Groundbreaking analyst Bill James, who is senior baseball operations advisor for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, has published this provocative Young Talent Inventory in The Bill James Handbook 2008, available as of Nov. 1, 2007. He is also working on a new book to be published in February, entitled The Bill James Gold Mine 2008. For further information on these books go to http://www.actasports.com/.
The number one team in terms of Young Talent is the Colorado Rockies, and here I'm going to have to revert to giving the values I assigned to each player, even though there is no real frame of reference for it. I credit the Rockies with 1,902 points worth of young talent -- 1,008 to the hitters, 895 for the pitchers, it rounds down. This is a team-by-team summary:
1. Rockies | Hitters: 1008 | Pitchers: 895 | Total: 1902Four Grade-A young players, in Tulowitzki, Holliday, Jeff Francis and Manny Corpas Delecti, with three more young and somewhat good or good and somewhat young talents in Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins and Willy Taveras.
2. Tampa Bay | Hitters: 1072 | Pitchers: 778 | Total: 1850Five Grade-A young players -- Kazmir, Shields, B. J. Upton, Delmon Young and Carl Crawford. I know that a lot of people would list Delmon Young in the top five young players in baseball, but I don't see that his performance justifies that, and this isn't about scouting reports or press clippings, it's about performance. Edwin Jackson just misses being A grade, and Sonnanstine ain't bad, either.
3. Arizona | Hitters: 930 | Pitchers: 861 | Total: 1791Four young players among the top 75 in baseball, which is how I defined "Grade A" -- Brandon Webb, Chris Young, Jose Valverde and Mark Reynolds, backed by Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Micah Owings and others.
4. FloridaMarlins | Hitters: 1181 | Pitchers: 605 | Total: 1787Hanley, Cabrera and Jeremy Hermida are Grade A, Dontrelle Willis has slipped to a B because of his off season and Dan Uggla is a B because he is 27, but he's good, too. Scott Olsen is in there.
5. Cleveland Indians | Hitters: 970 | Pitchers: 735 | Total: 1705 Three players on the top 25 list (above), backed by Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Garko and Victor Martinez. Victor is 28, which is half-young.
6. Milwaukee | Hitters: 1237 | Pitchers: 440 | Total: 1677They have the best young position players in baseball, and I believe they are the only team that has six Grade A young players (Fielder, Braun, Corey Hart, J. J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo and Rickie Weeks.) But the great young pitchers they had a couple of years ago all looked at the defense behind them and decided their best shot was to hide out on the disabled list for a couple of years.
7. Pittsburgh | Hitters: 752 | Pitchers: 867 | Total: 1619The future is looking better with two good young starters (Gorzelanny and Snell), and a crack reliever (Capps). Maholm is a maybe (another starter) and Jose Bautista's a maybe at third...team needs Jason Bay to get back where he was.
8. Kansas City | Hitters: 837 | Pitchers: 664 | Total: 1501More depth than flash, with reliever Joakim Soria and third baseman Alex Gordon scoring as low A's, but lots of depth with Greinke, Teahen, Butler, Bannister, DeJesus and Pena.
9. Oakland | Hitters: 617 | Pitchers: 851 | Total: 1468Oakland has a different set of expectations than most of the young teams, like Pittsburgh and Kansas City, Tampa Bay. Oakland is accustomed to winning. Three starters are Grade A (Haren, Blanton and Gaudin), Huston Street, Travis Buck and Nick Swisher are B's and could be A's, but the injuries to Chavez, the failure of Dan Johnson to develop, and the wipeout of Rich (Hardy Harr) Harden have pushed the team at least temporarily off course.
10. Toronto | Hitters: 561 | Pitchers: 841 | Total: 1402Grade A: Alex Rios, Jeremy Accardo, Aaron HillGrade B: Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen
11. Minnesota | Hitters: 679 | Pitchers: 717 | Total: 1396Grade A: MorneauGrade B: Mauer, Santana, Kubel, Baker, Bartlett, Bonser, Cuddyer Mauer being evaluated in an off year, Santana is great but no longer so young.
