From 2010-2016, Baseball America ranked 18 unique pitchers in the top ten of its rankings. The pitcher with the best performance so far is the deceased Jose Fernandez, although Julio Teheran and Gerrit Cole are likely to overtake him in future years. In addition, pitchers like Shelby Miller, Alex Reyes and Julio Urias have the potential to be great pitchers. Pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Jeremy Hellickson, Yu Darvish and Arlodis Chapman provided decent value to their club while still being under team-control.
However, when we compare these results to the pitchers ranked in the top ten from 2000-2009, it is easy to see how this crop of pitchers falls short. There were six unique pitchers from 2000-2009 ranked in the top ten that contributed 25 or more wins of surplus value as a team controlled player. The only pitchers with remaining eligibility that have contributed more than ten wins of value are Julio Teheran and Gerrit Cole, both of which are unlikely to contribute even 20 wins of surplus value. If Jose Fernandez was able to stay healthy, then he probably would have reached the 25 wins of surplus value mark, but unfortunately that wasn’t meant to be. Baseball America will need to hope that its 2016 trio of starters, Julio Urias, Alex Reyes and Lucas Giolito, are more successful than the previous 15 starters. Yet, Giolito has already been traded by the Nationals suggesting they don’t think he’ll be successful.
Even more egregious, Baseball America was successful at ranking pitchers from 2010-2016 that were ultimately worth over 20 wins, but they failed to rank them as top ten pitchers. Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale were both ranked by Baseball America and were worth over 25 wins. However, both of these starters were ranked between 11 and 25th in 2010 and 2011 instead of top 10. In addition, with one year of eligibility remaining, Jake Arrieta was ranked between 51st and 100th in 2010 and has contributed 19.2 wins of surplus value. It’s likely that Arrieta will end up contributing roughly 25 wins of surplus value. This shows that there was a trio of pitchers from 2010-2016 that are likely to break at least 20 wins of surplus value, if not 25, but Baseball America failed to rank them in the top ten.
In addition, there are a lot of up and coming pitchers that are showing promise to break 20 wins that weren’t ranked in the top 10. Matt Harvey has barely thrown for more than 500 innings, but has still contributed 11.75 wins of surplus value and has two years of eligibility remaining. If he can stay healthy (a big if), then he’ll likely contribute more than 20 wins of surplus value. He was ranked between 51 and 100 by Baseball America, which makes him a big miss. It seems like Chris Archer has been around forever, but he still has three years of team-controlled eligibility remaining and has contributed over 10 wins of surplus value. With a team friendly contract, he has a strong chance of contributing more than 20 wins of surplus value as a team-controlled pitcher. He was ranked between 26 and 50 twice and between 51 and 100 once. Zach Britton may be a closer, but has still contributed over 9 wins of excess value and has two years of team-controlled eligibility remaining. He has a strong chance of contributing more than 10 wins of excess value and being a better value than nearly every single pitcher that Baseball America ranked in the top ten. Other starters like Sonny Gray, Aaron Sanchez, Jake Odorizzi, Noah Syndergaard, Yordano Ventura, Kevin Gausman, Michael Fulmer and Steven Matz are showing potential to contribute a considerable amount of excess value but weren’t ranked in the top 10 by Baseball America. There have been pitchers with strong potential to be great, but weren’t ranked highly enough by Baseball America.
Even worse than this is the number of top pitchers that weren’t ranked by Baseball America from 2010-2016 but started their careers during that period. Jose Quintana and Corey Kluber have two years each of team control remaining and have contributed 18.86 and 17.2 surplus value wins. They’re likely to have contributed at least 20 surplus value wins and maybe even 25 before all is said and done. Tanner Roark, Jacob DeGrom and Kyle Hendricks have each been worth more than 10 wins of surplus value. Roark has three years of team control remaining and the other two pitchers have four. These three pitchers are likely to contribute more than 20 surplus value wins and could get to the 25 mark. None of the three were ranked. Iwakuma, Keuchel, Miley, Lynn and Miguel Gonzalez have all contributed more than 10 wins of surplus value and have at least one year of team control remaining. Keuchel and Iwakuma are likely to contribute roughly 15 wins of surplus value.
From 2010-2016, there have been 76 pitchers that have contributed at least 5 surplus value wins to their clubs as team controlled players. Only 37 of these pitchers were ranked from 2010-2016. The ranked and unranked pitchers have contributed roughly the same amount of value so far. It will start to get ugly soon however. Only 3 pitchers out of the top 10 ranked pitchers still have eligibility remaining, Arrieta with one year and Teheran/Harvey with two years. All ten of the top unranked pitchers have eligibility remaining, and 6 of the 10 have more than one year remaining. Once that happens, the unranked pitchers will likely be much more valuable than the ranked pitchers.
More to the point, the top ten pitchers from 2010-2016 so far have probably been Bumgarner, Sale, Quintana, Kluber, Roark, Arrieta, Fernandez, Strasburg, DeGrom and Teheran. Only three of these pitchers were ranked in the top ten and only Teheran has a chance to stay in the top ten in a few years. Four of the ten were not ranked from 2010-2016. None of the top six were ever ranked in the top ten by Baseball America either. Pitchers like Keuchel, Hendricks, Cole and Archer are nearly in the top ten already and have multiple years to break into the top ten while Fernandez and Strasburg are out of eligibility. It’s very possible that only one pitcher ranked in the top ten by Baseball America from 2010-2016 will end up being one of the top ten pitchers that had their rookie year during that period.
Given a poor six year stretch of failing to rank the top pitching prospects in the top ten, it is highly likely that people using Baseball America to rate prospects will notice a problem around 2020. If they can't predict the top pitchers, then their rankings will lose significant value.