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.

Tim Williams

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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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Dimmick/100000318490900 Steve Dimmick

    its obvious that they dont overrate their prospects, just look at everyones top 100 lists, they obviously see the same value. He must be speaking of B grade or lower prospects?

  • Lee Young

    “In regards to overrating prospects, that would put them in the company of every other Major League team.”

    My thoughts exactly!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/backwardnikomahs Kirk Weaver

    I feel like we could part with Taillon before Marte and I’ll tell you why…the pirates farm system seems to be as has been quoted by many sources to be pitching heavy and weak offensively and we need offensive help in Pittsburgh if we want to be where we all want them to be THIS YEAR. Marte should be here soon whereas Taillon could take until 2015 if things are as them say with him. We have a chance here to assemble an OF which would be tops in the NL for years to come (with the addition of Upton). and if getting it done requires Marte or Taillon I say keep Marte and deal Taillon

    • whiteAngus

      i disagree simply because Upton has only dominated in Arizona’s friendly confines. his numbers over his entire MLB career on the road are very “meh” at best.

      • http://www.facebook.com/backwardnikomahs Kirk Weaver

        Don’t forget now his is only 24 years old and the old change of scenery adage that in this case may just be what the dr. ordered

        • dcn3569

          Or the trade could be a bust.

  • leadoff

    Marte! Overrated? the guy is a 5 tool player, the Pirates did not think they needed to rush him because they had Presley and Tabata penciled in for the year, as it turns out, both are having down years.
    Anyone that watches Marte play and does not know how good he can be is a poor judge of talent IMO and I don’t care if the guy is a scout or a GM, they get it wrong quite often too.
    Near the end of ST this year the Nats wanted Marte and were going to start him in Center field on the major league team, that is what they thought of him. They wanted Harper to spend more time in the minors and they were probably right, Harper should have spent more time in the minors.
    The talk about Marte not being ready is a joke, he might not have perfected every aspect of his trade, but who does when they get called up?
    Hurtle is not a good manager IMO for a guy like Marte, if Marte does not get out of the gate in a hurry when he is called up, he will ride the pine, we have enough evidence of that.

    • whiteAngus

      corey patterson was a 5 tool player. what does that tell you? it helps you get noticed for sure, but it doesn’t guarantee you becoming a star player. as talented as Marte is, hes not a sure thing by any means.
      upton however has the better pedigree, has major league success and is still very young. that being said, Upton’s numbers away from Arizona would have wanting the Pirates to not pursue him in a trade. Away from PHX, he’s very average.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Dimmick/100000318490900 Steve Dimmick

      I think they gave Pedro / Barmes / Barajas enought time, why not Marte? I think they gave Barmes too much! Maybe they dont want to put too much pressure on SM being in the playoff race.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      I agree with all of that except for the final bit. There haven’t been any potential game changers come in like Marte since Hurdle’s been coaching. What, are you talking about Mercer? That really makes your argument seem credible; to compare Marte and Mercer.

    • http://twitter.com/VRRCards VRR Cards

      The closer it gets to midnight the more the chariot looks like a pumpkin. In other words, when a guy is about to get called up the scrutiny escalates.

  • PiratesFan

    If Huntington wants Upton to be a Pirate, he needs to realize that he can’t just ship a group of Grade B and C prospects. To get somebody that valuable you need to trade one of your higher prospects, somebody on Marte’s or Taillon’s level. Huntington doesn’t have to go after Upton, but he has to realize that it will take a lot to convince Arizona to part with their star hitter.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_46YTB5OO4O7UM2OVB44UZSTXNA Nate

      I’m not going to knock him for trying to lowball AZ.

  • http://twitter.com/_steve13 Stephen Stasa

    Forget about just away from Arizona, he’s below average overall this year. His OPS+ is just 98. You can say a change of scenery will make a difference but that’s a really big gamble to take with what you’d have to give up (in both prospects and cash). Especially since his career OPS at PNC Park is .790 with 0 HRs in 35 ABs. And it’s not like those ABs came mostly when he was struggling (like in his rookie year) either, 10 and 11 of those came in 2009 and 2011, his two best years in the majors. Granted, that’s still a small sample size, but it fits with the logic of going from a 329-376-402 left-to-center park to a 325-389-410 park. Absolutely no way I give up Taillon or Marte for him.

  • http://twitter.com/andyprough Andy Prough, CFE

    I don’t know if it’s really overrating Marte to think that he might end up being nearly as useful to the Bucs as the .270 career hitting Upton. And it’s not really overrating Marte to say that Upton may not be worth $43 million over the next 3.5 years if all he’s going to do is hit .270, 60-80 RBI per season, and possibly hit 25 home runs in one or two of those seasons. Upton is getting a huge amount of credit for being a 2-time all-star, but we are seeing that all-star status is incredibly watered down in recent years, with 1-in-8 regular MLB starters going to the All-Star game in 2012. I think Arizona is the team desperate to find themselves a dance partner to rid themselves of Upton’s contract before the back-end escalators kick in in 2014-2015, when they will owe him nearly $30 million. If so, why should the Bucs give up their best prospects to take on Arizona’s financial logjam, without significantly more production? In the end I think you will see Upton moved to another team, and possibly for less than Marte + Taillon; Arizona simply doesn’t have a lot of leverage here – other GM’s must be aware of WHY Arizona wants out from under that deal.

  • mikez09

    I see 4 prospects the Pirates shouldn’t trade: Marte (obviously our best position player), Taillon & Cole (top of the rotation stuff) and …wait for it….Tony Sanchez….the reason I see Sanchez as untouchable is because the Pirates don’t have any catching prospects in the entire system that look like they could possibly be a starter until you get all the way down to Mathiesen. And he is so far away that you never know what could happen with him. Barajas might have one more mediocre year left in him and McKenry isn’t the answer. Sure we all like him but he is a solid backup at best. His increased power numbers this year have only convinced me that he could be a backup. Before the power materialized I thought of him more as AAA depth for the major league team…

  • AlvarezRiverBall

    Edwin Jackson made his debut at age 19. Does that mean Taillon won’t be as good as Edwin Jackson? lol