Dan Schwartz

Rotobanter’s value is in answering your requests. I’ve had a few random inquiries now about prospects and what I thought about them so I wanted to provide a post on how I evaluate prospects – bridging others’ insight and how you can evaluate prospects on your own. Here is how I tunnel in on guys:

 

1) Grades – Unfortunately, I do not have the chance to proactively watch prospects in person. I look at peripherals and follow guys like Bret Sayre with Baseball Prospectus (founder of The Dynasty Guru) as well as Jason Hunt with Fake Teams and thoroughly enjoy Basball HQ’s Minor Legue Baseball Analyst (Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney).

 

2) Translatable skills – I’m also not a MiLB to MLB translation/equivalency expert, but some skills provide a better depiction of what a player can actually be like discipline-related skills for hitters and command ratios for pitchers as well as Ball In Play (BIP) data for both which you will notice I look at quite a bit as I delve into both MLB and MiLB players. While there are some great equivalency formulas out there, I’ll look at their performance and normalize/compare often to MLB league average.

 

Here are some of the stats I’ll focus on:

Hitters: Ct% (Contact%), BB/K ratio; BIP Data (GB/FB/LD and Hit Expectancy); HR Potential (Ct%*FB%*HR/FB); wOBA (weighted On-base Average)

Pitchers:Ct%, K/BB ratio; BIP Data (GB/FB ratio); SwStr% (Percentage of Strikes that were swung at and missed); SIERA/Expected ERA, which correlates much better year-to-year than actual ERA.

 

3) Opportunity – Whether it’s to please the fan base i.e. Jose Fernandez in Miami or surprisingly being in the Wild Card race i.e. my irrational hope for the NY Mets and bringing up Zach Wheeler to join Matt Harvey, different requirements open the doors for young prospects to provide value beyond major league replacement levels.

 

My big thing in Fantasy Baseball – whether you’re in a re-draft or keeper/dynasty league – is always WIN NOW as you can see in this post on our unique dynasty league. Therefore, I don’t just mean eventual opportunity, I mean short-term contribution potential which are factored into my weighted values.

 

Top 32 Hitters:

 

Below, are my top 32 hitting prospects (all within The Dynasty Guru’s top 50). I used Sayre’s rankings as the base because he too adds additional weight to near-future contribution (in addition to long-term value). The estimated time of arrival (ETA) is taken from Rotochamp’s new top prospect list. While you won’t see a depiction of each players’ MiLB career Balls In Play (BIP) data (GB/FB/LD%), it’s incorporated into each player’s “Avg Pot.” or what I am calling average potential, which also incorporates their Ct%. I used this instead of their actual average since their actual average is affected by BABIP, park factors and league factors. Focusing on their BIP data and their associated hit expectancy based on this data (again normalized/compared to MLB average) is meant only to distinguish each prospect from each other rather than project their actual MLB equivalency. I also think it’s just better since again we’re omitting the requirement to delve into individual park and league factors. This BIP data (GB and FB at least) also correlate well year to year.

 

So without further ado:

(H) MiLB Career to date:

Ct%

BB/K

GB/FB

wOBA

Avg Pot.

HR Pot.

SB-CS

AB

AB

ETA

MLB Average>>>

0.797

0.4

1.33

0.32

0.259

0.3060

15

in AA

in AAA

Bryce Harper (MiLB)

0.781

0.6733

1.1746

0.378

0.272

0.3861

20

129

74

2012

Mike Trout (MiLB)

