Future Forty 2.0
If you look over in the left nav bar, you’ll see that I’ve updated the Future Forty. However, I wouldn’t really characterize this as an update. More like an overhaul.
Basically, I’ve never been very happy with the concept of prospect lists. Everyone does them because, well, everyone else does them. Baseball America has been doing their Top 100 since the fall of Rome, seemingly. So, everyone else who wants to come across as a legitimate authority on prospect analysis makes something that they can compare to BA; mainly, a list. So, analyst after anlayst contribute their thoughts, and we get hundreds of prospect lists. And they tell us… nothing.
Seriously, a numerical list is probably the worst way to communicate information. What does it really tell us? That the #13 prospect is any more likely to contribute than the #14 prospect? Not in the slightest. For the most part, we mentally just organize the rankings into tiers. The top ten in the game are elite prospects, the next ten to twenty are good prospects with some flaws, and so on and so forth. Unless we really just want to argue, we don’t really spend any time trying to discern the miniscule differences between guys ranked next to each other. So what’s the point?
Of course, it’s pretty hypocritcal for me to sit here and bash prospect lists when I put one out every month, isn’t it? So, I’ve torn the Future Forty down and rebuilt it from scratch. What you see now is only barely similar to what you used to see. Here’s a rundown of the changes and an overview of what the new and improved Future Forty should mean to you:
Gone are the numerical rankings. There is no #1 prospect, nor #40 prospect. There are still 40 players, but the numbers next to their names are no more. The Future Forty is now a tier based system. It is made up of eight levels, so to speak, of different kinds of prospects: elite, good, solid, future, marginal, projects, suspects, and injured. I’ve included a short definition of each level in the Future Forty itself, and hopefully they are fairly understandable.
The goal, really, was to provide more information to the reader. A lot of the questions used to revolve around things like “why is Justin Leone ranked ahead of Matt Tuiasasopo”, because there wasn’t an explanation attached. Now, instead of saying one is better than the other, I’ve grouped them into seperate categories to help explain the vast differences between the two. Leone is a marginal prospect, close to the majors, while Tuiasasopo is a future prospect who needs several years of development. If you happen to like long term projects, than you’ll probably prefer Tui. If you want someone who can contribute right now, Leone’s your guy. The list wouldn’t give you any information other than “Dave isn’t as high on Tui as everyone else”. Now, rather than giving you my opinion, I’m showing my work, and letting you decide what type of prospects you prefer.
Also gone are the comments, which rarely provided a lot of insight, and were honestly a pain in the butt to write. They’ve been replaced by four categories: reward, risk, stock, and ETA. The reward category measures a players potential, while risk simply measures the chance that the player will not live up to that potential. Stock measures whether a player is improving, declining, or staying neutral in my eyes. ETA is the year that I estimate the player will arrive in the majors if he develops as expected. Obviously, not everyone will, and attrition will knock a lot of these guys off the organizational ladder before they reach the show. ETA is not a prediction of when I think they will make the Mariners 25 man roster, but rather a guage to show how many more years I think they need in the minors before they’ll be ready.
So, there’s the basic guide. Rather than looking at Asdrubal Cabrera as “the #8 prospect”, the Future Forty now tells you that he’s a Future Prospect, needs several years to develop, but has comparable potential to guys like Jeremy Reed and Shin-Soo Choo (the top position players in the system), but is also one of the highest risk prospects in the organization. Based on his expected evelopment, I wouldn’t expect him in Seattle before 2007.
You still get my opinion of the players, only now its broken down into parts rather than a whole. This should make it significantly better for the readers to ascertain what kind of player a prospect is and why he’s in the tier that he is. Obviously, as time goes on, players will move from tier to tier, though I expect movement to be minimal and slow. I’m not going to be moving Adam Jones or Oswaldo Navarro up to Good Prospect status if they start off 20 for 50 in April.
Also, you’ll note that the players are sorted within each tier first by Reward ranking, than by Risk. High Risk, High Reward players will rank ahead of Low Risk, Low Reward players in the same tier, because I believe that potential is more important than attrition in valuing prospects, though both are obviously crucial.
I hope you guys find the Future Forty 2.0 to be a huge improvement over the list style, and for the prospect mavens out there, I’d encourage you to take a look at revamping the way we present information going forward. Just because everyone else presents their data in a list doesn’t mean we have to. After all, everyone else use to evaluate players by batting average too.