Prospect Performance, Year Three: Hitters

Before the season started, I looked at prospects and their performance in their rookie year, and then I followed up with their second year performance. Now I’m looking at year three of a batting prospect’s career. At this point, one would think that players have had two years to impress the big league club, and therefore there should be more players with full-season AB, as well as more fantasy-worthy numbers across the board. Let’s get to the data.

The Method

As a reminder, I chose a yearly top-100 prospects list from a reputable source, starting with 2003 and ending with 2011. That gave me 9 seasons of top-100 lists, for a total of 900 rankings. Of the 900 prospects spots, 460 were hitters. I’m now looking at the data of these hitters in the season after they passed their rookie AB eligibility. In the first two years I put a heavier emphasis on the players who reached 400+ AB, because full AB didn’t necessarily mean decent production — and because many young hitters may have reached my criteria (at least two of .270 BA, 10+ HR, 10+ SB) in less than a full season. At year three, 20 out of the 84 hitters (23.4%) who reached 400+ AB did not meet my criteria. However, out of the 69 hitters who did reach my criteria, only 5 (7.2%) did it in fewer than 400 AB, with Ben Revere as the lowest AB total of 315 (.305 BA, 22 SB). Let’s get to the rest of the stats.

Basic Stats

  • Number of total prospect hitters based on my criteria: 140
  • Number of prospects who reached 400+ AB: 84 (51 in year one, 74 in year two)
  • Number of prospects who had 10+ HR: 84 (59 in year one, 78 in year two)
  • Number of prospects who had 10+ SB: 43 (35 in year one, 44 in year two)
  • Number of prospects who had .270+ BA: 64 (57 in year one, 53 in year two)

There were even more 400+ seasons (60%), so if you’re hoping for a daily contributor from your prospect, there’s a decent chance. There were 15 first-timers regarding the 400 AB benchmark, for 17.9% of the total. The number of 10+ HR seasons went up by 10, and between more playing time and perhaps physical development, that makes sense. The SB category dropped by an insignificant one player, proving that if prospects are going to show speed, they’ve done it by now; it doesn’t develop over time like power can. The biggest shock of the three categories is that the number of good BA jumped as much as it did. There were 10 more players with 400+ AB, though, so the player pool is bigger, but it seems that after some sophomore slump issues in the average category, perhaps batters who have a chance at a decent average have done so by year three. And of course, a .270 BA isn’t even exceptional for fantasy purposes unless you’re in a deep league.

Best of the Full Season

When it came time to select the best full seasons, there were several more players in the pool in year two. As a reminder, I opted for the following filter: a player must have 400+ AB and two of the three criteria:

  • .270+ BA
  • 10+ HR
  • 10+ SB

Of the 84 prospects with 400+ AB in year three, 64 (76.2%) of them reached my criteria. I admit this criteria isn’t perfect. For example, someone who misses the cutoff is Ryan Howard, who hit 48 HR but had only a .268 BA. And of course, some players like Chris Young hit the 10/10 mark but were not very fantasy worthy: .212/54/15/42/11 in 433 AB. Another guy who missed was a valuable catcher, Matt Wieters (.262, 22 HR), and yet Daric Barton made the cutoff (.273, 10 HR, 7 SB). Even so, if you exchange the “near miss” player with the “don’t deserve it” ones, things pretty much even out on the list.

Meeting the Criteria Regardless of AB

When you ignore the 400 AB benchmark and focus solely on the BA/HR/SB criteria, the number of prospects to reach them in year three jumps to 69 hitters, which is up quite a bit from year two (54) and year one (44). Even though I didn’t set the bar that high, let’s bear in mind that not every prospect is going to be a Mike Trout type player, so someone who can be a good contributor is still a nice return for a prospect you’ve rostered for a few years. However, the sad part is that 69 hitters out of the original 140 player pool is just under half, at 49.3%. The way to interpret this: of the prospects who were ranked on a top-100 list and surpassed the rookie AB limit in that same year, you only have a 50-50 chance at getting one who is capable of being decent in his third year, even when ignoring what he did in his first two seasons

Most of these players who did well in year three had at least one good year before this point, justifying their playing time. However, a few showed mediocre results in their first two years, like Miguel Montero and Domonic Brown and Jose Lopez. Quite a few showed at least flashes of potential in short stints, such as Justin Upton’s 15 HR in his year two, and Jose Reyes’s speed potential (13 SB in 274 AB year one, 19 SB in 220 AB in year two).

Strong Follow-ups from Years One and Two

As I noted in my Year Two piece, there were 54 hitters who reached my criteria for BA/HR/SB. For these players, I ignored year one and looked simply at year three, the follow-up to the solid second season. There were 41 players from the 54 (75.9%) who met the criteria in year three as well. That’s a nice follow-up rate, and it’s supported by the general baseball fact that a player’s previous year is the strongest indicator for predicting his next season.

I also tracked those players who had 400+ AB in their rookie years, and there were 48 hitters. In year two, 35 of them repeated that 400+ AB benchmark. Now that we’re in year three, the number drops even more, to 27. That means only 56.3% of prospects who reached 400+ AB in their first year maintained a full-time status through the first three years.

