KATOH’s Top 200 Prospect List

Earlier this week, lead prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel published our top 200 prospect list. Later that day, I made my FanGraphs debut looking at how the players on that list graded out according to KATOH — my prospect projection system. Now I’m back with more stats-based prospect analysis only this time, I’ve compiled a list of the top 200 minor leaguers ranked by their KATOH projections.

Just to be clear, this list isn’t intended to compete with or undermine Kiley’s rankings in any way. KATOH isn’t meant to be the the final word on prospect evaluation, but should instead be used as a tool to complement the work done by Kiley and other prospect experts. What follows is simply the output of a (flawed) statistical model that’s been sorted from largest to smallest without any sort of adjustment. But while it may be an imperfect exercise, ranking players exclusively by their KATOH projections makes it easy to spot instances where the stats disagree with the general scouting consensus. Even if, as they likely are in many cases, the scouts turn out to be correct, it’s still worth highlighting the players for which there is a significant difference. Some of the guys below are going to prove scouts wrong; figuring out which is the tricky part.

Looking at the two lists side-by-side, there was one recurring theme that really jumped out at me: KATOH favors hitters much more than Kiley did in his list. For instance, a hitter ranked in the 20’s on Kiley’s list gets a KATOH projection of roughly 7 WAR on average, while a pitcher with the same ranking comes in at around 5 WAR. Hopefully a graphic will help visualize this phenomenon:

This trend is pretty stark, but I wouldn’t necessarily take this to mean that Kiley is too aggressive in his rankings of pitchers. Stats alone never tell the whole story, but they tell an especially small piece of the story for pitchers, whose path to major league success depends heavily on the quality of his stuff. Stuff is what differentiates a Felix Hernandez from a soft-tosser like Yusmiero Petit when both are putting up dominant numbers in the minors, and I’d bet that most of the pitchers on Kiley’s top 200 list are more Hernandez than Petit. But KATOH doesn’t know that.

At the top of KATOH’s list is Joc Pederson, who came in at #11 according to Kiley’s rankings. McDaniel slapped a 60 FV on Pederson, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but is a couple of notches below elite. KATOH, on the other hand, loves Pederson. It forecasts him for a whopping 18.3 WAR through age 28, putting him a healthy 2.3 WAR ahead of second place Kris Bryant, who was Kiley’s top-rated prospect. For reference, the three most recent outfielders who accumulated 17-20 WAR through age 28 were Carlos Gonzalez, Hunter Pence, and Jacoby Ellsbury Not too shabby.

Statistically, there’s not much not to dislike about Pederson. He hit a crazy .303/.435/.582 with Triple-A Albuquerque as a 22-year-old last year, and kicked in 30 steals to boot. Those numbers are a little inflated by the fact that he played in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), but KATOH takes this into account, and still likes him more than any other prospect in baseball. Still, its easy to see why Kiley didn’t include Pederson near the top of his list. As great as his statistical profile looks, none of Pederson’s tools received a grade higher than 60, meaning he’s unlikely to get much better than he already is.

Although he’s no longer a prospect, I feel Mookie Betts deserves a mention as well, as his 21.6 WAR was the highest KATOH projection of any player with at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last year. Betts raked at every single minor league stop, but his small stature and lackluster tools have led to questions about his upside. KATOH doesn’t take a player’s size into account (working on that!), but it sees his statistical performance and anticipates great things. If he’d received 60 fewer at bats last year, his name would be gracing the top of KATOH’s list.

Now for some players where KATOH vehemently disagrees with Kiley’s rankings. Here’s a quick look at the biggest snubs from each list — the top hitter and top pitcher. These are the prospects who ranked near the top of one list, but missed the cut on the other. I only considered players who spent the majority 2014 season in full-season ball (Low-A or above) since KATOH projections can get pretty wonky when they’re based on stats from short-season ball.

KATOH’s biggest snubs according to Kiley:

Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox

Kiley ranked Anderson 45th overall on his list, mainly on the strength of his pure athletic ability — His speed, arm, and bat control all grade out as plus. The tools are great, but Kiley notes that the 21-year-old’s plate discipline could still use a some work, and KATOH agrees. High-A is the level where a hitter’s walks really start to mean something, and Anderson’s 2% walk rate is about as bad as it gets. This, coupled with the fact that Anderson wasn’t overly young for his level, lead KATOH to project the toolsy shortstop for a measly 2.2 WAR through age 28, despite his solid .301/.327/.481 batting line. Anderson’s stats lag behind his tools, making him exactly the type of player who’s likely to blow by hi projection; but until he does something about his plate discipline, KATOH’s not going to be on board.

Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros

Kiley ranked Appel 18th overall on his list, which is actually pretty low for a guy who was drafted first overall out of college just 20 months ago. The reason for his conservative ranking is the same reason why KATOH dislikes him: His 2014 stunk . Well, at least part of it did. Appel got off to a terrible start to the year due to a mysterious drop in velocity, and while the problem eventually corrected itself, his 2014 stat line still looks pretty dismal. KATOH doesn’t know about Appel’s yoyo-ing velocity, but looks at his 2014 and sees a 22-year-old with middling strikeout (20%) and walk (6%) rates in High-A and Double-A. Maybe Appel’s 2014 will prove to be nothing more than a weird blip on the radar, but it happened, and KATOH doesn’t like that it happened. That’s why it handed him a dismal 1.7 WAR projection.

Kiley’s biggest snubs according to KATOH:

Domingo Leyba, 2B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

Leyba split 2014 between the New York Penn League (A-) and the Midwest League (Low-A) as an 18-year-old, making him very young for his level. Yet despite his youth, Leyba held his own by hitting a more-than-respectable .322/.358/.430 in 70 games. Leyba hit for very little power last year, but did an excellent job of putting the ball in play — Only 11% of his plate appearances ended in a strikeout.

Kiley gave Leyba a FV of just 40+ — essentially labeling him a future backup — thanks to his underwhelming tools and inability to play an adequate shortstop. KATOH knows nothing about the tools Leyba has or doesn’t have. All it knows is that he did nothing but hit last year despite being very young for his level, and forecasts an impressive 10.1 WAR for him through age 28 — good for the 11th best projection, overall.

Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Francisco Giants

Blackburn spent 2014 as a 21-year-old in Double-A and pitched to a very respectable 3.29 ERA over 18 starts. As solid as that sounds, Blackburn’s peripheral stats suggest he pitched even better than that. His FIP checked in at a rosy 2.54 on the strength of his 85:20 (4.5) strikeout to walk ratio, and one homer allowed over 18 starts. His home run total was probably helped by some HR/FB luck, but to his credit, he did manage to keep the ball on the ground 56% of the time last year. All of this good work resulted in a 6.5 WAR projection from KATOH, placing him 40th overall.

Still, despite the fact that he dominated Double-A hitters year, Kiley gave Blackburn a FV of just 40, on account of his uninspiring stuff. Only one of Blackburn’s pitches — his curveball — projects to be even above average. Blackburn’s stuff suggests that he’ll get eaten alive by big league hitting, but he’s been nothing short of excellent in his ascent to through the minors leagues so far. And until that changes, KATOH will continue to believe, for better or for worse.

Without further ado, here it is: KATOH’s full top 200 list. Note that player’s who received fewer than 200 PA’s or BF in 2014 were not considered.

