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2011's top hundred MLB prospects: An analysis

Yesterday, we dipped our toe into a prospect list from five years ago, and cherry-picked a few players who performed as expected - or didn't. Today, let's go full-on analyst.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Here are the top 100 prospects from Baseball America's list of five years ago, ordered by descending amount of bWAR. For bWAR, figures in bold are players who have not (yet) reached the major leagues; for 2016 teams, players in bold have been traded, moved, etc. since the original list. [Two players, in bold italics, have moved more than once and are back with the team they were with originally!]

Rank Name Pos 2011 Team bWAR 2016 Team
2 Mike Trout of Angels 37.9 Angels
20 Chris Sale lhp White Sox 26.2 White Sox
1 Bryce Harper of Nationals 19.8 Nationals
14 Manny Machado ss Orioles 17.7 Orioles
54 Jason Kipnis 2b Indians 16.1 Indians
75 Anthony Rizzo 1b Padres 15.9 Cubs
17 Freddie Freeman 1b Braves 15.7 Braves
40 Brett Lawrie 2b Blue Jays 14.0 White Sox
80 Nolan Arenado 3b Rockies 13.6 Rockies
86 Craig Kimbrel rhp Braves 13.4 Red Sox
23 Brandon Belt 1b Giants 12.6 Giants
22 Desmond Jennings of Rays 12.2 Rays
7 Aroldis Chapman lhp Reds 10.9 Phillies
13 Shelby Miller rhp Cardinals 9.1 Diamondbacks
27 Chris Archer rhp Rays 9.0 Rays
8 Eric Hosmer 1b Royals 9.0 Royals
9 Mike Moustakas 3b Royals 8.9 Royals
12 Dustin Ackley 2b Mariners 8.3 Yankees
72 Derek Norris c Nationals 7.9 Padres
66 Danny Espinosa ss/2b Nationals 7.2 Nationals
43 Dellin Betances rhp Yankees 7.2 Yankees
6 Jeremy Hellickson rhp Rays 6.9 Phillies
16 Michael Pineda rhp Mariners 6.7 Yankees
26 Dee Gordon ss Dodgers 6.6 Marlins
96 Wilson Ramos c Nationals 6.5 Nationals
25 Lonnie Chisenhall 3b Indians 6.2 Indians
33 Jarrod Parker rhp Diamondbacks 6.1 Athletics
68 Danny Duffy lhp Royals 6.1 Royals
73 Yonder Alonso 1b/of Reds 6.0 Athletics
71 Jake McGee lhp Rays 5.9 Rockies
28 Zach Britton lhp Orioles 5.5 Orioles
70 Jarred Cosart rhp Phillies 5.3 Marlins
69 Jake Odorizzi rhp Royals 5.1 Rays
57 Jean Segura 2b Angels 4.8 Diamondbacks
34 Kyle Gibson rhp Twins 4.4 Twins
15 Matt Moore lhp Rays 4.2 Rays
50 Billy Hamilton ss/2b Reds 4.2 Reds
64 Devin Mesoraco c Reds 3.9 Reds
37 Mike Minor lhp Braves 3.8 Free-agent
76 Tyler Chatwood rhp Angels 3.5 Rockies
5 Julio Teheran rhp Braves 3.4 Braves
61 Drew Pomeranz lhp Indians 3.1 Padres
49 Wilin Rosario c Rockies 2.7 Free-agent
32 Tyler Matzek lhp Rockies 2.5 Rockies
24 Martin Perez lhp Rangers 2.2 Rangers
45 Aaron Hicks of Twins 2.2 Yankees
91 Chris Carter 1b/of Athletics 2.1 Brewers
10 Wil Myers of/c Royals 2.1 Padres
60 Miguel Sano 3b/ss Twins 2.1 Twins
55 Zack Wheeler rhp Giants 2.0 Mets
36 Travis d'Arnaud c Blue Jays 1.6 Mets
94 Jonathan Villar ss Astros 1.5 Brewers
52 Jose Iglesias ss Red Sox 1.5 Tigers
51 Christian Colon ss Royals 1.3 Royals
93 Arodys Vizcaino rhp Braves 1.1 Braves
35 Randall Delgado rhp Braves 1.1 Diamondbacks
53 Nick Franklin ss/2b Mariners 1.1 Rays
44 Jenrry Mejia rhp Mets 1.0 Banned for life
84 Tanner Scheppers rhp Rangers 0.9 Rangers
81 Matt Dominguez 3b Marlins 0.8 Blue Jays
90 Rubby de la Rosa rhp Dodgers 0.8 Diamondbacks
85 Brent Morel 3b/ss White Sox 0.5 Japan
19 Mike Montgomery lhp Royals 0.5 Mariners
97 Drake Britton lhp Red Sox 0.5 Tigers
46 Tony Sanchez c Pirates 0.4 Free-agent
59 Wilmer Flores ss Mets 0.4 Mets
99 Matt Davidson 3b Diamondbacks 0.2 White Sox
38 Brett Jackson of Cubs 0.1 Free-agent
83 Chris Dwyer lhp Royals 0.1 Orioles
78 Andrew Brackman rhp Yankees 0.1 Out of baseball
58 Simon Castro rhp Padres 0.1 Rockies
95 Deck McGuire rhp Blue Jays 0.0 Cardinals
88 Josh Sale of Rays 0.0 Free-agent
92 Hak-Ju Lee ss Rays 0.0 Giants
62 Zack Cox 3b Cardinals 0.0 Nationals
56 Brody Colvin rhp Phillies 0.0 Out of baseball
48 Trey McNutt rhp Cubs 0.0 Padres
11 Jameson Taillon rhp Pirates 0.0 Pirates
79 Stetson Allie rhp Pirates 0.0 Pirates
74 Jurickson Profar ss Rangers 0.0 Rangers
77 Cesar Puello of Mets 0.0 Yankees
29 Kyle Drabek rhp Blue Jays -0.1 Diamondbacks
3 Jesus Montero c Yankees -0.1 Mariners
30 Gary Sanchez c Yankees -0.1 Yankees
41 Manny Banuelos lhp Yankees -0.2 Braves
89 Zach Lee rhp Dodgers -0.3 Dodgers
18 John Lamb lhp Royals -0.3 Reds
82 Tyler Skaggs lhp Diamondbacks -0.4 Angels
67 Anthony Ranaudo rhp Red Sox -0.4 Rangers
47 Alex White rhp Indians -0.5 Free-agent
21 Jacob Turner rhp Tigers -0.5 White Sox
4 Domonic Brown of Phillies -0.7 Free-agent
100 Joe Benson of Twins -0.7 Twins
87 Andy Oliver lhp Tigers -0.8 Orioles
39 Jonathan Singleton 1b/of Phillies -0.9 Astros
65 Nick Castellanos 3b Tigers -1.0 Tigers
98 Austin Romine c Yankees -1.0 Yankees
31 Casey Kelly rhp Padres -1.1 Braves
63 Grant Green ss Athletics -1.1 Giants
42 Jordan Lyles rhp Astros -1.5 Rockies

