OLIVER Top 10 Prospect List, Revised

Towards the end of January, I wrote a review of the OLIVER projections — and general layout of same — that appear at The Hardball Times (a piece that was complemented by an interview with the giant brain behind the operation, Brian Cartwright). As part of that review, I included a “Kinda Sorta” Prospect List — that is, the top-10 rookie-eligible batters sorted purely by OLIVER’s projected 2011 WAR.

Mr. Cartwright has recently informed me that, since that first post, he has altered the amount of regression on the defensive side of the player projections. As a result, the top-10 list has changed, and so I offer this follow-up.

In fact, below you will find two lists. Because the first list is so rife with catchers, I’ve included a second list of field players sans sans catchers.

With Catchers:

1. Jesus Montero, C, NYA
2. Robinson Chirinos, C, TBA
3. Derek Norris, C, WAS
4. Mike Moustakas, 3B, KCA
5. Wil Myers, C, KCA
6. Matt Young, CF, ATL
7. Devin Mesoraco, C, CIN
8. Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE
9. Todd Frazier, LF, CIN
10. Ryan Lavarnway, C, BOS

Sans Catchers:

1. Mike Moustakas, 3B, KCA
2. Matt Young, CF, ATL
3. Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE
4. Todd Frazier, LF, CIN
5. Dustin Ackley, 2B, SEA
6. Zack Cozart, SS, CIN
7. Brock Holt , SS, PIT
8. Marquez Smith, 3B, CHN
9. Brad Emaus, 2B, NYN
10. Thomas Neal, LF, SFN


Andrelton Simmons (SS, ATL, formerly No. 4) and Zelous Wheeler (SS, MIL, formerly No. 10) fall off the first list due to the defensive regressions. Mesoraco and Frazier are the new additions.

• Angel prospect Mike Trout finishes at No. 12 on that latter list.

• Matt Young and Ryan Lavarnway both appear on my totally hot non-prospect rookie list in this year’s Second Opinion. Available at better bookstores everywhere right here, actually. Young is probably better than Nate McLouth.

• Wil Myers has been officially moved to the outfield by the Royals. Adjusting for an increase in playing time but a considerable decrease in positional adjustment, he probably comes in close to Thomas Neal in that second list.

• I don’t care what these rankings say: Zelous Wheeler is No. 1 in my heart.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

37 Responses to “OLIVER Top 10 Prospect List, Revised”

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  1. Schide says:

    I would be…well let’s just say absolutely shocked if Brock Holt was to spend even one minute in the majors this year, let alone enough to accumulate enough WAR to place that high on a list of rookies.

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  2. Telo says:

    Weird categorical inflation of catchers. Just weird…

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      I assume it’s because of the positional adjustment + the fact that organizations attempt to keep prospects at catcher as long as possible, despite the fact that they won’t be able to play C in the majors. Does OLIVER have a way of accounting for catcher defense?

      I know that, at the very least, Lavarnway, Montero, and Myers aren’t MLB catchers.

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  3. perfectstrat says:

    “Zelous Wheeler is No. 1 in my heart”

    I’m not sure Colby Lewis will be happy about that, Carson.

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  4. cs3 says:

    When was this list created?
    How did Thomas Neal make this list but Brandon Belt did not?

    At this point I think its pretty clear that Belt will be spending much more time in MLB this year. And at least locally here in the Bay Area, i think the consensus is that Belt has flown past everyone on the SF Giants prospect list in the past year.

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    • Kevin Wilson says:

      read the previous comments- this list ignores expected 2011 playing time.

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      • giantsrainman says:

        It seems to ignore expected 2011 ability as well.

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      • cs3 says:

        what exactly is it basing the valuations on then?
        what kind of time frame are we even talking about?
        im not seeing any system in which Neal can be projected to be more valuable than Belt

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      • cs3 says:

        ***my reply was in regards to Kevin’s comment.
        im in agreement with giantsrainman.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Projected playing time doesn’t factor into it, nor do the chances that the guy actually reaches the majors in 2011 at all.

      It’s based on Major League Equivalencies, not scouting or prospect lists or anything like that. Basically, looking at a guy’s MiLB/MLB/college/Japan stats and, based on historical data, projecting how they would do if they were in the majors in 2011.

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  5. Pachoo says:

    Matt Young, the 2nd highest projected non-catcher prospect, behind Moustakas??? Really??? Matt Young? I know he gets on base very well but I have a hard time believing he will outhit Freeman this season, and that is just comparing him to Brave’s prospects.

