On Projectprospect.com’s “top 200” prospect list, Tim Beckham and Gordon Beckham rank the #31 and 32 prospects going into the season. Seeing “the Beckhams” ranked next to each other provides a perfect example of a common mistake made by keeper league owners who rely on these rankings. Many owners would make the mistake of choosing Tim here because he is ranked one spot higher than Gordon. In the context of showing why Gordon is the better selection, here are three factors to consider when reading prospect rankings…..
1. Consider the Player’s Proximity to the Major Leagues
Teams should always place a premium on drafting players who are closer to the majors. Here, while Tim will not reach the major leagues until 2011, Gordon was a sure bet to be called up this season. This gives Gordon-owners several advantages, the most obvious being he will pay immediate dividends. The less obvious (but equally important) advantage is Gordon’s call up allows the owner to select a second farm pick the next season.
2. Consider the Player Could Arrive in the Majors Too Early
Assume Tim Beckham arrives in Tampa at age 19 after flying through minor leagues. Is that good for the owner? No, probably. Tim’s predecessor—B.J. Upton—provides a good example. Like Beckham, Upton was also selected #1 by Tampa in 2002 draft, and amazingly, reached the majors by age 19. Upton is now an elite player, but he never helped the fantasy teams that drafted him because he never produced stellar numbers until 2007. Many great major league players are called up to the major leagues at a young age, but only a handful of players have ever been productive before age 21.
3. Consider the Difficulty of Evaluating Young Players
It’s always much more difficult to evaluate how good a teenager will be once they reach the majors. There are some players (Elvis Andrus, Michael Inoa, Angel Villanova) who appear on the prospect lists at 16 or 17 years old. Conversely, Stephen Strasburg, next year’s #1 prospect, would not have been on any prospect lists had he signed out of high school (he was not even drafted). In general, while there are many exceptions, the older players on these lists have a better track record of actually arriving in the major leagues and producing short-term dividends.