Jump to content

Yo! You're not logged in. Why am I seeing this ad?


OK we're back on our main server.  It was taking a super long time to move *everything* back just to save a day's worth of messages.  I've been at this all day now and need to get back to my real job so.,... sorry.  Working on a better plan in case this happens again.  nip


Minor Leagues 1994 (Vol 3)

This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
3 replies to this topic

#1 philly sox fan

  • SoSH Member

  • 9747 posts

Posted 13 October 2005 - 04:42 PM

Part 1: Pitchers

Any discussion of minor leaguers eventually touches on the inherent risk of pitching prospects. The easy part of that discussion is to simply drop a dismissive acronym on every pitching prospect and move on. Thereís so much inherent risk with young pitchers you can never depend on any specific pitching prospect.

The flip side to that risk and uncertainty is that once upon a time every good MLB pitcher was a TINSTAAPP. Is there any commonality to the ones who actually were APP? Using the benefit of 10 years of hindsight we can look back at not just the small pool of top pitching prospects from 1994, but essentially the complete pool of every minor league pitcher.

Iím just going to focus on the Top 37 pitchers. Itís an odd number (both literally and figuratively), but thatís life. Itís every pitcher that cleared 25 WARP and a handful of good starters who missed that benchmark because they were in the low minors in 1994.

Top 37 Pitchers Ranked by WARP
Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
1   Minn  Brad Radke      AA-SL       68.1     55.6
2   NYY   Mariano Rivera  AA-EL       66.6     30.0  
3   NYY   Andy Pettitte   AAA-IL      61.2     47.8
4   Cle   Bartolo Colon   R-APPY      52.6     40.8
5   Cal   Troy Percival   AAA-PCL     48.2     25.8
6   Bal   Armando Benitez AA-EL       46.2     34.3     1
7   Sea   Derek Lowe      AA-SL       45.6     37.7
8   Hou   Billy Wagner    Lo-A-MWL    45.1     27.4     2
9   LA    Ismael Valdes   AA-TL       42.0     40.2
10  Mon   Uggie Urbina    AA-EL       40.1     36.9

11  Pitt  Esteban Loaiza  AA-SL       39.5     23.5
12  Tex   Rick Helling    AAA-AA      36.9     26.8
13  Atl   Jason Schmidt   AA-SL       36.8     19.7
14  Minn  Eddie Guardado  AAA-PCL     36.2     17.6
15  Tor   Kelvim Escobar  Comp-GCL    35.6     35.6
16  LA    Chan Ho Park    AA-TL       34.8     32.9    10
17  Bal   Arthur Rhodes   AAA-IL      34.0     18.4
18  Bos   Jeff Suppan     Hi-A-FSL    32.9     32.9    10
19  Atl   Kevin Millwood  R-APPY      32.1     32.1

20  NYM   J Isringhausen  Hi-A-FSL    29.8     21.7     4
21  Col   Curt Leskanic   AAA-PCL     29.3      9.9
22  ChiNL Frank Castillo  AAA-AA      29.1     15.8
23  Minn  LaTroy Hawkins  AA-SL       28.2     17.5     2
24  Sea   Shawn Estes     R-NWL       27.6     23.2
25  LA    Omar Daal       AAA-PCL     27.3     21.9
26  NYM   Mike Remlinger  AAA-IL      26.6      1.0
27  ChiAL James Baldwin   AAA-AA      26.4     24.9     1
28  PHL   R Bottalico     AA-EL       25.8     16.9
29  NYY   Ramiro Mendoza  Hi-A-FSL    25.8     20.2
30  SD    D Hermanson     AA-TL       25.4     20.6     3
31  ChiNL Terry Adams     Hi-A-FSL    25.3     20.1
32  Col   John Thomson    Lo-A-SAL    25.1     20.2

33  Tor   Chris Carpenter R-Pio       24.5     24.5     3
34  SD    Matt Clement    Comp-AZL    23.6     23.6
35  Cle   Paul Byrd       AA-EL       21.8      8.3
36  CLE   Jaret Wright    R-APPY      15.7     15.7     3
37  Hou   Scott Elarton   Comp-GCL    12.0     12.0     2

So far just ten pitchers cleared 40 WARP. The group includes a HoF reliever and four future twenty game winners (Radke, Pettitte, Colon, and Lowe). Itís almost evenly split between starters (5.5) and relievers (4.5) if you count Lowe as both. Two pitchers made their league top 10, but four pitchers (Radke, Colon, Lowe, Valdes) did not even make their team top 10.

There are nine pitchers with 30-39.9 WARP. A future 20 game winner (Loaiza) and a late bloomer ace (Schmidt) highlight this group. Two of these pitchers made their league top 10 lists, but five pitchers (Helling, Guardado, Escobar, Rhodes and Millwood) did not even make their team top 10.

The next group of pitchers is a pretty motley Ėfungible even - group with the exception of Isringhausen who managed to salvage his career by moving to the pen and becoming a pretty good closer.

The last five add-ons are highlighted by Carpenter, another 20 game winner and a likely Cy Young winner. Clement has had a good career as a mid-rotation starter. Byrd, Wright and Elarton have fought a lot of injuries, but have been pretty good when healthy.

Top 37 Split by Starter and Reliever

Since the top of the list had so many relievers I thought it would be worthwhile to split the list into starters and relievers. I put Lowe and Escobar with the starters even though they have spent a lot of time as relievers as well.

Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
1   Minn  Brad Radke      AA-SL       68.1     55.6   
2   NYY   Andy Pettitte   AAA-IL      61.2     47.8
3   Cle   Bartolo Colon   R-APPY      52.6     40.8   
4   Sea   Derek Lowe      AA-SL       45.6     37.7   
5   LA    Ismael Valdes   AA-TL       42.0     40.2   
6   Pitt  Esteban Loaiza  AA-SL       39.5     23.5
7   Tex   Rick Helling    AAA-AA      36.9     26.8   
8   Atl   Jason Schmidt   AA-SL       36.8     19.7
9   Tor   Kelvim Escobar  Comp-GCL    35.6     35.6  
10  LA    Chan Ho Park    AA-TL       34.8     32.9    10
11  Bos   Jeff Suppan     Hi-A-FSL    32.9     32.9    10
12  Atl   Kevin Millwood  R-APPY      32.1     32.1  
13  ChiNL Frank Castillo  AAA-AA      29.1     15.8
14  Sea   Shawn Estes     R-NWL       27.6     23.2
15  LA    Omar Daal       AAA-PCL     27.3     21.9
16  ChiAL James Baldwin   AAA-AA      26.4     24.9     1
17  Col   John Thomson    Lo-A-SAL    25.1     20.2
18  Tor   Chris Carpenter R-Pio       24.5     24.5     3
19  SD    Matt Clement    Comp-AZL    23.6     23.6  
20  Cle   Paul Byrd       AA-EL       21.8      8.3  
21  CLE   Jaret Wright    R-APPY      15.7     15.7     3
22  Hou   Scott Elarton   Comp-GCL    12.0     12.0     2

Out of this group Iíd say there are 15 or 16 significant starters Ė the first 12 and Carpenter, Clement and maybe Thomson and/or Byrd. Over half of that group of 16 did not make their team Top 10. Those under the radar prospects, split by high or low minors, were:

High: Radke, Lowe, Valdes, Helling, Byrd

Low: Colon, Escobar, Millwood, Clement

One trait the group shares is a low draft pedigree. Valdes, Colon and Escobar were international FAs. Radke and Lowe were 8th rd picks. Millwood was an 11th rd pick. Clement (3rd) and Byrd (4th) were towards the top of the draft, but not really premium picks. The only exception is 1st rd pick Rick Helling who is also, perhaps, the worst pitcher in the bunch. Most under the radar pitching prospects were low pedigree amateur players.

The low minors group is stereotypical raw, high ceiling tools players that were successfully developed by their organizations.