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  6. EK says:

    I hope you realize you are overanalyzing so much that now you’re creating lists completely detached from reality.

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    • Telo says:

      Yea.. I mean, I didn’t want to be the one to say it. But this list is wiggity wack.

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      • The list is only wiggity wack if you ignore the criteria — which is (a) highest projected WAR in 2011 with (b) no regard whatsoever for playing time (outside of corrections for injury or catcherdom). That a 28-year-old Matt Young could out-WAR a 19-year-old Mike Trout is entirely within the realm of possibility. That a 28-year-old Matt Young is better than even a 21-year-old Mike Trout is improbable.

        No claims are being made about upside or peak WAR, is what I mean to say. Also, Matt Young is kinda good, is another.

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  7. cs3 says:

    “read the previous comments- this list ignores expected 2011 playing time”

    direct quote from the article:
    “Adjusting for an increase in playing time but a considerable decrease in positional adjustment, he probably comes in close to Thomas Neal in that second list.”

    the list is just… bizarre. and i cant figure out out what criteria was used to create the top OLIVER war forecasts.
    i mean at first it seemed like they may be excluding players that will spend significant time in MLB, but that is obv not the case (see Moustakas, Montero, Ackely).
    And even if that was the case, then what is the point? The guys who have little to no shot at time on an major league roster this year are by definition not the top prospects. This is more like a “2nd tier Top 10 prospects list”

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Why don’t you actually read the article and the links. This list has nothing to do with career potential or with projected real-world playing time. It’s a list of the minor leaguers who would perform best in the majors *if* they were stuck there. Generally, a 28 year old career AAA-er is going to perform better than a 19 year old top prospect who is still in low-A ball.

      And, if you don’t understand what criteria OLIVER uses, try reading about it: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/introducing-oliver/

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  8. Brian Cartwright says:

    1. If ranking by WAR, I would have set everyone at say 600 PA to eliminate playing time estimates from the rankings.

    2. Carson apparently used the 2011 projections. Some guys like Mike Trout are still very young and not yet ready for MLB, but they have are expected to project higher as they age. Trout’s MLE wOBA for 2010, at age 18 was .326, slightly under overall MLB average, and among the best produced over the past 10 years at his age. Trout’s 2011 projection, age 19 is 312 wOBA, 267/326/383. In 2013 he’s expected to break past 2 MLE WAR with a 346 286/356/426 line, with a 2016 (age 24) peak of 362 297/371/455, almost 4 WAR – a McCutchen type of bat, a solid MLB player, likely All-Star. Just not in 2011.

    3. Catchers have the lowest average wOBA of any position, .312, so guys who can hit well and catch have much more marginal value. A catcher who projects to have a .350 wOBA is much more valuable than a 1B who does the same. Ask Josh Phelps. There are several good hitters for catchers ready to come to MLB.

    4. Carson also didn’t list any WAR numbers. Matt Young is projected for 2011, age 28, at 1.3 WAR in about 700 PA. .323 wOBA 268/346/374. MLW wOBA the past 3 years of 317, 337, 331. A guy who can get on base at a decent rate and could steal 25-30 bases, slightly plus glove. He could start for a fair amount of MLB teams, but is not a star. Moustakas tops out as 338 wOBA 265/308/488 +5 glove. 2.5-3 WAR. An everyday MLB 3B, middling BA, 25-30 HRs, but could have more HR than BB. Low OBP hurts the ranking.

    5. Thomas Neal is projected for 2011 (age 23) for 0.7 WAR in 567 PA, 326 wOBA with a +4 glove. He might start for the Pirates, but not many teams.. Belts 2011 projection is 0.4 WAR – a 337 wOBA, but at 1B. Belt’s 2010 translated as a .395 wOBA, but following seasons of .246 and .267. He needs to do it another year for the system to see him as a plus hitter at 1B or the outfield.

    Scale everyone to the same amount of PA
    Look for the peak, especially for young players.
    Positional adjustments are critical

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  9. Brian Cartwright says:

    Belt has one season of play by play to defense to evaluate, 156 games, 0.0 so far.

