Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoughts on Top 100 Prospect Lists

Everybody loves lists!  There is a reason why the internet if full of lists.  People absolutely love them!  There are top 10 lists for everything you can possibly think of:  Top 10 Vacation Spots, Top 10 Thanksgiving Recipes, Top 10 Hottest Women Over Age 50, and well, you get the idea.   No matter what the topic, if you are writing about it on the internet, you will get more readers and comments if it's in a list than if it's not.  It doesn't really matter that 99% of these are simply somebody's opinion, or that the lists are far from complete or that #10 is often something you like better than #1.  It's just easy and fun to read through it in the form of a list.

I do my own lists.  Long before I started this blog, I used to write posts on the Message Board.  One of the things I became known for over there was my Giants Top 50 Prospect List.  Even now, after all these years of blogging on this site, the day I post my yearly Giants Top 50 Prospect List is always one of my biggest readership days.  I always tell my readers to please not get too hung up on the exact order of these lists.  The list is a nice, attractive vehicle for becoming more familiar with some of the prospects who you might see at some point the the future playing for the Giants.  The comments that I write about those prospects are much more important than the exact order of the list.  The list is just a way to organize it, in a way that makes it easier to remember, and it is, roughly, my opinion of the relative likelihood of each prospect having a future impact with the Giants.

Just to take one example of how this works is last year, I wrote a series of posts profiling some of the draft prospects for the 2015 amateur draft.  I got a few comments and I'm sure that people read them, but I got the feeling that readers did not really connect to those prospects until they saw them listed in some sort of order in the form of a mock draft, or ranking, a list if you will.  It helps give readers a point of reference if they can read about a prospect and then file it away in their mind's catalog in some sort of order, "oh yeah, he's the #13 ranked draft prospect and the Giants are drafting #18."  That sort of reference makes for improved memory and retrieval from the mind's phone book than if they were stored randomly.

Which brings us to the question Shankbone asked yesterday about how good Top 100 Prospect Lists are such as the one that Baseball America puts out or that Kiley McDaniel put out on Fangraphs.  I decided to try to get at this topic by comparing this year's rookies, ranked by performance measured by fWAR, with their pre-season BA Top 100 Prospect List, if they were listed at all.  So, without further ado, here are the top 10 rookie hitters and top 10 rookie pitchers from 2915 listed in order of fWAR with notations of their Top 100 rankings(I am including some commonly used stats just for our edification):


1.  Kris Bryant.  .275/.369/.488, 26 HR, 13 SB, 650 PA, fWAR= 6.5.  Top 100 Ranking:  #1.

2.  Matt Duffy!  .295/.334/.428, 12 HR, 12 SB, 612 PA, fWAR= 4.9.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

3.  Francisco Lindor.  .313/.353/.482, 12 HR, 12 SB, 438 PA, fWAR= 4.6.  Top 100 Ranking:  #9.

4.  Odubel Herrera.  .297/.344/.418, 8 HR, 16 SB, 537 PA, fWAR= 3.9.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

5.  Carlos Correa.  .279/.345/.512, 22 HR, 14 SB, 432 PA, fWAR= 3.3.  Top 100 Ranking:  #4.

6. Randal Grichuk.  .276/.329/.548, 17 HR, 4 SB, 350 PA, fWAR= 3.1.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

7.  Addison Russell.  .242/.307/.389, 13 HR, 4 SB, 523 PA, fWAR= 2.9.  Top 100 Ranking:  #3.

8.  Joc Pederson.  .210/.346/.417, 26 HR, 2 SB, 585 PA, fWAR= 2.8.  Top 100 Ranking:  #8.

9.  Billy Burns.  .294/.334/.392, 5 HR, 26 SB, 555 PA, fWAR= 2.3.  Top 100 Rankking:  NR.

10.  Devon Travis.  .304/.361/.498, 8 HR, 3 SB, 238 PA, fWAR= 2.3.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

Note that I left out Jung-Ho Kang who was not ranked but was not really a true rookie IMO.  Other Top 100 prospects who made in impact with their teams and accrued enough AB's to "graduate" included:  Jorge Soler #12, Miguel Sano #13, Blake Swihart #17, Kyle Schwarber #19, Dalton Pompey #30, Michael Taylor #32, Steven Souza #37, Maikel Franco #56, JT Realmuto #76, Jake Lamb #78, Steven Piscotty #79, Michael Conforto #80.


