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Reflecting on Top 100 Lists, Part 2


In Part 1 of this series, I took a look at players on my pre-2011 top 100 prospect list that I ranked aggressively. In Part 2, I’m going to focus on the opposite–the players I was down on.

As I mentioned at the end of Part 1, my success rate on the aggressive rankings was somewhat low, but that’s only natural, as prospect attrition can make even the soundest of rankings look bad in hindsight. Of course, though, that means that being low on a prospect is more likely to prove prophetic than being high on one.

With that in mind, here are the prospects I was quite a bit lower on than most before the 2011 season:

Bryce Harper, #9

I’m pretty cautious with guys who haven’t proven anything, and when I made this ranking, Harper hadn’t even suited up for the 2010 Arizona Fall League yet. Obviously, he put the concerns to bed. I wouldn’t call this a failure, though, as I would’ve readily admitted at the time that he had #1 upside–I was just waiting for him to prove it.

Jesus Montero, #20

Montero certainly didn’t do any better in 2011 than he did in 2010, though most remain high on him. I dropped him to 42nd this year, though, and will discuss that more in Part 4.

Aroldis Chapman, #26

If there’s one thing I seem to be consistently ahead of the curve on, it’s that I tend to sound the “Wait, this guy might just stay in relief forever” alarm earlier than others. Most assumed Chapman was going to become a dominant starter at this point; I was worried that he was going to stay in relief, and it’s looking more and more like that’s what will happen–and also, that it’s what should happen, given his terrible control in 2011.

Zach Britton, #52

I never quite understood what made Britton suddenly become a Top 20 prospect on many lists–his 7.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 didn’t really stun me, and I didn’t see him as having the grade of stuff to become an ace. I saw him as more of a mid-rotation guy. We can’t really judge him after just one MLB season, but his 97/62 K/BB ratio will need substantial improvement going forward if he’s going to be more than a decent #3 guy. His three-pitch mix also proved to be rather nondescript, other than the fact that his fastball has nice sink and gets grounders.

Aaron Hicks, #67

I’ve always struggled to come around to Hicks, and didn’t rank him in 2009, but I saw enough improvement for him to get this spot last year. 2011 then saw him basically repeat his rather unimpressive 2009 season, so he fell back off my list again this year, and many others finally jumped off the bandwagon.

Dustin Ackley, #71

A mistake, and one I realized when he went out and tore up the AFL. I have a policy of not changing my rankings once I finalize them, but if I didn’t, his .424/.581/.751 showing would’ve done a lot to get him in the range most others had him in. I had the “Well, if he’s so good at hitting, why hasn’t he hit much?” mentality, and obviously he proved he could do some special things in the AFL. There was also a lot of skepticism about how he profiled defensively at second at this point.

Kyle Drabek, unranked

Some saw Drabek as a top 10 prospect at this stage, but I never quite understood what everyone saw in him. He’s a small guy with a major injury on his record, he didn’t have much of a third pitch, he had exactly one stretch of 8+K/9 pitching in his career, and he was coming off a worse than 2/1 K/BB ratio in Double-A. Needless to say, he imploded even more than I would’ve expected in 2011. I can’t say whether I was wary of him for the right reasons or the wrong ones, but he sure burned a lot of people, and I wasn’t one of them.

Brett Lawrie, unranked

Before I get too proud of myself about Drabek, I’ll bring myself crashing back to earth. I really should’ve recognized how special it was to be solid in Double-A at age 20, but I didn’t and instead made the same “He hasn’t overwhelmed yet, so I’m skeptical” mistake that I did with Ackley. I got burned on this harder than I possibly could’ve imagined.

Jason Kipnis, unranked

I can’t honestly remember my rationale for leaving Kipnis off, though I’d guess it was largely the fact that he was a 23-year-old in the mid-minors, and like Ackley, he was a late convert to second who wasn’t a sure bet to stick there. I’m not losing sleep over this one, but it was too pessimistic in retrospect.

Tyler Matzek, unranked

Here’s a situation where the stats were ahead of the scouts, so statistically-minded observers like myself grew wary of Matzek before scouting types did. Obviously, the situation dramatically eroded for him in 2011, and he’s now down to “very-high-risk, high-reward sleeper” status.

Lonnie Chisenhall, unranked

Another case of me not being enamored by a guy’s numbers. I saw Chisenhall as an average starting third baseman, but not a star; others loved his swing a lot and thought he’d grow into something. It’s too soon to call, but it does seem that his stock is down after a rather bland 2011 between Triple-A and the majors.

Jose Iglesias, unranked

I was, of course, asking the “Can he hit?” question. The answer, if 2011 numbers are to be believed, is a resounding “no.”

Casey Kelly, unranked

Kelly got slightly worse on repeating Double-A, though like with Montero, his believers stayed with him. His stock obviously isn’t up, though. More on him in Part 4.

Grant Green, unranked

I was off this bandwagon early, skeptical of his power (the Cal League effect), plate approach, and defense. Basically the same player in 2011, except without the CAL power boost and moved to center field; it didn’t surprise anyone that he was omitted from most lists this year.

Brody Colvin, unranked

I’m not sure what made so many get on the Colvin bandwagon (not to mention still be on it today), but I saw him as more of a reliever due to his delivery and non-elite strikeout ability. He struggled in 2011 and his stock is down.

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Okay, I missed badly on Kipnis, worse on Ackley, and Lawrie really leaves egg on my face. Beyond that, though, there’s not a whole lot I got wrong here–you can complain about Harper, but that’s not really consequential, and my differing from most on Montero has yet to reach a conclusion that supports either side.

Being down on Chapman, Drabek, and Matzek looks smart, and I placed Britton and Hicks more correctly than most, I think. Chisenhall, Iglesias, Green, and Colvin also saw their stock fall to sub-top 100 levels (although Chisenhall no longer qualifies).

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Overall, I think the 2011 list turned out okay, given that it was only the third time I had been through the exercise. My “stretches” were mostly wrong, but I had a few big hits like Brandon Beachy; my pessimistic selections were mostly right, but I had a few big misses like Lawrie. I identified a few areas I could improve on–I needed to stop overrating short-season players, and I needed to stop being so rigid in my mentality of “You have to prove you can dominate somewhere in the minors before you can project to do well in the majors.”

On the 2012 list, I also took a lot more time in doing the rankings, and did much more substantive and rigorous comparisons of players that gave me better perspective on where to rank them. Had I done that for this list, rather than going more on a gut feel, things might have come out a bit less wonky in places. But, hey, you have to make mistakes to learn.

Later today in Part 3, I’ll take a look at the two-month-old 2012 list, and go over some of my more aggressive picks there.

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Tags: Aaron Hicks Aroldis Chapman Brett Lawrie Brody Colvin Bryce Harper Casey Kelly Dustin Ackley Featured Grant Green Jason Kipnis Jesus Montero Jose Iglesias Kyle Drabek Lonnie Chisenhall Popular Tyler Matzek Zach Britton