Rank Name Team WAR through Age 28 Kiley’s Rank
1 Joc Pederson LAD 18.3 11
2 Kris Bryant CHC 16.0 1
3 Jorge Soler CHC 15.6 13
4 Addison Russell CHC 13.1 3
5 Julio Urias LAD 12.2 4
6 Noah Syndergaard NYM 11.5 19
7 Joey Gallo TEX 11.0 16
8 Alex Verdugo LAD 10.8 Honorable Mention
9 Ozhaino Albies ATL 10.6 34
10 Gleyber Torres CHC 10.6 Honorable Mention
11 Domingo Leyba ARI 10.1 Unranked
12 Dilson Herrera NYM 9.7 109
13 Alex Palma NYY 9.1 Unranked
14 Francisco Lindor CLE 8.8 14
15 Yeyson Yrizarri TEX 8.7 Unranked
16 Ketel Marte SEA 8.6 Honorable Mention
17 Jose Peraza ATL 8.5 44
18 Domingo Santana HOU 8.2 Honorable Mention
19 Michael De Leon TEX 7.9 Unranked
20 Ramon Flores NYY 7.9 Unranked
21 Corey Seager LAD 7.9 6
22 Giovanny Urshela CLE 7.8 Unranked
23 Manuel Margot BOS 7.7 35
24 Leonardo Molina NYY 7.5 Unranked
25 Carlos Correa HOU 7.4 5
26 Jomar Reyes BAL 7.4 Honorable Mention
27 Jake Bauers SDP 7.2 Unranked
28 Matt Olson OAK 7.2 Honorable Mention
29 Luis Severino NYY 7.2 26
30 Dalton Pompey TOR 7.1 80
31 Alen Hanson PIT 7.0 Honorable Mention
32 Jose Berrios MIN 7.0 24
33 Tyler Glasnow PIT 6.9 12
34 Raul Mondesi KCR 6.8 61
35 Josh Morgan TEX 6.7 Unranked
36 Cole Tucker PIT 6.6 Unranked
37 Ronnie Torreyes HOU 6.6 Unranked
38 Franklin Barreto OAK 6.6 79
39 Jesse Winker CIN 6.5 39
40 Clayton Blackburn SFG 6.5 Unranked
41 Delino DeShields TEX 6.4 Unranked
42 Maikel Franco PHI 6.3 38
43 Henry Owens BOS 6.2 33
44 Kyle Schwarber CHC 6.1 21
45 Chance Sisco BAL 6.0 78
46 Carlos Sanchez CHW 6.0 Unranked
47 Archie Bradley ARZ 5.7 32
48 Nomar Mazara TEX 5.7 46
49 Cheslor Cuthbert KCR 5.7 Unranked
50 Willy Adames TBR 5.6 90
51 Rangel Ravelo OAK 5.5 Unranked
52 Wendell Rijo BOS 5.5 Unranked
53 Magneuris Sierra STL 5.4 Honorable Mention
54 Edmundo Sosa STL 5.3 Unranked
55 Marcos Molina NYM 5.3 98
56 Rafael Montero NYM 5.3 Honorable Mention
57 Matt Wisler SDP 5.2 41
58 Greg Bird NYY 5.2 120
59 Brett Phillips HOU 5.2 107
60 Steven Souza TBR 5.2 52
61 Ti’Quan Forbes TEX 5.0 Unranked
62 Lucas Giolito WAS 5.0 7
63 Rob Refsnyder NYY 5.0 Honorable Mention
64 Hunter Harvey BAL 5.0 36
65 Courtney Hawkins CHW 5.0 Unranked
66 Daniel Norris TOR 5.0 17
67 Mark Binford KCR 4.9 Unranked
68 Hernan Perez DET 4.8 Unranked
69 Victor Sanchez SEA 4.8 Unranked
70 Dixon Machado DET 4.7 Unranked
71 Billy Mckinney CHC 4.7 Honorable Mention
72 Marcus Greene TEX 4.7 Unranked
73 Ryan Mcmahon COL 4.6 63
74 Nick Williams TEX 4.6 136
75 Ji-Man Choi SEA 4.6 Unranked
76 Jake Thompson TEX 4.5 29
77 Rymer Liriano SDP 4.5 Honorable Mention
78 David Dahl COL 4.4 31
79 Sean Coyle BOS 4.4 Unranked
80 Scott Schebler LAD 4.4 Unranked
81 Randal Grichuk STL 4.4 Honorable Mention
82 J.P. Crawford PHI 4.4 10
83 Zach Davies BAL 4.4 Honorable Mention
84 Harold Ramirez PIT 4.4 Unranked
85 Blake Swihart BOS 4.3 9
86 Nicholas Tropeano LAA 4.3 Unranked
87 Eduardo Rodriguez BOS 4.3 23
88 Taylor Lindsey SDP 4.2 Unranked
89 Tyler Danish CHW 4.2 142
90 Brian Schales FLA 4.2 Unranked
91 Jacob Lamb ARZ 4.2 Honorable Mention
92 Justin Williams TBR 4.1 Unranked
93 Preston Tucker HOU 4.1 Unranked
94 Francisco Mejia CLE 4.1 Unranked
95 Andrew Heaney LAA 4.1 50
96 Christian Bethancourt ATL 4.0 106
97 Jesus Aguilar CLE 4.0 Unranked
98 Luis Sardinas MIL 4.0 Unranked
99 Lewis Brinson TEX 4.0 131
100 Eric Jokisch CHC 4.0 Unranked
101 Eduard Pinto TEX 4.0 Unranked
102 Brandon Nimmo NYM 4.0 85
103 Dustin Fowler NYY 3.9 Unranked
104 Christian Arroyo SFG 3.9 Honorable Mention
105 Ryan Brett TBR 3.9 Unranked
106 Jace Peterson ATL 3.9 Unranked
107 Jose De Leon LAD 3.9 Unranked
108 Renato Nunez OAK 3.9 Honorable Mention
109 Travis Shaw BOS 3.9 Unranked