1.  Anthony DeScalfini.  9-13, 4.05, 184.2 IP, 7.36 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, fWAR= 3.2.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

2. Noah Syndergaard.  9-7, 3.24, 150 IP, 9.96 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, fWAR= 3.1.  Top 100 Ranking: #11.

3. Lance McCullers.  6-7, 3.22, 125.2 IP, 9.24 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, fWAR= 2.8.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

4.  Trevor May.  8-9, 4.00, 114.2 IP, 8.63 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, fWAR= 2.3.  Top 100 Rankikng:  NR.

5.  Robbie Ray.  5-12, 3.52, 177.2 IP, 8.39 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, fWAR= 2.1.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

6.  Carlos Rodon.  9-6, 3.75, 139.1 IP, 8.98 K/9, 4.59 BB/9, fWAR= 2.1.  Top 100 Ranking:  #15.

7.  Alex Colome.  8-5, 3.94, 109.2 IP, 7.22 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, fWAR= 1.8.  Top 100 Rankikng:  NR.

8.  Eduardo Rodriguez.  10-6, 3.85, 121.2 IP, 7.25 K/9, 2.74 BB/9, fWAR= 1.7.  Top 100 Ranking:  #59.

9.  Taylor Jungmann.  9-8, 3.77, 119.1 IP, 8.07 K/9, 3.54 BB/9, fWAR= 1.6.  Top 100 Ranking:  NR.

10.  Raisel Iglesias.  3-7, 4.15, 95.1 IP, 9.82 K/9, 2.64 BB/9, fWAR= 1.6.  Top 100 Ranking:  #58.

I left out relief pitchers who almost never get a Top 100 Ranking.  Other Pitchers who made an impact for their teams and accrued enough IP to "graduate" included:  Daniel Norris #18, Aaron Sanchez #27, Luis Severino #35, Aaron Nola #39, Andrew Heaney #42, Henry Owens #44, Joe Ross #96.

Some caveats:  1.  Most of these players did not play the full season in the majors.  2.  Players that did play a full season have a big advantage in this ranking due to fWAR being a counting stat.  3.  These numbers are for just one season and in most cases just part of a season, and may not be predictive of career success.

All in all, I think you have to say BA's Top 100 Ranking identifies a high percentage of prospects who are likely to have successful MLB debuts and careers.  It also does not identify all of them.  Is it a useful tool?  I know I consult it as a starting point for evaluating prospects that I may want to roster on my fantasy baseball team.  On the other hand, there are enough good performing rookies who were NR, that it seriously calls into question the oft used practice of adding up each team's Top 100 prospects and rating their farm system accordingly.

Top 100 Prospect lists and Farm System Rankings are what they are, lists.  Lists have their uses, mainly in terms of organizing and cataloguing in people's minds.  They are also based on someone's very subjective opinion, hopefully a well informed opinion.  They are by no means definitive. They should never be considered totally inclusionary nor exclusionary.

So, take heart, Giants fans.  Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, the Giants lack of Top 100 prospects and low levels on farm system rankings do not mean that the farm system is a "nuclear wasteland" nor does it mean there is no imminent or future help available in the farm system.


  1. This was a great idea, and a very nicely organized post DrB! 2015 was really the year of the rookie. Lots of young, impact talent broke into the league this season... and Duffy was right at the top among them!

    My personal belief is the top 100 list makers put too much stake in age and ceiling. It isn't a coincidence that they overlook players like Duffy, Panik, etc., whose skillsets make them relatively low-ceiling players. Granted nobody in their right mind would have put Duffy in the top 100 before 2014, but his season in Richmond and his short stint with the Giants last year at least should have made him an honorable mention type. I'm obviously biased though!

    If Christian Arroyo doesn't make the top 100 lists this offseason, I think I'm done giving those guys any credibility.

    Cove Chatter

  2. I have, on a number of times, offered my two-cents that Top-100 lists are too often over-weight on 'potential' and 'physical' attributes for a 'ceiling' while ignoring other facets of player development. In fact, for me, I'm more interested in athleticism establishing a 'floor' than a ceiling and then looking at the prospects in-line with others of their level and how well they're refining their nominal skill sets.

    1. There has to be a balance. Overall, I think the prospect lists give you a pretty good idea of who's who and what's what among baseball prospects. You just have to recognize them for what they are and not think that every guy on the list is going to be an All-Star or that anyone left off the list is destined to be a bust.

  3. Heston ended up with 1.3 fWAR. Fairly dire second half.