Projecting the future is always a challenge, and no feat of prognostication is as difficult as ranking the top prospects in baseball. I mean, if Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton can spoil plans, with all of the information we have available about those two longtime major league stars, how much more difficult is it to evaluate players on whom there's relatively limited information?
ESPN Insider's Keith Law published his seventh annual top 100 prospects list last week, and as usual, the rankings are a lively source of debate. In that spirit, I thought it would be interesting to see what the ZiPS projection system thinks of these prospects, and compare that to where they landed on Law's list. To do this, I took all prospects and ranked them by projected career WAR, and compared that to Law's ranking.
As should be expected, there's a great deal of agreement between ZiPS and Law. While the ranks differ, sometimes widely, ZiPS saw enough statistical data to conclude that 83 of Keith's Top 100 are also in the ZiPS Top 100. Human scouts will always see things a computer won't, including a player's mechanics, knowledge of a nagging hamstring pull, etc. But computers have their strengths, too, including the ability to process large amounts of information and put that data into historical context. Both approaches are needed, at least until the robot apocalypse enslaves the human race.
ZiPS TOP 10
Where there is the least disagreement is in the top 10 prospects. That's not surprising, given that to reach this elite height of prospect-dom, you generally have to be loved by both scouts and stats. More speculative choices will fall much farther down the lists. Here's the top 10, as ranked by ZiPS. (A full list of the ZiPS top 100 can be found at the bottom of this article.