Astros Young Guns: Will They Break Out?

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Talking Sabermetrics: Calculating Odds for Young Astros Breaking Out in the Majors

Never let the odds keep you from pursuing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.

---Satchel Paige

The Astros will have a number of young players on their major league roster who are still waiting for their big break out. Brett Wallace, Matt Dominguez, Jason Castro, Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, Alex White, and Jordan Lyles were all Baseball America Top 100 prospects who have played in the majors. Yet all of them are still waiting to post their first 2 WAR season---a benchmark for becoming an average major league player.

What are the odds that these young players will have a break out in the future? Luckily, Chris St. John provides us some data to answer that question, with the article "When Do Prospects Break Out?" at Beyond the Boxscore. For players on Baseball America's Top 100 prospect lists, he calculated the year-by-year probabilities that players will break out with 2 WAR, 4 WAR, and 6 WAR seasons, corresponding to average, all-star, and elite players.

St. John's uses two different measures for the timing of break outs: (1) number of years since the player last appeared on a Baseball America Top 100 list; and (2) the player's age. These distinctly different measures of duration do not produce the same results. For example, two players may have played the same number of years at the major league level, but at varying ages. Because I don't know which measure is most representative of the timing for prospect break outs, I have used an average of the two methods.

Using the data in St. John's article, I tabulated the remaining probability that each of eight Astros players, above, will achieve a 2 WAR, 4 WAR, and 6 WAR season in the future. This isn't a prediction for next year, but rather an estimate for any year in the future. The tables below show the remaining probability of achieving the break out using the age and listing year criteria, and the average of the two criteria. This probability, of course, is a general estimate based on averages for Top 100 prospects. Obviously it doesn't take into account individual player characteristics which could increase or decrease the odds that the player will break out.


Probability of 2 WAR Season






2 WAR

2 WAR

Average

Hitters

Age

BA 100 Year

Age

Years

Probability

Wallace

25

2010

20.1%

15.6%

17.9%

F-Mart

23

2010

42.9%

15.6%

29.3%

Dominguez

22

2011

51%

30.2%

40.6%

Castro

25

2010

20.1%

15.6%

17.9%

Carter

25

2011

20.1%

30.2%

25.2%

TOTAL



154.2%

107.2%

130.7%

Pitchers






Peacock

24

2012

20.8%

36.6%

28.7%

White

23

2011

40.5%

20.8%

30.7%

Lyles

21

2011

47.5%

20.8%

34.2%

TOTAL



108.8%

78.2%

93.5%

TOTAL--Batters and Pitchers

263.0%

185.4%

224.2%


Probability of 4 WAR Season






4 WAR

4 WAR

Average

Hitters

Age

BA 100 Year

Age

Years

Probability

Wallace

25

2010

13.1%

17.4%

15.3%

F-Mart

23

2010

24.1%

17.4%

20.8%

Dominguez

22

2011

28.6%

22.6%

25.6%

Castro

25

2010

13.1%

17.4%

15.3%

Carter

25

2011

13.1%

22.6%

17.9%

TOTAL



92.0%

97.4%

94.7%

Pitchers






Peacock

24

2012

15.4%

17.3%

16.4%

White

23

2011

18.7%

15.8%

17.3%

Lyles

21

2011

24.7%

15.8%

20.3%

TOTAL



58.8%

48.9%

53.9%

Batters and Pitchers Total

150.8%

146.3%

148.6%


Probability of 6 WAR Season






6 WAR

6 WAR

Average

Hitters

Age

BA 100 Year

Age

Years

Probability

Wallace

25

2010

12.1%

12.5%

12.3%

F-Mart

23

2010

15.7%

12.5%

14.1%

Dominguez

22

2011

18.6%

13.1%

15.9%

Castro

25

2010

12.1%

12.5%

12.3%

Carter

25

2011

12.1%

13.1%

12.6%

TOTAL



70.6%

63.7%

67.2%

Pitchers






Peacock

24

2012

5.8%

6.6%

6.2%

White

23

2011

6.8%

6.6%

6.7%

Lyles

21

2011

8.1%

6.6%

7.4%

TOTAL



20.7%

19.8%

20.3%

Total--Pitchers and Batters

91.3%

83.5%

87.4%

CONCLUSION

An initial observation is that the Astros' pitchers and batters have different patterns for probability of success. On average, compared to the position players, the pitchers are more likely to achieve 2 WAR, just as likely to achieve 4 WAR, and less likely to achieve 6 WAR. In part, this reflects the fact that the average age of the pitchers is younger than the batters. Why are the pitchers less likely to become 6 WAR players? This reflects a tendency noted by St. John: truly elite pitchers become apparent at an earlier age than batters. The distribution of 6 WAR seasons for batters reflects a wider age range.

Matt Dominguez has the highest probability of success among the eight players. Jordan Lyles has the highest probability of success among the pitchers. In both instances, this is purely based on Dominguez's and Lyles' young age. They both have more remaining time in their career, compared to the other players, to achieve success.

I also calculated total, or cumulative, probabilities for all of the hitters, pitchers, and both hitters and pitchers. Hopefully I'm not bending probability concepts too much to reach the following conclusions:

  • A high probability exists that at least 2 of the 8 players will achieve a 2 WAR season in the future;
  • A high probability exists that at least 1 of the 8 players will achieve a 4 WAR season, and a reasonable probability for 2 players to achieve that level;
  • A moderately high probability exists for 1 of the 8 players to achieve a 6 WAR season in the future.

On the other hand, the probabilities of success for individual players may be sobering for hard core fans of the player. In general, the probability of success in the range of 2 - 4 WAR, is less than 1 in 5 for each player--much less for some. (F-Mart and Dominguez have a probability around 1 in 5 to achieve 2 WAR, though.)

If you are wondering why I haven't included players like Altuve, Harrell, or Maxwell in this analysis, keep in mind that the data is based on players on the BA Top 100 prospect list, and those players were never included. There is ample reason to believe that the blue chip prospects may experience a different timing pattern than other prospects. It's worth noting, though, that Altuve, Harrell, and Maxwell have already exceeded the 2 WAR threshold.

Any thoughts? Is this more or less optimistic than what you expect?

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