Very interesting list on Baseball America. Top Prospects of All-Time. Check it out
Next Check out who ranks 1 & 2 on the Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet
First of all, I am big on rankings and evaluations of young players, but they must be taken with a grain of salt. Not all guys ranked high have gone on to become solid Major League Players, but more often than not, they do. I always say the biggest transition is from AA or AAA to the MLB. Some guys can handle it and some guys simply can not.
I have heard in the past that I have defended Neil Huntington too much. I am not necessarily a fan of his, but he has a job to do and he has stuck to the plan so far, which I commend. He had to blow this franchise up.
Why have we been losing for 17 seasons? It's a direct correlation to developing young talent. I will go all the way back to the last winning seasons in Pittsburgh. If you clicked on the first link above, you saw the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list for every season dating back to 1990. That season, the Bucs had 3 of the top 100. They dealt 2 of those (Moises Alou and Willie Greene) to acquire Zane Smith, which helped them win two Division titles.
Taking Alou and Greene off the list, it amazed me how truly sad we have been at drafting and developing young talent. I didn't even think we were this bad. If you didn't read the list:
90 Keith Richardson #73 (never pitched for Pirates)
91 Kurt Miller #24 (never Pitched for Pirates
Carlos Garcia # 62 (average major league 2B
Mike Zimmerman #90 (never amounted to anything)
92 Steve Cooke #52 (below average mlb pitcher)
Kevin Young #100 (average mlb player)
94 Midre Cummings #33 (career was a joke)
95 "Steamin" Trey Beamon #43 (don't think he had a career)
96 Jason Kendall #26 (has had a productive career)
Chad Hermanson #54 (The savior)
97 Kris Benson #8 (arm injuries derailed a potentially good career)
Jose Guillen #24 (never really met expectations, but a serviceable career)
Aramis Rameriz #26 (the best one we had that got away)
Abraham Nunez #65 (career utility player)
Jimmy Anderson #88 (2 time opening day starter. Boy did he suck)
98 Jeff Wallace #91 (no career)
99 Warren Morris #84 (one good year in the bigs)
00 JJ Davis #97 (BUM)
01 Bobby Bradley #20 (Arm Injuries, never made it)
JR House #21 (Left to play football)
02 John Van Benschoten #88 ( Could be the worst pitcher & draft pick ever)
04 Sean Burnett #64 (under achiever)
Jason Bay #74 (very good mlb ball player)
Bryan Bullington #97 (Could have had B.J. Upton. #1 Pick that never got a win for the Pirates)
05 Zach Duke #34 (becoming a solid MLB pitcher)
Neil Walker #81 ( finally starting to hit in the minors 4 years later. Probably no future)
06 Andrew McCutchen #50 (STUD)
Tom Gorzelanny #95 (average mlb pitcher at best)
07 Brad Lincoln #69 (future staff ace?)
08 Steve Pearce #89 (has no mlb future, bench role at best)
Now for purpose of this post, I only included the players for the first season they cracked the top 100. Some players have made the list multiple seasons. Do all guys pan out? Of course not. Do things happen along the way, like injuries? Of course they do. Do the rankings flat out miss on guys? Yes they do.
For this illustration however, take a look at the complete list and they tend to get it right most of the time. My list is primarily just to illustrate the pure lack of homegrown young talent in the Pirates system for the last 17 years. Folks, it's plain and simple why we can't win. We had to make the moves we did. We had to get talent in this system somehow.
We gave away Aramis Rameriz, but in 17 seasons, only Rameriz, Kendall, Duke, Bay and most recently McCutchen have had legit major league talent. That's 5 guys in 17 seasons and it's not acceptable. The two highest rated prospect on this list that the Bucs have ever had were Kris Benson in 1998 and McCutchen at #13 In 2007.
There is a correlation to winning with these list. Every team that has had many of these prospects have been legit winning organizations. Even look at the Tampa rays of 08, who in the 2 season prior had 24 names on that list. No reason the Bucs should have had 1 guy here and another one there. That's not doing your homework on young players and that's not how you win.
So Huntington had to blow up the team and in the last calender year, look at the potential talent he has added. On the 2008 top 100, there were 10 current Buccos represented. Only 4 were in the organization prior to Huntington's arrival: McCutchen, Lincoln, Pearce and Walker. The new 6 on the list include: Laroche, Tabata, Clement, Alderson, Hernandez and Milledge.
Now that list doesn't include guys who will be on the 2009 list like Alvarez, Sanchez, Owens, etc. Nor does it include any members of the last two drafts, in which the franchise has gone out and spent money on their future. that list will include another 10-15 young, future Pirates So it's almost impossible for me to argue that Huntington hasn't been taking the right approach to this organization.
Next click on the second link and read Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet, ranking the Mid-Season Prospects. Numbers 1 & 2 on the list are Tony Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez. Again, will all of the youngster become solid major leaguers? No, but it gives hope. Even if a third of them do, it's far more talent than we have had in 17 seasons, so it's impossible again to knock the approach.
Want a little more proof that Neil Huntington is doing the right thing? Would you rather watch Ross Ohlendorff, Charlie Morton and Kevin Hart pitch or last years solid rotation including Yoslan Herrara, John Van Benschoten, Matt Morris, etc. The facts are we are slowly getting better.
The final thing I am sick and tired of people telling me is that as soon as these guys get good, then Huntington will trade them. That's absurd to begin with. All of the guys dealt this year were unlikely to be back anyways. Huntington acquired guys with right he can control through 2015 and 2016 in most cases. Again, it shows that the guy seems to have a baseball head about him.
So if it sounds like I'm being a mark for Neil Huntington, so be it. The facts are that there is more talent in this organization than at any point in the last 17 seasons. Will the plan work? Only time will tell, but it's a good time to get excited about Pirates baseball. This thing could finally turn around in a couple of seasons.
- since I brought up Chad Hermansen, made me think of one of my favorite lines of all time. One scout said about Hermansen " Chad Hermansen can walk on water. He just can't hit."
- Steven Jackson been throwing well lately. Last 14 appearances, his era is under 2.00
-Matt Capps fastball had life to it on the home stand. Deal him now. While I'm at it, will anyone take Ryan Doumit
-Lastings Milledge is starting to play well once he got taken out of the 2 hole.
-I really like these group of guys, one challenge for Huntington is to find a power bat next season. I don't think Alvarez will be up and as much as I like Andy Laroche, I can't have him hitting cleanup next season. Although I think he has done fine there in his couple starts.
- Cedeno is nursing a hurt pinkie finger so I'd like to see Bixler play. He has no pressure on him now. Just see what he really is.
- Here is where young teams struggle. Consistent Offense production and winning on the road. We have seen both big time. We know about the struggles offensively, but look at the home and road splits. Home record is five games over .500 at 33-28. Road record is an atrocious 25 games under .500 at 18-43. Once they can learn to play near .500 away from PNC Park, they can start putting winning streaks together