Food For Thought: BA’s Top 100 Prospects Lists


Scott McKinney at Royals Review posted a comprehensive study of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects lists from 1990 through 2003, attempting to find some patterns in prospect success. The above graph comes from his post and shows the average annual WAR accumulated by a player during his first six big league seasons (his time under team control) versus his rank in the various top 100 lists. As you can see, it’s rather sharp drop off after the top five or six prospects, and the difference between a prospect ranked in the middle of list and the guy ranked 100th really isn’t all that big, about a quarter of a win per season.

This is pertinent to Yankees fans because when BA’s 2011 top 100 list comes out next Wednesday, Jesus Montero figures to rank among the five best prospects in the game. McKinney found that 52.5% of the top 20 prospects go on to become successful big leaguers (defined as 2.0 WAR per season), an excellent success rate when you consider that approximately 70% of all top 100 prospects flame out. Furthermore, position players ranked in the top ten turn into a successful big leaguer a whopping 62.7% of the time, and a “superior player” (2.5 WAR or more) a little more than 35% of the time. Based on history, there’s better than a 50-50 chance that Montero will turn into a useful player, and better than a one-in-three chance that he develops into no worse than above-average player. I like those odds.

McKinney breaks the data down a million different ways, so I highly recommend clicking through and giving his post a read. It turns out that of the 34 Yankees farmhands to appear in BA’s top 100 lists through the years, 73.5% end up busts. That sounds like a lot, but it’s exactly middle of the pack. The Indians lead the way with a 42.4% success rate and the Giants trail everyone at 13%. Again, make sure you check it out. That’s some great stuff right there.

Categories : Minors
  • Avi

    “Furthermore, position players ranked in the top ten turn into a successful big leaguer a whopping 62.7% of the time”

    I wonder what the percentages would look like if you only looked at players who don’t strike out a lot, draw walks, hit for average and power all at the triple A level(like Montero). I’d imagine the percentages are better than 62.7%.

    • Evan3457

      …and then, if you further restricted your search to players who did this stuff in AAA at the age of 20, and then restricted it to players who struggled their first time around, then adjusted, and came back and dominated the older players who beat up on them earlier, it’s probably close to 100%.

      Or 0%, because you might have cut the “field” down to just Jesus, and he hasn’t succeeded in the majors. Yet.

  • mbonzo

    40% superior rate for position players ranked in the top 10. JESUS!

  • mbonzo

    Assuming Banuelos is ranked 11-20%, which would be a high rank imo, that would mean he only has a 37.3% success rate and an 18.7% superior rate. Seeing the numbers of failed pitching prospects makes me want to trade him for Liriano more.

    • Avi

      Yes. Pitching prospects are such a flip of the coin. If you look at the BA top 20’s from the last 12 years or so you’ll see sooo many guys that flopped and/or got hurt.