Prospects - How valuable are they really?

Saturday, October 23 2021 @ 01:13 PM EDT

Contributed by: John Northey

This is going to be a big discussion with the Jays looking to make big trades and/or signings over the next few months in an effort to win now. How risky are prospects? Are top 100 ones safe bets? Top 10? What about the Jays own top 10? Lets check.

Lets start with the best of the best...
Jays in the top 10 Baseball America list ever.  Years are the upcoming season (named in the offseason)
#1: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the only one here in 2019
#2: No Jay ever ranked here
#3: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in 2018, John Olerud 1990
#4: Carlos Delgado 1993, Alex Gonzalez 1994, Vernon Wells 2000
#5: Delgado1994
#6: Shawn Green 1995, Alex Rios 2004, Travis Snider 2009 (oops)
#7-10: Nate Pearson 2020, Alex Gonzalez 1995, Bo Bichette 2018/2019, and Jose Silva 1994

Vlad, Olerud, Delgado, Wells, and Alex Gonzalez #1) with only Alex Gonzalez was a non-star (11.2 WAR 8 years as an everyday player plus 5 more with part time play or injuries)
#6-10 was still dang good but not a lock 4 stars/regulars (Green, Rios, Alex Gonzalez, Bo) plus 1 total flop (Silva had negative WAR for his career), 1 failure (Snider - 4.3), and 1 TBD (Pearson with negative WAR so far in his career but still too soon to write him off).

So top 10 overall was a safe bet as a rule to at least play everyday and all of them made the majors. Jose Silva reached with Pittsburgh but was part of a package that got Carlos Garcia, Orlando Merced and Dan Plesac (geez was Gord Ash a terrible GM).

What about the rest of the top 100?
#11-25 includes...
Big success: Wells, Halladay (twice), Derek Bell, Vlad
Made it: Travis d'Arnaud, Daniel Norris, Mark Whiten
Fails: Snider, Dustin McGowan, Eddie Zosky, Anthony Alford (technically could still become something good but very unlikely)

TBD: Pearson, Austin Martin

26-50 includes...

Big success: Shawn Green (twice), Chris Carpenter, Steve Karsay, Halladay, Shannon Stewart
Made it: Aaron Sanchez (twice), Alex Gonzalez, Felipe Lopez (twice), Billy Koch, Josh Phelps, Dustin McGowan (twice), Travis d'Arnaud, Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie, Danny Jansen, J.P. Arencibia, Glenallen Hill
Fails: Brett Wallace, Kyle Drabek, Dalton Pompey, Jose Silva, Guillermo Quiroz, Anthony Gose, Marty Janzen, Nigel Wilson
TBD: Jordan Groshans (twice)

51-100 includes...
Big success: Vernon Wells (twice), Marcus Stroman, Shannon Stewart (twice), Aaron Hill, Carlos Delgado, Mike Timlin, Jayson Werth (twice), Derek Bell, Orlando Hudson, Chris Carpenter, Aaron Hill, Marcus Stroman, Chris Carpenter (only #100 in Jays history)
Made it: Alex Sanchez (twice), Steve Karsay, Alex Gonzalez, Kelvim Escobar, Felipe Lopez, Cesar Izturis, Jake Marisnick, Brandon League, Brett Cecil, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Billy Koch, Travis d'Arnaud, Ricky Romero, Daniel Norris, Paul Spoljaric
Fails: Travis Snider, Anthony Alford (twice), D.J. Boston, Jeff Hoffman, Howard Battle, Gabe Gross (twice), Jose Pett, Sandy Martinez, Guillermo Quiroz, Eddie Zosky, Francisco Del Rosario, William Suero, Jose Pett, Deck McGuire, Jason Arnold, Dustin McGowan, Kevin Witt, Joe Lawrence
TBD: Simeon Woods Richardson (twice), Nate Pearson, Alejandro Kirk, Sean Reid-Foley, Eric Pardinho, Jordan Groshans, Nate Pearson, Kevin Smith, Rowdy Tellez, Orelvis Martinez

So by the bottom 50 you get lots of fails while the big successes often were ranked here early and climbed up higher before reaching and staring. Lots of 'made it' which I see as never being a real star but was a solid producer for awhile or a reliever. One can argue about exactly where to put guys but flops are 'best is Travis Snider', for made it best is Aaron Sanchez types (very good but uneven will always be someone you go 'what if' with), Big success = thank goodness we didn't trade him or 'curse you Gord Ash'

