The Draft: Neal Huntington vs Dave Littlefield

I just received my 2009 Baseball America Prospect Handbook in the mail this week. It’s hard enough keeping track of all of the major leaguers in baseball, plus all of the players in the NHL, and all of the off-season moves in the NFL during the baseball season. It would be impossible to try and analyze 30 prospects from each team in baseball on top of that. So I get this book, along with a other sources and career stats, in order to make it easy to analyze the rookies as they are called up throughout the year.

I don’t want to give anything away for free, as this is a great product, and Baseball America would shut my blog down and squash me like a bug with their legal team if I did, but I will do an analysis of the top 30 prospects (without naming any of them), comparing Dave Littlefield acquisitions to Neal Huntington acquisitions. The tally:

-16 of the top 30 prospects were acquired by Neal Huntington. 14 were acquired by Dave Littlefield.

So in one year, Neal has acquired more prospects than DL did in six years. Of course a lot of DL’s prospects are either in the majors, or out of our system (and making a career in the minors elsewhere in most cases). That’s still either a big testament to how good Neal has done, or maybe how bad DL did.

-Neal drafted six players in the 2008 draft who rank higher than Daniel Moskos, the infamous 2007 first round pick. That doesn’t include four players who Neal received via trades or waiver claims last year who also rank above Moskos.

-Nine players rank in the top 30 from the 2008 draft. Only five prospects made the list from the 06/07 drafts. You would have to include the 2004 and 2005 drafts to get nine prospects on Baseball America’s top 30. If you’re thinking “that’s probably because there’s some guys who aren’t prospect eligible”, you’re wrong. Out of the 2004-2007 drafts, the only player who isn’t prospect eligible is Steve Pearce. The only prospect eligible player not included is Brent Lillibridge, who is now with the White Sox. That is some bad drafting (or some good drafting).

The biggest difference between the two GMs is easily the draft. Last year the Pirates spent $9.8 M in draft bonuses. That’s $600 K less than DL’s final two drafts (2006 and 2007) combined. The increased focus on the draft not only shows up in the financial commitment, but in the results, as we see above.

The best aspect was taking Pedro Alvarez last year. Sure, it seems like a no-brainer. However, it was refreshing to see this happen, along with going over slot for guys with signability issues like Robbie Grossman, Wes Freeman, and Quinton Miller. This is mainly because we’ve seen DL miss the obvious choice not one (Daniel Moskos over Matt Wieters) but twice (Bryan Bullington over BJ Upton). I’m not going to nit pick and use hindsight to say things like “We could have taken Tim Lincecum over Brad Lincoln” because that wasn’t obvious like Upton and Wieters.

The 2009 draft will give Neal a chance to follow up on the 2008 success, and I for one will be watching. The Pirates have the fourth pick in the draft, along with two second round picks (one for not signing Tanner Scheppers last year). The top four prospects, according to Baseball America, are:

1. Stephen Strasburg – RHP
2. Grant Green – SS
3. Alex White – RHP
4. Dustin Ackley – 1B/OF

I’d take any of them. Strasburg will never fall to us, so my ideal pick would be Alex White. He is the type of potential top of the rotation arm we lack in this organization. Grant Green would be my second choice, as we don’t have too many prime shortstop prospects (unless Jarek Cunningham, Jordy Mercer, or Chase d’Arnaud steps up from the 2008 draft). Even with those guys, I’d still take Green. If all else fails, Dustin Ackley would give us a strong power hitter with a quick path to the majors. A lineup featuring Alvarez and Ackley in the middle of the order would be nice.

The Pirates also currently have the #48 pick and #50 pick in the second round. These picks could change based on various factors, like Seattle signing their 2008 first round pick, or the fate of comp picks like Juan Cruz and Ben Sheets.

The 2009 draft is one to look forward to, especially in a season that is shaping up with very little to get excited about. Neal did a great job in the 2008 draft, arguably just as good as DL’s last four drafts combined. If he can repeat that success in 2009, it will go a long way towards bringing us a championship-caliber organization (that might be the first time I’ve used that phrase since explaining the meaning of B.U.C.C.O.).

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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