The high minors group generally contains the kind of modest K rates that suggest a low ceiling for both traditional and performance analysts. Valdes is the exception with a 8.6 K rate in AA/AAA. The K rates for the others are 5.9 (Radke), 4.5 (Lowe), 5.4 (Helling) and 6.2 (Byrd).

There are six (so far) 20 game winners: Radke, Pettitte, Colon, Lowe, Loaiza and Carpenter. Carpenter, who had to survive major arm injuries, was the only one to make a league top 10. Pettitte and Loaiza at least made their team top 10s. That means half of the future 20 game winners did not make their team top 10. Colon subsequently dominated the minors in 1995 and 1996 so Iím sure he eventually made top prospect lists. Radke and Lowe probably never did.

Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
1   NYY   Mariano Rivera  AA-EL       66.6     30.0
2   Cal   Troy Percival   AAA-PCL     48.2     25.8
3   Bal   Armando Benitez AA-EL       46.2     34.3     1
4   Hou   Billy Wagner    Lo-A-MWL    45.1     27.4     2
5   Mon   Uggie Urbina    AA-EL       40.1     36.9
6   Minn  Eddie Guardado  AAA-PCL     36.2     17.6
7   Bal   Arthur Rhodes   AAA-IL      34.0     18.4
8   NYM   J Isringhausen  Hi-A-FSL    29.8     21.7     4
9   Col   Curt Leskanic   AAA-PCL     29.3      9.9
10  Minn  LaTroy Hawkins  AA-SL       28.2     17.5     2
11  NYM   Mike Remlinger  AAA-IL      26.6      1.0
12  PHL   R Bottalico     AA-EL       25.8     16.9
13  NYY   Ramiro Mendoza  Hi-A-FSL    25.8     20.2
14  SD    D Hermanson     AA-TL       25.4     20.6     3
15  ChiNL Terry Adams     Hi-A-FSL    25.3     20.1

Rivera makes any group of relievers special, but even without him this seems like an unusually good group. Letís just do a quick look at the top closers to see what their roles where in the minors.

Rivera Ė Rivera was a starter still recovering from Tommy John surgery. He played in three levels and had modest K rates of 6.6, 5.5, 6.7. That was a far cry from the 9.7 K rate he had in his only full season prior to his arm injury. At this point in his career Iím sure there were some concerns that he was permanently damaged goods.

Percival Ė A converted catcher he was exclusively a reliever. His minor league career consisted of ~130 games and ~150 IP.

Benitez Ė Benitez was also exclusively a reliever in the minors. He made 187 appearances with just seven starts and 283 IP total. He was considered a top prospect despite being a minor league reliever.

Wagner Ė Wagner was the 9th overall pick in the 1993 draft out of college. In 1994 he dominated the SAL as a starter at age 23 Ė 153 IP, 204 K. He continued to pitch well as a starter in 1995-96, but heís been exclusively a reliever in the majors, probably in deference to his small stature.

Urbina Ė Urbina was used as a starter in the minors. He generally had good ERAs, but modest K rates. He started 17 games in his rookie year and his full stat line (including 16 releif appearances) is quite good, but he was moved to the pen full time.

Guardado Ė Everyday Eddie mostly cooled his heels pitching every 5 days in minor league rotations.

Isringhausen Ė Izzy was a stud starting pitching prospect who suffered significant arm injuries and made a transition to the pen in the majors.

There were seven future closers in the minors. Percival and Benitez were the only ones used as relievers in the minors. Rivera, Wagner, Urbina and Izzy were all considered top prospects as starters. Guardado is the only one who was an unheralded starter who was converted into a good closer. Thereís a general idea that many closers were mediocre or failed starters. At least on the minor league level most of these future closers were at least very good starting pitcher prospects. These pitchers didnít come out of nowhere so much as they came out of a very small, defined pool of top prospects.

The next set of tables separates these pitchers by their amateur background.

Top 37 Pitchers Ė Intl:HS:JC:C

Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
2   NYY   Mariano Rivera  AA-EL       66.6     30.0  
4   Cle   Bartolo Colon   R-APPY      52.6     40.8
6   Bal   Armando Benitez AA-EL       46.2     34.3     1
9   LA    Ismael Valdes   AA-TL       42.0     40.2
10  Mon   Uggie Urbina    AA-EL       40.1     36.9
11  Pitt  Esteban Loaiza  AA-SL       39.5     23.5
15  Tor   Kelvim Escobar  Comp-GCL    35.6     35.6
16  LA    Chan Ho Park    AA-TL       34.8     32.9    10
25  LA    Omar Daal       AAA-PCL     27.3     21.9
29  NYY   Ramiro Mendoza  Hi-A-FSL    25.8     20.2

10 out of 37 total or 27%; 5 out of 10 over 40 WARP or 50%

As expected about 25% of the pitchers were international FAs. However, they are disproportionately represented in the over 40 WARP group. Somewhat surprisingly, pitchers from the Dominican Republic donít dominate the group. There are two each from the DR (Colon, Benitez), Mexico (Valdes, Loaiza) and Panama (Rivera, Mendoza). There are three from Venezuela (Urbina, Escobar, Daal) and one from Korea (Park).

Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
1   Minn  Brad Radke      AA-SL       68.1     55.6
3   NYY   Andy Pettitte   AAA-IL      61.2     47.8
7   Sea   Derek Lowe      AA-SL       45.6     37.7
13  Atl   Jason Schmidt   AA-SL       36.8     19.7
17  Bal   Arthur Rhodes   AAA-IL      34.0     18.4
18  Bos   Jeff Suppan     Hi-A-FSL    32.9     32.9    10
19  Atl   Kevin Millwood  R-APPY      32.1     32.1
22  ChiNL Frank Castillo  AAA-AA      29.1     15.8
23  Minn  LaTroy Hawkins  AA-SL       28.2     17.5     2
24  Sea   Shawn Estes     R-NWL       27.6     23.2
27  ChiAL James Baldwin   AAA-AA      26.4     24.9     1
31  ChiNL Terry Adams     Hi-A-FSL    25.3     20.1
33  Tor   Chris Carpenter R-Pio       24.5     24.5     3
34  SD    Matt Clement    Comp-AZL    23.6     23.6
36  CLE   Jaret Wright    R-APPY      15.7     15.7     3
37  Hou   Scott Elarton   Comp-GCL    12.0     12.0     2

16 out of 37 total or 43%, 3 out of 10 over 40 WARP or 30%

This is a pretty impressive group with four future 20 game winners including a possible Cy Young winner. Jason Schmidt also had a few years as an ace and Millwood just lead the AL in ERA. Carpenter was a 1st rd pick, but the other five were drafted in the 8th rd or later. Teams that donít take mid to late rd flyers on HS pitchers guarantee that they will never find one of these sleepers.

Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
14  Minn  Eddie Guardado  AAA-PCL     36.2     17.6
20  NYM   J Isringhausen  Hi-A-FSL    29.8     21.7     4
32  Col   John Thomson    Lo-A-SAL    25.1     20.2

3 out of 37 total or 8%

There are always a handful of JC pitchers in any study like this, but the groups are too small to say much. Guarado-esque relievers Ė though usually without the saves - are somewhat common.

Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
5   Cal   Troy Percival   AAA-PCL     48.2     25.8
8   Hou   Billy Wagner    Lo-A-MWL    45.1     27.4     2
12  Tex   Rick Helling    AAA-AA      36.9     26.8
21  Col   Curt Leskanic   AAA-PCL     29.3      9.9
26  NYM   Mike Remlinger  AAA-IL      26.6      1.0
28  PHL   R Bottalico     AA-EL       25.8     16.9
30  SD    D Hermanson     AA-TL       25.4     20.6     3
35  Cle   Paul Byrd       AA-EL       21.8      8.3

8 out 37 total or 22%, 2 out of 10 over 40 WARP or 20%

The ďsafeĒ and ďrisk minimizedĒ class of college pitchers is pretty terrible. There are a couple of good closers Ė well Wagner is more great than good Ė and a couple of decent mid-rotation starters and thatís about it.

