Stemming off of a study that we began last season, I've compared and contrasted Baseball America (BA), Baseball Prospectus (BP), ESPN's and our 2009 top 100 prospect lists. Dissected is actually a better way to put it.
The goal of this study is to objectively identify differences between widely-debated top 100 baseball prospect lists and call out these differences for future studies.
I started my research by identifying every prospect who was ranked on the four top 100 lists above. Next, I found how each of these prospects ranked -- or didn't rank -- on the lists. After that, I calculated the average ranking and standard deviation for each player who appeared on all four lists. Lastly, I broke down each of the 142 players who appeared on a top 100 by the following groupings:
4-Star Prospect: A prospect who was ranked on all four top 100s.
Example: Matt Wieters was a 2009 4-Star Prospect -- Kyle Skipworth was too!
Loner Instance: When a player was ranked on three of the lists but not the fourth. The publication that did not rank the player is the loner.
Example: Angel Villalona was a 2009 top 100 prospect for BA, BP and ESPN. We established a Loner Instance by not ranking Villalona in our top 100.
Renegade Pick: When one publication ranks a player inside its top 100 and that player doesn't appear on any of the other top 100s. The publication that ranks the player is the renegade.
Example: Keith Law's 2008 top 100 was the only one that had Tommy Hanson or Jordan Zimmermann on it. They were both ESPN renegade picks.
Buddy Pick: When two publications rank a player as a top 100 prospect while the other two do not. The publications that rank the player are buddies.
Example: ESPN and Baseball Prospectus both ranked Engel Beltre as a top 100 prospect in 2008 while Baseball America and Project Prospect didn't. This was a BP/ESPN Buddy Pick.
Our subject publications unanimously named 62 of the same players top 100 prospects -- 4-Star Prospects. We also all had Matt Wieters and David Price as the no. 1 and no. 2 prospects in baseball, respectively.
The list to the right was created by taking the 4-Star Prospects and averaging their rankings. I've also listed each player's standard deviation. The lower a player's standard deviation is, the more agreement there was with him.
Skipworth, who ranked between 82nd and 85th on all four lists, was the fourth-most agreed upon 4-Star prospect in 2009, only behind Wieters, Price and Travis Snider, respectively.
Greg Halman, Desmond Jennings, Jose Tabata, Brett Cecil, Jesus Montero, Yonder Alonso, Josh Vitters and Jhoulys Chacin were the eight most polarizing 4-Star prospects. But one publication being relatively high or low on a player was enough to give him a standard deviation above 20.
Jennings, for example, was in ESPN's top 25 and below 49th for the other three publications. Montero was either 37th or 38th for everyone except ESPN, which ranked him 83rd.
There were also instances where just two publications really liked a guy. BA and BP had Halman at 57th and 42nd, respectively, where as he was in the 90s for ESPN and us. And Cecil was 38th for us and 43rd for ESPN, but BA and BP had him at 72nd and 90th, respectively.
The following nine players would have ranked among the top 60 on the list to the right if one more publication would have ranked them: Villalona, Kyle Blanks, J.P. Arencibia, James McDonald, Michael Main, Domonic Brown, Andrew Lambo, Martin Perez and Jake Arrieta.
In 2008, ESPN was the biggest party crasher, as it left Brett Anderson and Jair Jurrjens off its top 100 when everyone else ranked them.
But ESPN was far more agreeable this year. BP and us were 2009's party crashers, combining to not include all but one of the nine players above (BA didn't rank Main). Let's divide up these prospects by which publication prevented each one from becoming a 4-Star prospect:
BP failed to embrace: Blanks, Brown and Perez.
We rejected: Villalona, Arencibia, McDonald, Lambo and Arrieta.
I can't speak for BP, but here's our reasoning for not ranking the five players above in our top 100 (paraphrased from our top 200 prospect list blurbs):
Villalona -- Lack of Low-A production, particularly ability to manage the strike zone (BB% and K%), concerned us.
Arencibia -- Upside appeared limited due to extremely low Double-A walk rate and below-average contact rate.
McDonald -- Extreme fly-ball pitcher.
Lambo -- First pro season was solid but not dominant.
Arrieta -- Low-minors command was not impressive.
Last year, we were just trying to get a basic read on how each publication went about ranking prospects. We now have a better idea of the tendencies of each.