    I will likely adjust the replacement levels for each position, catchers do seem disproportionately high.
    top prospects by position, by peak value
    c – Montero, Myers, Norris, Chirinos, Flowers
    1b – Freeman, Belt, Sands
    2b – Amarista, Kipnis, Ackley, Segura, Havens
    3b – Moustakas, Francisco, Dominguez, Davidson, Chisenhall
    ss – Franklin, Flores, Colon, Espinosa, Holt
    lf – Decker, Young, Frazier, Neal, Weglarz
    cf – Trout, Choice, Jennings, Gillies
    rf – Ozuna, Cowgill, and a bunch of dreck

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  10. cs3 says:

    Brian – thanks for taking the time to post some feedback in this thread. its much appreciated.
    can you please explain a few things regarding your quote:

    “Belts 2011 projection is 0.4 WAR – a 337 wOBA, but at 1B. Belt’s 2010 translated as a .395 wOBA, but following seasons of .246 and .267. He needs to do it another year for the system to see him as a plus hitter at 1B or the outfield.”

    1) Is the WAR projection for only the time hes expected to be in the minors, the time only in MLB, or does it include both? Why is it so low?

    2) What does “following seasons of .246 and .267″ mean?

    Belt was drafted in 2009 and only has 1 full season of MiLB experience (2010, ~600 PA, total of .395 wOBA) and his wOBA was only below .337 for 1 stop, 60 AB’s in AAA.
    So the .395 didnt follow anything, it was his first year.
    Do you mean that the system is projecting his NEXT 2 seasons to have wOBA’s of .246 and .267? If so that seems ridiculously low… i dont think losing 150 points of wOBA is anywhere near normal regression.

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  11. Brian Cartwright says:

    1. The projection is the rates the player is expected to perform in future years (2011). It’s expressed as a major league equivalent. The 2011 projection for Belt is low because he had poor seasons in 2008 & 2009.

    2. In 2008 & 2009 Belt played for the U of Texas, and in 2008 in the Cape Cod League. His unadjusted (raw stats) wOBA with each of the four professional teams he played for in 2010 was higher than any of his eams in 2008 & 2009. The MLE wOBA’s are the stats for each team each season, adjusted for park and league, and added together to get a single stat line for each season. Then the last three seasons are combined, aged and regressed to get a projection for the following season. The 2011 projection is .337 wOBA.

    Belt’s MLEs
    2008 246 202/245/320
    2009 267 212/278/323
    2010 395 310/389/531

    He raked in 2010,as I showed even without adjusting anything 2010 was far above anything he had done previously, despite playing at a higher level. The question is whether he can sustain at close to that level, or regress. Alex Gordon had a great first season as a pro, but it turned out to be his outlier season, which he never came close to before or since.

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    • Telo says:

      So, for Belt, do you take those three years and weight them like you would an established major leaguer? Something like 3/4/5? Not to be insulting, because I assume you don’t. I’m guessing you weight the most recent years much more heavily, since all of these kids are developing. The problem with prospects is that, because they develop at different paces, you should weight the previous years to different degrees, and in some cases, not very much at all. The inner statistician’s desire to keep as much data as possible can be counter intuitive here.

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      • Brian Cartwright says:

        adjust for park & age
        calculate league factors
        adjust for league
        stats are then in ‘major league equivalent’ form
        sum multiple teams in a season into a single line
        this is the published MLE for each season

        weight batting seasons 10-8-6, pitchers 10-7-5
        add aging, regression
        this is the projection for the next season

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    • cs3 says:

      thanks for the in depth explanation.
      its all starting to make sense now

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  12. As a Cubs fan, I’m pleasantly surprised to see Marquez Smith’s name surface on a prospect list. The third base position on the North Side will become a bit of a mystery after this season. Many fans seem to be assuming that the team won’t pick up Aramis Ramirez’s 2012 option, but there aren’t any obvious replacements waiting in the wings. (Josh Vitters is still likely a couple years away from being MLB ready at least.)

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    • Brian Cartwright says:

      Smith 244/302/424 .315 wOBA +2 glove 0.8 WAR
      low BA, low walks, plus glove, could hit 20 HR
      I could see him as an infield reserve, but not a starter in MLB

      In compiling my list above, I saw that for each position, at least in 2011, there are only 4 or 5 players at the most in the minors (still have rookie eligibility) who project as being of sufficient quality to be a MLB starter, and many of those are another 2-3 years away.

      As far as superfluous letters in the team abbreviation, that was a convention popularized by Retrosheet to ensure that each team had exactly three letters, adding ‘A’ or ‘N’ (designating league) to the two letter teams.

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  13. Karl Winslow says:

    What’s with adding the league intital (A or N) after two letter abbreviations for cities with only one team? “TBA” makes it look like Chirinos has yet to be drafted or something. TB, KC, SF. You can keep your superfluous letters, I don’t want them.

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  14. Dexter Bobo says:

    Zelous Wheeler ain’t got nothin on me.

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