And if you were to more specifically look at college drafted pitchers it would be even worse. Percival was drafted as a catcher and Bottalico was signed as an undrafted free agent out of a Connecticut adult baseball league. There were only six college drafted pitchers worth noting in the entire minors in 1994.

Again, this seemingly unexpected disparity between ďsafeĒ C and ďriskyĒ HS pitchers isnít really much of a surprise for anyone who has looked closely at the early 1990s drafts that predominantly fed the minors in 1994.

Prospects and Usage

It seemed like many of the eventual best pitchers were under the radar prospects so I thought it would be interesting to look back at the pitchers who were considered top prospects. Here are the top 25 pitching prospects from BAís 1995 Top 100.

   BA Rank    Player
1     11       Armando Benitez*
2     12       Bill Pulsipher         
3     14       Alan Benes             
4     15       Antonio Osuna*
5     16       Paul Wilson            
6     17       Billy Wagner           
7     18       Dustin Hermanson       
8     19       Doug Million   
9     23       Scott Ruffcorn         
10    25       James Baldwin          
11    27       Uggie Urbina           
12    30       LaTroy Hawkins         
13    33       Jose Silva             
14    36       Frank Rodriguez        
15    37       Jason Isringhausen     
16    39       Jim Pittsley           
17    41       Chan Ho Park           
18    42       Jason Schmidt          
19    44       Julio Santana          
20    45       Jimmy Haynes           
21    47       Brian Barber           
22    49       Andy Pettitte          
23    50       Jeff Suppan            
24    53       John Wasdin            
25    54       Terrell Wade          

* denotes fulltime relievers

No pitcher made the top 10 and two of the top four pitchers were relievers, so perhaps this was considered a bit of a weak year for elite pitching prospects.

The two things that jumped out at me from the list are the number of prospects who became closers and the presence of some notorious abuse victims (the Mets Generation K trio and Benes). Wagner, Hermanson, Urbina, and Isringhausen all made the list as starters, but eventually became major league closers. Hawkins became a pretty good setup man as well. I believe only Isringhausen made the transition as a direct result of injury.

This time of year any mention of a top pitching prospect is usually quickly followed by some kind of statement that his team is/was trying to limit his innings to protect his arm. Weíve certainly seen it with the Sox current trio of pitching prospects and as Iíve pointed out thatís a big change from the way Pavano, Suppan, Rose, Pena et al were treated in the mid-90s. Each of those pitchers topped 180 IP at a young age. None of the Sox current trio of pitching prospects will top 150 IP.

Is that team specific example a part of a broader trend to reduce the innings of top pitchers? Letís compare the workloads of these 1994 prospects and a comparable group of 2005 pitching prospects.

Hereís the same group of pitchers ranked by IP. I left out the two relievers and the late Doug Million whose stat line wasnít easily available (by which I mean Iíd have to actually look it up in a book instead of plug it into The Baseball Cube search engine).

   BA Rank    Player                 Age     IP (MLB)
1     14       Alan Benes             22      206
2     12       Bill Pulsipher         20      201
3     30       LaTroy Hawkins         21      194
4     37       Jason Isringhausen     21      193
5     45       Jimmy Haynes           21      187
6     36       Frank Rodriguez        21      186
7     50       Jeff Suppan            19      174
8     23       Scott Ruffcorn         24      172 (6)
9     49       Andy Pettitte          22      170
10    16       Paul Wilson            21      169+
11    53       John Wasdin            21      168
12    44       Julio Santana          20      163
13    25       James Baldwin          23      162
14    39       Jim Pittsley           20      162
15    17       Billy Wagner           23      153
16    18       Dustin Hermanson       21      148+
17    42       Jason Schmidt          21      141
18    33       Jose Silva             20      134
19    54       Terrell Wade           21      130
20    27       Uggie Urbina           20      121
21    47       Brian Barber           21      121
22    41       Chan Ho Park           21      105^
                               Ave    21.1    162

+ collegiate draft picks. I estimated 120 IP in college.
^ Park signed from Korea in 1994 and went right to AA. Iím not sure how much his low IP total is due to a usage philosophy as opposed to cultural transition issues, but I left him in.

I included a parenthetical notation with the number of MLB innings. Iíll get to the importance of that distinction in a bit. For now, just note that nearly all of these pitchers compiled these totals exclusively in the slightly shorter seasons of minor league ball.

Most of the pitchers were 20 or 21 with an average age of 21.1. The average workload was a reasonable 162 IP, but that includes some big totals on the high end. Nearly half of the pitchers threw at least 170 IP. There were six pitchers over 185 IP, four pitchers over 190 IP and two pitchers over two hundred innings.

Both two hundred-inning pitchers had their careers ruined by injuries. Both 190+ IP pitchers became relievers Ė Isringhausen due to serious injury, but not Hawkins as far as I know. The rest of the group over 170 IP seems pretty typical for pitching prospects with a couple durable successes (Pettitte, Suppan) and some busts.

Before I checked, I expected the high-end IP totals for 2005 pitching prospects to be much less than this group of 1994 prospects. That is only kind of true.

The BA Top 100 covering this year in the minors wonít be published for several months so a direct comparison of BA prospects to BA prospects canít be done at this time. As a replacement I used an in-season Top 50 pitchers list put together by Jon Sickels in August. I would expect most of the names to be similar. Since the rankings were released as part of his newsletter Iím not going to post how he ranked them, but will instead just skip to a rank by innings pitched.

   Player               Age     IP (MLB)
1   Zach Duke            22      193 (85)
2   Matt Cain            20      192 (46)
3   Francisco Liriano    21      191 (24)
4   Scott Baker          23      188 (54)
5   Jason Vargas         22      182 (74)
6   Felix Hernandez      19      172 (84)
7   Fernando Nieve       22      167
8   Chuck James          23      167 (6)
9   John Danks           20      156
10  Joel Zumaya          20      151
11  Thomas Diamond       22      150
12  Jon Papelbon         24      149 (34)
13  Jon Lester           21      148
14  Jacob Stevens        20      148
15  Chad Billingsley     20      146
16  David Purcey         23      137
17  Anaibal Sanchez      21      136
18  Yusmeiro Petit       20      132
19  Gio Gonzalez         19      131
20  Justin Verlander     22      130
21  Scott Olsen          21      101 (20)
22  Phil Hughes          19       86
                    Ave  21.1    152  

Also note that Sickels twenty-five highest ranked pitchers included three who spent time in the bullpen. I dropped them from the study, but as weíve seen with Papelbon sometimes moving a pitcher to the bullpen is part of a process of limiting innings.

The average age is the same, but thereís much more spread. There are three 19 yr olds in this group compared to one in the 1994 group. That difference is offset by four 23/24 yr olds in this group compared to two in the 1994 group.

In comparison to 1994, the average IP total decreased by ten innings. Thatís a slight reduction of 6%. The number of pitchers that exceeded 170 IP was down from 9 to 6, but the high end totals were pretty similar. The number of pitchers to exceed 190 IP only dropped from 4 to 3.

The main culprit for that is those MLB innings in the parentheses. All of the pitchers that exceeded 170 IP did so in the majors and most needed to pitch a lot of innings in the majors to do so. Thatís a dramatic change from the 1994 group that had just one player who barely pitched in MLB.

It was also a major change from a couple weeks before the season ended when I initially put the table together. At that point Duke was on the DL and I thought shut down for the year, Liriano was maybe going to get a few bullpen innings and Cain was probably going to be pulled once SF was eliminated. It looked like just a couple of pitchers would barely hit 175-180 IP and that would have represented a pretty big reduction in high end pitching totals. Those things did not happen and the pitchers continued to pitch, and pitch well, and some ended up with pretty high IP totals.

At least a handful of teams were willing to let some of their prized prospects reach fairly high IP totals during Sept callups. If those pitchers had been shut down at the end of their minor league season, they would have pitched 15-20 fewer innings and ended up in the 165-170 IP range. Thatís a significant difference from what we saw in 1994 and I still think itís worth pointing out because it does appear that that has become a rough cap on minor league IP.

