The Top 10 Position Players

This seems to be a trend… for the second straight year, there was a consensus at the top of the list… then a free-for-all afterwards.

The two of the top three guys were each left off at least one ballot, while the number two guy was unanimously named, enabling him to garner the no. 2 spot without a single first-place vote.

A total of 24 players were named on 14 ballots, some of which had less than 10 names and/or an ineligible player. While I adjusted the points accordingly (e.g. #1 on a nine-player ballot = 9 pts vs. 10 pts. on a ten-player), it did not affect the rankings.

Without further ado, ze list:

                              1. Brian Goodwin
                              2. Matt Skole
                              3. Steve Souza
                              4. Billy Burns
                              5. Michael Taylor
                              6. Jeff Kobernus
                              7. Zach Walters
                              8. Drew Ward
                              9. Tony Renda
                              10. Adrian Nieto

Others receiving votes: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Justin Bloxom, Randy Encarnacion, Narciso Mesa, Pedro Severino, Isaac Ballou, Brandon Miller, Cody Gunter, Rafael Bautista, Josh Johnson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Bryan Mejia, Caleb Ramsey

Some observations:

• Goodwin received ten first-place votes, similar to how he was the near-consensus at #2 last year behind Anthony Rendon.

• This year’s #2 is a bit of a shock: Matt Skole was hurt all year long and struggled some in the Arizona Fall League, but moved up a spot from #3 to #2 nevertheless.

• Souza’s strong AFL campaign and addition to the 40-man roster seemed to stick out in many voter’s minds, vaulting him from an also-ran in 2012 to #3 with three first-place votes.

• Burns and Taylor nearly tied despite Taylor being left off two ballots, nearly closing the gap in points by receiving a pair of second-place votes (Burns’s highest was a third-place spot).

As it traditionally has, the list skews towards the upper minors; this year’s exception: Ward, who might have missed the cut — like Skole did in 2011 — were it not for the GCL Nationals’ championship run (likewise for his teammates that were in the “also-rans”). Still, I think a lot of this is simply the bias of familiarity, which also explains why a couple of players aged 27+ players received votes.

Next up: the pitchers, which is always contentious thanks to folks’ biases of starter vs. reliever, lefty vs. righty, fireballer vs. junkballer, floor wax or dessert topping, etc. Plus, with one less no-doubt pick (Robbie Ray), the last couple of spots ought to be closely contested.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

3 thoughts on “The Top 10 Position Players”

  1. I really think Steven Souza is the player who will end up being the best bat at the major league level. He’s had two years in a row covering three levels where he has put up five tool stats. And continued this success in Arizonia.
    From the low levels, Encarnacion strikes me as the real thing, but only time will tell.

  2. Off Topic – but thought this write up on Princeton speaker series was worth sharing with at least 1 active Nat’s pitcher. Ohlendorf appears to be sharp in sabermetrics. Would have been even better if he had done his thesis on old school pitching mechanics and how it disrupts hitters timing.

