In the baseball community, these days there's no shortage of expert lists that rank the top prospects within the game. There's also a plethora of projection systems that attempt to predict the future value of players based on past performance and a variety of other attributes. A rarity, though, is a model that uses predictive analysis to arrive at a prospect ranking list.
Over at FanGraphs, contributor Chris Mitchell has done just that. The system he developed, called KATOH, was inspired by the Yankees' very own Gosuke Katoh, a prospect whose extreme strikeout rate and high average as a 19-year old was difficult to interpret on the surface.
The ultimate goal of KATOH is to predict major league performance for young players based mainly on minor league results and the players' makeup and background. The output is an estimate of the players WAR total for the first six years of their major league career, or the number of years that they will be contractually under team control. Those values are then used to rank the best major league prospects.
Although KATOH is little more than a year old, it has undergone a number of changes to improve its predictive power. The results from the latest iteration were published just a few weeks ago, and three Yankees found themselves among the top 50 prospects in baseball according to the model. Here's a look at the three who made it:
|Rank||Player||Position||WAR Thru First Six MLB Years|
Gary Sanchez has long been considered a top prospect within the Yankees' organization, so it's no surprise that KATOH has him ranked as their best. With his minor league career seemingly complete, Sanchez's projection is the most reliable of the Yankees on this list. His high ranking as at least in part due to his ability to decrease his strikeout rate as he progressed through the system while maintaining a productive bat and playing a premium position. Among catchers on the KATOH top 100, Sanchez is number two behind only the Orioles' Chance Sisco.
Speed is something that is certainly rewarded, perhaps over-rewarded, by the KATOH system. Enter Jorge Mateo, who tore up the base paths with 82 total stolen bases last year playing for Charleston and Tampa. Combined with the fact that he's playing one of the toughest positions on the diamond at a very young age and KATOH sees a bright future for him. KATOH's not alone in this, though, as Mateo has found himself near the top of many prospect lists this winter, even topping Baseball America's latest ranking for the Yankees.
In an effort to find a replacement for franchise icon Derek Jeter, the Yankees spent many draft picks and international free agent dollars on shortstops during Jeter's final years in pinstripes. Along with Mateo, KATOH sees Tyler Wade as the cream of that crop. Drafted in 2013 out of high school, Wade has played well enough to reach Double-A Trenton at just 20 years old where he was more than four years younger than the average age of his peers. Like Mateo, his greatest asset is speed, which may be the biggest contributor to his high ranking on this list, considering the fact that no other top 100 prospects list include Wade.
As any good projection system should, KATOH is likely to experience more tweaks in the coming years in order to fine tune its predictive potential. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if Gary Sanchez lives up to the high standard that KATOH has set for him as he gets his first significant big league action this year.