The next table lists the league leaders in IP for each of the minor leagues in 1994 and 2005. For 2005 I also listed the next couple of totals in the leagues where the leader was on the high side. It wasnít easy to do that for 1994 and I donít think itís necessary to make the point.

     1994                   2005
Lg    Player         IP      Player         IP    2nd   3rd  
AA    S Sparks      184
IL    F Rodriguez   186      D Borkowski   183    167
PCL   S Long        172      A Wainwright  182    167

EL    B Pulsipher   201      A Davis       183    173  171
SL    B Beatty      196      J Ryu         170
TL    S Robertson   181      R Leek        186    172  171

CAL   B Wolcott     181      J Mackintosh  180    174  160
CAR   J Pierson     189      M OíConnor    168
FSL   H Ramirez     194      T Dillard     185    162
SAL   S Kline       186      A Baldwin     168
MWL   M Sirotka     197      M Schlachte   168

The differences in the triple A leagues arenít that big although you can see that the 2005 league leaders were a bit anomalous at 15 innings above the second place finisher. Wainwright is a good pitching prospect. He was ranked #2 in the St Louis system prior to the year. He pitched this year at 23 and with some minor arm issues in his past was probably worked a little too hard. Borkowski is a 28 yr old journeymen.

The differences are more dramatic in the AA level. Pulsipher, who was 20 and one of the best prospects in baseball, cleared the two hundred inning mark all in the minors. For 2005 only two AA pitchers exceeded 173 IP and they were 30 and 28 yr old journeymen. All of the real prospects like Jae-kuk Ryu were held to roughly 170 IP.

In 1994 the five full season A league leaders pitched 181-197 IP. In 2005 only three pitchers exceeded 168 IP. Mackintosh was age 23/24 and not really a prospect. Dillard was more age appropriate at 21/22, but he didnít start the year in the BA Marlin Top 30 so heís not really considered a prospect either. The third pitcher is Garret Mock who was ranked #11 in the AZ system and is a decent prospect. He pitched at 21 this year.

There may have been some other pitchers who exceeded 170 IP in two leagues combined, but I looked at as many good pitching prospects as I could think of who were promoted during the year and none of them were over 170 IP. Outside of Wainwright at 182 IP at age 23, Iím not sure if any other legitimate prospect even dipped his toe in questionable territory. Thatís a huge change from what we see in the 1994 group of prospects. To a large degree it appears that MLB as an industry has moved towards a loose cap of 170 IP on minor leaguers.

So why did a handful of teams let their very best prospects get over 185 IP? Well, I donít know. But the five pitchers that exceeded 180 IP all did so for traditional teams Ė Pitt, SF, Minn and Fla. Those teams would be more likely to base their perception of a young pitcherís fatigue level on observing his mechanics. If a pitcher is easily maintaining his mechanics and pitching well, is there any difference between 170 and 190 IP? It would appear, that these teams would answer no. In contrast, it might be true that teams with risk minimization as a key component of their player development program would be more prone to err on the side of caution and be stricter about IP caps. Maybe.

Letís take a closer look at the five pitchers that exceeded 180 IP. Initial pitcher abuse research conducted by Craig Wright suggested that young pitchers who faced 30 batters per game were at risk. Using a BF estimate for minor league numbers and Baseball References actual numbers for MLB duty we can look more closely at the Batters Faced per start for each instead of just the gross IP totals.

Pitcher      Age    Level     IP      BF/GS
Duke         22      AAA     108       27.9
                      MLB      85       24.4

Cain         20      AAA     146       23.8
                      MLB      46       25.9

Liriano      21       AA      77       24.7
                      AAA      91       24.8
                      MLB      24       23.3

Baker        23      AAA     135       24.7
                      MLB      54       24.1

Vargas       22     Lo-A      34       25.0
                     Hi-A      55       24.8
                       AA      19       25.3
                      MLB      74       25.0

Dukeís stint in AAA is the only interval much over 25 BF/GS. Generally these pitchers were so effective that they did not face a lot of batter per start. Cain is the youngest and by far the wildest. I was surprised his BF/GS was relatively low. I think you can make a good case that he was worked too hard overall. Liriano is also fairly young and has some arm issues in his past, so despite the low BF/GS and his general domination of his competition it probably would have been a good idea for the Twins to shut him down at the end of his minor league season. Will his 24 innings in Minn be a critical part of their evaluation of his readiness for 2006? The older pitchers seem to have had reasonable workloads despite the high IP totals.

If you believe overwork (as bluntly measured by season IP) is a significant factor in the injury problems behind the TINSTAAPP theory, then it should be true that pitching prospects from this era should have somewhat reduced injury risk in comparison to the pitching prospects of even the recent past. Hopefully, that will be true. If it is, then the long-term value of todayís pitching prospects should be higher than expectations based on their more overworked brethren from the past.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the year by year IP totals of some pitching prospects of this era as they moved through the late teen to early 20s injury nexus.

The first table contains the infamous abused prospects from this era, the Mets Generation K trio and Alan Benes.

                18   19   20   21   22   23   24
Pulsipher       95  140  201  218  inj   82  159
Isringhausen         65   90  193  221  172   66
Wilson                        169  187  162   15
Benes                         157  206   72  207

Sadly, you can see the injury-induced reduction in IP for each of these pitchers prior to their age 25 seasons. These guys didnít just get hurt; they got hurt very quickly.

Pulsipher was worked the hardest. He had a high total at 18, a pretty high total at 19 and then made a big jump to a 200 IP workhorse at 20/21. He missed all of his age 22 season and never regained his effectiveness.

Isringhausen started with low workloads at 19/20 and then faced a huge jump at age 21. He was hurt by his age 24 season. He eventually resurrected his career as a good closer.

Wilsonís workload actually doesnít look that bad, at least as a pro. He could have been given a smaller workload in the summer of his draft year at age 21 and a 187 IP season at age 22 is a little high, but itís not nearly as bad as Pulsipher or Isringhausen.

The Cardinals cranked Benes up over 200 IP in his very first professional season and he immediately broke down. He bounced back over 200 IP at age 24 only to get hurt again.

The next table looks at the minor league pitchers from 1994 that generally did make it. I focused on the HS and international free agents so that we could have the fullest picture possible. Pitchers are listed by their career WARP totals to date.

                18   19   20   21   22   23   24
Radke           50  166  168  186  181  232  240
Pettitte             70  168  165  170  187  221
Colon                          66  129   77  151
Lowe            71   86  154  151   63  170  157
Valdes          42  187  126  198  225  197  183
Loaiza               52  143  176  154  173  155
Schmidt         45   83  117  141  141  144  188
Escobar         65   85  164   67  139  174  180
Suppan          58  174  167  168  173  146  209
Millwood        50   79  103  149  173  174  228
Carpenter            85  163  171  201  175  154
Clement              74  138  153  189  185  181
Wright          13  129  101  189  193  142   72
Ave             49  106  143  152  164  167  178

Radke was worked very hard as a minor leaguer. After a normal 50 IP short season introduction to pro ball he jumped to 166 IP at age 19 and drifted up to 186 IP by age 21. He spent his age 22 season in the majors getting knocked around a bit and then blossomed into a consistent 200+IP workhorse at age 23.

Pettitte has a very similar career path to Radke except his timeline was pushed back by the year he spent in a JC. Most of his minor league seasons were on the high side of what looks to be the normal progression and like Radke heís been a very durable starter.

Colon is interesting because the Indians were unaware of his true age. While most of his contemporaries threw ~150 IP in a full season league at age 21, the Indians treated him as a raw 19 yr old and limited him to just 66 IP in a short season league. As a result of that deception Colon faced a very light workload in his early 20s. Heís subsequently been very durable with at least 193 IP in every year since 1998.

Lowe had a slow steady increase in innings. He spent his teenage years in short season ball with under 100 IP and most of his early 20s around 150 IP. I donít know why he only pitched 63 IP at age 22. Lowe has been an extremely durable major leaguer and the reassuring tag ďnever been on the DLĒ is always attached to him (you might say like a groupie sports anchor or a bottle of jack). It would be interesting if that MLB durability followed some kind of arm injury in the minors.

