First Pitch: Yes, The Farm System Has Been Dramatically Upgraded Since 2007

There’s been a lot of frustration with the Pittsburgh Pirates in recent weeks. The team went from 16 games over .500 at the end of July, to clinching their 20th losing season in a row on Sunday. The frustration has brought on a lot of criticism. A lot of that criticism is warranted. But some of the criticism has been a bit of a reach, which is confusing. There are things you can legitimately criticize this team about. There’s the second straight collapse, where the entire team fell apart. Their philosophy of ignoring the running game is something to question. Rod Barajas is still getting too much playing time over Michael McKenry, which raises questions about their values of game calling. There’s the overall lack of trust in younger players, even if it means playing a struggling veteran. There’s the questionable small ball strategy with a home run heavy team that seems to be built more for big innings and shouldn’t be giving away outs.

One area where criticism isn’t warranted is the quality of the farm system. I could talk about the talent in the farm system, but I’ll defer to the national writers. MLB.com recently had six Pirates prospects in their updated top 100 list. Baseball America had four Pirates in their GCL top 20, and three in their NYPL top 20. Jim Callis mentioned this week that the Pirates were tied with four other teams for the most players on all of the top 20 lists this year, with 15 total. Last week, Ben Badler questioned why Pittsburgh writers were down on the farm system, noting the quality of talent.

The biggest argument against the farm system that I’ve seen has come from Dejan Kovacevic. On Friday, Kovacevic questioned whether the farm system was really upgraded.

The most common defense of Neal Huntington’s tenure as GM is that the farm system has been greatly upgraded.

I can reach up above my desk here — give me a sec — and pull down a copy of the Pirates’ 2008 media guide. Inside are all the names and stats of the players who were in the system in 2007,Dave Littlefield’s last year as GM.

Here are a few: Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Nyjer Morgan, Brad Lincoln, Sean Burnett, Steve Pearce, Ronald Belisario, Alex Presley, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Kyle McPherson, Duke Welker and Rudy Owens.

Now, that system had all kinds of other problems, notably filling out rosters with older players, prioritizing winning over development at times and an egregious absence in Latin America. And no, it wasn’t nearly deep enough.

But look at that list again.

Then, look at the upper crust of the current system.

Where is this dramatic upgrade?

I’ll say this again: A minor-league system isn’t about winning Baseball America awards as the players move along. It’s about developing major-league talent.

First of all, the comparison being made here is comparing two different things. We’re looking at the 2007 group in hindsight, and we’re looking at the quality of the current system as it stands right now. Those are two entirely different things. I have a book above my desk here — give me a sec — and it’s called the Baseball America 2008 Prospect Handbook. Let’s take a look at how Baseball America rated the above players heading in to the 2008 season.

Andrew McCutchen - McCutchen was the number one prospect. Baseball America said “he projects as more of a No. 1 or 2 hitter than someone who’ll bat in the middle of a major league order, so he’ll need to show more patience and draw some more walks.” They also called him the “one true impact prospect”.

Neil Walker - Walker was the number two prospect in the organization. Baseball America had good things to say, praising his power, plate discipline, and his makeup. At the time Walker was making the transition to third base, so they noted that he needed work defensively.

Steve Pearce - Pearce was the number three prospect in the organization. Baseball America praised his power to all fields, and noted he needed to learn right field with Adam LaRoche at first base. They said his bat was ready for the majors.

Brad Lincoln - Lincoln was the number four prospect in the organization. A lot of the writeup talked about Lincoln coming back from Tommy John surgery, and what kind of pitcher he was before the injury.

Duke Welker - Welker was the number nine prospect in the organization. He was listed as a guy throwing 91-92, who could hit 95, with hope that he could add velocity. BA projected him as a number three starter.

Tony Watson - Watson was the number 11 prospect in the system.  BA didn’t give a projection, but noted he would have to be fine with his control in order to succeed. They also noted he may run in to problems when facing more advanced hitters. Watson was throwing 86-88 at the time, with his velocity down after a labrum injury.

Nyjer Morgan - Morgan was the number 15 prospect in the system. BA noted he had game changing speed on either side of the game, that he was an excellent bunter, but a bad base runner, and that he lacked power and had an arm that was just playable in center field. They also noted his age, which was 27 at the time, and mentioned that he was the favorite for the center field job in 2008 (which wasn’t saying much in the pre-Andrew McCutchen/WHYGAVS time frame).

