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A's Prospects: PECOTA vs. Baseball America
2006-02-09 13:05
by Ken Arneson

I had been getting pretty bored with Baseball Prospectus lately, but BP has suddenly awakened with a vengeance. Will Carroll's 2006 Team Health Reports are starting soon. But I really dig the new PECOTA cards. Before, my eyes would mostly glaze over when I looked at all the numbers. Now there are some nice graphs along with the numbers. The five-year "Stars and Scrubs" chart for each player is really cool: you can visualize at a glance how a player is likely to perform over the next five years. Will he be a star, a regular, or a scrub? Just look at the chart!

Along with the new cards is Nate Silver's new method for ranking prospects. Each player gets a score, based on objective measurements only (no scouting involved). What the score means is a little unclear to me, but from what I gather, a score over 300 is pretty much a can't-miss prospect, someone who is very likely to be a star. From 200-300 is a good prospect, probably will be a regular, with a modest chance to be a star. 100-200 is someone who will likely make the majors, possibly as a regular, but probably not a star.

According to PECOTA, the A's have no top-level prospects. It likes Daric Barton as a good, solid contributor, but doesn't think he's likely a superstar. An A's Top 10 prospect list from PECOTA would like this (if my math is right):

1. Daric Barton: 239.4
2. Kevin Melillo: 203.5
3. Chad Gaudin: 192.6
4. Dallas Braden: 159.1
5. Javier Herrera: 153.4
6. Matt Watson: 129.9
7. Kurt Suzuki: 122.1
8. Cliff Pennington: 120.4
9. Mike Rouse: 112.5
10. Travis Buck: 107.4

There are some names missing from PECOTA's list, like Jason Windsor, Shane Komine, and the three high-school arms drafted last year: Italiano, Mazzaro, and Lansford. And is Watson still a prospect? Compare this list to Baseball America's list (for the Los Angeles Athletics according to the title bar...), there are some holes:

1. Daric Barton, 1b
2. Javier Herrera, of
3. Cliff Pennington, ss
4. Travis Buck, of
5. Kevin Melillo, 2b
6. Santiago Casilla, rhp
7. Craig Italiano, rhp
8. Shane Komine, rhp
9. Vince Mazzaro, rhp
10. Kurt Suzuki, c

There are some interesting notes here. PECOTA loves Kevin Melillo more than any other prospect site I've read. Chad Gaudin looks like the guy to step in for Barry Zito when he leaves for free agency: his score is almost identical to Joe Blanton's. (I'm not sure if Gaudin was with the A's when BA made its list, or where he'd fit on it.)

On the negative side, PECOTA thinks Richie Robnett is a flop, and will be out of baseball within two years. It isn't much kinder to Danny Putnam. It's lukewarm on Santijairo Garcasilla and Juan Cruz, who each scored just below 100.

As for the existing core of young A's players, there are two tiers. Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, and Rich Harden are the big stars, all scoring over 400. Mark Ellis, Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Huston Street, and Dan Johnson all score in the 200's, with Joe Blanton just behind at 194.4.

What all this means, I'm not quite sure yet. You have to get used to these new measurements, compare them to other teams and players, learn its strengths and weaknesses, and absorb them. But it's fun to have a new tool to play with. I'm looking forward to the rest of Silver's series on using PECOTA for measuring prospects. Welcome back, BP!

2006-02-09 14:19:13
1.   For The Turnstiles
I also thought Silver's article yesterday was one of the best things I had read on BP in a long time. On the question of comparing the value of different types of prospects, there are certainly wrong answers, but there isn't really a single right one, and as you say, it will take some time before we can really judge how useful BP's new method is.

On the A's ratings:
Was Matt Watson ever a prospect? I think one of the weaknesses of BP's methods (and of stats-only methods in general) is that they tend to overrate quad-A types.
The question with Melillo is his defense. I don't know what BP says, but the scouts say he is marginal at 2B, and if he has to be moved to a corner spot he loses a lot of his value.
And as someone over at BTF mentioned, this kind of system is probably going to be bearish on very young pitchers even once it has enough data to say anything at all, so I wouldn't expect to see Lansford/Italiano/Mazzaro crack the top 10 for another couple of years.
Gaudin probably has too many major league innings to count as a prospect, but he's an intriguing pickup. I'm still hoping Dan Meyer can put it back together; I imagine he would have rated very highly in this system a year ago.

2006-02-09 15:33:39
2.   Ken Arneson
Gaudin is only 23, so he's still a prospect in my eyes, even if he isn't technically a rookie. He'll probably spend most of 2006 in Sacramento, unless someone gets hurt.

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