The prior post on how good Francona had been, brought up some interesting dialogue toward the end. Particularly relative to what is a prospect. Andrew brought up the phrase - "There's No Such Thing As A pitching Prospect, "which now that it is in the mainstream is getting a bit tired, but I always though it was pretty accurate. But is it really limited to pitchers?
Go back 10 years to the first round of the draft. Darrin Estad was picked first overall. Todd Helton was 8th. That year also had Kerry Wood, Roy Halladay, Matt Morris and Mark Redman. There were 10 guys that never made the bigs and the rest of the ones that did were middling at best. of the 13 pitchers that were selected, 9 eventually made the bigs as opposed to 9 of 15 for the position players. Close. But does not give much credence to pitchers being more risky. I checked some other years for the first round of the draft and really didn't see 1995 as an aberation. So, I thought - "is the first round of the draft really the right sample." Probably not since a large population of players, notably the DR, are not subject to the draft and sometimes players get picked in like the 62nd round and become potential HOFers (Mike Piazza).
So I dug up my Baseball America from 2000 to look at the top prospects from 5 years ago.
the top 20:
1. Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals
2. Pat Burrell, 1b/of, Phillies
3. Corey Patterson, of, Cubs
4. Vernon Wells, of, Blue Jays
5. Nick Johnson, 1b, Yankees
6. Ruben Mateo, of, Rangers
7. Sean Burroughs, 3b, Padres
8. Rafael Furcal, ss, Braves
9. Ryan Anderson, lhp, Mariners
10. John Patterson, rhp, Diamondbacks
11. Dee Brown, of, Royals
12. Mark Mulder, lhp, Athletics
13. Josh Hamilton, of, Devil Rays
14. Kip Wells, rhp, White Sox
15. Matt Riley, lhp, Orioles
16. Alfonso Soriano, ss, Yankees
17. Chin-Feng Chen, of, Dodgers
18. Michael Cuddyer, 3b, Twins
19. Josh Beckett, rhp, Marlins
20. A.J. Burnett, rhp, Marlins
Now I don't have time to do very, very thorough analysis here (like win shares or VORP or even all star appearances) but I will say of the 8 pitchers on the list there are 3 that were stars, 2 that were good (with Patterson maybe moving up), 2 busts and one that I'm not sure where to classify (Ankiel). For the position players - I would say (and this can be debated) 3 stars, 4 good players (of which some may move up), 3 low level and 2 busts. Again not seeing strong evidence that pitchers are more of a risk.
I have about 8 other years of BA at my house and in going through the lists, it really is the same equal distribution. For every Rick Ankeil at the top, there is a Josh Hamilton. and I know injury can more likely blow out a pitchers career (Ryan Anderson aka the little unit), but other guys that have been number one in the past include JD Drew and Joe Mauer both of who are injury prone.
Overall I do agree position players project a bit better, but not so much so to the point that the old quote is irrefutable.