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Is the Futures Game predictive of big league production?

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Examining the likelihood that Futures Game participants become established big leaguers.

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On Sunday afternoon the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game helped kick off the on-field festivities during the midseason break, with plenty of recognizable names – J.P. Crawford, Kyle Schwarber, Bradley Zimmer, Nomar Mazara, Lucas Giolito, and Mark Appel among others – and a handful of lesser-known prospects – Amir Garrett, whom I wrote about here, Elias Diaz, and Balbino Fuenmayor – taking the field.

As I got sucked into the action – and eventually moved onto other lifely things as the US Team turned it into a route – I wondered what type of predictive power the Futures Game had. Or in the other words: Is being named to one of the teams actually a precursor of future big league success?

My method for investigating this question: Beginning with the game’s first appearance in 1999 and extending through the 2008 season, a span of 10 years, I tallied the WAR total as well as how many years were spent in the big leagues for each player who had appeared in a Futures Game. I cut it off after 2008 because I wanted to give younger prospects enough time to develop into viable big leaguers.

Here are the results:

Of the 358 players to be named on a Futures Game roster during that 10-year span just 44 failed to ever make the big leagues, for a success rate of 87.7%. And of those 45, 27 were pitchers – a somewhat surprising mark to me personally because I would have assumed it much higher given the frailties of young arms.

Some of the more recognizable names to never appear in a big league uniform: the star-crossed Matt White, Kyle Sleeth, Johnny Whittleman, and Jason Stokes, who once slugged .341/.421/.645 as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League.

As for the successes, well, the average big league career spanned seven seasons. A couple of notes on this number: (1) this number is still edging up as numerous players – Aramis Ramirez, Andrew McCutchen, etc… - are still playing; and (2) for the purpose of this little study a season was defined as having appeared in at least one game. A few other interesting tidbits from the results:

• 213 of 313 players made appearances in at least five big league seasons, or just over 68% of the player pool.
• The average career length (so far) of pitchers that appeared in the Futures Game is 6.6 years; the average career length for catchers is 8.7 years; and the average for infielders and outfielders is 7.2 years.
• The actual team breakdowns: 184 from US Team vs. 129 from the World Team.

And now for a breakdown in big league production:

• The average Wins Above Replacement total (via Baseball Reference) for minor league graduates was 8.7.
• There have been 50 players to accrue at least 20 wins above replacement thus far, or just over 14% of the participants.
• 49 players have averaged at least 2.0 – or league average production – during their duration as big leaguers.

Finally, here’s a breakdown of average WAR per league season for each of the 358 participants:

AVG WAR/YR Total Overall %
No MLB 44 12.3%
-.1 to -1.0 96 26.8%
0.0 to .99 116 32.4%
1.0 to 1.99 53 14.8%
2.0 to 2.99 27 7.5%
3.0 to 3.99 15 4.2%
4.0 to 4.99 4 1.1%
5.0 to 5.99 3 0.8%


So does being named to the Futures Game have any meaningful impact? The obvious answer is yes, of course, because each prospect is normally regarded as one of the best, though that’s not necessarily always the case. And, historically speaking, about 13.6% of the Futures Game participants have developed into at least league average performers for the duration of their career.

***

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

For more analysis check out Joe Werner's site, ProspectDigest.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoltinJoey