Bill James Ranks Matt Kemp Highly

Bill James newest handbook ranks Matt Kemp the seventh best young talent in the Major Leagues and James Loney #20. Somehow in the excitement he overlooked Chad Billingsley, Russell Martin, Brad DeWitt and Jonathan Broxton. James also judges the Dodgers to have the thirteenth-best overall young talent in Major League Baseball, up seven places from last year but still a bit low for our taste.

In the second year of his newly developed "Young Talent Inventory," groundbreaking baseball analyst Bill James says "2008 really was not a great year for young talent, except pitchers." "Some young position players took a step forward (Dustin Pedroia, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Stephen Drew, Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton, Jose Lopez, Geovany Soto, Nate McLouth); others took a step backward (Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francouer). But the only really huge talent to emerge in 2008 was Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays."

"In pitching, on the other hand, it was a good year," argues James. "Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, John Danks and others emerged as major young talents--others including Jair Jurrjens, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey and Edinson Volquez." James points out that evaluating the best young talent is a transitory task: "Virtually everyone who is on this list now will drop off within two years. In baseball, you get over being 'young' really quickly." What is remarkable about this year's list, he says, is that there is little turnover this year compared to last, which means that relatively little new talent emerged.

To achieve his inventory, James first eliminates from the list all players who were 30 years old or older in 2008. He employs two widely used statistics--"Runs Created" for position players and "Runs Allowed" for pitchers--as the basis for comparison. He makes several adjustments, including for injuries suffered during the year and the differences in predictability between pitchers and position players, and then takes into account the number of years the player should be at his peak performance.

James lists the Dodgers as the #13 team in all of baseball for young talent, just below the L.A. Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland A's: "Nobody on the A's is all that good, at least not yet, but they lead the world in guys who should get better. The Dodgers are the exact opposite of the A's; they have very impressive young talent in Kemp, Ethier, Billingsley, Loney and Kershaw, Broxton and Martin, but their issue is depth."

Only four teams--the Brewers (Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun), the Mets (David Wright and Jose Reyes), the Red Sox (Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester), and the Dodgers (Matt Kemp and James Loney)--placed two players in James' list of top 25 young players.

Making James' list of the top 25 young players in order were:

 1. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, age 24 ? 
2. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins shortstop, age 24? 
3. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants pitcher, age 24? 
4. David Wright, New York Mets third baseman, age 25? 
5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, age 24? 
6. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox second baseman, age 24? 
7. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder, age 23? 
8. Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels pitcher, age 26? 
9. Jose Reyes, New York Mets shortstop, age 25?
10. Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles right fielder, age 24?
11. Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals pitcher, age 24?
12. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals third baseman, age 23?
13. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, age 24?
14. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies shortstop, age 23?
15. Felix Hern! andez, Seattle Mariners pitcher, age 22?
16. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox pitcher, age 24?
17. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman, age 22?
18. John Danks, Chicago White Sox pitcher, age 23?
19. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres first baseman, age 26?
20. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman, age 24?
21. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop, age 25?
22. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves catcher, age 24
?23. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers first baseman, age 25?
24. Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians center fielder, age 25?
25. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds first baseman, age 24

James also listed teams in order of overall young talent 
currently on the big league squad:

 1. Minnesota Twins ? 
2. Arizona Diamondbacks ? 
3. Tampa Bay Rays? 
4. Florida Marlins? 
5. Kansas City Royals? 
6. Milwaukee Brewers? 
7. Cleveland Indians? 
8. Colorado Rockies? 
9. Atlanta Braves?
10. Boston Red Sox?
11. Anaheim? Angels 
12. Oakland A's?
13. Los Angeles Dodgers?
14. St. Louis Cardinals?
15. Cincinnati Reds?
16. New York Mets?
17. Pittsburgh Pirates?
18. Seattle Mariners?
19. Texas Rangers?
20. Philadelphia Phillies?
21. San Diego Padres?
22. San Francisco Giants?
23. Washington Nationals?
24. Baltimore Orioles?
25. Chicago White Sox?
26. Chicago Cubs?
27. Detroit Tigers?
28. Toronto Blue Jays
?29. New York Yankees?
30. Houston Astros
As James has noted often, "Competitive 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."

For further information on The Bill James Handbook 2009 to be published on November 1, 2008, go to www.actasports.com or call Gregory Pierce at 800-397-2282

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