I wasn’t really planning a post on the Nate McLouth comments. I didn’t really think much needed to be said that wasn’t said already. His comments about the eye exams were somewhat disturbing, and his comments about being glad he was the first one traded are understandable. Then I saw this quote from McLouth, via Chuck Finder at the PBC Blog:
“It’s a good mix [in the Braves clubhouse, with Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Derek Lowe, ex-Pirate Eric Hinske]. There are those guys and guys like Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens and Jason Heyward, who are some of the best young players in the game. . . . It’s amazing how many good prospects the Braves have in their system all the time. And when is the last time they had a top-10 pick? To get all these studs in their system, it’s fun to see and great to play with these people.”
I bolded the part that I found interesting. I found this interesting because it’s exactly why the Pirates are in the situation they’re in right now. In fact, the Pirates could have easily been in the Braves situation, with a lot of top young players. When I say the Braves situation, I don’t mean in a similar situation. I mean in the exact situation, with Jason Heyward and Jair Jurrjens on the roster. Those three players are a perfect example of why Dave Littlefield was one of the worst GMs of all time, and why I feel the Pirates are on the right track with Neal Huntington. Let’s take a look to see what I’m talking about.
Jair Jurrjens - Jurrjens was acquired by the Braves in the 2007/2008 off-season along with Gorkys Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers, in exchange for Edgar Renteria. Three months earlier, Jurrjens was offered to the Pirates in exchange for Jack Wilson, and Dave Littlefield turned the deal down. The deal that was offered was Jurrjens or Dallas Trahern, plus another prospect in Detroit’s system. Littlefield asked for a major league player in addition to that offer, with Craig Monroe being rumored as that player, and Detroit pulled back.
Even without knowing who exactly the second prospect was (some rumors have Ryan Raburn being the guy), a Wilson for Jurrjens swap should have been a no-brainer. Jurrjens was Detroit’s number four prospect coming in to the season, and had put up a 3.20 ERA, and strong ratios at the AA level. He was regarded as someone who was close to the majors, and shortly after the trade was rejected, Jurrjens made his major league debut with Detroit, posting a 4.70 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in seven starts as a 21 year old. Littlefield instead traded for Matt Morris to “strengthen” the rotation, and kept Jack Wilson on board.
Jason Heyward - We all know about the Daniel Moskos over Matt Wieters pick, but what about Jason Heyward? Heyward was considered the ninth best player in the draft by Baseball America, which was one spot behind Daniel Moskos. However, Heyward was coming out of high school, and was regarded as having as much upside as any player in the draft. According to John Perrotto, Ed Creech suggested Heyward, but the Pirates went against the suggestion and took Moskos.
Tommy Hanson – Hanson is a great testament to the scouting department the Braves have. He was drafted out of high school in the 2005 draft, taken in the 22nd round. Hanson was a draft and follow, and eventually signed with the Braves for $325 K, well over slot for a later round pick. Prior to Littlefield taking over, the Pirates added guys like Nate McLouth, Ian Snell, and Zach Duke from the high school ranks in the later rounds, and those three were in the span of two years. The only notable late round high school player Littlefield added from 2002-2007 was Rudy Owens in 2006.
So what do these players say about the Pirates? Littlefield could have had Jurrjens in a trade for Jack Wilson, could have taken Jason Heyward even if he would have passed on Wieters, and might have had a player like Hanson if he would have focused on building through the draft and spending a little more in the later rounds for hard to sign high school talent. This also describes why I’m a fan of what Huntington is currently doing.
In the draft, Huntington took the best player available in 2008, netting Pedro Alvarez, and in 2009 he took an innovative approach, landing a signable talent in Tony Sanchez, then going heavy on the above slot high school players in the later rounds. Not only is he avoiding the selection of a bullpen arm with a top five pick, but he’s also investing heavily in the draft, making it possible that we might have a Tommy Hanson on our hands in a few years. Huntington is also not afraid to pull the trigger on a deal to bring in talented prospects, as we saw with the McLouth trade, amongst others.
There may be disagreements in regards to the scouting skills that Huntington has. Maybe you question the talent level of certain players who have been acquired, and then again, maybe you don’t. I don’t think you can question that Huntington is taking the right approach to building up the Pirates. Overall, I think that if we had this same approach a few years ago, we might be sitting in the Braves’ position right now, with Jair Jurrjens and Jason Heyward on the roster, and maybe even a pitcher like Tommy Hanson to compliment those two young stars.