Twenty years ago – believe it or not – sabermetric godfather Bill James introduced Similarity Scores, a basic concept to compare current players’ careers to that of Hall of Famers. It was based on the basic counting stats: games, at bats, hits, doubles, triples, innings pitched, wins, losses, etc…
Baseball Reference, in all its glory, has incorporated an expanded version of Similarity Scores, comparing both current and former players. For example, through the age of 26, Jason Kipnis’ highest Similarity Score is Bret Boone (974). The highest score possible is 1000. You can read more about it here.
So, in my constant need for better prospect evaluation I developed my own comparison formula: The Prospect Similarity Test (PST). Like James’ version the highest score is 1000, but I use the statistics best for prospect evaluation (age, level of competition, position, etc…) and assigned weighted values for each statistic.
A few things to note:
- It’s done on a yearly basis, not entire minor league careers.
- Typically, PST scores of 980 and above are for very similar players with matching skillsets.
- A PST score of 960-979 results in (typically) the difference of one standout tool (for example, Player A may show more power than Player B).
Without boring you with the detailed math, here are some of the interesting finds from the Indians’ system.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Age: 20
2014 Score: Chris Owings, 2012, (956.14); Jonathan Villar, 2011, (953.48); Jose Iglesias, 2010, (949.58)
2013 Score: Starlin Castro, 2009, (982.84); Addison Russell, 2013, (956.06); Xander Bogaerts, 2012, (951.82)
Long touted as one of the game’s top prospects, Lindor’s 2013 offensive production matched (for the most part) some of the game’s top shortstop talent (no surprise). His numbers have regressed a little this season. But the less favorable comps of 2014 should represent his floor at the very least.
Something worth mentioning: Lindor’s best PST score, Starlin Castro, has been about 12% than the offensive production during his two top seasons (2011 and 2014). Add in Lindor’s plus defense and the Tribe’s shortstop of the future should easily be a 5.0-win player.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, 23
2014 Score: Evan Marshall, 2013, (933.60); Sam Demel, 2009, (923.34); Jose Cisnero, 2012, (921.18)
2013 Score: Yusmeiro Petit, 2007, (954.94); Demetrio Gutierrez, 2012, (952.34); Jake Odorizzi, 2012, (949.60)
2012 Score: Chad Billingsley, 2006, (988.68); Eduardo Sanchez, 2010, (953.80); Hector Rondon, 2009, (949.64)
Bauer’s technically no longer a prospect, but I thought he would be worth discussing. Outside of Chad Billingsley, there are basically no reasonable comps for the club’s developing right-hander, who struggled through a poor 2013 season.
Clint Frazier, OF, Age: 19
2014 Score: Julio Morban, 2011, (995.68); Everett Williams, 2010, (987.24); Cristian Santana, 2008, (984.52)
Frazier’s had a tough go of it in the Midwest League thus far, hitting .249/.321/.386. The comps so far aren’t very promising, but he has hit .274/.318/.468 since May 30th.
LeVon Washington, OF, Age: 22
2014 Score: Jose Constanza, 2006, (980.28); Tim Kennelly, 2009, (977.02); Brett Gardner, 2006, (976.70)
2013 Score: Dan Brewer, 2009, (992.42); Kyeong Kang, 2009, (981.08); Kyler Burke, 2009, (976.26)
I’ve been on the Washington Bandwagon since the Indians drafted the oft-injured outfielder in the second round in 2010. Finally healthy, he’s hitting .322/.422/.418 with line drive power and a great eye at the plate. I still think – perhaps, stubbornly so – that his ceiling is an above-average everyday player.
Tyler Naquin, OF, Age: 23
2014 Score: John Andreoli, 2013, (989.30); Adron Chambers, 2010, (986.84); Miguel Negron, 2006, (986.58)
2013 Score: Michael Taylor, 2013, (989.78); Jamie Hoffmann, 2007, (988.68); Evan Crawford, 2011, (986.44)
I was absolutely critical of this draft pick, writing at that time that Naquin was going to be “a quality fourth outfielder or starter on a non-contending team.” Not only does his production back that up, but so do the PSTs.
Jose Ramirez, 2B/SS, Age: 21
2014 Score: B.J. Upton, 2006, (952.72); Chris Owings, 2013, (950.62); Wilmer Flores, 2013, (947.50)
2013 Score: Wilfredo Tovar, 2012, (950.76); Jonathan Schoop, 2012, (949.32); Alcides Escobar, 2007, (948.18)
This one shocked the hell out of me personally. I had always pegged Ramirez as a super-sub type. But five of the six players are or will be everyday regulars. The jury’s still out on Tovar.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Age: 24
2014 Score: Scott Thorman, 2006, (983.38); Allen Craig, 2009, (976.30); Brandon Allen, 2010, (975.58)
2013 Score: Mike McDade, 2012, (992.28); Chris Parmelee, 2011, (986.68); Andy Wilkins, 2012, (985.90)
Again, I’ve never been high on Aguilar. In my book, The 2014 Prospect Digest Annual, I ranked the hulking first baseman as the club’s 20th prospect, writing: “A solid minor league bat, but nothing in particular stands out.” Outside of Craig, who had a longer track record of better minor league success, there’s no reason to think Aguilar will develop into anything tangible at the big league record
Luigi Rodriguez, OF, Age: 21
2014 Score: John Tolisano, 2010, (986.90); Gerardo Parra, 2008, (985.76); Dexter Fowler, 2007, (985.44)
2013 Score: Jorge Bonifacio, 2013, (977.00); Jaff Decker, 2010, (973.04); Matthew Sulentic, 2008, (972.62)
Another favorite of mine in the Tribe’s system, Rodriguez, despite standing 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, offers an intriguing mix of speed, plate discipline, and power. His 2013 was interrupted by injury. There’s some definite big league value here, though.