One question always seems to come up among fans in the scouting community: how accurate are these prospect lists really? Year after year major publications – Baseball America, ESPN.com, and Baseball Prospectus in particular – name their version of the top 100 or so prospects in all of baseball, and year after year young phenoms turn to old washouts. With all the busts polluting the player pool, its easy for fans to lose faith.
But there is one measure by which the prospect lists perennially come out in a favorable light: Major League All star rosters. The American and National league teams were announced today and as always, the lineups are jam-packed with prospect pedigrees. This doesn’t necessarily indicate any efficiency in the system – i.e. the percentage of “top prospects” who become stars – but does show scouts’ ability to cast a net over the most elite talent.
Seven of the National League’s nine starting position players were once members of Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt were the only outliers. Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez was the highest ranked, coming in at #5 way back in 1998, and Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Pirates outfielder each earned top 20 consideration.
In Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, and Nelson Cruz, the American League has their fare share of late-bloomers in their starting lineup and consequently fewer former top prospects. Still, five of the nine come were named to BA’s list in years past. They actually have the most high-impact prospects with five form top five representatives: Mike Trout, Derek Jeter and Matt Wieters (who is hurt and will be replaced by Salvador Perez.)
The reserves are teeming as well. The senior circuit is led by former third overall prospect Giancarlo Stanton, 16th overalls Devin Mesoraco and Starlin Castro, and 17th overall Freddie Freeman. In turn, the AL’s got Derek Norris (38th overall) and Brandon Moss (72nd), Adrian Beltre (3rd) and Alex Gordon (2nd), Edwin Encarnacion (56th) and Kurt Suzuki (89th) and Jose Abreu (29th) and Yoenis Cespedes (14th).
AL starter David Price was BA’s second overall prospect heading into the 2009 season, but he is just one of a stacked American League rotation. From Yu Darvish to Scott Kazmir to Max Scherzer, every starting pitcher on the roster was save for crafty lefthander Mark Bhuerle was a former top 70 prospect. This bunch is particularly saturated with top 10ers, with five representatives. The bullpen, by contrast, contains but a single 100 prospects, but this is not surprising; relievers rarely make such lists.
The NL pitching stockpile is equally talented, with eight of nine starters making the list over the course of their minor league careers. Seven of nine were in the top 41. Their bullpen members drew greater reviews from scouts, with Aroldis Chapman and Francisco Rodriguez each making the Baseball America top 10 in their time.
All told, 45 of the 69 players to earn All Star honors – 65% for either side were once Baseball America top 100 prospects. Considering the flukiness of individual seasons, and the thousands of players that climb through the minor league ranks each year, that’s a pretty good rate.