0.786

0.6087

0.9118

0.41

0.274

0.2718

28

353

77

2011

Mike Zunino, C, SEA

0.791

0.6757

0.8947

0.499

0.273

0.8860

0

51

16

2013

Jurickson Profar, MI, TEX

0.841

0.9388

1.0126

0.38

0.270

0.2640

30

476

16

2012

Oscar Taveras, OF, STL

0.864

0.6822

1.4242

0.44

0.274

0.3890

7

474

2

2013

Billy Hamilton, OF, CIN

0.771

0.5569

1.2483

0.366

0.258

0.0500

207

172

16

2013

Travis D’Arnuad, C, NYM

0.773

0.3642

1.0878

0.403

0.262

0.5150

2

424

290

2013

Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, SAN

0.806

0.5502

0.9384

0.39

0.265

0.5070

10

366

369

2013

Wil Myers, OF, TAM

0.741

0.4935

1.0618

0.385

0.242

0.4970

10

488

456

2013

Anthony Rendon, 3B, WAS

0.795

0.9032

0.7500

0.3825

0.273

0.3980

0

86

0

2013

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, MIN

0.767

0.3978

0.8633

0.407

0.254

0.4040

1

259

19

2014

Mike Olt, 3B, TEX

0.705

0.6141

0.8776

0.417

0.218

0.6820

3

350

20

2012

Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS

0.758

0.3804

1.0121

0.385

0.225

0.4680

-2

100

0

2014

Jonathan Singleton, 1B, HOU

0.720

0.6220

1.0415

0.384

0.228

0.3680

6

457

0

2013

Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL

0.893

0.7768

0.9185

0.35

0.293

0.3090

-2

511

16

2013

Christian Yelich, OF, MIA

0.783

0.5561

2.7761

0.404

0.277

0.3110

41

0

0

2014

Brian Goodwin, OF, WAS

0.761

0.6737

0.9766

0.3733

0.237

0.3230

11

182

0

2014

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, DET

0.761

0.3241

1.0831

0.3682

0.261

0.1570

5

318

20

2013

Miguel Sano, 3B/OF

0.699

0.4753

0.5919

0.395

0.218

0.6380

5

0

0

2015

Javier Baez, SS, CHC

0.758

0.1772

1.1633

0.379

0.231

0.5110

22

0

0

2015

Byron Buxton, OF, MIN

0.751

0.4783

0.8833

0.41

0.239

0.3780

10

0

0

2016

Jorge Soler, OF, CHC

0.853

0.6960

1.4000

0.416

0.274

0.4460

10

0

0

2016

Carlos Correa, SS, HOU

0.770

0.3265

1.8889

0.355

0.255

0.1870

6

0

0

2016

Rymer Liriano, OF, SAN

0.768

0.4178

1.4400

0.366

0.248

0.2020

70

179

0

2015

Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, MIN

0.804

0.4380

1.2087

0.405

0.261

0.4950

11

0

0

n/a

George Springer, OF, HOU

0.702

0.4146

0.9018

0.391

0.230

0.4840

28

89

0

2014

Tyler Austin, OF, NYY

0.767

0.4685

1.0652

0.43

0.248

0.3880

39

29

0

2014

Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT

0.843

0.6869

1.1979

0.387

0.283

0.3110

47

0

0

2015

Bubba Starling, OF, KAN

0.644

0.3797

0.9219

0.351

0.192

0.4470

10

0

0

2016

David Dahl, OF, COL

0.839

0.4565

1.5152

0.421

0.320

0.3110

5

0

0

2015

Addison Russell, SS, OAK

0.769

0.4808

1.66

0.443

0.266

0.3070

15

0

0

2015

Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, HOU

0.753

0.5375

1.2959

0.329

0.254

0.2000

99

0

0

2014

Alen Hanson, SS, PIT

0.795

0.5238

1.2338

0.375

0.272

0.2430

37

0

0

2015

Kaleb Cowart, 3B, LAA

0.758

0.4750

1.5171

0.345

0.243

0.2730

15

16

0

2015

 

Honestly, every time I look at the list, I want to swamp someone but at some point I just have to bog down. In any case, here are some notes:

 

For your convenience, I provided Mike Trout’s and Bryce Harper’s MiLB career numbers (not MLB numbers) so that you can decide amongst yourselves who the next Mike Trout/Bryce Harper could be. In addition, I also provided the 2012 MLB Average in each category (.797 Contact%, .4 BB/K ratio, etc.).

 

This order is an average of a few different rankings listed below and some objective adjustments:

a)       The Dynasty Guru’s top 50

b)       Each player’s value by wOBA and an arbitrary speed score

c)       Each player’s value by Homerun Potential (Ct%*FB%*HR/FB), Average Potential (BIP Hit Expectancy) and an arbitrary speed Score (more for fantasy purposes/5×5 stats than b) above).

Green obviously is above average and red is versa-vice. I also noted their AA & AAA experience, which is weighted into my order

What’s not clearly noted in the above data, but taken into account are performance trends at different levels. Naturally a drop off in the next level is somewhat of a red flag, while performance consistency/elevation as one progresses is ideal.

Some notes on the list/groupings:

Tier 1:

As you can see, Mike Zunino is getting me excited. He’s a catcher first-off and he has been romping thus far for AAA Tacoma. He could be the first one called up from my new “Big 3”, but one has to assume Jesus Montero will pick it up at some point. Oscar Tavares should be a counting stats stud (minus sufficient SB) and Carlos Beltran and Matt Holiday will certainly miss some time, but they have positional flexibility in Matt Carpenter if needed and above average replacement value in Matt Adams while Allen Craig can still man the outfield when Mole Face or Holiday does need days off. Lastly, about everyone in baseball feels Jurickson Profar is a sure thing. You have to absolutely love his contact rate and BB/K ratio and he should be a .300+ lock as an MLB Middle Infielder, but there’s really no room for him unless the Rangers do commit to transitioning Ian Kinsler at some point. We know Elvis Andrus won’t be going anywhere and between Adrian Beltre and Mike Olt, a transition to 3b is unlikely as well. There’s also talk now that the Rangers are contemplating what a package for Giancarlo Stanton would look like. Being a Marlin would provide me the comfort level of dropping him to #3 behind both Zunino and Tavares for sure.

