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Feb 20 / King Kaufman

Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects review shows the value of looking back

Baseball America’s annual Top 100 Prospects list hit the web Wednesday, and while the 2014 list itself is behind a paywall, the site did publish a free article looking at the history of the BA Top 100, which is in its 25th year.

It’s a great read, even if you don’t find reading about baseball prospects fascinating. Full disclosure: I do.

If you make predictions in your sportswriting, it’s a useful exercise to look back every once in a while, as Manuel does here. That lets readers know how you did, but it can also provide important lessons for you.

Running down each year’s “Most Regrettable Ranking,” Manuel points out some patterns. “We’ll admit it, we were always suckers for a big signing bonus,” he writes about a high ranking in 1994 for 16-year-old Australian shortstop Glenn Williams. “Remember what we said about those big signing bonuses?” Manuel writes in the 1997 “Regrettable Ranking” section. “Matt White received a $10.2 million bonus as one of four loophole free agents from the ’96 draft, and that helped him check in at No. 4 in his first year of eligibility for the list.”

White, a pitcher, never made it past Triple-A. Unlike Williams, who got into 13 games with the Minnesota Twins 11 years after BA ranked him.

Elsewhere, Manuel points out that Baseball America’s evaluators are “suckers for power lefthanders” and have “shied away” from righthanded-hitting first basemen. And as much fun as it is to laugh at some of the bad rankings—some lefty named Tyrone Hill No. 10 in 1993, 34 spots ahead of Derek Jeter—Manuel gets to brag about plenty of hits too: In 1995, for example, BA ranked Vladimir Guerrero No. 85. He was 19 and had played 37 games of rookie ball. He broke out onto everyone else’s radar that season.

The hits and misses can all be as instructive as they are entertaining. Do you make predictions? How have you done?