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ZiPS Rank Name Team Age Position Eric’s Rank 95 Matthew Liberatore STL 20 P 94 21 Nolan Gorman STL 20 3B 38 7 Dylan Carlson STL 21 CF 39
Since 2014, I’ve cranked out the career numbers for every significant prospect, regardless of whether they’ve reached the level of the minors that would normally justify an official projection. After a one-year hiatus, those projections, more commonly known as the ZiPS Top 100 Prospects list, return for their FanGraphs debut. If you’re unaware of what ZiPS projections are and the purpose they serve, please consult this article and this article while I reconsider my public relations strategy.
These projections are not a replacement for scouting. Projection systems are very clever, and a smart analyst can figure out a lot of ways to approach some of the thornier data questions that emerge over 15 years of prognostication (as for me, I’ve muddled by). But they can’t capture everything and the farther down the minor league ladder you go, the worse the data gets and the shorter the players’ histories become. That’s why I usually need a compelling reason to create a yearly projection for a hitter with no High-A experience or a pitcher who has yet to make a Double-A appearance. ZiPS can use college data, but I prefer to avoid it. And ZiPS does not use high school data, as that would be preposterous. Without college stats or a major international league, ZiPS literally has nothing to go on for a player without minor league experience. So if you’re wondering why Jasson Dominguez is missing from the list, it’s not that he’s a lousy prospect, it’s just that ZiPS doesn’t have anything useful to say about him yet.
One of the biggest differences between ZiPS and most other prospect lists is that, given the uncertainty surrounding any prospect’s future performance, ZiPS projections tend to give higher career WAR forecasts to lower-risk, lower-ceiling players in the high minors. So ZiPS has historically given higher grades to prospects like Steven Matz, Kolten Wong, and Marcus Semien, though it turned out his ceiling was quite high, than any other prospect lists did. Some of the successes — players who ranked higher on the ZiPS list than any other I found — include Ozzie Albies (No. 49, pre-2015), Mookie Betts (No. 26, pre-2014), Trea Turner (No. 11, pre-2016), and Joc Pederson (No. 2, pre-2015). Naturally, there have been some dismal busts too, just like any prospect list, the worst possibly being the year ZiPS had Arismendy Alcantara ranked 13th. Whoops.