Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Project Prospect's Giants 2009 Top 5 Prospects

Project Prospect published recently their top 5 for the Giants here. The list is not too surprising, same as every other list's top 4 plus a different #5:
  1. Madison Bumgarner
  2. Buster Posey
  3. Tim Alderson
  4. Angel Villalona
  5. Conor Gillaspie
They also profiled Nick Noonan as an honorable mention, probably because they think he is a breakout candidate for 2009. They also mentioned Travis Ishikawa, Wendell Fairley, and Rafael Rodriguez as honorable menions.

Giants Thoughts

I think the profiles were good overall but I have some things I need to comment on.

First, I disagree vehemently regarding Angel Villalona. They pooh-poohs Angel's August, but then notes favorably Noonan's August. Yes, Noonan did have a great August, but Angel's .351 BABIP that they disparage as "luck" is not that far from what he did in June and July when his BABIP was .333. And if they say that is luck for him to do it for three months, then why wasn't Noonan's August also luck because his BABIP was .312 (he had two month below .300 BABIP) and a LD% of only 12%. They also give him the backhand on his defense without giving any reasons, and if they saw him defend badly, they should have noted it. Most accounts of his defense is that he should be at least average defensively. McKamey noted that he "has soft hands and arm strength on defense." They end his profile by noting:
Though he was the 2nd-youngest player in Low-A last season, he only managed a .321 overall wOBA. Villalona supporters can pretend he finished with an awesome August last year all they want, but the reality is his .351 BABIP from that month (16% LD) was likely more a product of bad defense, rough infields, and good luck than any kind of breakout. Villalona's youth and raw power have helped him become one of the most overhyped prospects in baseball. I see Villalona as a poor bet to ever surface as an above-average regular.

Unfortunately I have no reference point on wOBA, other than Fangraphs list his wOBA as .332 (which is low, 48th out of 86 qualifying hitters, but higher than the .321 attributed to him). But they then oddly note the fact that he was the 2nd youngest player there (which is odd, I thought he was the youngest; according to, he was the youngest to play most of the season there, the two younger players played in 1 and 35 games, respectively, while Villalona played in 123 games out of a total of 138 games), which don't make sense. Maybe though he was the oldest he hit poorly, in their opinion, but if he's the 2nd youngest, usually that leads to a positive assessment, due to age, not a disparagement. In addition, they fail to note that, beyond his ranking by age, he was doing this when he should be a senior in high school, not a professional playing in A-ball.

That's the key point about his age, not that he's 2nd youngest, which does not give enough perspective on how young he is, it's that he's doing this when he should be a senior in high school, playing against all these people who mostly are old enough to graduate from college, but even the younger players he was playing against were players who would be in their first year of college, and yet he not only held his own against them, with an OPS that was above the league average, when he should be a senior in high school, but he was among the league leaders in homeruns. Sure, he has bad discipline, but most seniors in high school would have some problems facing pitchers with 3 years of experience in college.

They also don't give him credit that this was his first full-season league and he's still adjusting to living in America, nor that this was only his second year in any type of organized ball. Most of these players have been playing and honing things down in Little League and all the various showcases they have been playing in during high school, and the majority of players in this league have 3 years of college experience plus some professional experience. He had very little experience in organized ball, except when his agent paid off corporate teams in his country to get him into some games. It is at least some experience, but certainly nothing close to the games a typical high school top prospect get into, both in high school competition and all the various showcases they play at, and certainly much less than college players got.

I'll end with a telling quote (from the Chronicle article that they linked to and mocked) from one of the Giants : "You can't expect quick results when he's just learning bunt signs for the first time in his life." Most of the players in the Sally League learned the bunt signs as 7-8 year olds in Little League or PONY League. Villalona didn't learn this until he was 16 years old, so in 2007 and 2008 he has been getting a crash course in learning all the things his fellow players had 10 years or more to learn and hone. And he still was above average.

