Review of Hitting Prospects, James Player Rater 1995

View a spreadsheet of all 81 prospects by clicking here.

Last week, I submitted for the readership’s consideration a review of the hitting prospects from the 1994 edition of the Bill James Player Ratings Book.

In what follows, I do something similar for the 1995 edition.

The reader might remember that, in the ’94 edition, there were many rookie-eligible players who (a) didn’t receive grades but (b) were still very clearly being regarded as prospects by James — Carlos Delgado and Manny Ramirez being two notable cases. The 1995 edition of the book goes even futher in this direction: there are 81 players whom James seems to indicate as prospects of one stripe or another, but only 20 receive grades.

Just as with the ’94 edition, however, James assigns a “dollar” amount to each player in the book.

The criteria for his valuations go like this:

$70-100	The best players in baseball
$50-70	All-Stars
$40-50	Very good players, minor stars
$30-40	Quality regulars
$20-30	Run-of-the-mill regulars, good platoon players
$10-20	Role Players	
< $10	Players who probably won't be on a roster

Using the same ranges as last time, I assigned grades to prospect-eligible players (under 27 years old, fewer than 130 career at-bats) as follows:

Grade A: >= $24
Grade B: $19-$23
Grade C: $14-$18
Grade D: $10-$13

Below is the data. Note that, for the sake of this study, the term “per season” means “per 650 plate appearances.” In other words, the average Grade A prospect, didn’t necessarily play for 8.1 seasons, but rather 8.1 “sets” of 650 PAs.

There were 16 Grade A prospects (19.8%). The Grade A prospects averaged 28.1 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 3.5 WAR per season over 8.1 seasons. All 16 of these prospects played in the Majors, and all recorded more than 100 PAs. Three of them (top-rated Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, and Alex Rodriguez) played in 2010.

There were 17 Grade B prospects (21.0%). The Grade B prospects averaged 4.8 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 1.7 WAR per season over 2.7 seasons. All 17 of these prospect played in the Majors, and all recorded more than 100 PAs. Of the 17, only Garret Anderson played in 2010.

There were 29 Grade C prospects (35.8%). The Grade C prospects averaged 3.3 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 1.6 WAR per season over 2.0 seasons. Of these 29 prospects, all but one (Tom Gordon’s cousin, Clyde “Pork Chop” Pough) played in the Majors. Five others recorded 100 or fewer career plate appearances. One of them (Bobby Abreu) played in 2010.

There were 19 Grade D prospects (23.5%). The Grade D prospects averaged 2.2 WAR over the course of their respective careers — or, 0.9 WAR per season over 2.4 seasons. Of these 19 prospects, all but three (Luis Raven, Stanton Cameron, and Marc Marini) played in the Majors. Three others (Steve Hosey, Aaron Holbert, and Doug Saunders) recorded 100 or fewer career plate appearances. None of them played in 2010.

Five notes:

• The reader might not the relative paucity of prospects in this edition of the Player Rater (81) relative to the two previous editions we’ve looked at (each over 100). While I don’t know the exact reason for this, my sense is that the baseball strike might have had something to do with it. The strike looms ominously over James’ entire book — rightly so, I think. For someone who spends almost all of his time thinking about baseball, for baseball to not exist must be a strange and/or harrowing thing.

• Here are the Grade A prospects, in order of career WAR (Baseball America ranking for 1995 in parentheses): Alex Rodriguez (1), Chipper Jones (3), Derek Jeter (4), Jeff Cirillo (Not Rated), Shawn Green (6), Ray Durham (28), Charles Johnson (7), Carl Everett (95), David Bell (NR), Alex Gonzalez (8), Rich Becker (NR), Roger Cedeno (26), Russ Davis (78), Jose Malave (94), Marc Newfield (29), and Melvin Nieves (NR).

Ruben Rivera was ranked second by BA in 1995, third in 1996, and ninth in 1997. This is less an indictment of BA and more a note on the dangers of prospect mavenry.

• You can view a spreadsheet of all 81 prospects by clicking here. (Note: the sheet titled “1995” is the one I’ve used for this post. The one titled “1995z” has the 61 graded prospects and then the 41 ungraded, but still prospect-eligible, players (denoted with a “Z”).

• Sometime next week, I’ll post an uberlist of all three years (1993-95) with some final observations on this project.

Here are James’ definitions for each the prospect grades:

Grade A
“The term Grade A prospect means that all of the information about a young player is positive, or that the positive information about the player is overwhelmingly greater than the negative information… What the term Grade prospect does not mean is tthat the guy is going to be a star… What we’re saying with the term is that there is no apparent reason that this player cannon be a star.”

Grade B
“The term Grade B prospect is a term of praise, not of information. The term Grade B prospect means that the information about the player is essentially positive, but with some significant limitation… [T]he term is
not meant at all to say that the player won’t be a major league star — only that there is something here to worry about.”

Grade C
“The term Grade C prospect means that there is a more or less even mix of information which makes you think that the player
will be a good major league player, and information which makes you think he won’t… Can a Grade C prospect go on to become a star? Sure, it happens. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens. For every one who becomes a star, there’s going to be 30 or 50 or 100 who fall by the wayside quickly.”

Grade D
“[T]he term Grade D prospect means, of course, that the information about the player is
predominantly, but not overwhelmingly, negative. The term Grade D prospect means that there is something here that you have to like.”

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Jason B
Jason B

I really enjoy these lookbacks. Jeff Cirillo recorded more career WAR than Shawn Green and Ray Durham? Surprising stuff.


I’m pretty sure it goes into WAR, but in case it doesn’t, Cirillo definitely benefitted from playing in two jitters parks for most of his career in coors and miller. I also don’t think the positional adjustment goes into WAR in the years prior to UZR being included, SS and 2B that get 600 PAs of 700 OPS usually have a decent WAR as long as their UZR is slightly greater than zero. I would think this woulda put Durham ahead of cirillo, but looking back Cirillo did have some monster years.

I’m in class so I can’t really go look at his numbers, but I remember green having a couple of monster years for Toronto and then his for couple years with LA and then falling off a cliff suddenly.

adam smith
adam smith

Cirillo never played at miller park when he was with the Brewers. They played out of County Stadium back then.

It is amazing that he had more career WAR than Shawn Green…never would have guessed that. Small market anonymity for the mainstream, but it never gets lost on fangraphs.