What about the Jays top 10-30 every year?  Let's look.  Using Baseball America as they have done this the longest and are well regarded.
Rank 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
1 Vernon Wells Vernon Wells Josh Phelps Dustin McGowan Alex Rios Brandon League Dustin McGowan Adam Lind Travis Snider Travis Snider Zach Stewart Kyle Drabek Travis D'Arnaud Aaron Sanchez Aaron Sanchez Daniel Norris Anthony Alford Vladimir Guerrero Jr Vladimir Guerrero Jr Vladimir Guerrero Jr Nate Pearson Nate Pearson
2 Felipe Lopez Felipe Lopez Gabe Gross Jayson Werth Dustin McGowan Aaron Hill Ricky Romero Travis Snider Brett Cecil JP Arencibia JP Arencibia Deck McGuire Anthony Gose Roberto Osuna Marcus Stroman Aaron Sanchez Conner Greene Anthony Alford Bo Bichette Bo Bichette Jordan Groshans Austin Martin
3 Cesar Izturis Cesar Izturis Jayson Werth Kevin Cash Guillermo Quiroz Guillermo Quiroz David Purcey Ricky Romero Kevin Ahrens Brett Cecil Chad Jenkins Anthony Gose Jake Marisnick Marcus Stroman DJ Davis Jeff Hoffman Vladimir Guerrero Sean Reid-Foley Anthony Alford Danny Jansen Simeon Woods Richardson Jordan Groshans
4 Michael Young Joe Lawrence Dustin McGowan Francisco Rosario Gabe Gross Francisco Rosario Adam Lind Ryan Patterson JP Arencibia Justin Jackson David Cooper Travis D'Arnaud Daniel Norris DJ Davis Mitch Nay Dalton Pompey Richard Urena Conner Greene Nate Pearson Eric Pardinho Alejandro Kirk Simeon Woods-Richardson
5 Josh Phelps Bob File Orlando Hudson Brandon League Francisco Rosario David Purcey Josh Banks Curtis Thigpen Ricky Romero David Cooper Henderson Alvarez Zach Stewart Justin Nicolino John Stilson Franklin Barreto Franklin Barreto Sean Reid-Foley Richard Urena Lourdes Gurriel Jordan Groshans Alek Manoah Alejandro Kirk
6 Gary Glover Chuck Kegley Eric Hinske Alex Rios Aaron Hill Russ Adams Casey Janssen Francisco Rosario Justin Jackson Kevin Ahrens Jake Marisnick Asher Wojciechowski Aaron Sanchez Daniel Norris Daniel Norris Max Pentecost Jon Harris Rowdy Tellez Eric Pardinho Nate Pearson Orelvis Martinez Orelvis Martinez
7 Brent Abernathy Brian Cardwell Brandon League Russ Adams David Bush Dustin McGowan Brandon League Brandon Magee John Tolisano Brad Mills Josh Roenicke JP Arencibia Noah Syndergaard Matt Smoral Roberto Osuna Roberto Osuna Rowdy Tellez T.J. Zeuch Danny Jansen Kevin Smith Gabriel Moreno Alek Manoah
8 Andy Thompson Pasqual Coco Alex Rios Vinnie Chulk Vince Perkins Zach Jackson Francisco Rosario Jesse Litsch Curtis Thigpen Ricky Romero Brad Mills Carlos Perez Deck McGuire Anthony Alford Alberto Tirado Richard Urena Max Pentecost Bo Bichette Logan Warmoth Sean Reid-Foley Miguel Hiraldo Gabriel Moreno
9 Kevin Witt Jay Gibbons Kevin Cash Gabe Gross Russ Adams Josh Banks Curtis Thigpen David Purcey David Purcey Marc Rzepczynski Justin Jackson Aaron Sanchez Drew Hutchison AJ Jimenez Dawel Lugo Miguel Castro Justin Maese Jon Harris Richard Urena Cavan Biggio Anthony Kay Adam Kloffenstein
10 John Sneed Matt Ford Tyrell Godwin Guillermo Quiroz Brandon League Gustavo Chacin Vince Perkins Balbino Fuenmayor Ryan Patterson Brad Emaus Carlos Perez Jake Marisnick Asher Wojciechowski Tyler Gonzales Sean Nolin Sean Reid-Foley DJ Davis Justin Maese Ryan Borucki Miguel Hiraldo Adam Kloffenstein Miguel Hiraldo

