Thinking of Jameson Taillon While Evaluating Baseball America’s Top Pitching Prospect List

I’m glomming onto a post that Kevin had earlier in the month regarding how much value a prospect has. One question that I had was how often does someone as highly regarded as that by Baseball America simply not make it. I’m thinking of this mostly as it related to the Pirates current situation. Should this club trade Jameson Taillon (or another highly thought of young arm) for a proven Major League hitter in an attempt to make the playoffs in 2012? That’s a question only the front office can answer. My personal opinion is that Taillon and Cole should be off limits unless this front office receives an overwhelming offer.

Compared to Kevin’s analysis, this glance is more of an empirical evaluation based on pitchers who appeared in the top 20 in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect ranking for a ten year period, running from 1998 to 2007. The full Top 100 list can be found here.

Out of the 200 possible top 20 slots over a ten year period, 70 of them went to pitchers. There were 54 different pitchers who made the list with several of them appearing more than once (obviously). I broke them down into different buckets based on their place in the world of baseball.

Interestingly enough, every Big League team had at least one pitcher appear on the list, with the A’s, Astros, Expos/Nats, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Royals and Twins having just one appearance.

Top of the rotation starters (ten total) – well above average in ERA+, Cy Young votes consistently
Matt Cain
Zack Greinke
Roy Halladay
Cole Hamels
Felix Hernandez
Tim Lincecum
Roy Oswalt
C.C. Sabathia
Justin Verlander
Adam Wainwright

Middle of the rotation starters (ten total) – about average in ERA+, best seasons result in All-Star appearances and Cy Young votes
Josh Beckett, rhp, Marlins
Chad Billingsley, rhp, Dodgers
A.J. Burnett, rhp, Marlins
Yovani Gallardo, rhp, Brewers
Edwin Jackson rhp, Dodgers
Scott Kazmir lhp, Mets
Mark Mulder, lhp, Athletics
Brad Penny, rhp, Diamondbacks
Ben Sheets, rhp, Brewers
Kerry Wood, rhp, Cubs

Back of the rotation starters (12 total) – overall below average ERA+, good years mixed in with bad years; relied on by bad teams to be front of the rotation starters
Homer Bailey, rhp, Reds
Kris Benson, rhp, Pirates
Jeremy Bonderman, rhp, Tigers
Bruce Chen, lhp, Braves
Matt Clement, rhp, Padres
Gavin Floyd, rhp, Phillies
Philip Hughes, rhp, Yankees
Francisco Liriano, lhp, Twins
Jeff Niemann, rhp, Devil Rays
Carl Pavano, rhp, Expos
Mike Pelfrey, rhp, Mets
Kip Wells, rhp, White Sox

Relievers with some success (three total)
Juan Cruz, rhp, Cubs
Jon Rauch, rhp, White Sox
Francisco Rodriguez, rhp, Angels

Brief, unsuccessful MLB service time (nine total)
Jesse Foppert, rhp, Giants
Adam Loewen lhp, Orioles
Dustin McGowan rhp, Blue Jays
Nick Neugebauer, rhp, Brewers
John Patterson, rhp, Diamondbacks
Matt Riley, lhp, Orioles
Dennis Tankersley, rhp, Padres
Chin-Hui Tsao, rhp, Rockies
Jerome Williams, rhp, Giants

Journeyman (one total)
Andrew Miller, lhp, Tigers

No MLB service time (five total)
Ryan Anderson, lhp, Mariners
Bobby Bradley, rhp, Pirates
Adam Miller, rhp, Indians
Greg Miller lhp, Dodgers
Matt White, rhp, Devil Rays

Good starts and then… (two total)
Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals
Mark Prior, rhp, Cubs

Primary development outside MiLB (two total)
Jose Contreras, rhp, Yankees
Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp, Red Sox

The exact placement of some of these guys is debatable. Mulder was very good until injuries set in. So was Wood. Who knows what would’ve happened had they stayed healthy. Same with Liriano. But based on their career numbers, that’s where I put them. Bailey and Billingsley are both still young enough to move up a tick or two.

The point of the exercise was to see how often these guys became good. About 20% of the time (10 out of 54), they turned into front of the rotation pitchers. Nearly another 20% were middle of the rotation-types. And just slightly more than 20% were back of the rotation talents. So, we are looking at approximately a 60% rate where a top 20 pitching prospect becomes the member of a starting rotation for several seasons. About 25% of them either never appeared in the Majors or had somewhat brief or unremarkable careers. Injuries, of course, could’ve played a role in some of these guys not making a name for themselves (Matt Riley, for example, had Tommy John surgery).

Based on this data set and this simple analysis, there’s a very good chance that Taillon will be in a starting role a decent amount of time. There’s about a 20% chance that he will be a front of the rotation starter.

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  • Lee Young

    Looks to me that, if your last name is Miller, you needed to get traded while your value was high. Otherwise………splat! lol

    • Lee Young

      Btw, good article Randy. I love this kind of stuff.

      • RandyLinville

        Thanks, Lee. I appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed it.

      • RandyLinville

        Lee – thanks, much appreciated. I’m glad you enjoy it.

  • KennethBaldonieri

    So, would it be fair to say that with the Bucs top three (assuming Appel signs), they have about a 60% chance of having a front of the rotation starter?

  • RandyLinville

    Assuming Appel signs and becomes a top 20 BA prospect, then the math works out that – based on this very simple and empirical analysis – there is a 60% chance that one of the three of Taillon, Cole or Appel becomes a front of the rotation stud.

  • Lee Young

    And don’t forget about Luis H!

  • john.alcorn

    Come on Randy, I’m 99% sure that isn’t how probabilities work. For instance you don’t have a 100% chance of flipping a tail if you flip a coin twice.
    The odds of us getting an ace with three 20% chances is 48.8%, no?
    Anyway, nice work here, there is nothing more overvalued in MLB than a SP prospect.

  • john.alcorn

    The other issue is here is true flame out rate versus injury flame out. I wager most of the failures are injury related, thus teh Bucs have some chance of controlling that outcome.

  • RandyLinville

    You are 100% correct. I took my simple analysis and tried to make probability even more simplistic (and therefore incorrect). Here’s how John correctly figured this out. The odds of not getting a stud is 80% (4/5) when we have once chance. So the odds of one in three possible studs turning into a one stud is 1 minus (4/5)x(4/5)x(4/5) and that is 48.8%. Good catch, John!

  • Ian Rothermund

    I don’t think theres anything overvalued about a starting pitching prospect in the Pirates system. Economically, it’s their only chance at acquiring a true ace. That’s something worth building towards