "chance for three above-average pitches." As far as I can tell, only his fastball is consistently above-average right now. Hence, his failure to stick in the majors.

November 9, 2011 10:29 AM

I think his failure to stick is more about stamina/endurance which has led to fastball flattening out as he fatigues making it easier to hit.

Some say he is easier to hit as the batting order has seen him 2nd time through the order. I no longer buy that as you saw when Det was pitching on extra rest and kept that fastball 92-94 he was effective. I truly think it is all about stamina/endurance with him.

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

"Seeing Dukes on there reminds that trading with Tampa for a high ceiling outfielder is a mistake."

Yeah, imagine where the Nats would be now if they still had Glenn Gibson (who remains in A ball).

It was a one-off, low-cost longshot. It did not work out--longshots usually don't--but it says nothing about the value of trading with the Rays.

I still don't think Upton is a good fit, but that's a different point.

tayo said...

One guy who I know the organization is very high on is Michael Taylor. Yet, he is never in the top 10 lists in any of this rankings. With the way the Org hypes him, he should be a top 5 prospect. Also, you guys should not sleep on Rick Hague. I strongly felt he would have made his cases this year as a top 10 prospect had it not been for the injury. Also Wirkin Estevez is a name to watch out for.

Steve M. said...

Sec3, I always go through a WWJD, which translates to WHAT WOULD JIMBO DO? I will often email him or Twitter message him for advice. Jimbo would take Grady Sizemore, so I wouldn't. Jimbo would take BJ Upton, so I wouldn't. Jimbo would take Brandon Webb, so I wouldn't. He is in low risk, high reward to find that Dan Uggla out there in Rule 5 or a Josh Hamilton as a true reclamation project. That's why some teams never get better as they are kicking the trash can.

If Jimbo didn't Draft well which was more from picking the best player through good scouting, not sure where this team would be right now as most of the top players have come through the Draft and the Morse, Clippard and Ramos trades. Free Agency still hasn't paid dividends for this team.

Last night's Clubhouse Confidential was on Drafting guys over 30 to long-term deals and they said it has never worked out well. Their theory is an Albert Pujols signing will not be a good one. If the Cardinals over-pay Albert, good for Albert as he has been playing there for 10 years and his last contract was well below market as he made over $14 million last year.

I think Rizzo not only has to pick good quality players but players that fit in a cohesive clubhouse. Hate to say it, they almost have to pass the Jayson Werth test as he is the leader of the clubhouse.

Mark'd said...

SteveM, I fell off my chair laughing on WWJD. Does JimBo get a World Series ring when the Nats win it?

Tom said...

Steve M. - You said that free agency hasn't paid dividends, but we got Ramos in the Matt Capps trade after signing him as a free agent.

Steve M. said...

Tom - I was talking about Free Agency as it pertains to the team the Nats have right now and mostly pointing at LaRoche and Werth.

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