DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
STARS, STARTERS, OR BUSTS: WHAT CAN WE REALISTICALLY EXPECT FROM VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR. AND BO BICHETTE IN THE FUTURE?
by Quinn Sweetzir
At 41-47, the first half of the Toronto Blue Jays season has been suboptimal to say the least. The club has declined defensively, experienced severe regression from several of our pitchers, and has generally failed to score sufficiently enough to win ballgames. As a result of our decline, the desire for an optimistic aspect of the organization has led many to search outside the major league club and into Jays prospects. Enter Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, a pair of position players who’ve impressed the masses with solid offensive performances in the minor leagues this season, leading some to hail the pair as the Jays next great duo.
Guerrero Jr. and Bichette’s first half performances have been strong enough to see their stocks rise significantly especially in Top Prospects lists. For example, Baseball America's Midseason Top 100 Prospects List saw Guerrero Jr. and Bichette ranked as the 2nd and the 44th respective prospects in baseball. Additionally, Baseball Prospectus' Jeffrey Paternostro ranked this pair as the 13th and 29th respective prospects.
The hype for this pair of minor leaguers is extreme, with major league projections envisioning future contributions ranging from average major leaguers to outright stars. But if we look at their talent from a realistic, historical perspective, what probability do they have of actually meeting or exceeding these expectations in their future. In order to determine these odds, I decided to investigate past prospects and attempt to identify trends which were applicable to the prospect duo.
According to Bo Bichette’s player page on Baseball Prospectus, his realistic role is as a 50-grade, major league regular with overall future potential as an above average, 60-grade middle infielder. If we rely on the Fangraphs interpretation of the 20-80 scale, Bichette would have to be worth approximately 2.0 fWAR to reach his 50-grade potential, and 3.0 fWAR to reach his 60-grade ceiling.
Based on Bichette’s latest prospect ranking, I identified potential comparables to the Jays young shortstop, who were based on the following criteria:
Of the 83 players who meet these requirements, I ranked them based on career fWAR, and fWAR/600 PA in order to identify how many of them manage to achieve sustained big league success. The results are below, with each dot representing the performance of a prospect:
If we assume that the odds are the same for Bo Bichette as they are to the comparables included, there is an “bust potential” (sub-replacement level) of around 25%, and a “star potential” (3.1 or greater fWAR PA), which is only about 16%. In addition, Bichette has just a 39% chance of being worth 50-grade, 2.0 fWAR/600 PA in his career, despite that total being described as a “realistic role” in Bichette aforementioned BP player page, and just a 16% chance of reaching his overall future potential.
Bichette’s ceiling may seem rather low when compared to the successes and failures of the past but what about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? Fangraphs' KATOH Projections believe he will produce 18.9 fWAR during his first 6 MLB seasons, and if we assume he gets 600 plate appearances per season, this translates to about 3.2 fWAR/600 PA.
Similarly to Bichette, I created a list of comparable prospects for Guerrero Jr., based on a slightly different criteria:
In terms of corner infielders, 73 players meet the requirements. I repeated the same process as was done with Bichette, which produced the following results.
Of the two prospects, Guerrero Jr. is less risky prospect, with just a “bust potential” of about 22% as opposed to 25% for Bichette. There are a couple reasons for this however, as according to SB Nation's Royals Review, found evidence that both higher rated prospects, and corner infielders tend to succeed more at the major league level than lower ranked, middle infield prospects; these are areas where Guerrero Jr. is at the advantage. In addition, Guerrero Jr. also has a higher “star potential”, with about a 21% chance for 3.1 or more fWAR/600 PA as opposed to his fellow infield prospects 16%. However Guerrero Jr. doesn’t have as much of a chance of succeeding relative to expectations as Bichette, thanks to a higher realistic 55-grade outlook and a overall potential value of 65, which are around 29% and 10% respectively.
For all the numbers and percentages displayed, there question of how well they could combine to perform in the big leagues still remains. The possibilities range from both flaming out miserably to both becoming significant stars, so I decided to use the data I collected to decide what the likelihoods of various performance outcomes from these two players are. Here are my results.
If you’re having trouble with the odds, let me help you break it down.
Whether the odds are better or worse than you expected in terms of Bichette and Guerrero Jr.’s cumulative major league outlook, it is interesting to view and discuss regardless. Them performing to the higher performance level side of the projection could have significant impact in terms of the clubs long term success.
The overall conclusion I’ve reached is that fans, analysts, and executives need to be wary of becoming too attached to prospects, especially bunches of them. In my opinion, expecting greatness from both of Guerrero Jr. and Bichette is a recipe for disappointment, and my evidence suggests that 6 out of 10 times, at least one of them will struggle as a major leaguer.
I’ll confess that on the surface this take may be unpopular on the surface, but as the saying goes, “history repeats itself”, and expecting Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to be any different is unrealistic. They are talented baseball prospects, with more significantly more talent than I could ever dream of, however automatically calling them successful big leaguers is before they’ve even advanced into single A is shortsighted and dreamy.