Top 100 Prospects List Has Staying Power

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Our Top 100 Prospects list is our most popular annual feature, and it's not hard to figure out why: Here are the 100 best prospects in baseball. That's a simple concept to get your arms around and has obvious appeal.

Baseball America ranks a lot of things, but ranking the Top 100 Prospects is probably the most important ranking we do, and the one that people ask us about year-round: When does the Top 100 Prospects list come out? When are you going to update the Top 100 Prospects list? Why don't you update the Top 100 Prospects list throughout the year?

That's why it has endured for more than two decades. Yes, it's hard to believe that this is the 22nd Top 100 Prospects list that we have assembled. Certainly we have players from the first list who have already washed out; heck, we have players from last year's list who are already on their way to washing out.

More notably, the first lists have now had players complete notable major league careers, such as Frank Thomas and Larry Walker from the first list in 1990 or Mike Mussina and Jeff Bagwell from the 1991 list. It won't be long before one of those players (or perhaps another) becomes the first Top 100 Prospects alum to reach the Hall of Fame.

It's a tribute to the first group that assembled a Top 100 Prospects list here, beginning an unbroken string that continued to the current group that does it, that they took the process seriously enough to build a list that stands up to the test of time. We like to think we have refined the process to the point that it's better than ever now, but the current lists have always been built on a foundation that's exceptionally strong.

Wisdom Of Groups

There are various kinds of features that we come up with to accompany the Top 100 Prospects list, and by this time I think I have seen most of them.

It can inspire a prospect draft, as it did last year, or prompt us to look at the risk factors of each prospect. We have run that as a full-blown feature in the past, and this year John Manuel looks at that aspect on a smaller scale in his column.

This year we go back to our Split Decisions feature, which probably takes you inside the process more than any other feature because it points out the differences in opinions among our voters.

We try to speak with one voice when it comes to our rankings, but we also don't hide that those rankings are built from consensus and compromise among people who don't always agree. And while we're not big on meetings and committees here at BA, we do think many informed opinions are better than one when it comes to rankings.

Major league teams clearly share this perspective. When they build their draft boards, they depend on the opinions of many scouts and crosscheckers. We are not scouts or crosscheckers, but we talk to lots of these people, and between us we share a lot of collective knowledge. Even still, we have differences of opinions on players, and differing levels of expertise, so putting our heads together makes for a better list.

This has always been done when building the Top 100. In the beginning they did it the hard way, by sitting down with individual lists and hammering out a consensus list spot by spot. Now we let the spreadsheet handle most of the arguing, and the math usually places players in the right spot—not to mention saving us hours of debate.

Now we can boil the debating down to a few key points, where an individual feels that a player is out of whack or the placement isn't consistent with where he was in an organization list or in our draft rankings. We can't resolve all these inconsistencies, but we do try to have things make sense as much as possible. And with the Split Decisions feature, you get a closer look at some of the key decision points, such as how to make sense of the Royals at the top of the list, and some of the thinking that went into the placement of prospects on the list.

In the end, though, you just want to look at the list and see where your favorite players are, how your favorite team is doing in producing premium prospects, or perhaps figure out which players you want to target in your fantasy draft this spring.

We're glad you keep coming back, and we think the longevity and popularity of the list prove it's the definitive prospect list in the game.