Second, they did not give Posey the due one would expect, based on the way they wrote about the other prospects. They noted that Gillaspie as a top NCAA hitter but neglected to mention that Posey was ranked much higher by their system. In fact, he had the third best total score, based on their system, and was second for 2008. Gillaspie, out of the top picks listed there, had the 8th total score (out of 16 hitters) and 6th best score in 2008.

And though they also pooh-pooh's Buster's power, he had the third best power using their system. Which made me wonder: are they saying that their system is not that good for judging future performance? They make the same assessment that most analysts have said about Buster, that his power in college will at best translate into gap power in the majors. However, with the third best power using any system, one would think that such a player would be able to do more in the majors than gap-to-gap power.

Lastly, I agree that Noonan is a 2009 breakout candidate, but as I noted above, they base a large measure of that on his great August and if they used the same logic on Noonan that they used on Villalona, well, then his August wasn't that great, by their logic.

I find it surprising that Fairley made the Honorable Mentions, and above Rafael Rodriguez. I suppose that it reflects the assessment they have made regarding Villalona and thus reflects poorly on the Giants judgment of such international free agents. I think given the money given (highest bonus until Ynoa/A's deal) and the 5-Tool designation should give him more weight even if he hasn't done anything yet professionally.


  1. Project Prospect is a joke. The site is not even worthy of a mention. I prefer BA.

  2. I was meaning to leave a comment way back when you posted the 09' Draft projection from their site. I noticed after I left my comment that they have Aaron Crow as 19th and Alex White as 9th. These guys are total idiots.

    The writer also said a lot of people would rather have Jason Heyward than MadBum; I'm detecting a little East Coast bias. They also said he hasn't thrown a pitch above Low A, which is news to me, because I could've sworn A was above Low A. Silly me. He also says that Alderson showed a "lack of strikeouts" when he had 124 K's in 145 IP. I really, really hope this guy doesn't get paid because he's kind of a moron.

  3. Matt, I like BA too, I just like bringing up a variety of sources, because even BA is not perfect.

    Boonitez, apparently the other writers had more say in rankings, they just released their Top 200 and Bumgarner was 6th overall, 3 slots ahead of Heyward.

    However, I'm beginning to think you guys are right, that they don't know what they are talking about. They totally knocked down Villalona, they had him ranked 109th, which I think is ridiculous.

    Beyond all the negative points about Villalona's debut in full season play, the main point for his exalted prospecthood is his immense power, 40 HR potential power. Sure, he strikes out a lot but he's a 17 year old facing mainly college students and he still hit above average for the league in OPS and was 12th in the league in homeruns hit. At worse, he's looking like a high K but high HR hitter, but the pluses are that he looks like he can be average in the field, plus he showed improvement as the season progressed.

    If his stats were up and down the whole season, then I can understand skepticism. But they all generally rose as the season went on, reaching a peak at the end of the season.

    Hitters who can blast out 30-40 HR regularly are rare, and Villalona still looks like he can be one of them, so there is no good reason to reduce his ranking so drastically from 2008 to 2009.

    They have based their reputation, at least with me, on thinking that they know prospects better than the sources that have scouts supporting their views (and not like they aren't reading BA, BP, etc., and "borrowing" from them liberally, I would bet), so I will watch with interest this season to see how they react to how Villalona does and whether they are willing to eat crow if they are wrong about Villalona. Obviously, if they are right, then I will bow down to them and say "I'm not worthy".

    However, I don't expect to have to do that. I expect to stop following their website after this season.

  4. You guys have made some inaccurate assumptions in your evaluations of our work.

    I live on the West Coast. We don't plagiarizer from other prospect sources.

    If Villalona winds up performing better than we expect, I'll be happy to revisit him and our evaluation of's all about learning.

    I'm currently working on a piece that explains our stance on Villalona. I'd be happy to go into more detail about our methods through email (



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