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Are Elite Speed Prospects Very Likely to Succeed?

In a previous post, one that was featured in Beyond the Box Score's Sabersphere, I used Baseball America's organizational rankings to see which kind of pitchers succeeded in the Majors. I found that the elite fastball and elite curveball pitchers were the most likely to succeed, and changeup and control pitchers the least likely. Here, continuing this line of research, I looked at Baseball America's organizational rankings from 2007-2009 and looked at who Baseball America ranked as the fastest baserunners and best athletes. I wanted to introduce what I would call a statistical control group as well, so I looked at FanGraphs' speed score, and took the top player from each organization's system from 2006-2008 (and designated it with the year + 1, as rankings come out in the off-season but basically reflect the previous season). This is why I started in 2007, as FanGraphs didn't start logging MiLB numbers until 2006. I ended in '09, to give the players a chance to make the Majors or not. To measure their MLB time statistically, I used Baseball Reference's WAA (Wins above average, which I prefer to WAR for positional players, as everything is weighed against average, instead of baserunning and defense being weighed against average, while batting is weighed against replacement level). Of course, Baseball Reference's defensive measurement, DRS, is the most aggressive defensive metric. So, I designed what I call WAA + FRAA, which is technically RBat + RBaser + Baseball Prospectus' FRAA (WAA + FRAA, just ryhmes and sounds cool). FRAA is the least aggressive defensive metric usually, with UZR usually falling in the middle. This gives us another look, and frankly, some different results. I left WAA + FRAA in runs, and didn't convert it into wins, so technically it is RAA + FRAA. I also included FanGraphs' Baserunning value, just to see if the projected speed panned out in the Majors.

You can view the spreadsheet by clicking here.

Out of the 90, 48 of the fastest organizational players made the Majors. The ones that did make it had a 1.07 WAA and -1.12 WAA + FRAA. Their average baserunning value according to FanGraphs was 9.4, with just 3 (and all at -.1) being below average baserunners.

The best athlete players made the Majors more often, as 54 of the 90 made the Majors. One of them was Scott Elbert, who is, was, and always will be, a pitcher. These 53 players averaged a 1.62 WAA, 13.41 WAA + FRAA, and 5.7 Baserunning Value.

The Speed Score leaders made the majors just 34 out of 90 times. They had an average .44 WAA, -3.61 WAA + FRAA, and 6.01 Baserunning value.

So as expected, all three groups turned out to be good baserunners. It seems that it is rather easy to determine speed by scouting or speed score. The "Fastest" organizational players turned out to be the best baserunners, with the athletes, while still being good, were the worst. The athletes made the Majors more often, and were also the most successful in the Majors. The speed score players were the worst. Of course, all three subsets of players were less likely to make the Majors than any set of pitchers profiled in the article referenced above. This is surprising considering the heavy attrition rates of pitchers. In future posts, I will look at different sets of defensive and offensive prospects and see their likelihood of success.

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