Review of Hitting Prospects, James Player Rater 1994

View spreadsheet of all 102 prospects by clicking here.

Last Monday, I submitted for the readership’s consideration a review of the hitting prospects from the 1993 edition of the Bill James Player Ratings Book.

In what follows, I’ve attempted a similar exercise for the 1994 edition.

“Similar” I say because there’s one notable difference. For whatever reason, James provides grades for far fewer hitting prospects in the 1994 edition as compared to 1993 — 43 fewer, in fact (104 versus 61). If this affected merely the Grade C and D prospects, it might be possible to ignore these omissions, but players like Carlos Delgado and Manny Ramirez — two players to whom James himself refers as “super-prospects” — receive no grade, either.

Because it clearly wasn’t James’s intention to suggest that neither Delgado nor Ramirez — nor any of the other myriad rookie-eligible hitters who receive no grade — to suggest that they weren’t prospects, I’ve found a method by which it might be possible to infer James’ would-be grades for ungraded prospects.

This is possible because, in addition to writing profiles for 1000-plus players in the Book, James also assigns a dollar amount to each player. The dollar amounts have no express purpose other than to represent a general “rating” for any given player.

The criteria for his valuations go like this:

$70-100	The best players in baseball
$50-70	All-Stars
$40-50	Very good players, minor stars
$30-40	Quality regulars
$20-30	Run-of-the-mill regulars, good platoon players
$10-20	Role Players	
< $10	Players who probably won't be on a roster

Among the 61 graded prospects, the dollar amounts break down as follows (with number of players in parentheses):

Grade A: $24-$44 (12)
Grade B: $13-$23 (11)
Grade C: $9-$17 (21)
Grade D: $8-$15 (17)

Using those ranges as a guide, and with a view to preserving similar distributions as we saw for the ’93 edition, I assigned grades to prospect-eligible players (under 27 years old, fewer than 130 career at-bats) as follows:

Grade A: >= $24 (6)
Grade B: $19-$23 (4)
Grade C: $14-$18 (22)
Grade D: $10-$13 (9)

I omitted from the grading any player below $10 because (a) this is the point below which James considers players rosterable and (b) that’s how I’d started doing it until I realized, midway through, that there were Grade C and D prospects who’d received $8 and $9 valuations from James, but that I’d rather stab myself in the eye than go back over the entire book just to find, like, three or four players who never made it to the majors anyway.

Below is the data. Note that, for the sake of this study, the term “per season” means “per 650 plate appearances.” In other words, the average Grade A prospect, didn’t necessarily play for 7.4 seasons, but rather 7.4 “sets” of 650 PAs.

There were 18 Grade A prospects (17.6%). The Grade A prospects averaged 24.4 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 3.3 WAR per season over 7.4 seasons. All 18 of these prospects played in the Majors. Three of them (Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome) played in 2010.

There were 21 Grade B prospects (20.6%). The Grade B prospects averaged 6.2 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 2.0 WAR per season over 3.1 seasons. Of these 21 prospects, 20 of them played in the Majors (all except Tracy Sanders), while another pair (Paul Carey and Tito Navarro) failed to record more than 100 MLB plate appearances. None of these prospects played in 2010.

There were 37 Grade C prospects (36.3%). The Grade C prospects averaged 3.0 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 1.5 WAR per season over 2.0 seasons. Of these 37 prospects, all but one (Stanton Cameron) played in the Majors. Six others recorded 100 or fewer career plate appearances. One of them (Jim Edmonds) played in 2010.

There were 26 Grade D prospects (25.5%). The Grade D prospects averaged 2.1 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 1.2 WAR per season over 1.8 seasons. All of these 26 prospects played in the Majors. Eight others recorded 100 or fewer career plate appearances. None of them played in 2010.

Five notes:

• Over half of the total WAR from the Grade C prospects (109.4) comes from Jim Edmonds, who has recorded 68.1 career WAR (62.2%). Jose Hernandez, who posted a career WAR of 32.0, accounts for another 29.3%.

• Over half of the total WAR from the Grade D prospects (54.8) comes from Shawn Green, who recorded 35.1 career WAR, or 64.1%.

• Here are the Grade A prospects, in order of career WAR (Baseball America ranking for 1994 in parentheses): Chipper Jones (20), Jim Thome (rookie-eligibility exceeded), Manny Ramirez (7), Carlos Delgado (5), Javy Lopez (17), Ryan Klesko (15), Cliff Floyd (1), Rondell White (9), Alex Gonzalez (4), Jeffrey Hammonds (3), Rich Becker (37), Willie Greene (rookie-eligibility exceeded), Benji Gil (23), Tony Tarasco (not ranked), Roberto Petagine (not ranked), Chris Gomez (not ranked), Marc Newfield (35), Melvin Nieves (69).

• The three best names among the hitting prospects from 1994 are as follows: Rikkert Faneyte, Jayhawk Owens, and Tripp Cromer.

• You can view a spreadsheet of all 102 prospects by clicking here. (Note: the sheet titled “1994” is the one I’ve used for this post. The one titled “1994z” has the 61 graded prospects and then the 41 ungraded, but still prospect-eligible, players (denoted with a “Z”).

Here are James’ definitions for each the prospect grades:

Grade A
“The term Grade A prospect means that all of the information about a young player is positive, or that the positive information about the player is overwhelmingly greater than the negative information… What the term Grade prospect does not mean is tthat the guy is going to be a star… What we’re saying with the term is that there is no apparent reason that this player cannon be a star.”

Grade B
“The term Grade B prospect is a term of praise, not of information. The term Grade B prospect means that the information about the player is essentially positive, but with some significant limitation… [T]he term is
not meant at all to say that the player won’t be a major league star — only that there is something here to worry about.”

Grade C
“The term Grade C prospect means that there is a more or less even mix of information which makes you think that the player
will be a good major league player, and information which makes you think he won’t… Can a Grade C prospect go on to become a star? Sure, it happens. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens. For every one who becomes a star, there’s going to be 30 or 50 or 100 who fall by the wayside quickly.”

Grade D
“[T]he term Grade D prospect means, of course, that the information about the player is
predominantly, but not overwhelmingly, negative. The term Grade D prospect means that there is something here that you have to like.”

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

6 Responses to “Review of Hitting Prospects, James Player Rater 1994”

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  1. Cliff Lee's Changeup says:

    So would a player like Jesus Montero be a B prospect because of his defensive downside? He’s generally treated like an A prospect.

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    • Preston says:

      For what it’s worth, John Sickel’s rated Montero an A despite the defensive questions. And I think he was working for James when they did these rankings in 93-94.

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  2. Xave says:

    I’d like to see a comparison of James’ and BA’s rankings – new project, Carson

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  3. pft says:

    It appears that almost all of the graded prospects listed made it to the MLB. What percentage of prospects are not graded?. 102 prospects in 1993 is only 3-4 per MLB team, thats certainly a very small fraction of players in each teams minor league system, and presumably the percentage of ungraded players who never make MLB is very high.

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  4. tangotiger says:

    Carson, great stuff.

    I can’t see google docs from the office. Can you run a regression of the “dollar values” that James presented and the WAR that you are showing?

    It seems to me that something like 0.3*James$ = WAR would fit the bill.

    If that is the case, then you can see who really overachieved and underachieved.

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  5. AA says:

    That Jim Edmonds turned into a should-be HOFer is a huge credit to Rod Carew completely changing his swing between 1994 and 1995.

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