What If We Could Rank Cubs Prospects by ZiPS Projections?

javier baez aflEver wonder what a top prospects list would look like if you use a projection system to determine the value of the player over the course of his career? Well, the man behind the ZiPS projection system you may see frequently popping up at FanGraphs this time of year wondered, and put together his own top 100 prospect list.

Dan Szymborski ran his ZiPS system on the top prospects in baseball (partly to compare them against the prospects on Keith Law’s Top 100 list), and ranked them by looking at projected career WAR. It’s a fascinating data dive for those who have ESPN Insider.

I’ll touch a little bit on some of the interesting Cubs-related bits. The big one jumps right out at the top: which is to say that Cubs prospect Javier Baez takes the overall top spot. Szymborski notes that part of the ZiPS process for minor leaguers is translating their MiLB production to the big league level, and for Baez’s 2013 season, it comes out to .248/.293/.472 in the bigs. When you consider that he would have done that as a 20-year-old shortstop? It’s really incredible, and yet another person/metric/etc. suggests that Baez’s upside is otherworldly.

Kris Bryant slid into the top ten at number nine, Albert Almora was there at 24, Jorge Soler was 40, and C.J. Edwards was 53 (it’s pretty amazing how closely these numbers mirrored the rankings we see for these guys on other prospect lists). Dan Vogelbach also snuck onto the list at number 94.

The huge surprise, though, was at number 13: Arismendy Alcantara. That’s right, when using ZiPS this way to rank prospects, Alcantara is not only the Cubs’ third best prospect, but he’s the 13th best prospect in all of baseball. Given ZiPS’ relative love for 2014 Alcantara, perhaps that’s not as surprising as we might think – clearly, ZiPS sees something in Alcantara’s numbers that screams future star. Among the comps for Alcantara, per ZiPS: Michael Young, Barry Larkin, and Robin Yount. Mercy.

(Appropriately, Luke just heaped a whole bunch of love on Alcantara earlier today in his Prospects Progress series).

You have to take this only for what it’s worth – it’s interesting, and it’s a semi-useful data point – but it’s fun to see Baez at the top and Alcantara there at 13. Thoughts on which is more impressive? Is it weird that I’m made slightly more giddy by the Alcantara bit than Baez being the top of the top?

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

42 responses to “What If We Could Rank Cubs Prospects by ZiPS Projections?”

  1. J

    And Keith Law will react most to Gallo and Vogelbach being in the top 100.

  2. Patrick W.

    Look, I know it’s not probable, but could you imagine having Cal Ripken and Robin Yount for 4 seasons? Alex Rodriguez and Barry Larkin? Criminy.

    1. aaronb

      And Mays, Mantle and Ruth!!!

      1. Patrick W.

        Which guys in the Cubs system have comps to Mays, Mantle and Ruth?

        1. aaronb

          None of them, same as the guys who comp to the 4 hall of famers you mentioned above.

          1. bbmoney

            Well ZIPs did comp some of the Cubs prospects to those hall of famers.

            Crazy and obviously unlikely, but the comp was made nonetheless. Patrick didn’t just make it up.

          2. Patrick W.

            Maybe you didn’t read the article (it does require an Insider subscription)

            “ZiPS compares Baez to names such as Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Batista, and Danny Tartabull.”

            And as Brett referenced in this very article:

            “ZiPS sees Alcantara regularly hitting in the .260s with 15-20 home runs a year, but with hitters like Michael Young, Barry Larkin, and Robin Yount high up in his offensive comp list, there’s the possibility that he’s even better.”

            1. aaronb

              I just find it silly when projection systems start comping guys who’ve yet to see a AAA pitch…much less a MLB pitch. As guys who are Hall of Famers.

              I want to be as optimistic as the next guy about the minor league crop. But this is just asking for disappointment.

              1. Patrick W.

                If you want to be as optimistic as the next guy, then be as optimistic as the next guy. You have total control of that.

                “Look, I know it’s not probable, but ….”

              2. BT

                So the fact that Patrick and Brett used tons of qualifying language just gets chucked out the window?

