Baseball Prospectus’s yearly book has a little note beneath the statistical line for each player, a little abbreviation, simply stated as a percentage, separated from the other comments so that it stands alone. For Reds rookie pitcher Mike Leake, it was simply written this way:

MLB: 76%

What did this notation mean?

According to the book (which can be searched and found at Amazon.com by scrolling down Redleg Nation‘s left sidebar and using the search box), the notation is described as such: “MLB is the percentage of playing time spent in the majors by the player’s comparable list.”

Most every player has a list of “comparable players” listed for the particular player line. (For those that haven’t seen the 2010 version of “Baseball Prospectus,” more than 1600 players have statistical lines and notes about each player.) The players selected as comparables are supposed to be players of similar age to the player being analyzed. The book uses the example of a 23 year old player being compared to Sammy Sosa. That would mean the player in question would be similar to Sammy Sosa as a 23-year-old (when Sosa batted .260 with 8 homers) not the slugging Sammy Sosa, or the old Sammy Sosa, or Sosa’s career as a whole. Also, major league players are compared to major league players and minor league players are compared to minor league players. So, “MLB,” as listed in the BP book, stands for the amount of playing time that the player’s comparable players would have played in he big leagues for that expected year.

Mike Leake is listed as having a MLB of 76%. He also has no comparables listed.

So, what did BP know that we didn’t? Most of our spring training we debated over who would be the Reds’ fifth starter. Would it be Micah Owings? (BP MLB: 84%). Would it be Travis Wood? (BP MLB: 7%). Would it be Matt Maloney? (BP MLB: 38%). Would it be Kip Wells? (BP MLB: 72%). Would it be Justin Lehr (BP MLB: 46%) Sam LeCure? (MLB: 10%). Darryl Thompson? (MLB: 11%) Even Edinson Volquez? (MLB: 78%). Aroldis Chapman isn’t in the book, but I looked him up online? His MLB? 3%.

BP’s comments about Leake? “If it wasn’t for that Stephen Strasburg guy, Leake would have gotten a lot more attention last spring….He could move quickly through the system, and though many feel he’ll ultimately be no more than a third or fourth starter, there’s an outside chance he could be another Tim Hudson.”

For other players on the Reds? Homer Bailey is 100%; Bronson Arroyo 99%, Aaron Harang 93%, Johnny Cueto 93%. Logan Ondrusek was 11%. Yonder Alonso 3%, Todd Frazier 10%, Wladimir Balentien 74%, Juan Francisco 8%, Drew Stubbs 55%. So, it’s not perfect, but it does speak a lot for what many think about the abilities of Mike Leake.