There are few things in life that I enjoy more than reading material on prospects. Scouting reports, notes, primers, etc. I love 'em all. Whenever writers can enlighten their readers on players whom they have no chance of seeing during the regular season, it's widely considered to be indispensable to their knowledge. And to be completely honest, that's one of the main reasons for my enjoyment of writing such material. However, if there is one type of material that I've always gauged at, it's simple, flavorless top prospect rankings.
Over the years, prospect junkies have found prospect rankings to be the best possible way to enhance the knowledge of their readers. Some sites and magazines feature scouting reports on certain players, or maybe just an entry discussing a certain team's system, and by no means are those painful to read. The painful ones are those that simply discuss a player's attributes based on statistics alone or the ones that don't diverge in to a player at all. But even the best prospect rankings are somewhat bland.
I never found a top prospect ranking system useful at all really, because all that really does is say that in a system in which you're not aware of the prospect depth or lack thereof, Prospect A has a brighter future than Prospect B because he's listed higher on the list. There's basically no information to conclude why or why not Prospect A should be separated from Prospect B and, if so, why?
Of all the ranking systems on the interwebs, Kevin Goldstein does it best in my opinion. Goldstein goes team-by-team, placing the top 11 organizational prospects into categories: five-star, four-star and so on. They represent tiers, if you will, and a perfect way to separate talent in an organization based on the potential impact level that the players betoken. Each of Goldstein's team rankings also give the reader a brief scouting report on each of the top 11 prospects plus nine additional top prospects and a sleeper.
Although this system does contain a few minor flaws, it's easily the most conclusive ranking system on the internet, I would say. Baseball America provides an outlook on the entire organization rather than the top prospects, and to be completely honest, fans who care about their team's future should be interested in the impact prospects more so than the 25-year old non-prospect who has the system's best strike-zone discipline.
I discussed this last when I wrote my primer on how to compile professional scouting reports but I'll explain again. Teams grade talent differently, but most do so in two separate ways: the OFP system and the role system. The OFP system is focused primarily on number grades and tiers based on ability at present and future. Contrary to OFP, the role system pegs a player's future using position, organizational depth, and in-depth visualizations of the player's present team as factors in his projection. Now, that's exactly how I'll be formulating my rankings over here at Beyond the Box Score. They'll be similar to Goldstein's, but slightly different as well.
Here's how it'll work:
1) Every team's top 12 prospects will be ranked. While there's really no way to project how many prospects in an organization will have an impact on the major league team going forward, it's safe to sit in the 10-15 area. Remember, these rankings aren't created with the intention of recognizing hidden talent in an organization. To be completely straight-forward, this is done to rank team's prospects based on the impact they will have on their club once they have reached their potential and are in the majors.
2) Players will be divided into four tiers, labels if you will, with the 1st tier being the best. Here's what each tier represents:
- Tier 1: Major League Star -- Number One Starter
- Tier 2: Stand Out/Above Average Regular -- Number Two/Exceptional Three Starter
- Tier 3: Solid, Average, Every Day Regular -- Number Three/Solid Four Starter
- Tier 4: Bench/Below Average Regular -- Borderline Four/Number Five Starter/Relief Pitcher
3) Players will be given points due to their respective tier. 1st tier players count as four points, while 2nd count as three, 3rd count as two, and 4th as one. At the end of the team's ranking, all of the points will be added up together. Once all 30 teams are done being ranked this will be the determining factor for the top 30 organization list. Teams tied in points will be ranked accordingly based on gut instinct or the additional amount of, if any, 1st tier prospects.
4) I'll provide a quick, detailed scouting report of the players I've either seen in person or received info on from someone who has, such as a scout or other talent evaluator in whom I trust. Also, by no means do I assume that this is a perfect system to use. Everyone uses different tools and resources to evaluate talent, and I'm no different.
I'll answer any and all questions in the comment section.
So without further ado, here is our first organizational ranking, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Blue Jays -- 31 points
11. Deck McGuire - Scouting Report
12. A.J. Jimenez