Thursday, February 09, 2012

Evaluating Minor League Systems

There is a certain theatrical suspension of disbelief in all prospect evaluations. Guys who are on everyone's "can't miss" list, miss. Occasionally players no one notices in the low minors suddenly blossom as they move up the ladder, but nowhere near as often. In short, every evaluation of a team's prospects is inevitably way off mark and almost always on the optimistic side.

What that means for rankings of team's minor league systems is that even the difference between ranking first and last may not hold up when you look back on the careers of the players in the systems. Most systems will have less than 10 players in them at any one time who will make significant future contributions at the major league levels. By significant, I mean players who are regular starters or play a major role in the bullpen. So just a couple of players doing better or worse than expected can switch the rankings of two teams around.

For an example, lets look at the players who have significant major league experience and were prospects in the Twins minor league system ten years ago, after the 2011 season:

Matt LeCroy
Grant Balfour
Juan Rincon

New Britain:
Michael Cuddyer
Justin Morneau
Lew Ford

Fort Myers:
Luis Rodriguez

Quad Cities:
Rob Bowen
Terry Tiffee

Joe Mauer

Gulf Coast:
Jason Kubel
Jose Morales

Ranking them on their major league contributions these six have had significant major league roles:

Joe Mauer
Justin Morneau
Michael Cuddyer
Jason Kubel
Juan Rincon
Grant Balfour

For contrast, here is Baseball America's top ten for that year:

1) Joe Mauer
2) Justin Morneau
3) Michael Cuddyer
4) Michael Restovich
5) Adam Johnson
6) Brad Thomas
7) Juan Rincon
8) Rob Bowen
9) Matt Kinney
10)Sandy Tejada

So, as people try to evaluate how the strength of the Twins minor league system, take any conclusions with a grain of salt. We all hope guys like Sano and Hick will become great players like Mauer and Morneau. But its just as likely some guy we haven't heard of will turn into Jason Kubel.

1 comment:

Jim H said...

I agree it is good to take those type of evaluations with a grain of salt. I do remember those prospects. It is hard to fault BA for missing Kubel, an 8th round pick in the Gulf Coast league. Adam Johnson was one of those safe picks, not so high a ceiling but sure to contribute. I don't think Tejada ever got out of A ball, but he was supposed to throw hard with good stuff.

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