With John Sickels soon to be releasing his newest prospect book, I decided to take a peak at his 2002 book, back when he was still with Stats, INC. What struck me was just how many of the top pitching prospects from that year went on to completely flop. Now I know this was just one season, and a more complete analyisis over a greater time period could presumably yield some significant changes in the results. But I'm not going to take the time to do such an exhaustive examination, sorry.
Anyway, I looked at the top 24 pitching prospects from that class. All of these guys were rated between an A and a B+. Most were getting pretty close to being ML ready, since Sickels rarely hands out a super high grade to pitchers still working in the lower minors. If you're interested in taking a look at how they have since fared, please continue reading.
Here's a quick breakdown:
4 never even reached the Majors.
7 others made no meaningful contribution. That is to say, they ended up with less than one Win Share over their career totals.
So a total of 11 of the 24 can only be described as complete busts.
Only 9 at this point in time are likely to contribute anything meaningful in the future. The others are either out of the game or barely hanging on.
Only 4, maybe 5, have thus far pitched at an "all-star" level for any significant amount of time. And yes, I know that description is vague and subjective, and no, I'm not going to define it better than that.
Interestingly, in this already admittedly tiny sample size, an A grade did seem to have significance over the B+ guys. Of the five who scored an A or A-, only Dennis Tankersley completely "tanked". (The other 4 were Beckett, Juan Cruz, Prior, and Peavy).
What's my point to all this? Well, I guess it just shows how incredible the A's track record has been in turning their high grade pitching prospects into useful players at the Major League level. It also demonstrates why Billy Beane is so loathe to give out contract extensions to pitchers past their arbitration years. It just isn't a good bet. It certainly sheds light on why all of our top performing starters have either been traded away or were allowed to walk away over the last five years or so. Because in many cases, even the ones who do work out have a small window for truly being effective (Mulder & Zito prime examples).
So, that is why Billy has hoarded so many good arms, and why we won't keep them for more than a few years, even if they do manage to reach the top level. It is also why we can only hold our breath and hope that Cahill and Anderson turn out more like a Jake Peavy or Josh Beckett, or at least a Brett Myers or Adam Wainwright, and not a Jeff Heaverlo or Kenny Baugh.