Valdes career path is a little strange because he bounced between LA and Mexico. The huge IP total in his age 19 season was mostly in Mexico. He spent his age 21-23 seasons in LA as a very good starter (ERA+ of 125, 116, 146), but he was worked pretty hard with 620 IP in that time. In comparison, Colon pitched 272 IP at ages 21-23. Colon is currently a 20 game winner in the middle of a 52M contract at age 32. Valdes has spent his late 20s as a journeyman.

Loaiza had a big inning jump from short season at age 19 to full season at age 20 and then saw his IP totals fluctuate between 150 and 170 during his early 20s. Heís generally been a durable league average pitcher as a major leaguer with a one fluke 21 win season at age 31.

Schmidt is interesting because heís a product of the Braves player development program. The Braves gave him two low inning years in short season ball and then gently nudged his IP total up from 83 to 117 for his first year of full season ball. He took another small jump up at age 21 and then hit a plateau at ~140 IP for three years. Thatís a pretty gentle IP progression while he was in the Braves system. He was subsequently traded to Pittsburgh and pitched 615 IP from ages 24-26 and then broke down with injuries at ages 27/28. He re-emerged from those injuries as an ace in SF in his late 20s, early 30s.

Escobar also spent both his age 18 and 19 seasons in short season ball. He had a pretty big jump in IP totals at age 20 and then missed a lot of time at age 21. Escobarís been a good pitcher, but heís bounced from the rotation to the pen and back to the rotation and heís missed some time with recurring elbow chips.

The Sox started Suppan relatively slowly with 58 IP in the GCL at age 18, but then jumped him all the way to the FSL and 174 IP at age 19. He stayed at about 170 IP the next three years. That isnít too bad on the surface, but my recollection is that he missed small chunks of time within those seasons with elbow soreness. Suppan is a fascinating case study because he was promoted aggressively and worked hard, but was he abused? If you go by his raw IP totals, the recurring minor elbow problems and the fact that he never lived up to his Maddux-lite hype, then you could make a pretty good case that he was. On the other hand, heís been extremely durable since he turned age 24 with over 1400 innings in seven years at an ERA+ just over 100. Thatís a very good career for someone who despite the Sox hype was just the 10th best prospect in the FSL and the 50th best prospect on the BA Top 100. So was he abused, but it didnít much affect his career? In which case, was it really abuse? Or is there a hypothetical case to be made that if he had thrown 20 fewer innings each minor league season he would have never suffered any elbow problems and his stuff would have been just a little sharper and he would have had, say, Brad Radkeís career as a quality, durable #2 starter? Itís impossible to say what the right answer really is. And yes, I did pick Radke because he was worked even harder than Suppan. Go figure.

Millwood is another product of the Braves player development system. His IP totals closely track those of Schmidt from ages 18-21. They diverged at 22 as Millwood made the majors and saw his IP total increase to the low 170s at ages 22/23 before he bumped up to 228 at age 24. Millwood has been a good pitcher who has racked up four 200+ IP seasons, but he also missed time in 2001 with shoulder stiffness and in 2004 with a minor elbow problem, iirc.

Carpenter was a #1 pick out of HS. Iím not sure if his negotiations were drawn out and contentious or the Jays were just being cautious, but he didnít pitch professionally in his age 18 season. He threw 85 IP in short season ball at age 19. He jumped to 163 and 171 at ages 20/21 in full season ball. That looks a little high, but not ďabusiveĒ just in terms of IP. It is true, however, that he had a lot of walks (173) and strikeouts (259) in those 334 IP so a pitch count measurement might show a bigger red flag. Halfway through his age 22 season he made the majors and he ended up just over 200 IP for the year. Carpenter pitched reasonably well at 23/24, but in reduced innings. Iím not sure if there were some minor injuries there. He was awful (ERA+ of 79) at age 25, but bounced back with 216 IP at a 116 ERA+ at age 26. I guess it looked like he had turned the corner and put aside whatever minor injuries and growing pains he had suffered through. Not quite. He was awful and injured at age 27 and missed all of his age 28 season. It looked like his career was finished. This year heís probably going to win the Cy Young at age 30.

Clement had an unusual start to his career. He didnít pitch the summer after he was drafted at age 18, but he spent most of his age 19 season in lo-A. Nevertheless, he only pitched 74 IP, a total more typical of a short season league. He was bumped up to 138 IP at age 20, but with 91 BB they were probably high pitch count innings. He made another small increase to 153 IP at age 21. He was then over 180 IP in both his age 22 and 23 seasons. His walk rate was good at 22, but mediocre at 23 (4.5/9 IP). Given his command issues Clementís workload was a little high. After a difficult transition to the majors, heís basically been durable and good through his age 30 season.

Wright is the only pitcher in this group that has suffered from significant injury problems. He got a small taste of pro ball at age 18. He made a big inning jump from 13 to 129 at age 19. The 129 IP by itself isnít very high for full season ball, but like Clement there were a lot of walks (79 in 129 IP). He dropped to 101 age 20. Iím not sure if there was any kind of minor injury involved. At age 21 he threw 189 IP between AA, AAA and the regular season in the majors. He then threw another 24 IP in the post-season for a full year total of 213 IP. He was ok at age 22 with another 193 IP. Due to significant injuries he threw just 289 innings from ages 23-28. He bounced back with 186 very good innings with the Braves at age 29, but was hurt again at age 30.

If there is any kind of pattern to the usage of these pitchers I donít see it. And thatís not much of a surprise. I expected there would be someone like Radke who was worked very hard and yet was durable and that there would be someone like Jason Schmidt who was treated carefully and yet broke down anyway.

That teams seem to have capped minor league IP totals should be a good thing for the long-term health of these pitchers. I think. Itís at least worth a try.

Addendum: Just to be complete here are the pitchers that didnít make the Top 37.

The Rest
Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA
30  PHL   Mike Williams   AAA-IL      24.5      8.2
31  Det   Jose Lima       AAA-IL      24.3     18.5
32  Cle   Paul Shuey      AAA-IL      23.8     15.5
33  NYY   S Hitchcock     AAA-IL      23.1     20.3
35  Mil   Scott Karl      AAA-AA      21.7     21.7
43  Mon   Gabe White      AAA-IL      17.7     13.2
48  Bos   Frank Rodriguez AAA-IL      12.6     12.6

27  Cinn  Scott Sullivan  AA-SL       20.2     12.2
28  Bal   Jimmy Haynes    AA-EL       19.4     19.2
29  Sea   Jim Mecir       AA-SL       19.4      6.5
30  LA    Darren Dreifort AA-TL       18.4     15.4     1
32  Col   Juan Acevedo    AA-EL       16.6      7.5
33  Sea   Ron Villone     AA-SL       16.1      6.7
36  Cle   Alan Embree     AA-EL       14.9      6.1
37  Oak   John Wasdin     AA-SL       14.7     14.8     4
39  Oak   Tanyon Sturtze  AA-SL       13.3      1.8
40  Minn  Rich Garces     AA-SL       13.2     10.9
41  NYY   B Boehringer    AA-EL       13.2      7.4

21  Det   Brian Moehler   Hi-A-FSL    24.4     23.4
25  Bal   Jay Powell      Hi-A-CAR    14.6     13.0
26  Cal   Bill Simas      Hi-A-CAL    14.4     14.4
27  Bal   G Stephenson    Hi-A-CAR    14.1     10.0

15  Cle   Steve Kline     Lo-A-SAL    22.5     17.1
16  Mil   Cory Lidle      Lo-A-MWL    21.3      9.8
17  KC    Glendon Rusch   Lo-A-MWL    20.3     20.3
19  ChiAL Mike Sirotka    Lo-A-MWL    19.7     19.7
21  Hou   John Halama     Lo-A-MWL    18.0     10.7
23  Atl   Esteban Yan     Lo-A-SAL    17.5     17.5
25  SF    Bobby Howry     Lo-A-MWL    16.9     14.3
26  Sea   Matt Mantei     Lo-A-MWL    16.2     15.3
29  StL   Jay Witasick    Lo-A-MWL    12.3      9.5

#2 philly sox fan

  • SoSH Member

  • 9747 posts

Posted 13 October 2005 - 04:49 PM

Part 2: Prospects Ė Great, Good and Where the Hell Did He Come From?

