Monday, February 14, 2011

Lincecums and Poseys report

It’s pitchers and catchers day. Needless to say, that means today is a fantastic day.  In about one month’s time, my brothers and I (the proprietor of this weblog) will head to Scottsdale for my brother’s bachelor party. When we first made plans to do this trip, whether or not the Giants would even quality for postseason play was very much up in the air. Then the Giants won it all and the anticipation for our trip went from that for Cars 2 to Scream 4.

A couple of things of note – calling it worth mentioning is highly debatable – so far this spring are that Pat Burrell has switched from number nine to number five, Brandon Belt claims number nine and Miguel Tejada number 10, leaving number 35 for Travis Ishikawa. Yup, it’s clearly day one. I suppose it is also worth noting that Belt has arrived and thus is four days early. Also, when you walk into the clubhouse it is decorated with this.

I also wanted to provide a fantastic link to a piece written by Royals Review of SB Nation: Success and Failure Rates of Top MLB Prospects. Why? Because Brandon Belt will be vying for a job – this may or may not be true, as Sabean may want to store Belt in Fresno for financial reasons, or at least until the offense needs a boost – this spring and there’s an abundance of hype surrounding him.

It’s long been noted that prospects are just that until they actually produce at the major league level. Also, they often don’t. Well, this brilliant blog looks into how successful the very best prospects (as determined by Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects) have been on fulfilling their substantial promise. The results – and this should probably have been expected – are less than encouraging.

The study covers prospects from 1990-2003. Scott McKinney (the writer) chose to stop at 2003 “…because that is the last data for which the vast majority of prospects have exhausted their cost controlled years.” This seems a good idea considering the beauty of prospects, which is that they have the potential to provide tremendous value at extremely low relative costs.

But the main reason I wanted to point this article out is the section in which Scott ranks the success and failure rate of each franchise over that period. The results: also not encouraging. The Giants rank dead last with an astounding (read: horrendous) 87 percent “bust rate.” Yes, folks, that means 13 percent of the Giants’ Top 100 prospects from 1990-2003 became successful major league baseball players.

Pause. Before you hit your head on your desk and ruin your day, I should say that Scott posted those rates mostly for “entertainment value.” A couple of reasons: there’s a definite sampling issue in that most organizations only had about 20-40 prospects on the top 100 over that period. In the Giants’ case, it was just 23. There’s more.

These nuggets from Scott:

•About 70% of Baseball America top 100 prospects fail.
•Position player prospects succeed much more often than pitching prospects.
•About 60% of position players ranked in Baseball America’s top 20 succeed in majors.
•About 40% of pitchers ranked in the top 20 succeed in the majors.
First off, the Giants have made a 180-degree turnaround recently in terms of turning minor league talent into useful major leagues pieces. They owe their World Series trophy to this. What’s more, Belt is a position player prospect and thus his success rate is substantially higher. Finally, Belt may well be in Baseball America’s top 20 when the rankings come out. I can’t say that for sure, but he was number 17 on Keith Law’s top 100 (for ESPN Insiders). The odds are still in Belt’s (and Giants fans) favor.

It’s spring and baseball is finally here after a long winter. Enjoy it.

My latest at the Hardball Times can be found here (on the Orioles).


  1. Just a note to you that during the 50's 60's and 70's the Giants farm system had an embarassing wealth of future stars in the majors:Bobby Bonds, Willie MacCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Gary Matthews, Jimmie Raye Hart, Gaylord Perry, etc. This is just a sampling!! I was there to witness these guys.

  2. True. Yet what followed that was a prospect drought of apocalyptic proportions. I didn't witness those men, but I certainly have been along for the ride of the most recent flood.

  3. Giants have a strange up and down history of developing young talent.

  4. The Giants results in that period is related more to their success on the field than to very poor results drafting, though that is probably a factor as well.

    My draft study found that teams competing for the playoffs have far worse odds of being successful in finding a player than a team with one of the worse 5 records in the majors. It was still bad when you are in the middle. The Giants for the most part during that period was competing for the playoffs and thus got poor draft position throughout much of that period. Their poor showing in this study was strongly related to their good performances on the field during that period.

    Plus, I think that is poor methodology to include all the rankings for the player. While I see merits for that, this gives a team more credit for success when a prospect struggles to make the majors but continues to get good rankings nontheless. It also favors systems that favors high school prospects over systems that favors college, because the HS prospects will sit in the rankings for a number of years while the college prospects will show up less years, like how Posey came up fast, Longoria too, vs. like KC's Moustakas or Atlanta's Teheran, or even our Wheeler, he was on last year's list, probably will be on for another two years at least.

  5. This is why, per Ed's comment, the Giants have had up and down with the draft, the ups where when they were losing and picking well, Clark, Williams before, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, Wheeler now. But they are also better at finding later round talent as well in Sanchez, Wilson, Romo, Belt.