Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tampa Bay v. Pittsburgh 1-1 and 1-2 -- are we even now?

Pedro Alvarez debuted last night for the Pirates, just two years after being drafted in the first round, second overall (1-2). That year in 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays were drafting 1-1 (hard to imagine they sucked that bad just 3 years ago, huh?) and selected Tim Beckham, a high school SS.

Now in 2008, Tampa was in the midst of one of the all-time turnaround seasons. They finished with the worst record in 2007, which allowed them to draft 1-1, but in 2008 they were leading their division and on the way to their first ever playoff series.

They were buoyed by a fantastic pitching staff, with a plethora of arms in the minors making their way through the system (Price, Davis, McGee, and Hellickson). They had a resurgent Carlos Pena, a developing BJ Upton, budding superstar Evan Longoria, and the always dependable Carl Crawford. Not only were they on their way to a run in 2008, it seemed as if their window was going to be open for a couple of years before they had to be concerned about payroll.

Pedro Alvarez would have been the perfect selection. As college hitters they could have been up in 1-2 years, perfect to hit the contention window.

But Tampa blinked...and selected Beckham. A few weeks ago, I said that the Pirates should have selected Pomeranz in order to maximize the window of opportunity we have with Cutch-22 and Alvarez. This is another example of how a team dropped the ball by not matching the development timelines. A high school SS, if he sticks at the position, is going to need 3 years at a minimum and more likely 4, if not 5 to get to the majors. By that time in 2011-2013, Tampa risked losing Pena, Crawford, and some of their pitching to payroll concerns or free agency.

Today Alvarez is with the Pirates and Beckham is struggling in High A. As of this writing, he's hitting .219/.309/.375 (684 OPS) with a 12.5% BB rate and 30% K rate. He is also said to be developing a thick lower half that will proclude him from playing SS long-term. So where will that bat play?

This made me reflect back to 2002 when the draft order was reversed. The Pirates were drafting 1-1 and Tampa was 1-2. BJ Upton was considered to be the top player in the draft (similar to Alvarez in 2008) but the Pirates panicked and went "safe" with Brian Bullington. At his press conference to introduce him, Littlefield announced that Bullington projected to be a good #3 starter. I almost fell out of my chair. We just used the top overall pick on a POSSIBLE mid-rotation starter?!?

Well, as most of you know, Bullington was an epic bust. Upton has had an up and down career and had to shift to CF from his original SS position, but he has had some success (way more than Bullington, obviously).

So I was wondering...with Beckham not really lighting it up and having more bust than boom potential at this point, are we now "even steven" with Tampa in terms of blowing 1-1 picks with each other?

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