The WAR Room: Performance-based rankings, the introduction
Underperforming prospects and draft picks headline the list of honorable mentions
Over the past three months, IBI has rolled out the year-end rankings for every minor league affiliate in the Cleveland system. Next up, we will be running down the top-100 performers based on those WAR rankings, albeit with a slight twist.
Simply ranking each player based on the raw numbers would have some value, but not nearly as much as when the stats are adjusted for how old the prospect was compared to his minor league level. For example, older prospects like Anthony Gallas, who did well at 26 years old in High-A and Double-A, are downgraded, while younger prospects like Francisco Lindor, who did well at 20 years old Double-A and Triple-A, are upgraded (as if Lindor needed anymore help).
Naturally, if Gallas -- or anyone else in his situation -- continues to hit like he did in 2014, it will not matter that he was old for his level, and vice versa for young prospects. But overall, accounting for a player’s age relative to level is critically important for judging a prospect’s performance.
Before moving on to the honorable mentions of The WAR Room’s performance-based rankings, first some reminders on what these numbers are, their uses, and their limitations:
It is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.
But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.
As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.
Also, the lack of good defensive metrics for the minor leagues means we have to adjust for a range of defensive abilities. To account for this, I will give you each player's WAR with a qualifier: either poor-defense WAR for a poor defender (-10 runs below-average per 162 games), average-defense WAR for an average defender (0 runs per 162 games), or great-defense WAR for a great defender (10 runs above-average per 162 games).
Additionally, note that pitchers have FIP-based WAR -- which is based on peripherals like strikeouts, walks, home runs, etc. -- and RA-based WAR -- which is based on runs allowed.
One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.
The 2014 year-end season in review for every affiliate is listed below:
- The Columbus Clippers hitters and pitchers
- The Akron RubberDucks hitters and pitchers
- The Carolina Mudcats hitters and pitchers
- The Lake County Captains hitters and pitchers
- The Mahoning Valley Scrappers pitchers and hitters
- The Arizona League pitchers and hitters
Before moving on to the top-100 next week, first I want to go over the honorable mentions and why they did not make it. As a reminder, these performance-based rankings are just that; only based on what happened on the field in 2014 and not taking future projection into account.
With that in mind, here are the honorable mentions and why they did not make the cut:
Relievers who were old for their level
Once again, while a player who keeps putting up stats and performing will get noticed no matter what, when we are looking for prospects who project the best, taking age into account really matters. Thus, reliever prospects like Sturdevant -- who was in his age-28 season in 2014 -- get dinged.
The relievers listed above all performed well enough in 2014, but since they were all older, they slide down these rankings. Combined with the fact relievers do not pitch many innings -- and thus do not have as much time to rack up value as starters -- these nine pitchers fall into the honorable mentions section.
This trend of relievers being ranked lower will continue throughout the top-100 -- the highest ranked one is 39th -- though that is mirrored in the way relievers are valued by teams. Organizations often try to make pitchers starters as long as possible because that is where the value is. Relief prospects are still important, but in the grand scheme of things, they fall behind starters and position prospects.
Highly-rated prospects who underperformed
Cody Anderson (Ranked: 113)
Kieran Lovegrove (114)
Cole Sulser (124)
Jake Lowery (134)
Logan Vick (139)
Dace Kime (151)
Jordan Smith (153)
Hector Caro (163)
D’vone McClure (178)
Luis DeJesus (180)
Anthony Santander (201)
Ronny Rodriguez (204)
Josh McAdams (211)
Leandro Linares (215)
With so many players at so many levels, it is only natural that some prospects will underperform throughout a season. When that happens, it does not matter if a player is young for his level, old for his level, or just right for his level; if the performance is not there, then they will be low on these rankings.
Such is the case with these 14 players. Someone like Anderson or Lovegrove will not slide out of IBI’s top-100, but based on their on-the-field performance, they do fall out here.
2014 draft picks who struggled/had limited playing time
Julian Merryweather (Ranked: 104)
Sam Hentges (105)
Justus Sheffield (108)
Simeon Lucas (110)
Gian Paul Gonzalez (131)
Argenis Angulo (150)
Jordan Dunatov (152)
Bobby Ison (155)
Micah Miniard (161)
Mike Papi (177)
Dominic DeMasi (185)
Austin Fisher (188)
David Armendariz (193)
Drake Roberts (197)
As with the highly-rated prospects who underperformed, a first round pick like Sheffield or Papi is not going to be outside of the top-100 prospects when the 2015 IBI list is released. But here, they did not perform well enough or have enough time to rack up value.
Since the draft is in June, picks miss out on at least two months of playing time compared to prospects already in the organization. Given there are only five months available in the minor league season, that is an inherent disadvantage for those picks (the same goes for anyone who plays in Mahoning Valley or the Arizona League). Some players who were drafted in 2014 or were at Mahoning Valley and the Arizona League make the top-100 -- some as high as the top-20 -- but it is hard to do.
Prospects at those low levels are so far from contributing at the major league level, meaning, all things equal, they are not as valuable as a player in Triple-A on the cusp of being called up. Thus, the difficulty for these prospects to have high WAR totals serves as a decent proxy for downgrading a prospect for how far away they are from the majors.
That wraps up the honorable mentions section. Next week, The WAR Room will start its countdown of the top-100 prospects ranked by their performance.
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.
I understand. That's why, even though the upcoming ranks will be based on these numbers, I'm going to explain it in more universal terms. Or at least that's the goal.
Basically, we all know someone like Cody Anderson had a bad season; everyone doesn't need adanced stats to see that. I like to have them to know just how bad it got, but when relaying that information, I can put it in a way more people will understand.
The advanced stats aren't going away, but if there are better ways to explain/use them or if I'm too technical or assume too much (which is easy to start doing when you live and breathe it like I do), let me know. Outside of the explanatory intro, I don't think this week was too bad. But if there's a problem, just let me know.
And thanks for the kind words Connot and david. I hope you enjoy the coming countdown too.
Except it didn't work. For 100 years, we had stats that didn't accurately represent the action on the field.
If you were a stock broker and said that to your boss (for a long time, there wasn't complex math on Wall Street), you'd be fired on the spot.