110 Lewis Thorpe MIN 3.9 Honorable Mention
111 Zach Shepherd DET 3.9 Unranked
112 Mike Foltynewicz ATL 3.9 69
113 Stephen Piscotty STL 3.9 81
114 Andrew Velazquez TBR 3.9 Honorable Mention
115 Clint Coulter MIL 3.8 Honorable Mention
116 Rowan Wick STL 3.8 Unranked
117 J.T. Realmuto MIA 3.8 Honorable Mention
118 Stephen Gonsalves MIN 3.8 Unranked
119 Ben Lively PHI 3.7 Unranked
120 Michael Taylor WAS 3.7 Unranked
121 Alex Reyes STL 3.7 76
122 Jose Martinez ARI 3.6 Unranked
123 Akeel Morris NYM 3.6 Unranked
124 Tyler Saladino CHW 3.6 Unranked
125 Reymond Fuentes KCR 3.6 Unranked
126 Matt Reynolds NYM 3.6 Unranked
127 Kyle Crick SFG 3.6 140
128 Trevor May MIN 3.6 Unranked
129 Devon Travis TOR 3.6 Honorable Mention
130 Ivan Wilson NYM 3.5 Unranked
131 Edward Salcedo PIT 3.5 Unranked
132 Tony Kemp HOU 3.5 Unranked
133 Teoscar Hernandez HOU 3.5 Unranked
134 Trevor Story COL 3.5 Unranked
135 Chase Vallot KCR 3.5 Unranked
136 Jonathan Galvez NYY 3.5 Unranked
137 Micah Johnson CHW 3.4 Unranked
138 Steven Moya DET 3.4 Honorable Mention
139 Amaurys Minier MIN 3.4 Unranked
140 Austin Barnes LAD 3.4 Unranked
141 Daniel Robertson TBR 3.4 97
142 Ian Clarkin NYY 3.4 137
143 A.J. Cole WAS 3.4 Honorable Mention
144 Javier Guerra BOS 3.4 Unranked
145 Raimel Tapia COL 3.3 91
146 Luiz Gohara SEA 3.3 Unranked
147 Gerard Hernandez ARI 3.3 Unranked
148 Nick Kingham PIT 3.2 111
149 Edwin Escobar BOS 3.2 Unranked
150 Luis Liberato SEA 3.2 Unranked
151 Robbie Ray ARZ 3.2 Unranked
152 Rio Ruiz ATL 3.2 43
153 Kevin Plawecki NYM 3.2 40
154 Dylan Unsworth SEA 3.2 Unranked
155 Sam Travis BOS 3.2 Unranked
156 C.J. Edwards CHC 3.1 64
157 Orlando Arcia MIL 3.1 87
158 Matthew Bowman NYM 3.1 Unranked
159 Amed Rosario NYM 3.1 60
160 Monte Harrison MIL 3.1 Honorable Mention
161 Anthony DeSclafani CIN 3.1 Unranked
162 Gabriel Guerrero SEA 3.1 Unranked
163 Miguel Andujar NYY 3.1 Unranked
164 Gary Sanchez NYY 3.1 Unranked
165 Jose Pirela NYY 3.0 Unranked
166 Luis Torrens NYY 3.0 Unranked
167 Tomas Telis TEX 3.0 Unranked
168 Franmil Reyes SDP 3.0 Unranked
169 Carlos Tocci PHI 3.0 Unranked
170 Correlle Prime COL 3.0 Unranked
171 Cristhian Adames COL 3.0 Unranked
172 Eury Perez ATL 2.9 Unranked
173 Frankie Montas CHW 2.9 113
174 Nicholas Rumbelow NYY 2.9 Unranked
175 Jason Martin HOU 2.9 Unranked
176 Kyle Waldrop CIN 2.9 Unranked
177 German Marquez TBR 2.9 Unranked
178 Jen-Ho Tseng CHC 2.9 Unranked
179 Enny Romero TBR 2.9 Unranked
180 Alex Meyer MIN 2.9 71
181 Rowdy Tellez TOR 2.9 Unranked
182 Enmanuel Zabala NYM 2.9 Unranked
183 Nick Ahmed ARI 2.8 Unranked
184 Samir Duenez KCR 2.8 Unranked
185 Brandon Drury ARZ 2.8 84
186 Kean Wong TBR 2.8 Unranked
187 Mauricio Dubon BOS 2.8 Unranked
188 Cesar Puello NYM 2.8 Unranked
189 Chasen Shreve NYY 2.8 Unranked
190 Wilfredo Tovar NYM 2.8 Unranked
191 Andrew Aplin HOU 2.8 Unranked
192 Carson Kelly STL 2.7 Unranked
193 Garin Cecchini BOS 2.7 Honorable Mention
194 Jorge Polanco MIN 2.7 108
195 Kyle Lobstein DET 2.7 Unranked
196 Isan Diaz ARI 2.7 Unranked
197 Carlos Munoz PIT 2.7 Unranked
198 Xavier Avery DET 2.7 Unranked
199 Troy Stokes MIL 2.7 Unranked
200 Samuel Tuivailala STL 2.6 Unranked

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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9 years ago

If Pederson, Urias, and Seager are suddenly on the Angels, I’ve woken up in a nightmare.

9 years ago
Reply to  cjm

Cool article, though, thanks! Just bustin’ some chops 😉

The Foilsmember
9 years ago
Reply to  cjm

At least we got to keep Verdugo.

9 years ago
Reply to  cjm

If that happened I might have to wonder if the Dodgers caught themselves a Trout.