Prospect Rankings Series Primer

Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera

Before he jumps into his minor league prospect rankings, Kiley stops in to explain who he will rank, how he'll rank them and how in the world he believes he has the right to tell you exactly how much each player is worth.

Schedule, Nuts & Bolts of the Lists

First things first, here's the order that the team prospect rankings will be released, as determined by the first random order generator Google gave me:

1. Philadelphia Phillies: #1 prospect 3B Maikel Franco (Free Preview)

2. Kansas City Royals: #1 prospect RHP Kyle Zimmer

3. Tampa Bay Rays: #1 prospect RHP Taylor Guerrieri

4. Milwaukee Brewers: #1 prospect RHP Jimmy Nelson

5. Boston Red Sox: #1 prospect LHP Henry Owens

6. Seattle Mariners: #1 prospect RHP Taijuan Walker (Free Preview)

7. Cleveland Indians: #1 prospect SS Francisco Lindor

8. Los Angeles Dodgers

9. New York Yankees

10. Chicago Cubs

11. Baltimore Orioles

12. Atlanta Braves

13. Colorado Rockies

14. Minnesota Twins

15. Oakland Athletics

16. San Diego Padres

17. Pittsburgh Pirates

18. Arizona Diamondbacks

19. New York Mets

20. St. Louis Cardinals

21. Detroit Tigers

22. Chicago White Sox

23. Los Angeles Angels

24. Houston Astros

25. Cincinnati Reds

26. Texas Rangers

27. Miami Marlins

28. San Francisco Giants

29. Washington Nationals

30. Toronto Blue Jays

I won't give you days for each list will be released as I'm a one-man wrecking crew with lots to write, but the plan is to have all 30 teams done by the end of March. I made the first one free and I'll make a few more free throughout to give the free-loaders a look at what they're missing.

Much like my top 142 high school prospects rankings and top 71 high school underclassmen rankings, I'm a fan of ranking how many players deserve to be ranked, rather than a round number. In that vein, I'll be writing longer reports on the amount of players that I feel deserve it and will rank only the players that I feel have prospect value of consequence. It worked out for the first list that the Phillies had 20 prospects written up and two bonus names, but the others won't be so clean numbers-wise.

This is the next step of my off-season plan to rank every baseball player (that matters) in the universe. I've already got most of the amateur world finished, with the college players the current series being updated, I'm now working through the minor leagues and afterwards, once free agency is mostly done, I'll move on to MLB players.

For that reason, I've decided to take anyone that is MLB-ready or will definitely start the season on an MLB roster out of these prospects rankings, as they aren't assets of the farm system anymore. For the first club, the Phillies, I took out a recent 26-year-old Cuban pitcher (RHP Miguel Gonzalez) and a utility guy (2B/CF Cesar Hernandez) who just barely kept his rookie eligibility but isn't going back to the minors for any extended amount of time now.

How I'll Rank Them

Most of what I'm doing here can be understood by reading part one and part two of my introduction to BUBBA, my algorithm for putting a dollar value on any player in the game. The basic idea is using largely agreed-upon math to calculate a prospect's value to a team with some proprietary information about success rates of various types of prospects, empirical adjustments for elite players and a few other changes. The end game after ranking the prospects of consequence from a system (20 for the first team, the Phillies) and having their worth calculated is I could then put a value on the entire farm system's talent ($200 million), then follow that with a calculation about the MLB team when I rank them (and take into account their contracts).

A couple quick notes on the acronyms you'll see in these rankings: PV/FV is present value/future value, a simple one-number grade on the 20-80 scale to capture the player's overall value. It's much less granular than the dollar values, but is a quick and easy way for quick explanation of a player's talent.

Overall Hitter Value (FV)
Overall Pitcher Value (FV)
WAR Upper Bound (FV)
Individual Tool Grade Term
80
Truly Elite, top 1-3 player at position
Truly Elite #1 starter, top 1-5 at position
7.0+
Elite, 80
70
Perennial All Star, roughly 3-7 at position
#2 starter, roughly 12-25 at position
5.0
Plus-Plus
60
Clearly Above Average, sometime All-Star
#3 starter, Best couple closers
3.0
Plus
55
Above Average Regular
#3/#4 starter, Above average closer
2.5
Above Average
50
Average Regular
#4 Starter, low end closer, best set-up
2.0
Average
45
Best bench bat, versatile glove/platoon
#5 starter, solid set-up, best situational
1.5
Below Average
40
Regular bench bat, last few guys on roster
Spot starter, middle reliever, filler type arm
1.0
(Well) Below Average