Billy Hamilton can jump into tier 1 with another year of discipline which should ensure an equivalency of 65+ stolen bases and 100+ runs in a Reds lineup as soon as 2014. If he continues to make enough contact, has a decent enough GB/FB ratio and is obviously fast enough, he should be .285+ MLB regular. For now he’s in a tier on his own.

I’d say the next three groups are all relatively ready or can shortly contribute in the MLB – with some associated question marks.

Tier 3:

As it relates to Travis D’Arnaud, I would like to see a better BB/K ratio for a top 10 hitting prospect + his performance to date has been elevated by league factors – same goes for Jedd Gyorko, but 2b eligibility should bode well for him in fantasy baseball. Wil Myers’ contact rate and average potential should prevent him from being a complete asset for the first couple of years – think Mike Moustakas with maybe even less contact to start.

Tier 4:

I really like Anthony Rendon which you can read in my ballsy forecast, but again there’s no clear opportunity for him at this point being blocked by Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche. The Nationals even have Matt Skole for CI which makes me think they’ll continue pursuing an MI opportunity for Rendon or trading him. I thought LaRoche would only get a one year deal so Zimmerman could potentially man 1b as soon as 2014 and Rendon would consume 3b there-on-out, but that’s not the case. This year, the nationals have a rotational strategy with Rendon so we’ll have to see where he winds up – as it relates to both positionally and geographically.

Oswaldo Arcia might be my new favorite player on this list – because I’ll have someone to watch live here in Minnesota before Byron Buxton is ready. I’m all about discipline, but here’s one guy (similar to Oscar Tavares) that can benefit from a small lack of discipline for fantasy purposes. The less these two guys walk, the more balls they’ll put in play. Both of their BIP data and hit expectancies can turn them into perpetual 25 HR .290 threats. Oswaldo Arcia is getting called up with Wilkin Ramirez out on paternity leave. He should return to AAA but will be up later this season for good.

Tier 5:

Xander Bogaerts is the top SS prospect that’s closest to the big leagues (compared to Javier Baez (requires discipline growth and AA experience) – same goes for Carlos Correa, Addison Russell and Alen Hanson who have all shown more discipline but are still at least two realistic years away while Bogaerts should be MLB ready for 2014.

Jonathan Singleton was thought by many to be ready this year, but a reefer-related suspension motivated the Astros to acquire Chris Carter. On the Astros, it might take an extra season or two before he can be a real fantasy asset, but he’s a good example of a player that should transition well in the majors with an increased wOBA from A+ to AA and will hopefully pick-it up quickly once he returns from his suspension. Some additional AA and AAA experience would be icing on the cake.

Nolan Arenado’s contact rate and BB/K ratio also depicts a .300+ MLB hitter and he should have enough pop as he progresses to turn into a 15-20 HR threat with helpful park factors. I think 25 is an absolute ceiling with luck at his absolute peak. Mike Olt is your other 3b near-term contributor but the opposite of Arenado. He’s the Moustakas type with more discipline and better park factors.

Tier 6:

Christian Yelich along with Jose Fernandez and Jake Marisnick is one of the few reasons Marlins at least have something to be excited about long-term. If they do trade Stanton, they should get quite the haul and have quite a young and intriguing 2016 team along with the Cardinals, Twins, Astros and a few others (Pittsburgh and San Diego perhaps). Yelich is an intriguing player to me. I would consider him a perennial 20/30 threat – maybe 15/20 initially as soon as 2014. I think his GB/FB ratio will prevent a great HR total for a few years, but he’s quick enough and lines enough balls to hit for a + average and does have great HR potential long term as he develops and learns to lift the ball. Other than Bogaerts, everyone on this list should contribute prior to Yelich otherwise I think I’d be listing Yelich much higher. He should be a top 10 prospect next year.

I am not as high on Nick Castellanos as some. Detroit officially moved him to the OF to hasten his ascent to the majors and he can be up this season if he performs in the minors which he hasn’t done yet this year. His performance also dropped off in double A last year. I believe he’ll hit for average better than he will for power long term, but if he winds up hitting 2nd or 5th in that Detroit lineup in 2014, he’ll certainly have his value.

I really like Brian Goodwin. Some call for his arrival in 2015, but I think 2014 is more likely if either Denard Span or Jayson Werth misses significant time. His performance did drop off in a relatively small double A sample size, so we’ll see what he can do this year. I would be comfortable dropping him below the next tier of pure potential (Miguel Sano, Javier Baez, Byron Buxton and Jorge Soler), but I do think he can contribute a whole year sooner which is enough for me.

If you want me to delve into others, please send me a request.

 

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