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Farm Futures: Failure to Develop

Jason Collette

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

Talent acquisition is one thing, developing talent is another. This past week, the Angels had to designate Brandon Wood for assignment - a guy that was once labeled the next Cal Ripken by his manager in 2005. Wood has likely spent some time on your fantasy roster in some way, shape, or form as each of us have hoped he would re-discover the talent he displayed in the Angels' farm system. I have him on my AL Tout Wars team right now as my middle infield because the pool was that thin and I had $1 left at the end game and luckily, I get to keep whatever stats he produces in Pittsburgh this season. He is not alone in Angels' failure, as his former org-mate Casey Kotchman could find himself designated for assignment when Evan Longoria returns later this week from his oblique injury.

Wood and Kotchman represents massive failures in prospect development by the Angels as both were the top players in that organization for at least three seasons and both were ranked as top 10 overall prospects by Baseball America at one point in their development, and yet the two players have combined for just one win above replacement in nearly 3000 plate appearances. With that thought in mind, let's take a look back at the top 100 prospects from 1990-2010 as selected by Baseball America and compiled by Jeff Zimmerman of Beyond the Boxscore. Which positions and which organizations have been factories for producing productive players and where have the trouble spots been?

To do this, I went back and looked at the first time each prospect was ranked, by the organization that ranked them, and their highest single-season Wins Above Replacement value according to fangraphs.com. For each position, I filtered out players from 2006 to 2010 for production purposes so as to not penalize a position for players that have yet to make the majors or were just recently called up.

Catcher: Mike Piazza, Joe Mauer, Javy Lopez, and Ivan Rodriguez dominate this category as each of them had a single season of 6.9 or higher. Surprisingly, Rick Wilkins was the fifth highest at 6.7. Of the 55 catchers ranked, 19 of them produced nothing when they were up in the majors or have yet to put up any production to appear on the radar. That list includes failures such as J.R. House, Justin Huber, and J.R. Towles. Catching prospects continue to be a risky investment because most tend to produce much later than we want them to and there is no better recent example of that than Matt Wieters. In all, 35% of the prospects at this position failed to make any kind of positive dent on MLB or fantasy rosters.

First Base: Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, John Olerud, Frank Thomas, Derrek Lee, Carlos Delgado, and Joey Votto all have had a single season WAR value of 7.0 or higher in the past 20 years. Of course, 13 prospects at this position have done nothing including the infamously fat Calvin Pickering, Dave Staton, Kevin Witt, Jason Stokes, J.R. Phillips, and Brian Dopirak. 28% of the prospects here that are often targeted for their power potential did nothing for those that targeted him. Injuries have hurt some guys (like Stokes, Aubrey) while swings got exposed at higher levels for others (Pickering, Munson).

Second Base: This position is usually where players are put when they lack the arm strength or the mobility to play on the other side of the diamond. Thus, it is not a huge surprise that there have only been 34 prospects at this position from 1990 to 2006. The top WAR season for any second baseman is €¦ Chuck Knoblauch? His 8.4 season edged out Chase Utley's best effort of 8.1. Bret Boone had a 7.8 and Marcus Giles had a 6.7 (see a trend yet?). 10 of the 36 failures at this position (a 28% rate) include Arquimedez Pozo, Carlos Febles, and Jake Gautreau.

Shortstop: This is where a lot of the highly-drafted prospects tend to come from due to the athletic demands of the position. Thus, 80 prospects have come from this position in this study with Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Hanley Ramirez leading the way. Those guys were or are some of the more consistent fantasy producers for most of us throughout the years but this high-profile position also had its fair share of flops. That list would include names like Antonio Perez, the infamous Brandon Wood, Juan Guzman, and Pablo Ozuna. 35% of these prospects failed to have a season in which the produced at least one win above replacement.

Third Base: This is another power position and once you move some of the guys drafted here that moved to other positions before their promotion, we're left with Adrian Beltre as king of the hill with his monster 10.1 WAR season back as a Dodger. Scott Rolen, David Wright, Troy Glaus and Chipper Jones are near the top of this list as well, but there have been a lot of flops at this position. 24 of the 58 prospects failed to have a season of just one win above replacement and the dude list includes: Andy Marte, Dallas McPherson, Drew Henson, Gary Scott, Lance Niekro, and Ty Griffin. In all, 41% of the prospects ranked at the hot corner have been disappointments.