Finding the Diamond in the Rough

Naturally, we all want to pick the next Mike Trout or Albert Pujols. Fantasy managers who are holding onto Byron Buxton or Oscar Taveras are drooling at their future potential. I’ve tried to burst that prospect bubble in the first two pieces, and now I hope I can finally pop it for good. If you’re hoping that you have the top prospect who will come out of the gate strong, reaching 400+ AB and meeting two of out of three of my BA/HR/SB criteria for not just one or two years, but his first three years straight, then you have a one in eight chance that your hot Year One prospect is the guy. There were 48 players who reached 400+ AB and the performance criteria in year one. There were 24 players who repeated it in year two. And by year three, there are only 18 players who threepeated with my criteria. Remember, that’s out of 140 potential players, so 18 players is 12.8%. Here’s the table of players.

Player Rookie Year Rookie Stats Year 2 Stats Year 3 Stats
Mark Teixeira 2003 .259/66/26/84/1 in 529 AB .281/101/38/112/4 in 545 AB .301/112/43/144/4 in 644 AB
Alex Rios 2004 .286/55/1/28/15 in 426 AB .262/71/10/59/14 in 481 AB .302/68/17/82/15 in 450 AB
Jason Bay 2004 .282/61/26/82/4 in 411 AB .306/110/32/101/21 in 599 AB .286/101/35/109/11 in 570 AB
Prince Fielder 2006 .271/82/28/81/7 in 569 AB .288/109/50/119/2 in 573 AB .276/86/34/102/3 in 588 AB
Conor Jackson 2006 .291/75/15/79/1 in 485 AB .284/56/15/60/2 in 415 AB .300/87/12/75/10 in 540 AB
Nick Markakis 2006 .291/72/16/62/2 in 491 AB .300/97/23/112/18 in 637 AB .306/106/20/87/10 in 595 AB
Hanley Ramirez 2006 .292/119/17/59/51 in 633 AB .332/125/29/81/51 in 639 AB .301/125/33/67/35 in 589 AB
Russell Martin 2006 .282/65/10/65/10 in 415 AB .293/87/19/87/21 in 540 AB .280/87/13/69/18 in 553 AB
Ian Kinsler 2006 .286/65/14/55/11 in 423 AB .263/96/20/61/23 in 483 AB .319/102/18/71/26 in 518 AB
Chris Young 2007 .237/85/32/68/27 in 569 AB .248/85/22/85/14 in 625 AB .212/54/15/42/11 in 433 AB
Ryan Braun 2007 .324/91/34/97/15 in 451 AB .285/92/37/106/14 in 611 AB .320/113/32/114/20 in 635 AB
Hunter Pence 2007 .322/57/17/69/11 in 456 AB .269/78/25/83/11 in 595 AB .282/76/25/72/14 in 585 AB
Evan Longoria 2008 .272/67/27/85/7 in 448 AB .281/100/33/113/9 in 584 AB .294/96/22/104/15 in 574 AB
Joey Votto 2008 .297/69/24/84/7 in 526 AB .322/82/25/84/4 in 469 AB .324/106/37/113/16 in 547 AB
Andrew McCutchen 2009 .286/74/12/54/22 in 433 AB .286/94/16/56/33 in 570 AB .259/87/23/89/23 in 572
Starlin Castro 2010 .300/53/3/41/10 in 463 AB .307/91/10/66/22 in 674 AB .283/78/14/78/25 in 646 AB
Austin Jackson 2010 .293/103/4/41/27 in 618 AB .249/90/10/45/22 in 591 AB .300/103/16/66/12 in 543 AB
Eric Hosmer 2011 .293/66/19/78/11 in 523 AB .232/65/14/60/16 in 535 AB .302/86/17/79/11 in 623 AB

The first thing I note is that most of these guys are (or were) certified superstars during their careers. However, there are a few lightweights, such as Conor Jackson (good but not great player), Russell Martin (catching made him a top-3 at his position), and Chris Young (power/speed decreasing over time, poor BA). Other players had one poor season (Austin Jackson, Eric Hosmer).

Conclusion

With the increase in players who met my criteria to 69, there is an average of 7-8 prospect hitters per year who are fantasy worthy by year three. That’s up from year two, when it was 6, but not by much. In year one the range was 4-5 per year. If you take the low end of year one and the high end of year three, then the rate of good fantasy production has doubled (from 4 to 8). Even so, that’s 8 names per year out of a top-100 list who is above-average in year three. That’s still not even one good hitting prospect per team per year.

Oh, and remember when I said it was a one in eight chance of hitting gold on your hot first-year prospect? That’s true when you’re starting with one of those hot prospects, yet that’s a low chance in my book. But remember, the total number of potential hitting prospects from this study was 460 hitters out of the 900 players on the top-100 lists. So when you really get down to it, over nine years there are 18 out of 460 hitters who are above-average from the beginning. That’s a horrific 3.9% chance that the hitter you take in your minors draft is going to be good enough to start on your team in each of his first three years. Still want to give up Miguel Cabrera for Byron Buxton and a 3B filler like Kyle Seager? I sure don’t.

Kevin Jebens

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.

2 thoughts on “Prospect Performance, Year Three: Hitters”

  1. I’m in a 12 team h2h points league. Have Phillips and Kendricks at 2B and Castro and Simmons at SS. Would you drop any of these to pick up Javier Baez.

    1. Kevin is on vacation so I hope you don’t mind I jump in here.
      I’m assuming this is a yearly league without any keepers; if so, I wouldn’t drop any of them right now. If you play with a MI slot, you could likely get a decent trade return for one of them. I like Simmons best of those 4, then I’d move according to who I could get a better return for. If no MI, then you can afford to let one go. If you have no other roster needs, Baez is a decent speculative grab. I’m not sure he’ll contribute a lot in 2014 but if you can handle the lost lineup spot, then take a chance. If you can keep 4 or more players, yes I’d do it immediately.

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