Last Thursday, ESPN colleague Keith Law released his Top 100 prospects, his ninth such annual ranking for ESPN. This means it's time to put Keith's selections through the ZiPS wringer, testing his prospect rankings against the ZiPS projection system's data-driven, emotionless algorithms. I've outlined the biggest sources of disagreement between Keith and ZiPS, which tend to be the most interesting conflicts between humans and machines that don't involve evil computers subjugating humanity.
As one might expect, there is a lot of common ground between ZiPS and Law, with 71 players in common to both lists. Among Keith's top-10 prospects, none rank lower than 19th in ZiPS, and of his top 50, all but three are ranked (in the Top 100) by ZiPS. Data and scouting overlap more than you think, in no small part because Keith knows how to read and draw conclusions from minor league data, not to mention there's a surprising amount of tool quantification that can be found even in minor league data.
That said, there are several players Law and ZiPS greatly disagree on, and those, of course, make for the more interesting debates. Let's highlight those players below, with ZiPS taking the podium to explain the disparity.
Note: Full Top 100 ZiPS prospect rankings are at the bottom of this column.
Just like last season, ZiPS is a bigger fan of the Mets pitching prospect than Law is. Last year, ZiPS ranked Matz favorably (No. 32), while Keith didn't rank him. After a 2.05 ERA in 19 minor league starts and a 2.27 ERA in six starts in the majors, ZiPS obviously isn't going to like him less than it did last year; he has jumped all the way to the 10 spot. Yes, there are concerns about Matz's health record -- ZiPS isn't giving him a large number of career innings due to the uncertainty -- but he also has pitched very well in the high minors and now in the majors. Getting through the minor league Gauntlet of Sadness that is the fate of a pitching prospect to endure, Matz is one of the safer bets, even if he lacks the very high-end upside that pitchers like Julio Urias and Lucas Giolito possess.