Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Crops on the Farm

It's hard for many people, even fans of the Pirates, to believe that the Pirates are actually good at something and making tangible progress. But it's not at PNC Park (yet)'s down on the farm.

The minor league talent level, thanks to the prospects infused from recent trades of name-brand Pirates, plus the excellent 2008/2009 drafts is at its deepest level in years.

But many people are slow to the idea of this, both within the prospecting sites such as Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, but also on Pirates' fan boards.

Here's the Baseball America Top 10 for the Pirates, along with my assessments of what these players will become:
1. Pedro Alvarez - 30+ HR hitting 3B, future occasional All-star
2. Jose Tabata - 15 HR hitting RF, high average, good defense
3. Tony Sanchez - above avg C, both defensively and offensively
4. Brad Lincoln - possible #2 starter, safer guess #3 starter
5. Chase D'arnaud - above avg 2B/SS, future 2 hole hitter, good speed
6. Starling Marte - 15-20 HR, 30 SB, cannon of arm in RF
7. Tim Alderson - #3 or #4 starter
8. Zack Von Rosenberg - potential #2 or 3 starter
9. Rudy Owens - #3 starter
10. Gorkys Hernandez - 4th or 5th OF

That's a lot of talent and a good amount will be at AA or AAA in 2010 (Alvarez, Tabata, Lincoln, D'arnaud, Alderson, Owens, Hernandez). This means that it is "tested" and not just slotted based on hopes and dreams.

There are some teams, such as the Cards, who have listed as their #1 pick a recently drafted HS pitcher (Shelby Miller for the Cards). If you have multiple players in your Top 10 who have not seen the field yet, that is usually an indication that your farm was weak enough to allow these new players to rank that high. Many of the Top 10 posted to this point (13 to date) have teams with 1 or 2 great players at the top, but the rest of their Top 10's either have older players (25-27 years old), players who are new, or players with serious injury histories still hanging around because of "potential".

What concerns me, though, is not what I think about the Pirates having a great system (most likely just outside the Top 10 of all systems, in my opinion), but what others think. These opinions may influence how other GM's pre-rate our prospects and affect future dealings with us. It seems minor, but downgrading our prospects may lead to the Pirates not getting full value for them in trades or other transactions.

Over at, we're just wrapping up the Top 30 rankings. It appears that 23of the 30 prospects will have been brought in by Neil Huntington in his 2 years on the job. That says volumes about his talent acquisition, but also the utterly atrocious job done by Dave Littlefield that after only 2 years (!!) 7 of his prospects can make a Top 30.

I'm keeping my own running rankings of the Top 10's and it would not surprise by my estimates are a Top 10 system, as it seems after further review that many farms are very shallow going into 2010. But I definitely can't see them being worse than 12-15 when the rankings come out in the spring.

The old drafting maxim is:
Draft 50 players per year
Sign 30 players
Get 20 of those players to AA
Get 2 starters and 1 bench guy out of every draft

Well if the early returns on 2008/2009 drafts tell us anything, NH and crew are off to a fantastic start living up to that maxim. And that doesn't include players he traded for such as Tabata, Alderson, Hernandez, Locke, etc. who should also make the PNC grass at some point.

This soil is no longer fallow, but actually rich and producing a high yield.

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