P2Daily: Prospect Evaluations and Predictions

Making the Major Leagues is incredibly difficult.

In the large span of MLB’s history, ranging back well over 100 years, there have only been a little over 20,000 MLB players total.

Each year, players are drafted out of high school to begin their professional careers, and the odds of making it from that level are in the one percent range.

The odds aren’t any better if you’re coming from the international ranks at a younger age.

Even if you have hype as a “prospect”, you still aren’t immune to busting in the minors, and failing to reach the majors.

All of that said, one of my least favorite parts of this job is breaking down why I don’t think a minor league player will reach the majors. Even discussing a player being one of those ~20,000 MLB players, but in a very small role, is a bit of a downer.

One of my favorite things about this job is the hope that comes from the unpredictability of baseball, but also human development. Anything can happen. Anyone can become a Major League player. That’s my belief.

That belief is rooted in the idea that anyone can have a resilient mindset needed to overcome the many obstacles and setbacks a player receives on his journey to the majors. The belief is rooted in the idea that the player is confident enough to be willing to make changes when things aren’t working. The belief is rooted in the idea that the player can make the necessary changes, even if he has the mindset and confidence.

Even if you have those things, it’s really, really difficult to make the majors.

I often see two types of amateur prospect evaluations.

The first is overtly negative. No prospect will ever make it. Source? [Insert former top prospect bust here.]

That’s a safe play. When most prospects are going to bust, and when the odds of making the majors are historically low, it’s safe to say that a player just isn’t going to reach the majors. I could say the same thing in advance about the 2022, 2023, and 2024 first round picks by the Pirates, without knowing who they are. I know that I’d probably be right about one of them, and the other would probably not live up to his expectations. That’s just the law of averages.

The other approach is overtly positive. Not only can every prospect make it, but if everyone is already in consensus agreement with that opinion, then this prospect gets elevated to the point where they might be better than everyone else already thinks.

This isn’t a safe play in terms of accuracy. You’re going to be wrong. A lot.

But, in that above example of the next three draft picks, you could say they all make it, celebrate when one does, call it a near-miss when the other reaches the majors, and call it the opportunity cost when the third prospect busts in the minors.

In my history on this site, I tend to lean toward the latter approach.

I try to avoid propping a player up above all other rankings, unless I can explain my reasoning. I don’t mind lowering a player for the same reason, as long as I can explain that.

I took the more critical approach yesterday with Luis Ortiz, writing out some thoughts on our #28 prospect in the system, and the consensus #26 prospect. I sat down one day this week to watch a near-consensus top 30 prospect, and came away thinking he’s probably not a top 30 prospect right now.

Maybe that could happen eventually.

First, changes will need to be made to his game.

I outlined what I saw as the problem yesterday. Several people in the comments offered solutions. I’ll note that there’s another wing of prospect analysis that takes the approach of an amateur coach, offering specific suggestions to players. I think Ortiz could benefit from added command of his pitch, or the addition of a better third offering he can use more frequently, whether that’s improving the changeup or adding a different looking breaking pitch.

The key is there are a lot of possibilities for Ortiz to improve. There’s no one way.

Because of the amount of possibilities for improvement, there’s a chance Ortiz can still make the majors, even if the pitcher he is today has no shot.

I felt it was important to highlight why I didn’t see a top 30 prospect when I watched Ortiz. I saw potential, but I also saw a lot of work needed to be done, and he’s at a level and age where that work needs to be done sooner than later.

I don’t want to pick on Ortiz though. This could be written about a lot of players. As I go through this season and re-evaluate the system, you’ll see more guys who I drop in my rankings, more guys I elevate, and in each case you’ll get an explanation for why.

What I say doesn’t matter either way. I’m just relaying what I’ve seen, from eyes that have watched more minor league baseball development over the last decade than most people. Even with my experience, humans are unpredictable.

So on this site I will tell you what I like and don’t like about a certain player.

Then, I’ll pull for them to make it.

Because while it’s difficult to make the majors, it’s not impossible. Anyone in the minors can make it with the right adjustments. The prospect evaluation on this site will always be focused on identifying the need for adjustments, rather than banking on a future prediction of a player. We want to show you the possibility of a player, but more importantly, we want to show you the path to get there, so you understand how likely — or most of the time, unlikely — it is for that player to make it to the big leagues.

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