2016 Prospect Rankings

This past season may end up going down as the year of the prospect. So many good rookies got their promotion to the majors like Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Noah Syndergaard, and Lance McCullers. It is time to look at finding the next batch of rookies. By using just a handful of minor league stats, I have created basic prospect rankings for 2016.

I have played around with prospect rankings for a while and just recently publish my 2015 ZOBRIST rankings which looked at older potential hitter breakouts. I have had some personal player rankings using just the player’s stats, but nothing worth publishing. Well, I finally took the few step forward by stealing some ideas from a couple of my fellow writers. First, I was able to add position values to the rankings after helping Carson Cistulli work on his minor league WAR values. The final piece came after reading a recent article by Tony Blengino at ESPN where he gives credit to the player’s age compared to the level’s average age.

With these additions and bit finding the best weight for each category, I have come up with a prospect ranking system which I believe holds up darn good. For hitters it uses wOBA, most common position played, and age compared to the rest of the level. For pitchers, it is K%-BB%, the percentage of games as started (vice relieving), and age compared to the rest of the level. The player’s value combines his performance at all levels he was in during the time frame.

For each player, I came up with an unregressed value which shows the player’s value no matter how little they played. Then, I regressed the value a bit to come up with a  second value. Finally, I put the values on a 100 scale where a top player value is 100. For the 100 scale, I used the highest one-year total I could find. I can and did run the analysis for multiple years’ worth of data, so the scaled value can go above 100 in these occasions.

The process and results seem to hold up, but I did  have a few possible issues show up. First, the position used is the position the player was at the most. It doesn’t know if the player was good at the position and may need to move off of it. The second issue is injuries especially with pitchers. If a highly touted prospect like Kyle Zimmer is unable to stay off the DL, they get hammered quite a bit. Third, players just drafted usually don’t have enough playing time to get highly ranked. The final change I could add is some form of prospect pedigree using  their draft slot and/or prospect ranking. I am torn about using any prospect ranks as I am trying to find players people may have missed.

So here are four lists with all the data downloadable from here. Finally, let me know if you have any questions especially if you think any of the three weights I used (age, position, talent) were mis-weighted. That is it for now and tomorrow I will look at where some players in the Arizona Fall league are ranked.

Hitters: 2015 Only

Hitters: 2013-2015

Pitchers: 2015

Pitchers: 2013-2015

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Hi Jeff, thanks for putting this together. I’m trying to figure what this brings to the table that existing methods don’t include. As far as evaluating hitting talent that will translate to Major-League success and incorporating ARL, it seems as though KATOH already has us covered. For real-life player evaluation position certainly matters, but I’m not sure that having Anderson Tejeda’s .555 OPS just a couple spots away from AJ Reed who might be next year’s Schwarber just because he is young and plays shorstop really tells me anything useful about their relative fantasy value.

That said, thanks for bringing Jamie Westbrook to my attention :)