    Chris Young ’02, Will Venable ’05, Ross Ohlendorf ’05, & David Hale ’11

    Young, Venable, Ohlendorf and Hale have all experienced success in Major League Baseball, after each having standout athletic careers at Princeton.
    Chris Young ’02
    Young excelled in both baseball and basketball at Princeton and was named the Ivy League’s first male two-sport Rookie of the Year. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round of the 2000 MLB Draft, but waited to sign until he was assured that he would be able to complete his education. Young finished his thesis, “The Impact of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball on racial Stereotypes in America: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Stories about Race in the New York Times” while traveling on busses as a member of the minor league Hickory Crawdads. Known as a control pitcher (standing at 6’ 10”), Young went on to play for the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres and the New York Mets. He was elected to the 2007 MLB All-Star Game via the All-Star Final Vote and is currently a free agent. He has stayed active in the Princeton Athletics community, taking in baseball and basketball games, serving as a guest speaker as part of the PVC “On the Road” series, and is currently a member of the Princeton Varsity Club Advisory Committee.
    Will Venable ’05
    Venable was recruited to Princeton as a basketball student-athlete, and did not play baseball as a freshman. After deciding to resume baseball as a sophomore, Venable continued to compete in both sports through his senior year. He was named first team All-Ivy in both sports, only the second athlete in Ivy League history at the time to do so. The first was Young. He competed in NCAA tournaments for both the Tiger baseball and basketball teams, competing in a total of four as a Princeton Tiger. He earned his B.A. in Anthropology. Will’s senior thesis, “The Game and Community: An Anthropo­logical Look at Baseball in America and Japan” compared American and Japanese culture by presenting histories of baseball’s evolution in each country. Venable was drafted in 2005 by the Padres organization and made his MLB debut in 2008. Since 2011 he has been a regular starter for MLB club and he is now Princeton’s MLB hit leader with 442, surpassing Moe Berg ’23. Although he broke into the Major Leagues as a center fielder, he has played mostly right field since his second season. Venable has frequently batted leadoff and has on several occasions come within one hit of the cycle. As of November 2013, he has finished among the top ten in the National League in triples four times and in stolen bases twice.
    Ross Ohlendorf ’05
    Ohlendorf majored in Operations Research and Financial Engineering and received the George Mueller Award from the University for combining “high scholarly achievement in the study of engineering with quality performance in intercollegiate athletics”. In his senior thesis, Investing in Prospects: A Look at the Financial Successes of Major League Baseball Rule IV Drafts from 1989 to 1993, Ohlendorf used saber metrics to demonstrate the return on investment from the Major League Baseball Draft. In 2002, as a freshman pitcher, he was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Ohlendorf was selected in the fourth round of 2004 Major League Baseball Draft by the Diamondbacks. Since the draft, Ross has been a member of the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, and is currently with the Washington Nationals. When with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ohlendorf faced Will Venable and became the first Princeton pitcher to oppose a Princeton batter.
    David Hale ’11
    Hale earned a degree in Operations Research and Financial Engineering, writing a senior thesis that used performance statistics to decipher the causes of major arm surgeries among pro pitchers. His hometown team, the Atlanta Braves selected Hale in the third round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft. He made his major league debut on September 13, pitching five innings and recording nine strikeouts, breaking the franchise record for strikeouts in a debut. In his debut, the first batter he faced was Will Venable, who he struck out leading off the game for the Padres. They became the second Princeton batter vs. Princeton hitter matchup in major league history.

  3. First of all, thanks to Luke for doing this. It’s an interesting snapshot and probably as valid as any other top 10 list. Which leads to my second point: before we think we’ve figured anything out, here’s the 2012 list:

    1. Anthony Rendon
    2. Brian Goodwin
    3. Matt Skole
    4. Eury Perez
    5. Sandy Leon
    6. Jason Martinson
    7. Zach Walters
    8. Chris Marrero
    9. Corey Brown
    10. Tony Renda

    Marrero has now been released, and nos. 4, 5, 6, and 9 didn’t make the new list, even though Leon was the only one who truly had a bad season. Brown may be in the majors in 2014, although perhaps not with the Nats after the McLouth signing. Souza and Burns rocketed from nowhere to near the top of the charts.

    In looking at the top, Goodwin, Skole, and Souza (in whatever order) do seem to have shown the most potential to become major-league regulars, although we’re still projecting a lot with Skole since he essentially missed the season. Burns is phenomenal at what he does, but how it might translate to the highest level will remain to be seen. Taylor rebounded quite well while repeating Potomac, but he still has a good bit to prove offensively at AA.

    Souza and Kobernus, and maybe Walters should have a shot at making the big club in the spring, although Kobernus, Walters, and Espinoza may all be competing for a single spot. Skole was quite rusty in Arizona. It will be interesting to see if they keep him at 3B or more intentionally start grooming him as a possible replacement for LaRoche at 1B.

    Can Walters come close to repeating the 29 HRs? Can he legitimately play shortstop?

    It should be another fun year across the system, as most of these guys move up to AAA and AA and the GCL dominators take their act to Hagerstown (or Fredericksburg).

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