Dynasty League Hot Corner: Just what is a top prospect worth?

If you’re playing in any kind of Dynasty League, you probably have a strong tie with top prospects coming up through the ranks.  Chances are you have a farm system were you can actually draft and hold some of this talent and once they make their big league debut you can call them up in the same way the majors does.  But what are the odds of your next top prospect actually coming up, succeeding, and preforming well enough that he becomes the star player you hoped he’d be?   Should we value these prospects to the extent that we end up making bad decisions when some other owner starts barking up our tree about trading for them?  I’m just like everybody else; I love the next hot prospect coming up just as much as the next guy, but what are the success rates for said prospect turning into a future star?

In order to gain some prospective we must go and look at past top 10 lists.  I would like to turn the clock back to the 2004-2006-2008 top 10 prospect lists.  I went every other year to eliminate duplicate names in the list.  Here is the list of the top ten prospects in those years.

2004

2006

2008

1.  Joe Mauer MIN 1.  Delmon Young TB 1.  Jay Bruce CIN
2.  B.J. Upton TB 2.  Justin Upton ARZ 2.  Evan Longoria TB
3.  Delmon Young TB 3.  Brandon Wood LAA 3.  Joba Chamberlin NYY
4.  Edwin Jackson LAD 4.  Jeremy Hermida FLA 4.  Clay Buchholz BOS
5.  Rickie Weeks MIL 5.  Stephen Drew ARZ 5.  Colby Rasmus STL
6.  Alexis Rios TOR 6.  Francisco Liriano MIN 6.  Cameron Maybin FLA
7.  Kazuo Matsui NYM 7.  Chad Billingsley LAD 7.  Clayton Kershaw LAD
8.  Greg Miller LAD 8.  Justin Verelnder DET 8.  Franklin Morales COL
9.  Grady Sizemore CLE 9.  Lastings Milledge NYM 9.  Homer Bailey CIN
10. Prince Fielder MIL 10. Matt Cain SF 10. David Price TB

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

Take a look at that list.  Sure this is a small sample size, but this is the top ten of each of those years, the elite of the elite minor league talent.  At this point in time, we have one MVP in Joe Mauer, two Cy Young winners in Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.  But how many of these guys are just everyday players or are not even in the league anymore?  For every Joe Mauer and Justin Verlander there is an Alex Rios, Lastings Milledge, or Chad Billingsley.  Average everyday big leaguers or they’re not even playing in the league anymore.

According to a study performed by Victor Wang titled “How Much is a Top Prospect Worth?” he studied the top 10 prospects from 1990-1999, he found that only 17% of position players and 4% of pitchers reached star level production as measured by WAR.  21% were bust, 62% were Everyday players or Contributors.  The further the prospect is down the list, the likely hood of them becoming a star decreases and a bust increases.  For example, prospects between 11-25 rankings have a 14%(positon players), 3%(pitchers)chance of becoming a star and a 31%(position players), 61%(pitchers) chance of being a bust .   Whether you like it or not, the odds say that the top prospect you are holding onto has a slim chance to be the next star at his position.  So when some owner starts coming to you offering up solid players that are already performing well at the MLB level, don’t be so quick to blow him off.  There might be real potential to get a great deal off some star struck prospect fan.  It’s true, you could be giving up on the next MVP or Cy Young winner, but the good thing is that there is always another one coming up around the corner.

Aaron Price, follow me on twitter @baseballrantman


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  • Josh

    Out of the 29 players listed (Young is on there 2x), 6 are basically replacement/avg MLB players (Rios, Billingsley, Liriano, Chamberlain, Bailey, and Morales). Each of these 6 showed some flashes of good/great production at one time at the MLB level, most during the first couple of years. There are 5 players that would not even warrant a roster spot in the deepest of league (Matsui, Miller, Wood, Hermida, and Milledge). Each of these 5 players only had the promise, but for one reason or another, that promise never came to fruition.

    So, 18 out of 29 (62%) of the list you provided are at the worst decently producing MLB players. In the new fad of salary cap/contract leagues that are springing up, these players are considerably cheaper and more controllable than established players. If I can hold on to a guy that has a better than 50/50 chance to produce at least a little better than average, I will most likely hold on to him instead of trading him for an older, more expensive version of himself, where there is no upside. As you alluded to, it is the upside that you are paying for.

    Now if you need someone producing now to help you win the league, you make that trade because a guy in the minors will not help you win the league this year…but trading Minors before the season starts for a non-superstar type player, just does not make sense to most folks.

    • swingbuddy

      Top 10 prospects can kill a fanstasy baseball team, especially if they are over valued. A list of niether everyday players nor a list of breakout potential prospect are ever going to win a league. Regardless of the league your in Cap/Contract, redraft, 10 keeper, the name of the game is research and discover the trend so you can find the next guy who is going on a tear. I had to draft Allen Craig this year because I let Brett Gardner slide. Although Craig is not a prospect, he gleams in the fans eye as a guy who is next on the scene. In that sense, I would disagree with Josh that because that would make Craigs potential upside a better option than Gardner. Lookig back two tiers up and two years ago, I could easily see some one kicking themselves for trading Kemp in 2009 for Wieters and Werth and the allure of upside! Prospects have a nominal value depending on who your talking to I agree with the writer don’t to get sucked into passing up a great deal!