Prospect Drafting For Dummies

Some people love following prospects from the time the players are in high school and college to when they make it to the majors. I am not one of those people. It is important to have some idea of which prospects may have a impact in an upcoming fantasy baseball season. To keep the process simple every year, I create a combined ranking of different prospect rankings and merge them into one composite ranking. This year ranking ended using 7 different lists (I waited until Baseball America released their list to make it complete). Seven minds are better than one, especially if the one mind is mine.

The 7 different top 100 rankings I used to create the composite ranking are:

Baseball America
Scout.com
ESPN (Keith Law)
MLB (Jonathan Mayo)
Project Prospect
Bullpen Banter
Baseball Prospectus

In total, 160 different players were featured by the 7 sources. To get a composite ranking, I took the average ranking of each player. For the players with no ranking from a prospect list, I set the player’s ranking to 130 (half way point between 101 and 160) for that list. Here is a look at the top 10 players (complete list on Google Docs):

Composite Ranking Name Pos Team Age Scout ESPN MLB PP BP BB BA
1.9 Mike Trout OF LAA 20 2 2 1 3 1 1 3
2.0 Matthew Moore P TAM 22 1 1 3 1 3 3 2
2.1 Bryce Harper OF WAS 19 3 3 2 2 2 2 1
5.7 Shelby Miller P STL 21 6 6 5 5 5 5 8
6.6 Jurickson Profar SS TEX 18 7 7 7 7 7 4 7
7.3 Manny Machado SS BAL 19 8 8 4 6 6 8 11
8.4 Jesus Montero C SEA 22 5 5 9 12 4 18 6
8.9 Julio Teheran P ATL 21 4 4 18 4 20 7 5
12.1 Devin Mesoraco C CIN 23 12 12 8 14 13 10 16
12.3 Gerrit Cole P PIT 21 10 10 10 11 18 15 12

The way I usually use the list is to pick the highest ranked position player that is closest to the majors. I follow this method for these 3 reasons:

1. Pitchers get hurt easier. In 2010, I took Mike Stanton before Strasburg in a draft. I was ridiculed for it. The best pitchers get hurt and lose complete seasons. Hitters don’t get hurt nearly as much.

2. Highly ranked position players historically have better careers than equally ranking pitchers.

3. I like to have the chance that the player will play in the majors that season. With 70% of all prospects flaming out, I would like to know sooner, rather than later, if the player is going to be any good.

I don’t follow the minors enough to know which prospects to draft, so I have had to adapt. I have used this method of ranking prospects for several years and it has been productive. Hopefully others can also find it useful.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

47 Responses to “Prospect Drafting For Dummies”

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  1. Paul M. says:

    Thanks, will definitely be taking advantage of this, I also hate following prospects! For every Strasburg, there seem to be 10 Izzy Alcantaras or Brian Roses! Will you be making the more comprehensive list available, at some point?

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    • EarlSweatshirt says:

      At no point was Izzy Alcantara highly regarded. Brian Rose was, but certainly not on the level of a Steven Strasburg. Obviously the aren’t comparable, I just saw Izzy Alcantara and Strasburg in the same sentence and had to speak up.

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      • BStu185 says:

        I think the comparison was more for illustrative purposes, not to say Izzy was on par with Strasburg.

        And also the fact that it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to make an Izzy Alcantara reference.

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  2. Matt H says:

    How do you choose between a higher ranked player that’s slightly farther away from a worse one who is closer? As in, if there was a #10 who was going to start the year and a #1 who was getting called up in June/July, which would you choose? (Obviously this depends on the particular players, but in general I’m curious how you decide. Is Montero your first choice this year?)

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  3. Benjigil says:

    Do you have a projected call up date? How do you know who’s closest to arriving in the bigs?

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  4. Jeff Akston says:

    Wisdom of the Crowds for the win.

    I never understood why Fangraphs didn’t do the same thing for projections. You have Bill James, Marcels, ZIPS, Rotochamps, and the FG fan crowdsourced projections.

    Why not combine all of that, plus like Oliver, ESPN, CBS, whatever else you can get for free, and just have a combined wisdom of the crowds projection thing. Seems right in Fangraphs wheelhouse.

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    • Rich says:

      I second this.

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    • Peoples Champ says:

      It’s actually quite easy if you know the formulas to do VLookups. The problem is I only see I have access to Fans and RotoChamps right now. If anyone can point me in the right direction to an easily transferred to excel version of Bill james, Zips and Marcel then i could get it done.

