The Cincinnati Ceiling

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Q:In terms of pure high-end projection, who are the top 10 prospects in the Reds system?

Ted Kendrick, New York

I found this question interesting because it’s a useful illustration of how much difference there is between ceiling and a player’s rank. In the Prospect Handbook, we include the BA Grades, which are our swing at projecting a likely ceiling for a player. But a likely ceiling for a player is vastly different than their absolute top-of-the-scale, 1 percent chance of reaching the ceiling.

A ranking based solely on top-end ceiling would look very, very different from the Reds Top 10 that appeared online.

A Reds’ ceiling Top 10 would be led by Taylor Trammell (No. 5 on the actual Top 10), 2. Tony Santillan (ranked in the teens). 3. Cody Reed (No. 2). 4. Nick Hanson (ranked in the 20s-30). 5. Nick Senzel (No. 1). 6. Ariel Hernandez (ranked in the 20s) 7. Jose Siri (did not rank). 6. Aristides Aquino (No. 7). 8. Robert Stephenson (No. 4). 9. Amir Garrett (No. 3). 10. Tyler Stephenson (No. 10).

Hanson, Hernandez and Siri are three fascinating prospects, but all three are also high-variance prospects. They could end up being stars, but the trio could also go 0-for-3 on reaching the majors.

So how helpful is an all-ceiling list? We can look back at past history for a guide. If you turned back the clock 10 years to the 2007 Prospect Handbook, Cincinnati had a very loaded system. The combination of Homer Bailey (who ranked No. 1), Jay Bruce (No. 2), Joey Votto (No. 3), Johnny Cueto (No. 4), Drew Stubbs (No. 5), Travis Wood (No. 6) and Rule 5 pick Josh Hamilton (No. 30) have compiled 146.5 career WAR so far, with Votto and Cueto continuing to produce excellent numbers.

And while the rankings weren’t perfect, they lined up quite well. The top six prospects on the list produced six of the top seven career WAR players with the only miss being Hamilton, a Rule 5 pick who ranked 30th as he returned from a multiyear, drug-induced layoff.

But if you had ranked that Reds’ Top 30 on the basis of ceiling, it might have looked very different. It’s always hard to accurately turn back time to rank as they would have been ranked back then, but I was compiling the Reds’ rankings back then as well.

An all-ceiling Top 10 from 2007 would have ranked something like this: 1. Josh Hamilton. 2. Homer Bailey. 3. Drew Stubbs. 4. Jay Bruce. 5. Juan Francisco. 6. Milton Loo. 7. Josh Ravin. 8. Johnny Cueto. 9. Joey Votto. 10. Chris Dickerson.

An all-ceiling list would have brought Hamilton from 30th to first, but it also would have sent Votto and Cueto further down the list behind Francisco, Loo and Ravin.

Ceiling is important, but the likelihood of reaching that ceiling is also very important. That’s why we try to blend the two when putting together our rankings.

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