Boyd Nation wrote last year, “Baseball America has been the source of one of the great evils of our time — the prospect list.” Hs point is that lists are media driven, fuelled by their mass appeal, but are not real and should be kept away from the eyes of the decision makers. He also spoke of something he coined “The Halo Effect,” citing an example near and dear to my heart in a comparison of Padres’ Jon Knott and Xavier Nady, in which Knott had the better numbers for three consecutive years, yet Nady was the higher-ranked prospect gracing all of the lists in each of the years, climbing without statistical basis, and being promoted above Knott. He makes the claim this was due to perception and prospect lists, but I struggle with the latter, thinking it’s unlikely the Padres make their promotions based on what Baseball America thinks. But I acknowledge the business aspect of baseball teams and recognize appeasing their clientele could play a role.
Those brave souls who dare to listen to my babble know well my feelings on both players, and I do agree with much of what Mr. Boyd says, a man who, not unlike myself, has toiled in relative anonymity, known more to the experts than the general public. His point on prospect lists in general is something I’ve talked about privately for years, but I’ve always taken another step forward, and declared Baseball America’s lists flawed for the reasons cited above. They are a massive source of information, but are best categorized as journalists; good to great ones for anyone who misinterprets this and assumes it’s an indictment of the organization. Their lists reflect both media spin and a love of potential, regardless of team policy/trend, age or statistical proof. To that end, they do not hold up against reality, and there are more accurate methods to prognosticate it. But that isn’t really the agenda of the lists as pointed out above.
I don’t intend on discussing my rankings this season as I don’t have a list published for this year. It is buried deep within the bowels of my database, but don’t normally enjoy being taken to task for not ranking a player as high as Baseball America, or at least as high as the team fan thinks I should. Not that I’m bothered by a good debate – I’m armed always – and generally find minor league enthusiasts to be very knowledgeable and articulate. But you’re not permitted space for total disclosure of thought on the lists. There’s a feeling of nakedness when lists are published and a flat rank with only a line or two leaves you vulnerable to interpretation. And the criticisms come in droves at that time every year. Why go through the ordeal if you don’t have to?
No 100-rankings for this year, unless I change my mind, which I do too often, according to my wife.