  3. Chavy

    Does the article say what the projected career WAR is for each player and give other statistics?

    1. J

      No, the article discusses certain players and projections (like Alcantara’s projection and Baez’s 2013 comparable) but does not provide the results for every player.

  4. SenorGato

    So anyone else considering Alcantara over whichever of main four you rank 4th? Maybe even 3rd behind Bryant and Baez like the ZiPS based rankings?

    Not even sure how much I care. Id like the Cubs to hurry up and make a major trade. The addition plus the shakeup is badly needed…Feel like we’ve said the same thing over andy over and over and over and over again…

    1. JB88

      What I hope, but can’t tell, is that 2013 was a breakout year for Alcantara and not a blip. I’m not completely convinced of the former yet. I’m hoping/praying he has another strong year this year at Iowa.

    2. Chef Brian

      I’m not sure why you have ants in your pants to gut the system in a trade? Unless some of the prospects start showing themselves to be building blocks, it makes little sense to add a major piece to the roster as currently constructed. IMO we have to build up the core more, in addition to seeing Castro and Rizzo, Shark take a step forward before we think about using our big five as currency.

      1. Eternal Pessimist

        “ants in your pants”

        Hah…maybe your comp should be Mark Twain.

        1. Chef Brian

          Heh, maybe…

  5. woody

    With Alcantara we may have to start saying “the big five”.

  6. Funn Dave

    I’m definitely more excited about his insight on Alcantara than on Baez. With Baez, it’s pretty much a concensus that he’s in the very top tier of prospects; while it’s great to see him ranked first, it’s not a whole lot different than seeing him ranked second or third. With Alcantara, his value/talent/projection is much more debatable, and he’s obviously not usually ranked this far up. So I guess, long story short, I’d rather see Alcantara shoot up the rankings by a bunch of spots than Baez ranked a couple spots higher than usual.

    1. cubspong82

      In general, I agree with what you are saying. But I do think that Baez going from around number 7 (on most lists that I have seen) to number 1 (even surpassing Buxton) is extremely impressive.

      1. Funn Dave

        Definitely.

  7. Medicos

    Isn’t it amazing that our Cubs had Banks, Santo, Williams, and Jenkins playing together for years and never won anything????? That’s 4 Hall-of-Famers!!!!

    1. pfk

      It is amazing. They had a good ball club (don’t forget Beckert, Kessinger, Hundley and Holtzman) but no depth and more importantly, no lights. Come mid August they were gassed. These teams mention how tough it is with not having enough night games – imagine having zero night games? Some people pooh pooh that but its very real and MLB players will tell you it was and is very real.

  8. Diehardthefirst

    Can’t decide if your comment is an argument for or against free agency–likely none of them would have stayed if free agency available – nostalgia keeps us warm but winning makes us feel good

  9. dan77

    Not surprised at all. All along I said and I stand by it Alcantara will be better than Baez in the bigs !!!!!!!

  10. pfk

    If you add the “Big Five” to Castro, Rizzo and Castillo, that makes a pretty amazing lineup – assuming some switching of positions. Add in some good pitching and this club could be solid for several years. By position…
    1B: Rizzo
    2B: Alcantara
    SS: Castro
    3B: Baez (maybe Bryant)
    C: Castillo
    LF: Soler (maybe Baez)
    CF: Almora
    RF: Bryant (maybe Baez or Soler)
    That is a roster with excellent talent and balanced talent. So, we suck this year – big deal. You can see greatness coming. Fast.

    1. terencemann

      It projects to be one of the best offenses in baseball.

      I would like to point out that that was the projection for the Royals not very long ago, too, so let’s all stay calm.

      1. VanceLawblawsLawBlog

        Am I the only person that thinks this is the year the Royals offense starts to really click with all those former top picks?

  11. VanceLawblawsLawBlog

    133 games in Tennessee last year. Gotta assume he starts the year in Iowa, but Alcantara could very well be the first of the top prospects to make the show if the Cubs can do something with Darwin Barney(put him in a rocket and shoot it towards the moon).

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