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      • Bill says:

        I am very close to having this done. Right now I have CBS, ESPN, and rotochamp completed. Just waiting for FanGraphs to post Marcel and ZiPS. Not only does it average all of the projections, it will:

        -assign each stat a value for an overall ranking
        -project salary
        -project keeper inflation salary
        -able to turn on/off site projections in case you do not like that site
        -tab to enter your league setup to help calculate values and salary

        One aspect that is needed is an adjustment for position scarcity.

        Only issue is with the amount of math involved sorting and filtering is very slow. However, this can be helped by cutting down the total number of players on the spreadsheet, currently it has every player listed in the CBS system.

        If there is enough interest I don’t mind sharing this,

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      • Jeff Akston says:

        I have done this already. It’s not a “difficult” thing to do, but it is very time consuming given that not every source spells player names the same way, or even writes them first and last name in the same order. Plus all the columns are lined up different from source to source, so it’s a lot of cutting and pasting, vlookups, averageif, etc, etc.

        Here’s the spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc … VdCVjhMRFE

        Includes averages of Fangraphs fan projections, Zips, CBS, Sportsline, Davenport, a few others. Just a straight average of the projected stats.

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      • Ayuh says:

        Thank, Jeff, but that link isn’t working. Repost?

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      • Jeff Akston says:

        don’t know why the link didn’t work. Here it is again: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjgBY_KJufpPdFlEdF9NUS1vS1JoUEFzWVdCVjhMRFE

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      • Aaron Murray says:

        Great resource, Jeff, thanks! Looks like adding a projected $ amount would be as simple as multiplying the “value” columns by about 4 or 4.5, right?

        Also, I tried to send you a little something through the paypal link on the doc but it didn’t seem to work. That link just seems to take me to my paypal account but doesn’t give me a way to send directly to you.

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      • Jeff Akston says:

        Hmmm, I don’t know why the paypal thing wasn’t working for you. It took me there. Not sure what’s up.

        I wouldn’t multiply the value by a dollar amount. That’s a whole different calculation that I never got around to doing.

        I am not in an auction league so I’ve never done a value for that.

        Now with ZIPS and Steamer projections out, I’ll update that spreadsheet one last time this offseason.

        I look forward to next year when Fangraphs is doing it so I don’t have to.

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    • yoda0 says:

      This is already done by Cory Schwartz at Fantasy 411. He uses up to 11 sources (paid and unpaid sources).

      http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/

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      • Aaron Murray says:

        The ones at fantasy411 are good except that there’s no ultimate valuation and players are listed alphabetically. I guess if you are either going to study each player carefully or you’re just looking for a couple guys here and there it’s pretty good but I’d rather have something ranking guys by their projected value.

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      • yoda0 says:

        Aaron, I usually just sort by OPS and that gives me a quick/dirty look at how the players measure up against one another. This simply the best sheet to use if you want to look at the baseline valuation of a player.

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  5. Pops says:

    Does Wil Myers see the big leagues this year? With Frenchy, Gordon and Cain blocking his path I don’t see it happening unless there is an injury or a trade.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      I just don’t see it this year. For it to happen he will need to tear of ST to get sent to AAA. Once in AAA he will have to be hitting great again and someone in the majors will need to be struggling.

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    • The Jean Genie says:

      I would be very suprised. Even if he were to force the issue, I don’t see Myers as a ‘break the bank’ type prospect – more Nick Markakis than Michael Stanton probably.

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  6. d_i says:

    Yeah that’s not really a complete “how to” without explaining how you project “closeness” and how you balance it with rank. I expect that it’s most intuitive, but you say you sort the list two different ways and pick the highest as if it’s expected to be the same player which is rarely the case.

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  7. Nate Grimm says:

    ESPN and Scout seem to be duplicates, and I believe KLaw’s are the ones missing. I think it’s skewed the rankings a bit in the process. Just a heads up.

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  8. Jason says:

    Your Keith Law rankings are incorrect and its messing up your composite

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  9. Bobby Mueller says:

    Jeff, I think you need to check your spreadsheet. Besides Scout and ESPN having identical rankings, your BP rankings do not match up with the BP website. You have the top 5 under BP as:
    Trout
    Harper
    Moore
    Montero
    Miller

    At the BP website, they have:
    Moore
    Harper
    Trout
    Profar
    Teheran

    I love the idea here, but the spreadsheet looks like it needs to be corrected. I just did this for one of my leagues using BP, Keith Law, and Baseball America.