In this last section Iíve divided the prospects into three groups Ė players that made the BA League Top 10, players that made the BA Team Top 10 and everybody else. That creates a quick separation of players into great prospects (league list), good prospects (team list) and players who were flying below the BA radar.

Players that made BA League Top 10s
Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA-L
1   Sea   Alex Rodriguez  Lo-A-MWL   104.2    104.2     1
2   PHL   Scott Rolen     Lo-A-SAL    75.0     75.0     9
3   Tor   Shawn Green     AAA-IL      66.8     56.1     1
4   Tor   Carlos Delgado  AAA-IL      66.2     41.7     3
5   NYY   Derek Jeter     Hi-A-FSL    66.0     57.1     1
6   Atl   Andruw Jones    R-APP       65.8     65.8     2
7   ChiAL Ray Durham      AAA-AA      62.8     46.0     4
8   Hou   Bob Abreu       AA-TL       59.2     49.0     6
9   Mon   Vlad Guerrero   Comp-GCL    56.8     56.8     4
10  Cal   G Anderson      AAA-PCL     56.3     36.4     4
11  KC    Johnny Damon    Hi-A-CAR    54.9     46.5     1 
12  Fla   Charles Johnson AA-EL       50.1     41.1     2
13  Bal   Armando Benitez AA-EL       46.2     34.3     1
14  Hou   Billy Wagner    Lo-A-MWL    45.1     27.4     2
15  Tor   Alex Gonzalez   AAA-IL      40.3     34.0     2
16  Hou   Richard Hidalgo Lo-A-MWL    38.4     38.4     4
17  Tor   Shannon Stewart Lo-A-SAL    38.2     35.5     6
18  SD    Derrek Lee      Hi-A-CAL    37.6     37.6     4
19  LA    Chan Ho Park    AA-TL       34.8     32.9    10
20  Atl   Jermaine Dye    Lo-A-SAL    33.1     28.8     4
21  Bos   Jeff Suppan     Hi-A-FSL    32.9     32.9    10
22  NYM   J Isringhausen  Hi-A-FSL    29.8     21.7     4
23  Bos   Trot Nixon      Hi-A-CAR    29.6     28.0     6
24  Minn  LaTroy Hawkins  AA-SL       28.2     17.5     2
25  Cle   David Bell      AAA-IL      28.1     21.0     9
26  SD    D Hermanson     AA-TL       25.4     20.6     3
27  Oak   Scott Spiezio   Hi-A-CAL    25.1     18.9     5
28  Tor   Chris Carpenter R-Pio       24.5     24.5     3
29  LA    Paul Konerko    R-NWL       23.6     23.6     2
30  Cinn  Pokey Reese     AA-SL       21.9     20.0     3
31  LA    Roger Cedeno    AAA-PCL     20.2     20.2     5
32  Hou   Brian Hunter    AAA-PCL     19.3     16.1     1
33  NYM   Rey Ordonez     Hi-A-FSL    19.2     17.5     2
34  Cle   Einar Diaz      Lo-A-SAL    18.9     16.2     7
35  LA    Darren Dreifort AA-TL       18.4     15.4     1
36  NYM   Terrence Long   R-APPY      17.6     17.6     4 
37  CLE   Jaret Wright    R-APPY      15.7     15.7     3
38  Bal   Alex Ochoa      AA-EL       14.9     12.1     8
39  Oak   John Wasdin     AA-SL       14.7     14.8     4
40  Sea   Desi Relaford   Hi-A-CAL    13.9     12.7     2
41  Cinn  Willie Greene   AAA-AA      13.8     13.8     2
42  Hou   Scott Elarton   Comp-GCL    12.0     12.0     2

The top ten or so are all excellent players from every level of the minors leagues right down to potential future HoFers Jones and Guerrero in the short season leagues. Thereís another 15 or so very solid players behind the stars and then the quality tapers off for the last 10-15 players.

The BA League Top 10s contained 165 spots (thatís 17 leagues, but with only 5 from the very small AZL). Itís not necessarily 165 distinct players though because players who are promoted during the year can and do make multiple lists. These 42 players represent the careers of the 25% best of those players. If you define not bettering John Wasdin as a failure, then roughly 75% of the BA League Top 10s were failures.

If you knock out the Ochoas and Wasdins at the bottom of the list, then you could restrict it to ~30 players that had very good careers. That would represent less than 20% of the players from the league Top 10s.

Players that made BA League Top 10s
Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   BA-T
1   Oak   Jason Giambi    AA-SL       70.8     39.1     4
2   NYY   Mariano Rivera  AA-EL       66.6     30.0     9 
2   Pitt  Jason Kendall   Hi-A-CAR    61.7     53.1     7
3   NYY   Andy Pettitte   AAA-IL      61.2     47.8     3
4   Bos   N Garciaparra   Hi-A-FSL    61.0     58.0     1
5   NYY   Jorge Posada    AAA-IL      58.0     30.7     7
6   NYM   Edgardo Alfonzo AA-EL       54.8     50.6     4
7   Det   Bob Higginson   AAA-IL      51.4     34.7     4
8   Cal   Troy Percival   AAA-PCL     48.2     25.8     3
9   Fla   Edgar Renteria  Hi-A-FSL    45.6     45.6     5
10  PHL   Mike Lieberthal AAA-IL      44.0     25.2     7
11  Mil   Mark Loretta    AA-TL       41.3     19.5     4
12  Mon   Uggie Urbina    AA-EL       40.1     36.9     1
13  Pitt  Esteban Loaiza  AA-SL       39.5     23.5     6
14  Hou   Phil Nevin      AAA-PCL     37.0     16.4     6
15  Atl   Jason Schmidt   AA-SL       36.8     19.7     3
16  Mon   M Grudzielanek  AA-EL       33.2     16.2     9
17  Det   Tony Clark      AA-EL       30.5     28.4     1
18  Minn  Marty Cordova   AAA-PCL     30.0     22.8     4
19  StL   Dmitri Young    AA-TL       29.4     26.5    10
20  Sea   Shawn Estes     R-NWL       27.6     23.2     9
21  Minn  Torii Hunter    Lo-A-MWL    27.5     27.5     6
22  ChiNL Doug Glanville  AA-SL       25.3     17.9     9
23  Col   John Thomson    Lo-A-SAL    25.1     20.2     7
24  NYM   Preston Wilson  Lo-A-SAL    24.7     24.7    10
25  Det   Jose Lima       AAA-IL      24.3     18.5     5
26  Col   Neifi Perez     Hi-A-CAL    24.2     19.2     6
27  Cle   Paul Shuey      AAA-IL      23.8     15.5     2

This is a smaller group than I expected. The top ten Ė and a few others Ė made All Star teams so this pool of players produced a pretty strong high end and then predictably trails off to the Neifi Perez and Paul Shuey level of semi-useful players.

Many of the top players played in multiple levels during the season which may explain why they didnít make their league top 10. Some, Posada for example, simply had poor years and didnít establish themselves as top performers. I had never noticed it before but to some extent the managersí league lists have a little bit of a performance component to it. No matter how good your tools are itís hard to really make an impact impression when youíre not playing well. And in one of their recent BA chats one of the writers actually mentioned that for him performance was an important criterion. Renteria, who performed very poorly at a very young age, is a good example of a player whose performance would make it difficult to make a league top 10 even though his tools would make him an obvious choice for his team top 10.

You also see some modest ceiling college draftees who went on to have solid careers like Higginson, Loretta and Grudzielanek. These are a type of player that wouldnít necessarily make a mark by their performances or their tools, but they end up grinding out very nice careers.