12. Philadelphia | Hitters: 737 | Pitchers: 640 | Total: 1377Grade A: Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Jimmy RollinsGrade B: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Shane VictorinoMost of the team has exited "young" and entered "prime", but is holding on to pieces of their youth.
13. Washington | Hitters: 732 | Pitchers: 538 | Total: 1270Grade A: Ryan Zimmerman, Chad CorderoGrade B: Matt Chico, Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez
14. San Diego | Hitters: 580 | Pitchers: 645 | Total: 1225Grade A: Peavy and Adrian GonzalezGrade B: Kouzmanoff, Khalil Greene, Justin Germano, Chris Young
15. LA Angels | Hitters: 524 | Pitchers: 674 | Total: 1198Grade A: K-Rod is still young enough to Grade A, although it seems like he has been around forever. Also Jered Weaver.Grade B: Kotchman and Howie Kendrick
16. Atlanta | Hitters: 884 | Pitchers: 301 | Total: 1185Grade A: Francoeur and Kelly JohnsonGrade B: Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Chuck James, Yunel EscobarA year ago McCann rated very, very high after what may have been a fluke year.
17. New York Mets | Hitters: 711 | Pitchers: 455 | Total: 1166Grade A: Wright, Reyes, John Maine and Oliver PerezGrade B: NoneCompetitive teams don't have as much room to let young players thrash around, and consequently most of the top teams don't show as having a lot of young talent. They may have the young talent; it just isn't in the lineup yet.
18. Boston Red Sox | Hitters: 500 | Pitchers: 656 | Total: 1156Grade A: Dustin Pedroia, Jon Papelbon, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka.Grade B: Youkilis and Coco Crisp.The young players Boston is most excited about, Ellsbury and Buchholz, don't show up yet because they spent most of the 2007 season in the minors.
19. San Francisco | Hitters: 220 | Pitchers: 877 | Total: 1098Grade A: Matt CainGrade B: Lincecum and Noah Lowry.The young pitching is very good, but it would be the understatement of the Bay to say that the lineup needs a lot of work.
21. Texas Rangers | Hitters: 450 | Pitchers: 491 | Total: 941Grade A: NoneGrade B: KinslerPlayers acquired in mid-season (Saltalamacchia, Gabbard, Murphy) may grade better next year.
22. Baltimore | Hitters: 336 | Pitchers: 552 | Total: 888Grade A: MarkakisGrade B: Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Jeremy Guthrie.Bedard is great, but not a Grade A young player because he is 28.
24. White Sox | Hitters: 252 | Pitchers: 636 | Total: 888Grade A: Bobby JenksGrade B: Jon Garland, Mark Buerhle, John Danks 430
25. Seattle | Hitters: 339 | Pitchers: 543 | Total: 882Grade A: Felix HernandezGrade B: Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Lopez
26. Cardinals | Hitters: 557 | Pitchers: 307 | Total: 864Grade A: Adam Wainwright, Albert PujolsGrade B: NoneLet me note that there is almost no difference here between spots 22 and 26...they're all really about even.
28. Detroit | Hitters: 270 | Pitchers: 545 | Total: 814Grade A: Verlander, Granderson, BondermanGrade B: NoneGrade C: NoneThe Cardinals at least have three C's, in Chris Duncan, Brad Thompsonand Yadier Molina. The Tigers are heavily dependant on the veteran stars that they brought in.
29. Cubs | Hitters: 228 | Pitchers: 541 | Total: 769Grade A: Carlos ZambranoGrade B: Rich Hill, Carlos MarmolTheriot, Marshall and Murton are C's.
It will be interesting to see, looking backward ten years from now, to what extent the possession of young talent has predicted the pennant races of 2008-2012. I sort-of studied that a year ago, but only time and repetitions will really show us what that relationship is.