Outfield: A lot of promise here as well as a lot of failure. 91 of the 207 ranked prospects at this position failed to put up productive seasons, which calculates out to a massive 44% fail rate. That fail list includes Mike Kelly, Calvin Murray, Ruben Mateo, Lastings Milledge, Alex Escobar, Earl Cunningham, and Chad Mottola. The success stories are led by Larry Walker, Darin Erstad, J.D. Drew, Andruw Jones, Magglio Ordonez, and Josh Hamilton. These prospects are often drafted on their tools but those that fail to put tools into results at this position tend to be glaring mistakes as some very high draft picks have flamed out as outfielders.

Right-Handed Pitchers: This should comes as no surprise to you if you are a believer in the TINSTAAPP (there is no such thing as a pitching prospect) philosophy. 50% of the right-handed pitching prospects drafted from 1990-2006 failed to have even one productive season. Yes, more fail than succeed. Pedro Martinez, Zack Greinke, Ben Sheets, Roy Halladay, and Mark Prior are varying degrees of success stories while Pat Mahomes, Jim Pittsley, Roger Salkeld, Adam Miller, Angel Guzman, and Nick Neugebauer. That said, I would rather take my chances drafting pitching prospects than catching prospects because the reward potential is much higher with the pitchers than catchers and those rewards can be felt immediately more often than not as we are seeing with Michael Pineda right now.

Left-Handed Pitchers: These types are even riskier than righties as 53% of these prospects failed to have a productive season. Two of the more glaring failures are Brien Taylor and Ryan €śthe space needle€ť Anderson at this position but Tyrone Hill, Robbie Beckett, Macay McBride, Matt Riley and Andy Sisco stand out as well. Conversely, CC Sabathia has had the best season of any lefty followed by Andy Pettitte, Cliff Lee, Dontrelle Willis and Francisco Liriano. Johan Santana is noticeably absent from that list but he was never a Top 100 prospect. He had to make the jump from Low-A to the majors as a Rule 5 pick and blew through his rookie status that year so he never made an appearance on this list.

If we take the best season of WAR value for each player and break it down by year, here is how each prospect class breaks down:

- 1990: 261.3
- 1991: 165.2
- 1992: 118.8
- 1993: 122.2
- 1994: 80.2
- 1995: 141.6
- 1996: 98.7
- 1997: 135.8
- 1998: 107.2
- 1999: 156.6
- 2000: 105.4
- 2001: 116.4
- 2002: 127.2
- 2003: 147.1
- 2004: 132.1
- 2005: 118.6
- 2006: 172.9

A breakdown by organization is more helpful because it allows you to see who is identifying the right talent, accumulating the right talent, and getting the most of that talent. The totals below show both the number of prospects each organization has had ranked as a top 100 prospect and the cumulative total of their best season as determined by WAR. This data includes all seasons from 1990-2010

- Angels: 35 prospects, 75.8 WAR
- Astros: 40 prospects, 100.8 WAR
- Athletics: 50 prospects, 89.3 WAR
- Blue Jays: 48 prospects, 121.6 WAR
- Braves: 61 prospects, 132.7 WAR
- Brewers: 34 prospects, 69.3 WAR
- Cardinals: 36 prospects, 83.1 WAR
- Cubs: 45 prospects, 56.2 WAR
- Diamondbacks: 23 prospects, 65.2 WAR
- Dodgers: 51 prospects, 125.6 WAR
- Giants: 32 prospects, 41.2 WAR
- Indians: 50 prospects, 110.1 WAR
- Mariners: 39 prospects, 93.8 WAR
- Marlins: 44 prospects, 87.1 WAR
- Mets: 45 prospects, 86.5 WAR
- Nationals/Expos: 44 prospects, 103.9 WAR
- Orioles: 45 prospects, 70.5 WAR
- Padres: 39 prospects, 54.9 WAR
- Phillies: 30 prospects, 84.3 WAR
- Pirates: 35 prospects, 59.3 WAR
- Rangers: 52 prospects, 86.2 WAR
- Rays: 30 prospects, 60.0 WAR
- Red Sox: 49 prospects, 91.5 WAR
- Reds: 39 prospects, 76.5 WAR
- Red Sox: 50 prospects, 91.5 WAR
- Rockies: 34 prospects, 71.6 WAR
- Royals: 38 prospects, 68.9 WAR
- Tigers: 31 prospects, 65.8 WAR
- Twins: 51 prospects, 99.8 WAR
- White Sox: 44 prospects, 86.1 WAR
- Yankees: 48 prospects, 101.3 WAR

Next week, the long-awaited update to the Top 100 list that John Sickels put out now that we have some 2011 data to play with for the minor league prospects!