There seems to be no better time to kick off the most ambitious ranking project I have undertaken than the beginning of the year. The whole exercise was both very exhausting and fun, and I am very excited to share the finished product with everyone. Before moving into the actual ranking, I just wanted to take a moment to walk through some of the background of the list.
As you can guess by the title of this and everything else I have posted, this year my top prospect list will have 50 names on it. The decision to expand from 30 to 50 came after writing out the first list of names to look at, and the list was well over 100 names long. It became very clear that in order to highlight all the names I wanted to, I needed to expand the list. Fifty seemed like a nice round number, where the list covered a large enough group of players to make me happy, as well as not being too large that the list and the ranking process became unwieldy. In the end, due to trade acquisitions and the overall depth of the system there is a sizable group of interesting players who did not make the list. At some point after the completion of the top 50, I will post a supplement of honorable mentions with a short write-up on each player. As for the list itself, in order to make it more readable, it will be divided into 5 groups of 10 which will come out every other day for the next two weeks following this schedule:
Once the process begins, the list will be frozen, so if the Phillies make any trades during that time, they won’t be reflected in the list. Some time before the end of January I will be compiling the full 50 into a single post along with any additions due to trades.
The Ranking Process:
When I first started doing rankings, it was all about big tools and upside. The result was a lot of misses in my first list. The goal each year has been to get a little more rounded. Throughout the process I ask myself what a prospect looks like if they succeed, what they look like if they come in below expectations, and overall, how does that fit into a major league roster. For example, a second base prospect who isn’t a starter at second base and can’t play other positions has no room on a major league roster, and so the ranking must reflect the lack of floor that is inherent in the profile, not just the player. The ranking process itself is done with a combination of my own observations, stats, and the observations of others. The list at multiple parts in the process has been run past various people who have provided invaluable feedback, not just on the order, but also to whole ranking process. In the end this list is my own.
In an effort to keep myself consistent and to give you guys a clue as to what I am actually writing, I thought I would give a quick guide to the terms I will use throughout the process.
By now most of you know of the use of the 20-80 scale in scouting lingo and that it originally derives from standard deviations. For the most part when dealing with tools the original deviations have given way to standard marker points for part along the scale. When it comes to applying it to player roles and profiles, we really only care about the top of the scale, but be aware that the quantities of players at each level takes a sharp decrease.
Over the course of the top 50 I will rarely reference the 20-80 grades directly, when it comes to tools expect it to sound something like this:
I use the gradations of 5 around 50, because the grouping is large enough that I feel it needs further separation.
Role and Risk:
I briefly mentioned role earlier, and for me it is an optimistic outcome based on the current tools and their future progression. This means that we can’t factor in fundamental changes to a player that we cannot predict, for example a pitcher learning a brand new pitch, or a batter making dramatic changes to their swing. This does mean we are projecting growth on the profile some what, both for physical growth, but also increased consistency on abilities that may only be hinted at right now. For the most part I will go a bit optimistic on a player that is more in between or projection, with a higher risk factor to communicate the bigger ceiling but also the dangers on the way to achieving it. The risk can be viewed as the odds of a player reaching that role. For the most part risk decreases as a prospect approaches the major leagues, but some prospects don’t follow that model due to injury or profile (such as returning from surgery or a high defensive floor). In general the breakdown looks something like this:
|70||All-Star||#2 Starter||Elite Closer|
|60||1st Division Regular||#3 Starter||Closer/High Leverage Reliever|
|55||Solid Regular||#4 Starter||Set-up/High Leverage Reliever|
|50||2nd Division Regular/Platoon||#5 Starter||Solid Middle Reliever|
|45||Bench Bat/Utility Player||Swing Man/AAA Starter||Middle Reliever|
|40||AAAA Player||Long Man|
Now of course, even more than with the tool breakdowns, these lines really blur together and there is a lot of space in between. In general with pitchers I will mark this as a range like #3/#4 starter, and on the hitting side more players with a slightly higher risk will show up as solid regulars. When it comes to relievers, I use the traditional closer/set-up man terminology, but that does not require the player to be in that role, and there is a lot more volatility and blurring between the groups.
I want to thank Chris King, Mitch Rupert, Jim Peyton, Ian Catherine, Josh Norris, Brad Engler, Dan Cormican, Jay Polinsky, Jeff Moore, Eric Longenhagen, Matthew Speck, Jay Floyd, and a host of others for all of their help this year both in assembling this list as well as their input and insights all season. Also a big thanks to my girlfriend who agreed to edit all of this and has been supportive through all of my writing this year.