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    • Dale says:

      MLB has Teheran at #4 as well. I was wondering what he’d done so wrong to fall from grace. Maybe a repost of the article is needed after the corrections to the spreadsheet are made.

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  10. André Babyn says:

    You have Jacob Marisnick (120) as well as Jake Marisnick (66) listed for Toronto. Pretty sure they’re the same guy.

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  11. Ogre39666 says:

    I would use John Sickles rankings at Minorleagueball before Mayo’s.

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  12. Joe says:

    This has already been done (in spades I might add) if you purchase the spreadsheet from fantasyrundown.com. For $4 it not only does all the sites listed above, it also gives about 10-15 more sites as well. And, he re-releases updated versions every week to your inbox as new rankings come out. Great resource and highly recommended for prospect drafting (and trading).

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  13. theeiffeltower says:

    I’m not sure if anything aside from ESPN, BP and BA will be very helpful. All compiled by (as far as I can tell) full-time prospect analysts, who are experienced, smart and well-connected, and who put a lot of time and effort into their top 100s. Not sure if any of those other lists fit all those criteria.

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  14. WilsonC says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that while extreme youth for the level is a big plus for a prospect’s ranking, it’s often guys who are a little closer to their prime as rookies who have the bigger immediate impact. A 20 year old on the verge of the Majors may have incredible potential, but a 25-year old with a balance of skills but a limitted ceiling is often the better bet for the immediate season.

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  15. drew says:

    The Baseball Prospectus Rankings are wrong. As in, that’s not the rankings on the BP site. Take Shelby Miller at #5 for example. Teheran is #5. Or am I missing something?

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  16. drew says:

    umm, the project prospect rankings are wrong too

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  17. drew says:

    ok, i think all the headings are just mislabeled

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  18. Randy says:

    Surprise, surprise…I was working on something like this earlier in the week, but now that you’ve done it I don’t need to do it anymore. Thanks! :)

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  19. Wait Til Next Year says:

    What’s the story with #46 Brandon Jacobs? He only has a rank from BP but blanks from everbody else. Shouldn’t those blanks all be 130?

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    • chri521 says:

      He’s too busy winning Super Bowl rings….

      Sorry bad joke but had to plug them somewhere. Good catch though according to Jeff’s methodology.

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  20. lester bangs says:

    Don’t draft rookies in non-keeper leagues, they’re not priced logically. Happy ending.

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  21. Nick says:

    Another important thing with prospecting in fantasy baseball is the type of league. A league where there is a large number of players kept makes prospects much more draftable. Possibly even more importantly is the conditions and penalties for keeping players. I play in a league where there is zero penalty and you may keep a player for as long as you wish. This, in my opinion, puts a huge emphasis on holding onto one or two high upside prospects. They’d have to be the type that get very high praise (the non MLB players I’ve kept have been Weiters, Jesus Montero, and Matt Moore at various times) and close to the majors in order to really make it a no brainer.

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  22. Paul M. says:

    To the guy who corrected me on Izzy Alcantara, you’re right, wasn’t really meaning to talk about just top-flight prospects… My bad… Sox fan here, so I just listed the first two failed prospects to pop into my head from growing up, not necessarily the biggest name failed prospects I could think of! To all those who did all this work, thanks!

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  23. Jeff,

    I have been doing the same thing as you for years and actually created a website to post my results. You can check it out at:

    http://mlbcpi.blogspot.com/

    So far this year, I have 13 different lists that I have combined into one composite list (over 200 players) and I expect to add 4 or 5 more (including Fangraph’s Top 100) when its all said and done.

    Mark

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  24. Dean says:

    Great concept. I’ve seen it in a couple different ways on the net. I would suggest a column for MEDIAN ranking as that is less swayed by extreme rankings.

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  25. Kris says:

    Hey Jeff,

    I do this a tonne, and I started out doing it the same way. You gotta have highest level -slash- ETA.

    The easiest way to do this is through a quick MYSQL database. At this point, if you’re into fantasy baseball or pfx analysis, there’s no excuse for not spending the 2 hours it takes to learn the basics of SQL.

    I’m not sure if Fangraphs has ever done a write-up on “Using DBs” but it’d be neat, methinks.

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