Primary Voices: Jim Callis, John Manuel and Will Lingo
Years publishing top 100s: 20
Loner Instances: Michael Main, Mat Latos and Angel Salome.
Renegade Picks: Lou Marson (66), Wilson Ramos (71), Daniel Cortes (90), Brad Holt (94) and Sean West (96).
Extreme Grade: Conservative
Summary: Baseball America's prospect lists are very stable in comparison to the rest of the industry. It hasn't strayed from the beaten path much when it has come to prospects who most people in the industry agree upon. And it has only tossed in a handful of guys who weren't on other lists in each of the past few years.
Best 2008-2009 decision: Ranking Nick Blackburn as its number 56 prospect in 2008.
Worst 2008-2009 decision: Nothing sticks out to me.
Primary Voice: Kevin Goldstein
Years publishing top 100s: 3
Loner Instances: Kyle Blanks, Domonic Brown, Martin Perez, Max Ramirez, Taylor Teagarden, Tyler Flowers, Christian Friedrich and Gerardo Parra.
Renegade Picks: Willin Rosario (45), Engel Beltre (68), Scott Elbert (70), Ross Detwiler (81), Kellen Kulbacki (84), Josh Reddick (87), Kyle Drabek (92), Brandon Erbe (98) and Adys Portillo (100).
Extreme Grade: Extreme
Summary: BP produced a very conservative list in 2008 then followed it up with a list more extreme than ours in 2009. While it has made some savy 4-Star prospect rankings over the last three years, it omitted some of 2009's biggest breakout talents -- we're likely talking hundreds of millions of dollars in future MLB value -- and it didn't go out on the limb enough to make any standout decisions in 2008. It's still too early to tell what kind of top 100 prospect rhythm BP is going to settle into.
Best 2008-2009 decision: I'd put my money on it being BP's 2008 Neftali Feliz ranking, 2009 Drabek ranking or 2009 Matt Dominguez ranking.
Worst 2008-2009 decision: Some of those 2009 loner instances could haunt this list for over a decade.
Primary Voices: Adam Foster, Lincoln Hamilton and Brett Sullivan
Years publishing top 100s: 3
Loner Instances: Angel Villalona, J.P. Arencibia, James McDonald, Andrew Lambo, Jake Arrieta, Reid Brignac, Jason Castro, Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Perez and Daniel Bard.
Renegade Picks: Kila Ka'aihue (60), Danny Duffy (62), Matt Antonelli (63), Dellin Betances (71), Chris Marrero (80), Kasey Kiker (87), Jack McGeary (89), Carlos Gutierrez (90), James Simmons (91), Shairon Martis (93), Nick Evans (95), Eric Young Jr. (100).
Extreme Grade: Extreme
Summary: Though we've avoided a some prospects who went on to have unproductive seasons in each of the last two years, we've completely swung and missed with many of our renegade picks, especially in 2009. Our lists have lacked consistency. Project Prospect's methods continue to change at a speed that has left some of our followers dazed. By embracing scouting like never before and digging as deep as ever with numbers, we're hoping to right our course this offseason.
Best 2008-2009 decision: Looking like it could either be our 2008 Johnny Cueto ranking or 2009 Derek Holland ranking.
Worst 2008-2009 decision: Ranking Esmailyn Gonzalez as a top 100 prospect in 2008.
Primary Voice: Keith Law
Years publishing top 100s: 2
Loner Instances: Chris Carter, Phillippe Aumont, Jeff Samardzija and Aaron Cunningham.
Renegade Picks: Chris Nelson (72), Nick Hagadone (81), Julio Borbon (85), Junichi Tazawa (90), Jeff Locke (97) and Jay Jackson (98).
Extreme Grade: Moderate
Summary: Law made some solid decisions in 2008 -- ex. renegade picks like Tommy Hanson and Jordan Zimmermann. He also made some ones that are looking ugly -- ex. not ranking Brett Anderson or Jair Jurrjens in in his top 100. He was more conservative in 2009. But what his 2009 list doesn't have in renegade picks and loner instances, it nearly makes up for in deviation from the mean 4-Star prospect rankings.
Best 2008-2009 decision: He beat us all to Tommy Hanson.
Worst 2008-2009 decision: Omitting Brett Anderson could look really bad by the time his career is over.