So the #1's have... (WAR in brackets), SS=Silver Slugger, GG=Gold Glove, AS=All-Star
Big Success:  Wells (twice 28.6, 3 GG 3 AS, SS), Rios (27.3 2 AS), Vlad (3 times, 9.4 AS and probably SS this year too)
Did OK:  League (2.7 - AS reliever), Lind (12.7, SS), d'Arnaud (4.4, SS), Sanchez (twice 9.5 AS), Norris (5.4)
Flop: McGowan (twice 1.6), Snider (twice 4.3), Stewart (-1.7), Drabek(-0.1), Alford (0.0), Phelps (3.2)
TBD: Pearson (twice -0.1)

Ugh, not as good as I hoped - 6 flops (not really regulars, platoon at best or meh start/relief) covering 7 seasons out of 22 (roughly 1 in 3 seasons).  For a prospect to be worth holding you want a guy getting 5+ WAR lifetime or doing something of note (AS, regular for a long time, whatever)

113 unique players in the #2-10, by my rough count 12 made All-Star teams (easily could've missed some) - Aaron Hill; Aaron Sanchez; Alex Rios; Bo Bichette; Brandon League; Brett Cecil; Henderson Alvarez; Marcus Stroman; Michael Young; Noah Syndergaard; Orlando Hudson; Vladimir Guerrero

So a fair amount of success there.  Suggests a 1 in 10 chance roughly of a guy in the top 10 being a future All-Star (although a few were of the reliever type where one lucky first half could sneak you in).  A lot of 'never were' guys there too plus one who became a damn fine manager in Kevin Cash.  I'm sure if we check the #11-20 and 21-30 we'd see less success (logically). but this gives you an idea of what quality you get from a top 10 prospect.  Some years were better than others obviously (the mid 00's were a nightmare as one can see).

So if the Jays give up one of their top 10 prospects we are looking at a 1 in 10 chance of them being really good.   1 in 3 for the #1 guy of being worth holding.

Current top 10 via in order...
Gabriel Moreno, Orelvis Martinez, Jordan Groshans, Gunnar Hoglund, Otto Lopez, Miguel Hiraldo, Adam Kloffenstein, Estiven Machado, Kevin Smith, Manuel Beltre - 6 are listed as SS (plus 3B 3 times, 2B once), Lopez as INF/OF, 2 pitchers, plus a catcher in Moreno.  History suggests a majority won't make it as a regular, that Moreno has only a 1 in 3 chance of being a very solid guy (10+ WAR or All-Star).

So how much do you risk if you trade, say, Martinez and Groshans and Kirk (lets imagine him as a top 10 prospect still)?  All 3 would be top 100 guys, but not top 10.  Lets be generous and say they are all top 50's.  11-50 had 26% shot at stardom (Green), 44% at 'meh' (JPA), 29% at 'crap' (Snider).  If you get a star for those 3 you are giving up roughly an 80% chance of having 1+ star out of them for super cheap, a near lock that at least one would be 'meh', and an 88% chance of one failing.  This isn't a perfect evaluation but it does give a strong idea of what kind of risk the Jays would take if they sent 3 top prospects to get 1 all-star.  If they sent 2 of them then the odds of losing a star drops to 54%, of having one of the 2 flopping 59%.  Both flopping = 8.5%, both stars = 7.2%.  However, the other end is you need stars NOW (possible for Kirk or Groshans), not 3-5 years from now (Martinez likely window).  If they are top 10 in MLB then the risk goes through the roof of giving up a star for short term gain.  The latest rumors suggest the Jays want RamirezBieber &/or Clase (odds are Cleveland will be rebuilding until those guys are near FA again).  Might mean a 2013 type trade where a lot of kid talent goes away but it might also push the Jays deep into the playoffs in 2022 and 2023.  I doubt it happens but boy would it be nuts if it did.

What will the Jays do?  I suspect it depends on budget.  Given we suspect it is high I expect them to be aggressive in free agency for 3B (try to get a guy to convert from SS) while living with Biggio/Espinal at 2B or vice versa.  Groshans will have a chance to play in AAA as will Lopez (sharing SS/2B/3B with Smith) creating a logjam which will be used to acquire more pitching most likely.  I expect when they do give in and make a trade they will accept that one of the guys lost will be painful in a few years but reaching the playoffs would cut that pain a lot.  I know in the 90's it hurt to see Kent be a 50+ WAR guy in exchange for a few months of David Cone but that 1992 WS banner will hang forever.