Those 100 prospects have, to date, been worth a total of 422.6 WAR, for an average of 4.2 bWAR. However, that is extremely top-heavy: The top dozen are worth 216.3, more than lower 88 combined. Also what stands out, just how good Mike Trout has been. He has been worth 37.9 WAR; the first 16 players taken in that season's draft have been worth 50.2 WAR combined. That ends with the Diamondbacks' first pick, Bobby Borchering, last seen toiling away in High-A ball of the Tigers' organization. Sob... Though #17 was A.J. Pollock, who is second to Trout among production out of the top 60 picks that year. Which is nice. Here are the rankings in visual form:


13% of them have been worth more than ten wins; 20% between five and ten wins; 38% less than five wins; and the remaining 29% either have not reached the majors, or have been worth at or below replacement level. And, don't forget, these are the players considered the top 100 prospects already with teams, in the game at the time. Now, it is true that five years may not be enough to go from draft to productive major-leaguer - though it didn't seem to stop Harper and Sale, chosen just eight months before this list was drawn up, and who have outperformed everyone bar Trout. But it's clear that even elite prospects have a significant change of failure.

This isn't to say that the results are completely random. If you group the rankings into decads (that's shoe's two-bit word for the day!), the higher rankings do tend to be more productive than the lower ones. The chart below shows the total WAR from each of those groups of ten prospects, and you can see that the top ten are the most successful. However, once you get outside the top thirty, the level clearly flattens off a good deal, and one future everyday player can make a lot of difference. That's how the seventies group does so well: it contains Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo, both ranked in the top ten overall.


Something else that stood out is how much movement there has been. A full 60% of these players - and, again, these are the best prospects in the game at the time - have been dealt over the five years since. However, there is a sharp escalation here as we move down the list of production. The top twenty by WAR, the figure is only 30%; the next twenty, it increases to 45%. Over the last twenty, a full three-quarters are no longer with the same franchise as at the time of the list. This likely makes sense: if a prospect produces at the major-league level, a team will obviously be much more inclined to hold onto them.

Finally, I thought it would be interesting to take a look and see how the top 100 prospects stacked up by team. So, below are the numbers on each team then and now.

Team 2011 2016
Angels 5 2
Astros 0 1
Athletics 2 2
Blue Jays 4 1
Braves 6 5
Brewers 0 2
Cardinals 2 1
Cubs 2 1
Diamondbacks 3 5
Dodgers 3 1
Giants 2 3
Indians 4 2
Mariners 3 2
Marlins 1 2
Mets 3 3
Nationals 4 4
Orioles 2 4
Padres 3 4
Phillies 4 2
Pirates 3 2
Rangers 3 4
Rays 7 5
Red Sox 3 1
Reds 4 3
Rockies 3 6
Royals 9 4
Tigers 3 3
Twins 4 3
White Sox 2 4
Yankees 6 7
Other 11

Hard to detect any clear conclusion. Sure, the Royals took their nine names on the 2011 list, and won the World Series in 2015. But the Astros seem to be doing well enough too, and they had absolutely nobody on the original list, and the only guy on it they have now, is sub-replacement level Jonathan Singleton. Only the Rockies and Yankees control more of the players currently, than the five owned by the Diamondbacks. There are also 11 players not currently employed by a major-league team: seven are free-agents, one is in Japan, two appear to have quit the game entirely, and one (the Mets'  Jenrry Mejia) got himself a lifetime ban on Friday.