Not a Prospect List
Opening disclaimer: I love Baseball America. I've been a subscriber for years; I read it cover to cover when it comes in (OK, not really cover-to-cover, since the old media guys in the front put me to sleep, but you know what I mean); I've built a small shrine to it in my basement.
Nonetheless, Baseball America has been the source of one of the great evils of our time -- the prospect list. We all know why they do it, of course; people like lists, and they like feeling like insiders, so prospect lists move copies. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but these lists need to be kept out of the hands of people who make actual decisions, because they're reversing the process. It's the result of what I've heard called The Halo Effect.
Let's look at a couple of players:
Now, there is an age factor here, as A was a year older than B in the years represented (although they're the same age in real life), but it's interesting how these tracks went, especially since they were both seasoned college players and not teenagers when they turned pro. A is Jon Knott, and Year 1 for him is 2002. Player B is Xavier Nady, and Year 1 for him was 2001. There is no reason in what's shown here that Nady should have been moved faster (or, since this isn't really about Nady, that Knott should have been moved slower). However, Nady was a second round draft choice who had been on every prospect list on the planet, while Knott was an undrafted free agent no one had ever heard of, so not only did Nady move faster up the ladder, he spent another year in San Diego in 2005 while Knott wandered in the wilderness of the PCL again. The Halo Effect does its damage, and prospect lists are one of the root causes of that.
All of this is a long prelude to what could, if you don't look closely, be mistaken for a prospect list. There is a difference, but feel free to laugh at my inconsistency for a moment if you wish. What follows is actually what the decision makers should be looking at, or at least a variant of it; it's a performance list. What follows is the list of the top performances by my favorite evaluation measures for college players by last year's sophomore class. The difference in this and a prospect list is that I haven't talked to anyone, much less a scout, I've never seen most of these guys, and the next time I use the word "toolsy" will be the first.
Now, you heard what I said earlier about talking to scouts, right? There's a temptation here to push the word count up by trying to offer a pithy comment about each of these guys, but that's not what we're doing here. These are the guys who have performed, and no one should care if they're strapping young hunks of manhood or guys who look up to Quasimodo, or would if they could keep up with him.
So, on to the pitchers. These guys are ranked by another creation of mine that I call RBOA (Runs Below Opponent Average), which is exactly what it sounds like. Because RBOA is a counting stat, it is affected by playing time issues, so sophomores who make their way into the rotation at midseason will suffer in this list. On the other hand, the college season is short enough that a pitcher who's only been in the rotation for half a season hasn't really provided enough of a sample size to be judged, so I think I'm OK with that.
These, therefore, are the guys you want to start your watch list for next year with, although in this case there is a caveat. College pitchers often carry a tremendous workload, especially when measured with pitch counts. If that's something that concerns you, either professionally through your organization's stance or personally through your fantasy philosophy, do your homework on that front as well.
See, two perfectly good lists of players to watch, and I didn't use the word "gamer" once.
Boyd Nation is chief cook and bottlewasher at Boyd's World, a college baseball stats and analysis site, and provides college baseball data consulting to an undisclosed number of major league teams. In real life, he's an information security guy with a beautiful wife and three great kids in Birmingham, Alabama.