The biggest complaint against the Cardinals is their lack of potential top of the rotation talent. The only Cardinal pitcher that ranked in any of the top 100 has been Chris Perez, a reliever. In fact, most of the arms in the system that are perceived to have big upside are relievers. I used to think this was a big deal, but now I’m starting to wonder if it is being blown out of proportion.
Again I’d like to refer back to Victor Wang’s research on Top 100 prospects to see if this is as big of an issue as it’s made out to be.
- 41% of Top Ten hitters range anywhere from everyday players to superstars. Only 10% of them completely bust. The rest end up as “contributors”, meaning they add no more than 2 win shares above a bench player per year.
- 29% of Top 11-25 hitters range anywhere from everyday players to superstars. 21% of them bust, 1/2 of them become contributors.
- 20% of Top 26-50 hitters range anywhere from everyday players to superstars. 35% of them bust, 45% of them contribute.
On the other hand, for pitchers:
30% of Top 25 P’s bust. 40% of them end up as contributors, or in other words, middle relievers. 19% of them become middle of the rotation starters, or contribute 2-4 win shares above bench annually during their first six seasons in the majors. The other 10% become 1-2 starters. So while scouts project future greatness for any pitcher in Top 25 prospect rankings, only 1/10 of them ultimately assume that role. On the flip side, only 1/10 top ten hitting prospects bust. So they are a much safer bet. Going down a bit further, 1/3 top 26-50 pitching prospects bust, 50% are sent to the bullpen, 14% are mid-rotation starters and just 2.5% become top flight starters.
The point is that top flight pitching talent is a nice commodity, and is valuable. But hitting prospects are a much safer bet, and the Cardinals have two, three if you count Jones (Deric McKamey and Keith Law do).
After the top 50, the hitters and pitchers rates of attrition start to level out. In fact, B and C grade pitchers are more valuable than hitters in their same group. Do the Cardinals need to improve in starting pitching? Absolutely, but having elite pitching talent in your farm system is no guarantee of anything. Rick Porcello *touchy subject* in a Cardinal uniform would look nice, but there’s a 1/3 chance he produces nothing in the majors and just a 10% chance be ever develops into the star everyone expects him to become. Would you put $7M+ of your money in a stock that carries that sort of risk?
The popular thought is “let’s draft the best pitcher on the board” this upcoming draft. But actually, this stuff carries over to the draft.
College Hitters: .76 WAB/year
High School Hitters: .75 WAB/year
College Pitchers: .49 WAB/year
High School Pitchers: .35 WAB/year
After the first round, it levels out more again, actually the pitchers gain the advantage. I say draft the best position player you can find in the first round. In this draft the best pitchers will probably be long gone by the time the Cardinals are up and the difference between the late-round 1st rd. pitcher and the 2nd round pitcher probably won’t be all that vast anyhow.