What is a #8 Prospect?

Baseball America last week issued its annual list of top 100 prospects for 2015. At #8 on that list is 22-year-old Joc Pederson, who the Dodgers have penciled in as their starting center fielder this coming season. Pedersen put up very impressive numbers in AAA this past season, and was rewarded with a September call-up, though he started only three games for the big club. A question that occurred to me in considering the Dodgers’ choice, for now at least, of the rookie Pederson as their new starting center fielder is, historically, how have previous eighth-ranked prospects, as designated by Baseball America in its annual pre-season Top 100 prospects list, actually turned out? A history of that #8 spot in the Baseball America ranking is after the jump.

Baseball America has been doing a pre-season ranking of baseball’s top 100 prospects annually since 1990. Here’s a list of the #8 prospects from each year’s list, along with the number of seasons they played, or have played so far, in the majors, and their career Wins Above Replacement (baseball-reference version).

1990 Eric Anthony (Astros), 9 seasons, -0.2 WAR
1991 Reggie Sanders (Reds), 17 seasons, 39.6 WAR
1992 Ryan Klesko (Braves), 16 seasons, 26.9 WAR
1993 Jason Bere (White Sox), 11 seasons, 3.4 WAR
1994 James Baldwin (White Sox), 11 Seasons, 9.2 WAR
1995 Alex Gonzalez (Blue Jays), 13 seaons, 11.1 WAR
1996 Livan Hernandez (Marlins), 17 seasons, 31.0 WAR
1997 Kris Benson (Pirates), 9 seasons, 13.0 WAR
1998 Travis Lee (Diamondbacks), 9 seasons, 7.2 WAR
1999 Pablo Ozuna (Marlins), 7 seasons, -1.4 WAR
2000 Rafael Furcal (Braves), 14 seasons, 39.0 WAR (could still come back, but has only played 9 MLB games in the last two seasons and tore a hamstring in winter ball in late December; his MLB career may be over)
2001 Ryan Anderson (Mariners), never played in the majors
2002 Wilson Betemit (Braves), 11 seasons, 3.0 WAR (only 6 games in the majors the last two seasons, now under drug suspension, MLB career probably over)
2003 Hideki Matsui (Yankees), 10 seasons, 21.3 WAR (sort of ringer as a “prospect” as he was already a veteran star in Japan)
2004 Greg Miller (Dodgers), never played inn the majors
2005 Rickie Weeks (Brewers), 11 seasons, 12.3 WAR, still active
2006 Justin Verlander (Tigers), 10 seasons, 41.4 WAR, still active
2007 Brandon Wood (Angels), 5 seasons, -3.7 WAR
2008 Franklin Morales (Rockies), 8 seasons, 1.3 WAR (signed a minor league deal with the Royals ten days ago)
2009 Cameron Maybin (Marlins), 8 seasons, 8.8 WAR, still active (age 27)
2010 Pedro Alvarez (Pirates), 5 seasons, 5.5 WAR, still active (age 28)
2011 Eric Hosmer (Royals), 4 seasons, 5.5 WAR, still active (age 25)
2012 Shelby Miller (Cardinals), 3 seasons 6.0 WAR, still active (age 24)
2013 Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), 2 seasons 0.5 WAR still active (age 22)
2014 Kris Bryant (Cubs), competing for a major league spot on the Cubs this spring (age 23)

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David Horwich
David Horwich
7 years ago

The 15 #8 prospects from 1990-2004 averaged 13.5 WAR (I’m stopping at 2004 since most of the players after that are still active, although some are more active than others).

5 had very successful careers: Sanders, Klesko, Hernandez, Furcal, Matsui

4 had at least modestly respectable careers: Baldwin, Gonzalez, Benson, Lee

6 were essentially busts: Anthony, Bere, Ozuna, Anderson, Betemit, Miller

Hartvig
Hartvig
7 years ago

I’d be curious if there was any difference between a #8 prospect and a #7 and a #9 or even a #5 & an #11. I would think that in a relatively small sample like this that 1 or 2 very successful players could make the average WAR/season quite a bit higher but that the mean would show at least somewhat straight line decline.

Or that or evaluating talent in MLB hasn’t improved a lot over the years.

David P
David P
7 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

Hartvig – It’s going to depend a lot on the years that you include. For example, looking at the #7 pick and using the same years as David H. used above (90-04), the best you get is Nick Markakis. But if you extend it back one year and forward two, you add in Frank Thomas, Troy Tulowitzki, and Clayton Kershaw.

BTW, here’s a recent Fangraphs article titled “How many good players were good prospects?”. Definitely makes for interesting reading.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/how-many-good-players-were-good-prospects/

David P
David P
7 years ago
Reply to  David P

Oops….just realized that my info above is about draft order, not prospect ranking. 🙂

mosc
mosc
7 years ago

A #8 prospect’s value to a team transcends WAR because they’re cost and roster controlled for 6+ years. Even a replacement level expectation from Pederson makes him incredibly valuable. Think of it this way. Hosmer has 1 season of control remaining. Assume Hosmer replicates his 2014 season and the Royals are deciding what to do for 2016. The Royals would trade Hosmer for Pederson straight up based on cost and control probably at the level of 0WAR over ~100 or so games I would think. I think it’s one thing to talk about career expectations for guys who get labeled… Read more »