Hitters are ranked R1 through R5. The R1s are the minor leaguers on the cusp of the majors who should have a big impact when and if they're called up. R2s are also close to the majors but shouldn't (in theory) have that much of an impact. R5s are like R1s in that they're the cream of the crop but are very far away. R4s are the long-term version of R2s: likely to make an impact in the long-term, but not as much of an impact as the R5s.
R3s have the widest range of possibilities. These are usually ex-prospects who have passed their prime, ex-major leaguers who could make an impact but probably won't, and other flotsam and jetsam who probably won't make an impact. Think Mike Aviles.
There are a number of sources that do rank prospects, though. Today, I thought I'd take a look back at some of these rankings, starting today with the N.L. hitters.
Top 10 N.L. Minor League Hitters - John Sickels
John Sickels is my favorite prospect prognosticator in the business. Not only does he split his rankings so that hitters and pitchers are ranked separately, he also gives his prospects grades. He has all sorts of caveats about what the grades mean and don't mean. But the hell with that. Grades are what we want to see. Sickels, in other words, has guts.
One significant problem with lists like this one is that they don't translate to Rotisserie at all (though they're loads of fun to look at). Votto was the best rookie on this list in 2008, but I'd still bet that Bruce has a better shot at a greater career than Votto does. The rankings are worth looking at, however, to see what the tout leagues (and Patton) are thinking when they buy these players.
The most significant handicap that Patton has - in a hypothetical pricing battle - is that he's playing by the same rules that I do in my leagues. You can't buy minor leaguers at auction; you either have to pick them up as reserve/farm players, or you have to use your FAAB (for leagues that don't have reserve lists).
This isn't to say that being forced into a price for a player like Bruce or Rasmus is easy - particularly when you're auctioning in early March. For most players, we're only guessing how well a player will do. In leagues that auction earlier (and let you keep minor leaguers you purchased), we're also trying the guess when - or if - a player will be in the majors. Owners who spent $9-12 for Maybin didn't think he'd be called up on September 16.
The expert leagues' "R" designations aren't ratings, but rather the round a player who wasn't auctioned was picked. This is an additional part of the pecking order as well. Someone in LABR liked McCutcheon a lot, while quite a few players floated by in CBS and Tout before McCutcheon was grabbed.
I like Sickels' list a lot, but it's more useful to look at at least one other list.
Top 10 N.L. Minor League Hitters - Baseball America
Not surprisingly, Baseball America's list skews a lot younger.
Marrero and Heyward aren't of any interest to the one-and-done tout leagues. They are of interest to us, though, and should have been drafted even in leagues with very shallow farm systems. It's too bad I don't have more keeper league data; this is where I'm stuck comparing apples to candy bars.
Younger skew or no, the omissions from BA's list don't inspire confidence. I can understand keeping Soto off of this list, but Votto?
The touts must have really loved Schafer; bidding $3 or $4 for a guy who had all of 436 AB in high A-ball entering 2008 didn't make a lot of sense.
Top 10 N.L. Minor League Hitters - Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Prospectus repeats seven of the 10 hitters on both the Sickels and the Baseball America lists. Judging by how the tout prices shake out here, I can guess which source the tout leagues are using for the prices...or at least leaning on more.
I've pointed out the differences on these lists, but what depresses me are the similarities. Bruce and Rasmus are 1-2 on all three lists, and Sickels' ranking Maybin fifth instead of third is hardly a headline-grabber.
Again, these lists are fun to look at. But a more thorough analysis would have to look back three or four years from now and see how these guys are doing in 2012 or 2013.
Of course, that will mean a lot more in our leagues, since there's always the chance in serious money leagues that someone could pick Bruce as a farm player, keep him once he makes the majors, and give him a contract that keeps him on the same team for an additional three years.