Players like Hunter and Wilson are good examples of toolsy low minors prospects that make team top 10 lists on the basis of their tools and projection. Hunter and Wilson eventually turned their tools into performance and justified their projections. Obviously, many do not.

Players that didnít make a BA Top 10

Iím using this group as a proxy for under the radar prospects. Itís important to point out that these are under the radar prospects at one specific point in time, ie after the 1994 season. They may have subsequently played themselves onto prospect lists in later years.

In general, you can look at the players in AA and AAA as ďtrueĒ under the radar prospects. If BA missed them after a year in the high minors, then they probably completely missed them or arguably caught up to them later than they should have. Brad Radke is a good example. They missed him after his solid 1994 season in AA. The next year he jumped to the majors Ė and a pretty good career Ė without ever having been considered a good prospect.

However, players in the lower minors are much more likely to have eventually played themselves onto prospect lists. Keeping the examples in the pitching family, Bartolo Colon is a good example of a player who became a very good prospect. In 1994 he was a wild raw kid in the Appy League. In both 1995 and 1996 he had sub-2.00 ERAs in full season leagues. Without taking the time to look it up, Iím pretty sure he was all over top prospect lists after those years.

I changed the last column from ďBA-?Ē to (draft) ďRdĒ which gives away one of the defining characteristics of these players.

Ma, cancel the BA subscription I ainít on their stupid list
Rk  Team  Player          Level      WARP3   29WARP3   Rd
1   Minn  Brad Radke      AA-SL       68.1     55.6     8  
2   Cle   Brian Giles     AAA-IL      65.8     31.3    17 
3   Mil   Jeff Cirillo    AAA-AA      56.9     40.4    11
4   Cle   Bartolo Colon   R-APPY      52.6     40.8     
5   ChiAL Mike Cameron    Hi-A-CAR    51.4     37.6    18 
6   ChiAL Magglio Ordonez Lo-A-SAL    47.0     45.0
7   Mon   Rondell White   AAA-IL      46.6     36.0     1
8   Sea   Derek Lowe      AA-SL       45.6     37.7     8
9   LA    Ismael Valdes   AA-TL       42.0     40.2
10  Oak   Tony Batista    Hi-A-CAL    42.0     37.4
11  Tex   Rich Aurilia    AA-TL       40.5     30.6    24
12  Minn  Matt Lawton     Hi-A-FSL    39.7     29.3    13
13  KC    Mike Sweeney    Lo-A-MWL    39.0     35.9    10
14  Fla   Carl Everett    AAA-PCL     38.7     27.2     1
15  SF    Bill Mueller    Hi-A-CAL    38.5     19.0    15
16  Minn  Cory Koskie     R-APPY      37.7     26.5    26
17  Tex   Rick Helling    AAA-AAA     36.9     26.8     1
18  Minn  Eddie Guardado  AAA-PCL     36.2     17.6    21
19  Tor   Kelvim Escobar  Comp-GCL    35.6     35.6
20  Cle   Richie Sexson   Lo-A-SAL    34.9     34.9    17    
21  Bal   Arthur Rhodes   AAA-IL      34.0     18.4     2
22  Mil   Tory OíLeary    AAA-AA      34               13
23  Bos   Matt Stairs     AA-EL       33.3      7.2
24  Mon   Jose Vidro      Hi-A-FSL    32.2     32.2     6
25  NYM   Quilvio Veras   AAA-IL      32.1     29.6
26  Atl   Kevin Millwood  R-APPY      32.1     32.1    11
27  Minn  Damien Miller   AA-SL       30.5     24.5    20
28  StL   Placido Polanco Comp-AZL    30.5     30.5    19
29  Col   Curt Leskanic   AAA-PCL     29.3      9.9     8
30  ChiNL Frank Castillo  AAA-AA      29.1     15.8     6
31  LA    Paul LoDuca     Hi-A-CAL    27.8     10.1    25
32  Hou   Melvin Mora     Hi-A-FSL    27.7      6.6
33  LA    Omar Daal       AAA-PCL     27.3     21.9
34  Fla   Kevin Millar    Lo-A-MWL    27.2     11.2
35  NYM   Mike Remlinger  AAA-IL      26.6      1.0     1
36  NYY   Ramiro Mendoza  Hi-A-FSL    25.8     20.2
37  PHL   R Bottalico     AA-EL       25.8     16.9
38  ChiNL Terry Adams     Hi-A-FSL    25.3     20.1     4
39  PHL   Mike Williams   AAA-IL      24.5      8.2    14
40  Det   Brian Moehler   Hi-A-FSL    24.4     23.4     6
41  Minn  AJ Pierzynski   Comp-GCL    23.8     23.8     3
42  SD    Matt Clement    Comp-AZL    23.6     23.6     3
45  Cle   Paul Byrd       AA-EL       21.8      8.3     4
49  Mil   Cory Lidle      Lo-A-MWL    21.3      9.8
50  Det   J Encarnacion   R-APPY      21.0     21.0
52  Mil   Ron Belliard    Comp-AZL    20.7     20.7     8
55  Cal   Benjy Molina    Lo-A-MWL    19.9     19.9
60  Pitt  Jose Guillen    Comp-GCL    19.4     19.4

I took the top 42 players to match the number of players in the BA League Top 10 group and then pulled a few of the more interesting ones from the rest of the group.
The list contains twelve latin free agents. I have no way of knowing if any of them were large bonus signings or had any kind of buzz about their signings. There is also an undrafted Canadian (Matt Stairs) and three undrafted US amateurs Ė Kevin Millar, Rickey Bottalico and Cory Lidle. Those three are about as under the radar as you can get.

Letís put the drafted players in a neat little table.

Round    #players
  1          4
 2-5         5
 6-10        8
11-20       11
 20+         4

Thereís a very sizable portion of these under the radar prospects who started their careers as low pedigree, low round draft picks. Nearly half of the players were picked in the 11th rd or later when teams are mostly drafting to fill out their lower level rosters. This group includes some stereotypical college grinders Ė Cirillo, Aurilia, Mueller et al, but there are also some surprisingly good HS players Ė Giles, a very toolsy Mike Cameron and Sexson. I suspect the more toolsy HS players were more likely to eventually break free of their draft pedigree and make some prospect lists.

The group from the 6-10th rounds is mostly made up of HS players Ė Radke and Lowe from that great 8th rd in 1991 and Vidro and Sweeney are the most notable. I was surprised to see Vidro in this group. He is/was (depending on the state of his knee these days) a multidimensional middle infielder. That would seem to be an unlikely under the radar prospect. In 1994 he was just in the FSL so perhaps he eventually emerged as a prospect. I suppose Radke, Lowe and Sweeney could be categorized as HS, but not toolsy. Radke is a just a guy who throws strikes. Lowe was a generic arm until he learned his power sinker and Sweeney was a bat fumbling with catcherís gear.

The group of players from the 2-5th rounds is an interesting mix. There are a couple eventual setup men (Rhodes, Adams), a couple pretty good players that were just starting their careers in the GCL (Pierzynski, Clement) and Paul Byrd, a solid mid-rotation starter when heís been healthy. Iím sure Clement and Pierzynski became prospects once they moved into full season leagues. The others probably fell through the cracks, but understandably so.

There are just four former 1st rd picks. One, Rondell White, shouldnít be on the list because I screwed up his rookie eligibility. Carl Everett is the second and I assume his exclusion is completely about his off-field craziness. Rick Helling is the most normal omission and I assume that was due to a perceived ceiling as a back of the rotation starter. The last one is Remlinger who didnít emerge as a useful reliever until his 30s.

One of the characteristics of an under the radar prospect is that he entered pro ball without a significant pedigree.

The second thing I wanted to point out about this list is what this group of players is not. It is not exclusively, or even overwhelmingly, populated by non-tools players with impressive performance records. There are some players like Brian Giles who fit that stereotype, but many do not.

