You can't follow prospects without the desire to want to compare a player you're following to one you've already seen. It's just natural.
It's also unfair, at least the way it's typically done, so I've decided to take comparisons a step further, and all it really takes is time and effort.
What I'm trying to do is come up with what I've termed a "window comp," which is a range of comparisons based on scouting reports and statistical searches that give us four possible results, depending on the way a prospect develops.
Every prospect has questions about their future. No matter the polish of a prospect, there is no telling the varying degrees to which certain tools will develop. A hitter with plus power could end up hitting 30 a year or 40. A growing 19-year-old could outgrow shortstop and end up at third base. And so on.
Our four results attempt to determine what player from our past a prospect may eventually become, based on the things we know for sure (size, position, handedness, tools) and considering the aspects of a prospect that are still up in the air. Our results each follow the same format:
- Best-case scenario: This is the type of player a prospect could become if everything goes right, but it has to be realistic. For instance, the best case scenario for a prospect like Mike Trout won't be Willie Mays, because Trout isn't that kind of power hitter, but it is Rickey Henderson. It's what a prospect will become if he becomes the best he can be.
- Realistic high-end: While I try to make every comparison as realistic as possible, it's important to recognize that the best-case scenario requires the prospect to become the best he can be in every aspect of his development. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. What does happen, however, is that a player develops pretty well, with just a few minor flaws that hold him back. Even all-stars can fall into this category.
- Realistic low-end: This is what happens if those minor flaws become more significant flaws.
- Worst-case scenario: The wheels have fallen off at this point. The flaws that a player have are completely exposed at the major league level and nothing that was expected from a prospect comes to fruition. But the things we know about a player can't go away. For instance, our worst-case scenario for Mike Trout was Darren Lewis, who had a nice major league career. That's because the comparison of Trout was written at the time of his 2011 call-up. By that time, we knew that Trout had Gold Glove potential as a defender, would always have at least a decent eye at the plate, and would always be able to steal a base. Those things don't go away unless there are injury issues, which I don't worry about because they can't be predicted.
The end result is a range of expectations, with the percentages of the results forming roughly the shape of a bell curve. It's different for each prospect, depending on what their question marks are and how far they are from the majors, but in general, most prospects will end up somewhere between their realistic high and low ends.
But some will be great, and some will be terrible. And that, of course, is why we love prospects in the first place.