This table shows the kind of player inferred by various 20-80 grades (used in 5 point increments) as Future Values (FV) to sum up a player's potential (i.e a 55 FV hitter is "above average regular"), along with the term that is used on the 20-80 scale for specific tool grades (i.e. 60 raw power is called "plus"). The WAR value means that, for example, a player with a FV of 70 is expected to have a peak WAR at maturity of 5.0 WAR. It also leaves out some numbers to be concise in some places (75, 65 are little used and obvious by their surroundings) and because they aren't used in other places (20, 25, 30, 35 aren't used for prospect ranking purposes and aren't often used for grading tools for prospects, either).

There are a few more things to note in the way I note things in my information to get different values for players (otherwise every 25 year old AAA reliever with 40 FV is worth exactly the same). I don't note it in the rankings, but I include a year to reach peak for each player along with a UPS (upside) number for players below AA. The idea is that, for example, a recent July 2nd signing (say 3B Luis Encarnacion on the Phillies list) may have an upside as an above average regular (55) but has so much risk involved, I can't rank him next to another 55 FV like J.P. Crawford.

My Own Spin

What I do is use the upside number for players with limited information. Encarnacion is so far away with so much risk, he's the same value as a 40 or 45 FV player but has more potential, so his base calculation (and grouping in the article) is in that group, but his upside of 55 FV is used to adjust his Asset Value above a 40 or 45 FV player with no more upside and lower risk. Accordingly, Crawford also has an upside number (55 FV, 60 UPS), but the closer he gets to AA or increasing confidence in his projection, the closer those two numbers will come to each other.

The asset value isn't what the player would get on the open market, although we have few examples of this to test with. For example, my value on Cuban defector and White Sox new 1B Jose Abreu was one of few opportunities as he signed for six years (the same six controlled years the asset value is calculated for) and was subject to a bidding process while in his 20's (though he'll start the contract at 27 and isn't the body type that will age well). Abreu signed for 6 years, $68 million while my value had those years valued at basically $40 million.

These values are supposed to represent the average team with the average payroll paying the league average for wins and reflect a universal trade value, so due to the winner's curse they won't always reflect the bids that win on the open market. That said, there were a couple teams over $50 million on Abreu but it sounds like the average team was off him once they heard the price was that high, roughly where my value had Abreu pegged.

To conserve my work for the prospects that matter most, I've chosen to show video (where available), along with stats, biographical info and a full report on the 50 FV players. The 45 FV players get an almost full report but not the full biographical or video treatment while the chosen 40 FV players get a few sentences. I say the chosen 40 FV players since by definition each group should be a bit bigger than the one above it, so I could list close to 20-30 players with 40 FV for each organization but will instead chose essentially the top half of that group, since about half those players will never end up having trade value of consequence anyway. They're obviously worth monitoring and having on hand for the organization, but when I'm trying to quantify the worth of a system, at some point all systems are the same and I can just add $5-10 million to account for the hundreds of players I haven't ranked.

Lastly, I won't put the dollar values on the 40 FV players since it's low ($5 million and under, essentially worthless in calculations of a trade, referenced in the BUBBA intro series) and will note the range the 45 FV players fall into to give you an idea ($6 - $14 million for the Phillies list, likely the same for the other lists as well). On the tool grades for players 50 FV and higher, I sometimes, like with LHP Jesse Biddle, will grade a tool (his fastball) as 50/50+ (present/future), but not call it a 55. The reason is I use fringe-average (47.5) and solid-average (52.5) to differentiate similar tools around the most common grade (50), though scouts usually just use conventional tool grades (45, 50, 55) and note the half-grade preference in the notes, so that's what the + is for here, to limit confusion. Lastly, to keep things from getting to cluttered, in the stats for players 50 FV and higher I will only list team seasons over 100 PA. Make it this far and think of something I haven't addressed here or in one of the links? Yell at me on Twitter.

Dollar Value Of Ranked Systems

Organization
Total Value
Boston Red Sox
$430 million
Kansas City Royals
$340 million
Tampa Bay Rays
$280 million
Seattle Mariners
$230 million
Philadelphia Phillies
$200 million
Milwaukee Brewers
$130 million

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