Thursday, December 15, 2005


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.


  1. One more year just for illustrations. From the 1996 BA Top 100 (i picked this since it is the same 10 year interval as looking at 1st round draft picks):

    1. Andruw Jones, of, Braves
    2. Paul Wilson, rhp, Mets
    3. Ruben Rivera, of, Yankees
    4. Darin Erstad, of, Angels
    5. Alan Benes, rhp, Cardinals
    6. Derek Jeter, ss, Yankees
    7. Karim Garcia, of, Dodgers
    8. Livan Hernandez, rhp, Marlins
    9. Vladimir Guerrero, of, Expos
    10. Ben Davis, c, Padres
    11. Jason Schmidt, rhp, Braves
    12. Matt Drews, rhp, Yankees
    13. Derrick Gibson, of, Rockies
    14. Billy Wagner, lhp, Astros
    15. Bartolo Colon, rhp, Indians
    16. Kerry Wood, rhp, Cubs
    17. Rey Ordonez, ss, Mets
    18. Chan Ho Park, rhp, Dodgers
    19. Rocky Coppinger, rhp, Orioles
    20. Richard Hidalgo, of, Astros

    9 pitchers - 4 stars, 3 middlings and 2 busts. 11 position players - 4 stars, 4 okay players, 3 busts.

    And I know the sample sizes could be considered small, but the whole lists including 21 -100 are peppered equally with guys who made it and guys who didn't. For instance the 96 list includes Sox top prospects in order - Donnie Sadler, Suppan, Nomar, Nixon, Andy Yount, Brian Rose and Michael Coleman.

  2. X as a matter of clarification are the lists above the order of the draft? For example, Andruw Jones was selected first in the 1996 draft?

    I guess the other question that is some what related is the relative value of a young arm to a young bat. It seems to me that young arms can have more of an impact on a team than young bats. Look at Ankiel for example. He was huge for the Cardinals in his rookie year (until they reached the playoffs). (A moment of silence please for 7 wild pitches). Some thing similar could be said about Chan Ho Park. He was huge in his first year.

    I guess another way of putting this is that pitchers have a larger range in terms of value in the first few years where as bats are more often steady or "developing" value. In the case of Chan Ho Park, look back now he's an "ok" player or maybe even a bust (not sure how tough you were being). That being said, he was an "impact" player in at least 1 of his first few years. In comparison the bats are either stars steadily progressing or they level off and become ok, or they just suck (Billy Beane - haha).

    So in the end a bat and a pitcher are equally risky. However, it seems that a pitcher has more potential to be really good and then really suck.

    Maybe we could answer this by asking another question. Are there more examples of Chan Ho park then there are of Ben Grieve? (Oh, I had to do it.. I had to go there).

  3. An additional note to my question:

    It may be comparing apples to oranges to look at Chan Ho and Ben Grieve because honestly a young pitcher with 14 wins is way better than the ROY batting .280. (I didn't bother to look up the stats so I may be WAY off in my calibration).

  4. The second list where Andrew Jones was number one was the baseball america top prospect list from 1996.

    I think you are absolutely right on the variability of pitchers over batters - kind of the same thing I was getting at with saying batters project better. It does make for interesting debate - would you rather the pitcher that could be a top line starter or maybe be huge bust or do you go for the batter that likely will be an everyday player for 5 years.

    And to answer one of your questions, the whole point of my post is that there is no more evidence that there are more Chan Ho Parks than Ben Grieve.