The following is my favorite prospect-related link which shows Baseball America’s Top 100 lists from 1990 through 2007. BA are the best prospect-rankers around, so it is really interesting reviewing their historical list. The following are some observations:
1. Many Great Players Never Make the List: Players who never made the list include Johan Santana, Matt Holliday, Robinson Cano, Brad Hawpe, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, Chone Figgins, Brad Hawpe, Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Mark Reynolds, Joe Nathan, John Lackey, Jim Edmonds, Michael Young, John Lackey, Melvin Mora, Joakim Soria, Brad Radke, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Sweeney, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Hampton, Jeff Kent, and John Rocker.
2. Ranked Surprisingly Low: Kevin Appier (#85), Frank Thomas (#29), Chuck Knoblauch (#77). Jeff Bagwell (#32), Larry Walker (#42), Brett Boone (#97), Torii Hunter (#79), David Ortiz (#84), Magglio Ordonez (#52), Barry Zito (#41), Albert Pujols (#42), Carl Crawford (#59), Carlos Zambrano (#80), Chase Utley (#82), Jason Bay (#74), Huston Street (#97), Ian Kinsler (#98), Cole Hamels (#68), Dustin Pedroia (#77), Andre Ethier (#89), Matt Kemp (#96), and Joba Chamberlain (#75).
3. Mught have been a little high: Players who in retrospect probably should not have made the top 10: Kiki Jones, Todd Van Poppel, Andujar Cedeno, Mark Lewis, Brian Taylor, Roger Sakeld, Jeffrey Hammonds, Alex Gonzalez, Matt White, Travis Lee, Paul Wilson, Karim Garcia, Bruce Chen, Sean Burroughs, Juan Cruz, Wilson Betemit, Kaz Matsui, Corey Patterson, Ruben Mateo, John Rauch, and Greg Miller.
4. The Rivera Cousins: A great example of the falliability of prospect lists involves the Rivera cousins. Ruben Rivera was the Yankees’ prize prospect, and appeared near the top of this list for the better part of a decade. Ruben (who could hit) never panned out, and his baseball career finally ended with this game. Ironically, the Yankees also signed his cousin, Mariano, who was rising through the farm system at the same time, never once appearing on the list.
5. 2003 List: it’s worth mentioning what a great job baseball America does ranking these prospects. The best example is their 2003 list, which looking back, was ridiculously accurate. Conversely, this author thought Baseball America was wrong, and took a gamble on Jason Stokes with the second overall pick in the fantasy farm draft.
6. How this list helps fantasy leaguers: This list a great source in deep leagues when your are trying to pick a $1 players. Many role players who break out with surprisingly good seasons appeared on this list several years earlier (Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Pena, Jason Werth, Russell Branyan, Alberto Callaspo, etc). Therefore, sometimes gambling on an ex-prospect pays dividends.
7. Why Drayton McClaine prefers veterans?: Consider list list of Astros prospects who ranked in the top 100: Eric Anthony, Willie Ansley, Andujar Cedeno, Jeff Juden, Tom Nevers, Brian Williams, Phil Nevin, James Mouton (“Mooo!”), Orlando Miller, Brian Hunter, Scott Elarton, Daryl Ward, Wade Miller, Mitch Meluskey, Wilfredo Rodriguez, Tim Redding, Carlos Hernandez, John Buck, Taylor Bucholz, Chris Burke, Ezequiel Astacio, Troy Patton, and Jason Hirsch. On a sidenote, I am not supporting that the Astros reducing focus in their farm system was a good idea. But any team building through the farm will definitely encounter busts.
8. Why farm systems matter: a simple study using the “control-f” function shows the correlation between a middle-market team’s success and a good farm system. The teams with the most appearances on this list tended to fair much better than the teams with the fewest appearances. The teams with by far the most appearances was Atlanta. Other teams who fared impressively were the: Dodgers, Twins, Mariners, Mets and Marlins. On the other hand, teams like the Tigers, Brewers, and Pirates had far fewer top 100 prospects and all did poorly between 1990-2007.
9. Yankees Farm System-the Yankees farm system has been consistently misevaluated. Many of the players who lead the Yankees over the past decade (Posada, Cano, Rivera, Pettite, Wang, Joba, and Soriano) were never considered top prospect while many of their top prospects (pretty much everyone except Jeter and Bernie Williams) never provided much help other than trades. Perhaps it has something to do with pressure in New York or maybe it is coincidence. Nevertheless, I thought it was interesting.