We had to wait for the lockdown to end, but MLB Pipeline finally published the last of the major Top 100 Prospects lists. This completes the set with lists of Baseball America, baseball flyers, Fangraphs, Live Insightsas well as Kiley McDaniel for ESPNand Keith Law for athletics.
Many of these lists have been written here, but with seven lists we can do more. Much like creating an average of polls during election season, we can get the wisdom of the crowds and reduce bias. In the context of leads, this balances listmakers who favor proximity to majors versus those who favor upside; those who are better at spotting pitchers vs. those who are better at spotting hitters; and those who are rigorous against those whose methodology is more… mercurial [cough, Keith Law, cough].
The process is simple. For each time a player appears on a roster, give that player an inverse number of points. Thus, ranking first earns a player 100 points and ranking 100th earns a player one point. (Some rosters rank over 100 prospects, but using data for those players makes things less reliable than picking a boundary where all rosters end.)
Then rank players by the total number of points they received, from Adley Rutschman with his 698 out of a possible 700 points to Mets outfielder Alex Ramirez in 161st based on his single point to be ranked 100th top prospect. on just one single list.
For example, Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz is ranked 11th in Baseball America, for which he scores 90 points. Being 39th on Baseball Prospectus gets him 62 points, Kiley McDaniel ranking him 27th adds 74 points, 29th on Prospects Live gets 72 points and being unranked by Fangraphs, Kieth Law and MLB Pipeline scores zero. That’s a total of 298 points, which puts him 49th overall, despite not being ranked by three outlets. This is the point of considering the lists together.
By that metric, the Mariners land five prospects in the top 100.
Want to guess who Mariner’s best prospect is? Yeah. Seattle’s best prospect since A-Rod is No. 3 with 680 points. The top three of Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt, Jr. and Julio Rodriguez rebounded during the roster season, with cases facts for one of them ranked first. But over the course of seven lists, there is real distance between them, from Adley’s 698 points to Witt’s 694 and Julio’s 680.
This suggests that while the expert class may see the differences between the three as slight, there is actually a clearer order than the commentary might lead you to believe. Much of the distance between Julio and Witt is due to Keith Law ranking Julio 9th, but even without that Julio would clearly be third. Still, with the show he put on during spring training, he might make reviewers regret the lack of respect.
Noelvi Marte is second among the Mariners, 12th overall, with 613 points. It might just be me, but I feel like Noelvi has been buried under Julio’s titanic imprint this season. But imagine if we didn’t have Julio in the system. We would be so thrilled to have a shortstop prospect who put up a .373 wOBA on the A ball as a 19-year-old. Don’t let Julio’s supernova blind you to Noelvi’s potential greatness.
The third (!) prospect in the Mariners’ top-25 system is George Kirby, ranked 21st with 519 points, making him the fourth-highest ranked pitcher. From there, it’s a pretty substantial drop for Kirby’s counterpart in the battle for fifth rotational spot, with Matt Brash’s 115 points putting him at number 85. Not bad for a prospect who doesn’t. was not on a single list at this time last year that the Sailors got in exchange for a reliever that the team picked up waivers that just came from settled for minor league deal.
Rounding out the list is 2021 top pick Harry Ford. Ford, a prep pick from Georgia, ranked No. 49 on Keith Law’s list, with Law calling him “a more runner with elite batting speed, and… more raw power with the projection to reach 70 or more”. He was also one of the Fangraphs choose to clickamong those they consider most likely to feature in their next Top 100 list.
And despite ranking outside the aggregate top 100, Emerson Hancock ranked 118th on the list with 36 points. Given his ongoing health issues, however, this could be his peak for a while.
The centerpiece of the Winker/Suarez comeback, Brandon Williamson, lands in 95th, just below Harry Ford, although he does it now for Cincinnati.
But what’s really great about this approach is that you can add up all the points earned by prospects from each organization. This is, in my opinion, the best way to assess the top of an organization’s farming system. It’s more holistic than simply counting the number of prospects that come onto a given list, like this image that MLB Pipeline keeps trotting:
According to this methodology, a team like the Reds, with six prospects in the top 100, is punished for the absence of a genuine elite prospect. And it similarly punishes a team for having the biggest names but fewer likely role players, like the Royals with Witt at the top, but not much below. Here’s how the organization’s ranking plummets:
Top 100 Aggregated Prospects
|Rank||Team||Points||Top 100||Leads on any top 100 list|
|Rank||Team||Points||Top 100||Leads on any top 100 list|
By that metric, as you can see, the Mariners sit solidly second, with a huge gap to the third-placed Pirates.
The other good news here is how bad the rest of the division looks by this metric. The Rangers sit 9th, but with all the daylight of George Kirby between Seattle’s 2,029 points and their 1,504. Other than them, the AL West appear to be in bad shape going forward. Even after trading Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt, the A’s are still in the final third, with the Angels and penultimate Astros backed only by the truly sterile White Sox.
It’s encouraging that Seattle’s system looks so good even after getting Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert and Cal Raleigh last year. But at some point, having elite prospects is going to have to turn into winning. Here’s hoping 2022 is the year that happens.