The Granddaddy of Prospectors Holds Forth. We Observe.
Baseball America, the granddaddy of all baseball publications, released their unified (combined) list of Top 100 Prospects in baseball yesterday. Unlike their much deeper paper book, the quick list contains very few surprises, but we'll do our best to pick and pull at it, anyway. It's what we do.
Though started in Canada, BA has become the de facto reference for amateur baseball in the United States, and their annual Baseball America Prospect Handbook is the most respected paper publiction (remember those?) on the market today. (If you're serious about prospects, buy your copy here, please.)
Their book covers more than a thousand prospects in detail. The list released today is a summary ranking produced through the compromise of their senior prospect analysts, and as such is a little bit like Scouting Book's process: a list that's combined in order to reduce personal bias, at least somewhat.
The emotional downside to this flattening approach, of course, is that the result is seldom sexy or surprising. As in past years, regular Scouting Book readers might feel as though they have seen the BA Top 100 Prospect list before. In fact, it varies so little from the already-established consensus reflected in our combined Scouting Book rankings, especially in the top forty or fifty positions, that it's difficult to tell the lists apart.
(If you wish to try, you can view the BA list here, or see it in concert with all other major ranking lists, along with the combined list produced by our own system, here in our combined Prospect Matrix.)
As with all curated lists, of course, there are some clear favorites in BA's offering , despite the calculated blanding effect provided by consensuses. BA's editors very much love Anthony Rendon, Billy Hamilton and Rymer Liriano, for example, and they join ESPN in blessing Blue Jay catcher Travis D'Arnaud with a rating that's somewhat higher than most. Of course, BA often does seem to like catchers: witness the under-attended-to Blake Swihart, BA's 72nd Top Overall Prospect, who doesn't scrape many other Top 100's.
BA is also now squarely on the bandwagon to recognize underappreciated Toronto lefty Dan Norris, and also joins the rising tide to free Mike Olt (Mike Olt!), a player we admit to having an irrational crush upon ourselves.
Zack Cox, Chris Archer, Casey Kelly, and Michael Choice are here, too, though they're a little lower-ranked than you may expect. In those cases, we're guessing BA is putting some weight into the slower-than-hoped development, or downright regression, that these players suffered last season.
Other players who you may be familiar with from Scouting Book or other sources won't be found in BA's list at all, so don't get all squinty-eyed expecting to find the likes of Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks, Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt, new Oakland catcher Derek Norris or his teammate Grant Green. You also won't find Toronto righthander Noah Syndergaard here. For details on what BA really thinks of these also-runners, you'll need to check out the aforementioned book, of course.
(BA has thankfully included Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish in their rankings, and in the more-or-less expected positions, thereby saving us a few asterisks. The as-yet-unsigned Jorge Soler isn't there yet, of course.)
One of the quirks of handmade lists (unlike our cold, calculated variety) is that a great deal of attention gets focused on whoever happens to squeeze in as #100, as opposed to whoever was somehow 'robbed' by being only 101st. This extreme level of number-fetishism has always struck us as a bit silly, when in reality the difference between a 100th-best and a 101st-best prospect is no more than a fraction of a fraction of a rounding error. If anyone could actually differentiate prospects with that refined a degree of accuracy, they wouldn't be writing about it: they'd be the GM of the team that wins the World Series. Every year. Forever.
Baseball America's rankings form a part of our calculated formula, so you will see their numbers added to each and every player page as of today, as well as elsewhere on the site, to help fuel comparison, amusement, rage and/or enjoyment.
Even though little impact will be seen on top our lists, you will inevitably see some of the usual bumping lower down, as our prospect scoring machinery recalibrates and recalculates. Even way down in the land of rounding errors, we know it's of some value to see a respected BA 'endorsement', or the lack of such a blessing, next to rankings you may be especially fond or wary of.
While BA's list is the last of the major lists to impact our ranking formula this spring, the daily happenings around baseball fields, practices, workouts and operating rooms still triggers our system to update, and we receive new data from both inside and public sources every day. So while the rankings will settle down a bit during the next month, you'll still see small changes and refinements day after day, both before and after the start of the MLB regular season.
Remember to bookmark the good old boys (and Canucks) at Baseball America, and did we mention it yet? Buy their book! It's excellent.