Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nate Silver's blog tells us what we already knew: Prospect ratings are crapola

Numbers nerd Nate Silver has quit tormenting Karl Rove. Now, he's hitting on Baseball America's ridiculous annual top 100 prospect rankings.

For debunkers, it's low-hanging fruit.

Whenever I think of that BA list, I imagine 15 Mel Kipers eating donuts in the back of a bar, barking opinions about players they might have seen once, while a harried secretary tries to count votes. And this is the gold standard for assessing minor league systems? Ugh. (Note: I am NOT suggesting the Yankees system should escape the criticism it has rightfully received; three years without an impact player says it all; I'm just saying these "rankings" have always been ludicrous.) This is the list Redsock fans sleep with these days. It's a crap shoot, according to Fivethirtyeight. 

Baseball America’s top prospects, from A-Rod to Van Poppel, have been all over the place. This underscores the difficulty Baseball America, or any scouting organization, faces when trying to project the future for 20-year-old prospects, as even the most promising talents have a history of flaming out.

BA says the Yankees best prospect is Gary Sanchez, who looks disturbingly like the Second Coming of Jesus Montero. In hindsight, Montero appears to have been overly hyped by the Yankee p.r. machine, which constantly claimed he was a real future catcher. Baseball America bought it. They installed Montero high on their list. Silver's site notes that there are great Number Ones - Alex Rodriguez, for example, was a statistical Godzilla. But once you get past the top few, good night, Saigon.

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