The simple narrative that traditional scouting methods routinely miss a certain type of ďnon-toolsy, but can hitĒ prospect is reinforced by cherry picking examples like Giles. But a more comprehensive look at prospects that traditional scouting methods missed will show that all types of prospect can be and are missed. While some prospects are missed because they donít have a sexy toolkit, most prospects that are missed are missed because itís really hard to look at a bunch of 18-23 yr olds and project who is going to be the best major league players at ages 25-35.

The simple narrative that best explains any individual miss isnít any particular bias, but the difficulty of the task itself.

And thereís one last thing I wanted to point out about separating prospects by their inclusion in the BA league and team Top 10 lists. Several years ago BA expanded the league lists to twenty prospects and team lists to thirty. Iím not sure when they expanded the league lists, but the team expansion started in 2001 with the publication of the first BA Prospect Handbook. A few years from now it might be interesting to look back at those lists to see how well the newly expanded team lists capture these kinds of under the radar prospects.

And everybody else. I didnít check each one but I donít think any made their team top 10.

104 Col   Craig Counsell  AA-EL       23.1     8.5
105 NYY   S Hitchcock     AAA-IL      23.1     20.3
106 Pitt  Tony Womack     AAA-AA      22.7     13.9
107 Cle   Steve Kline     Lo-A-SAL    22.5     17.1
109 Cle   Paul Byrd       AA-EL       21.8      8.3
110 Mil   Scott Karl      AAA-AA      21.7     21.7
111 NYM   Jay Payton      R-NYPL      21.6     10.5
112 Pitt  Kevin Young     AAA-AA      21.5     10.9
113 Mil   Cory Lidle      Lo-A-MWL    21.3      9.8
114 Det   J Encarnacion   R-APPY      21.0     21.0
115 NYM   Rico Brogna     AAA-IL      20.9     21.0
116 Mil   Ron Belliard    Comp-AZL    20.7     20.7
117 KC    Glendon Rusch   Lo-A-MWL    20.3     20.3
118 Cinn  Scott Sullivan  AA-SL       20.2     12.2
120 Cal   Benjy Molina    Lo-A-MWL    19.9     19.9
121 ChiAL Mike Sirotka    Lo-A-MWL    19.7     19.7
122 Bos   Scott Hatteberg AAA-IL      19.7     10.2
123 Bal   Jimmy Haynes    AA-EL       19.4     19.2
124 Sea   Jim Mecir       AA-SL       19.4      6.5
125 Pitt  Jose Guillen    Comp-GCL    19.4     19.4
129 Minn  Rich Becker     AAA-PCL     18.9     18.9
131 Sea   Darren Bragg    AAA-PCL     18.3     15.9
132 Hou   John Halama     Lo-A-MWL    18.0     10.7
133 Det   F Catalanotto   Lo-A-SAL    17.8     16.5
134 Mon   Gabe White      AAA-IL      17.7     13.2
136 Atl   Tony Graffanino AA-SL       17.6      9.6
137 Atl   Esteban Yan     Lo-A-SAL    17.5     17.5
138 Sea   Raul Ibanez     Lo-A-MWL    17.2      3.5
139 SF    Bobby Howry     Lo-A-MWL    16.9     14.3
140 Col   Juan Acevedo    AA-EL       16.6      7.5
141 Sea   Matt Mantei     Lo-A-MWL    16.2     15.3
142 Sea   Ron Villone     AA-SL       16.1      6.7
144 NYM   Brian Daubach   Hi-A-FSL    15.4     10.6
145 Tor   Chris Stynes    AA-SL       15.4     12.9
146 StL   John Mabry      AAA-AA      15.3      9.6
147 StL   Eli Marrero     Lo-A-SAL    15.0     11.6
149 Cle   Alan Embree     AA-EL       14.9      6.1
150 Fla   Mike Redmond    Lo-A-MWL    14.8      6.7 
152 Bal   Jay Powell      Hi-A-CAR    14.6     13.0
153 Cal   Bill Simas      Hi-A-CAL    14.4     14.4
154 Bal   G Stephenson    Hi-A-CAR    14.1     10.0
157 Mon   FP Santangelo   AAA-IL      13.8      9.2
158 Bal   Gregg Zaun      AAA-IL      13.7      8.6
159 Col   Q McCracken     AA-EL       13.6     11.1 
160 Oak   Tanyon Sturtze  AA-SL       13.3      1.8
161 Minn  Rich Garces     AA-SL       13.2     10.9
162 NYY   B Boehringer    AA-EL       13.2      7.4
163 Bos   Frank Rodriguez AAA-IL      12.6     12.6
164 Cal   O Palmerio      AAA-PCL     12.4      2.4
165 NYM   Butch Huskey    AAA-IL      12.3     12.3
166 StL   Jay Witasick    Lo-A-MWL    12.3      9.5
168 NYY   Shane Spencer   Hi-A-FSL    11.6      6.9
169 SF    Doug Mirabelli  AA-TL       11.6      3.4
170 Bal   Damon Buford    AAA-IL      11.5      9.1
171 Cal   Jorge Fabregas  AAA-PCL     11.5      9.6
172 Atl   Eddie Perez     AAA-IL      11.3      2.2
173 SD    Homer Bush      Hi-A-CAL    10.8     10.9
174 TEX   Scott Podsednik Comp-GCL    10.5     10.5
175 NYY   Rickey Ledee    Lo-A-SAL    10.3      9.2

#3 Vermonter At Large

  • SoxFan

  • 3060 posts

Posted 14 October 2005 - 11:22 AM

Philly, I just wanted to say that this is absolutely tremendous work. Please keep sharing your passion (or is it obsession :lol: ) with us.

As you are doing this, I would be curious if you are developing conclusions as to which organizations are doing things right, and which ones aren't. I know you touch lightly on this in places, but it seems to me that any organization that does minimal scouting can get draft a few gems in the first five rounds. So some of that comes from having good picks. Some organizations, such as KC, Detroit, Texas, Colorado and Arizona, can't even seem to get this right given their perennial high picks.

Do you get a feel for whether some organizations consistently find gems in the lower rounds, or is that just plain dumb luck?

#4 philly sox fan

  • SoSH Member

  • 9747 posts

Posted 16 October 2005 - 08:10 AM

As you are doing this, I would be curious if you are developing conclusions as to which organizations are doing things right, and which ones aren't.  I know you touch lightly on this in places, but it seems to me that any organization that does minimal scouting can get draft a few gems in the first five rounds.  So some of that comes from having good picks.  Some organizations, such as KC, Detroit, Texas, Colorado and Arizona, can't even seem to get this right given their perennial high picks. 

Do you get a feel for whether some organizations consistently find gems in the lower rounds, or is that just plain dumb luck?


This winter I need to do updates on each of the individual draft years I've studied. I'm going to try to take a closer look at team by team differences.

Last time I did that I noticed that being at the bottom of an indiviudal draft year was more persistent than being at the top. Teams that are really bad at drafting and/or developing tend to be more consistently on the bottom, then teams that are pretty good.

The period I've studid covers a reak heavy college era (87-89) and a pretty heavy HS era (90-93). Both the Sox and Hou were very good in the college period drafting colleg players and both were lousy in the early 90s. I need to look more closely at that, but those good be intersting examples of teams who were good at finding one kind of talent and then when the shift in what kind of talent was available hit they were scrwed.

My initial feeling has always been that the late rd gems are luck. One reason I think that is that many late rd gems are traded by their organzations as seeming throw-ins before they make it. That's not as true as I expected for this group of players, but it has been a pattern in the draft years I've looked at.

What percentage of 40 WARP 1st rd picks achieved success with their first org? I'd guess 90+%.

What percentage of 40 WARP lower rd picks achieved success with their first org? I'm not sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was close to 50%.

That supports the idea that teams that find gems don't really know what they have and so it's luck. Now the Braves seem to have persistent late rd success (excellent player development I'd guess), so I'm probably going to try to look closer at those late rd gems and see if I can make a case for more skill and less luck.

For example, if a team is good in the early rds and comes up with some late rd gems, perhaps that is some residue of skill there whereas another team like LA is lousy in the early rds and comes up with Mike Piazza in the 62nd rd then that's luck.