Justin Upton and Overrating Prospects

So far the morning trade rumors today surround Justin Upton. Not much is new in the talks, although Jon Morosi of FOX Sports takes a detailed look at the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Morosi says that the Pirates have remained in contact with Arizona. He notes that Neal Huntington has refused to part with Starling Marte or Jameson Taillon, although the former is counter to what we heard Sunday, with reports saying the Pirates would deal Marte.

Morosi made a few about the Pirates that I don’t really agree with. He stressed that they need to make a move for reasons like Joey Votto and Zack Greinke being hurt, owing it to fans, and to end their losing streak. Those types of outside factors shouldn’t dictate a deal. It doesn’t make sense to deal because Joey Votto is lost for a month. That hurts Cincinnati, but doesn’t change the Pirates. In fact, it helps the Pirates, since the Reds will be missing their best player for a month. You could use that to argue that there’s less of a need to make a deal. I’m not saying the Pirates don’t need to make a deal. I’m just saying they shouldn’t be desperate, and these reasonings sound more like desperation deals, rather than smart moves.

The bigger argument was what Morosi called the Pirates’ tendency to overrating their own prospects.

The Pirates have a reputation for overrating their own prospects — an earnest trait, but one that has resulted in trade proposals other GMs find baffling. Huntington is proud of the farm system he has built, and rightfully so. But now is the time to deal away the likes of Marte and/or Taillon, so the Pirates have a better chance to win at the major league level.

That’s why they’re in business, right?

Marte, 23, and Taillon, 20, are well-regarded prospects, but let’s be honest: We’re not talking about the next Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw. Marte is roughly one year younger than Upton and has yet to spend a day in the big leagues. Taillon, the same age Kershaw was at the time of his big league debut, has a 4.43 ERA this season at high Class A.

In regards to overrating prospects, that would put them in the company of every other Major League team. When the Pirates were making trades in 2008, one team submitted a list of untouchable prospects that included their entire South Atlantic League roster. Not just the prospects. The entire roster. Think about that from the Pirates’ perspective. That would not only be saying that Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco are untouchable, but that Junior Sosa and Francisco Diaz are also untouchable.

This wouldn’t be the first time that someone made a claim that a team, or the league as a whole, overrates prospects. I’ve never seen it as “overrating”. I think prospects are now getting the proper values. Teams value prospects higher than they did before, but that’s not saying the values placed on prospects are too high. I think it’s the opposite. In the past, values have been too low.

As for the age comparisons, that’s a strawman argument I’ve seen made many times. Are we saying that if a pitcher doesn’t come up in the majors at the age of 20, he’s not going to end up a good pitcher? Are we saying that a hitter who comes up at age 23 can’t be good? It seems like the call to trade Marte and Taillon is conflicting. The argument to deal them is that they’re not going to be elite guys, but that argument makes you wonder why Arizona would even deal for them. There’s a reason Arizona would deal for them, and that’s probably the same reason the Pirates are “overrating” them.

Author: 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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