We had to wait for the lockout to end, but MLB Pipeline finally published the last of the major top-100 prospects lists. This rounds out the set with lists from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Prospects Live, as well as Kiley McDaniel for ESPN, and Keith Law for the Athletic.
Several of these lists got written up here, but with seven lists, we can do more. Like creating a polling average during election season, we can get the wisdom of the crowds and reduce bias. In the prospects context, this balances the listmakers who prioritize proximity to the Majors against those who prioritize upside; those who are better at scouting pitchers against those who are better at scouting 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 list, give that player an inverse number of points. So ranking first gets a player 100 points and ranking 100th gets them one point. (Some lists rank more than 100 prospects, but using data for those players actually makes things less reliable than picking a cutoff where all the lists end.)
Then rank the players by the total points they received, all the way from Adley Rutschman with his 698 out of a possible 700 points down to Mets’ outfielder Alex Ramirez in 161st based on his lone point for being ranked the 100th best prospect on just a single list.
As an example, Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz is ranked 11th at Baseball America, for which he gets 90 points. Being 39th at Baseball Prospectus gets him 62 points, Kiley McDaniel ranking him 27th adds 74 points, 29th at Prospects Live gets 72 points, and being unranked by Fangraphs, Keith Law, and MLB Pipeline nets zero. That’s a total of 298 points, which puts him 49th overall, even though he’s unranked by three outlets. This is the value of considering the lists together.
By this metric, the Seattle Mariners land five prospects in the top 100.
Want to guess who’s the top Mariner prospect? Yup. Seattle’s best prospect since A-Rod comes in at 3rd overall with 680 points. The top three of Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt, Jr., and Julio Rodriguez bounced around some during list season, with cases made for any of them ranking first. But over the course of seven lists, there’s some real distance between them, from Adley’s 698 points to Witt’s 694 and Julio’s 680.
This suggests that while the pundit class may see the differences between the three as slight, there’s actually a clearer order than the commentary might lead you to believe. Much of the distance between Julio and Witt is accounted for by Keith Law ranking Julio 9th, but even without that, Julio would be a clear third. Still, with the show he’s been putting on during Spring Training, he may make the evaluators regret the disrespect.
Coming in second among the Mariners is Noelvi Marte at 12th overall, with 613 points. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like Noelvi’s gotten buried under Julio’s titanic footprint this prospect-list season. But imagine if we didn’t have Julio in the system. We would be so stoked to have a shortstop prospect who put up a .373 wOBA at A-ball as a 19-year-old. Don’t let Julio’s supernova blind you to Noelvi’s potential greatness.
This is Noelvi Marte with a laser over the wall in left field in a scrimmage vs the Padres pic.twitter.com/pJOlqSmfE6— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 2, 2022
The third(!) top-25 prospect in the Mariners’ system is George Kirby, ranked 21st with 519 points, which makes him the fourth-highest-ranked pitcher. From there, it’s a pretty substantial drop to Kirby’s counterpart in the battle for the fifth rotation spot, with Matt Brash’s 115 points landing him at number 85. Not bad for a prospect who wasn’t on a single list this time last year that the Mariners got in exchange for a reliever the team picked up off waivers who just settled for a minor-league deal.
Rounding out the list is 2021 first-round-pick Harry Ford at 94 with 69 points. Ford, a prep pick from Georgia, ranked as high as 49th on Keith Law’s list, with Law calling him “a plus runner with elite bat speed, and … plus raw power with the projection to get to 70 or more.” He was also one of Fangraphs’ picks to click, among those they consider most likely to make their next top 100 list.
And though he ranks outside the aggregated top 100, Emerson Hancock ranked 118th on the list with 36 points. Given his continuing health problems, however, this might be his peak for a while.
The centerpiece of the Winker/Suarez return, Brandon Williamson, lands at 95th, just below Harry Ford, though he now does so for Cincinnati.
But the really great thing about this approach is that you can add up all the points each organization’s prospects accrued. This is, in my view, the best way to assess the top of an organization’s farm system. It’s more holistic than simply counting how many prospects land on a given list, like this image that MLB Pipeline keeps trotting out:
By this methodology, a team like the Reds, with six prospects in the top 100, gets punished for the lack of a truly elite prospect. And it similarly punishes a team for having a the biggest names but fewer likely role players, like the Royals with Witt at the top, but not much beneath. Here’s how the org ranking shakes out:
Aggregated Top 100 Propsects
|Rank||Team||Points||Top 100||Prospects on any top 100 list|
|Rank||Team||Points||Top 100||Prospects on any top 100 list|
By this metric, as you can see, the Mariners rank a robust second, with a huge gap ahead of the third-place Pirates.
The other great news here is how bad the rest of the division looks by this metric. The Rangers show up at 9th, but with a whole George Kirby’s worth of daylight between Seattle’s 2029 points and their 1504. Outside of them, the AL West looks to be in rough shape for the future. Even after trading Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Chris Bassitt, the A’s are still in the bottom third, along with the Angels and the second-to-last Astros, propped up above only the truly barren White Sox.
It’s encouraging that Seattle’s system looks so good even after graduating Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, and Cal Raleigh last year. But at some point, having elite prospects is going to have to turn into wins. Here’s hoping 2022 is the year that happens.