Sean Burnett – Burnett wasn’t a prospect heading in to the 2008 season. He lost his prospect eligibility in 2004 after pitching 71.2 innings, so he wasn’t included in BA’s handbook.

Ronald Belisario - Belisario wasn’t included in the BA handbook. He wasn’t even included among the 20 right handers that BA mentioned outside of the right handers in the top 30.

Alex Presley - Presley wasn’t included in the BA handbook. There were five outfielders listed who weren’t in the top 30.

Jared Hughes - Hughes wasn’t in the top 30, but was listed in the RHP depth chart as the 11th best right-handed starter in the organization.

Kyle McPherson - McPherson wasn’t in the top 30, but was listed in the RHP depth chart as the 7th best right-handed starter in the organization.

Rudy Owens - Owens wasn’t in the top 30, but was listed in the LHP depth chart as the 5th best left-handed starter in the organization.

Some of these players exceeded their projections. McCutchen obviously became a middle of the order hitter. The guys at the bottom of the list went from fringe-prospects or non-prospects to major leaguers. Some of these players fell short of their projections. Duke Welker isn’t going to be a number three starter, although he did add velocity and could be a late inning reliever. Brad Lincoln didn’t really have a projection due to his injury, but he never returned to being a possible number one starter. Tony Watson struggled in the upper levels as a starter, then found success in the bullpen. He also saw a velocity increase.

In summary, the results here don’t look strong. Baseball America noted that McCutchen was the only impact prospect in the organization. A lot of the guys Kovacevic is praising were guys who weren’t even prospects in 2007-08.

Look at the farm system now. Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia all have the potential to be impact players in the majors. You could put Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, and Josh Bell on that list, although there’s a lot of projection involved with that analysis as all three have high ceilings but have a long way to go to the majors. There are a lot of talented, young pitchers in the organization outside of the big three. Three of the biggest success stories in the prep pitching ranks have been Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow, and Clay Holmes. I wouldn’t put a ceiling on any one of those guys right now and try to cap off their potential. I will say that they’re a better group than some of the top pitching prospects in the organization in 2008, such as Bryan Bullington, Jimmy Barthmaier, and Yoslan Herrera. Just think of that for a second. Kingham, Glasnow, and Holmes might not be in the top five right-handed pitching prospects in this system. Compare that to 2007, when Bullington, Barthmaier, and Herrera were three of the top five right-handers, and three of the top six starters.

Then there’s the prospects we’re not talking about. We’ve had five seasons for those 2007 guys to make their way to the majors. In five years, which guys from the current system will go from marginal prospects to major league players or top prospects?

I’d also point out that most of those success stories speak well of the development system under Huntington. Kyle McPherson and Rudy Owens owe most of their success to their fastball command, which they learned in the lower levels the first few years Huntington was here. Alex Presley looked like he was heading out of baseball after the 2009 season, but turned things around in 2010. Watson and Hughes are common stories: failed starters who found success in the bullpen. Duke Welker lost his control in 2008, and struggled with that control up until last year. Not only did his velocity spike to the upper 90s, but he also drastically improved his control, putting him on a path for the majors.

A few days after posting this, Kovacevic repeated his stance. The following was sent to me this evening, and was posted in the comments section of this blog post yesterday.

Chris

DK,

I meant to comment on the Monday column:

You said that Littlefield’s production of MLB talent was “not exactly barren” because of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Nyjer Morgan, Brad Lincoln, Sean Burnett, Steve Pearce, Ronald Belisario, Alex Presley, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes and Kyle McPherson…

But aside from McCutchen and Walker, I would say that list is pretty terrible for 6 years on the job by Littlefield. Nyjer Morgan has a career .705 OPS. Brad Lincoln was a #4 overall pick who is now an OK reliever even though he was abysmal in Toronto and has a career ERA of 4.81. Burnett is pretty good, but once again he’s a first-round pick that is now a reliever. Belisario was signed at age 16 by the Marlins and made his MLB debut TEN years later so it is a little odd to say that after five years, Huntington’s drafts and international signings will not produce any players up to the lofty standards or Pearce, Presley and a bunch of RELIEF pitchers. Granted, I do like McPherson.

I don’t think Huntington’s goal was ever to draft “serviceable players.” You don’t get to the playoffs with a bunch of serviceable players. You probably don’t even get to .500 by trying to draft “serviceable players.” He saw the draft as the only place the Pirates could get STAR players, and so he went for the high-risk/high-reward types.

Even without signing their first-round pick this year, the Pirates have Cole/Taillon (who I think could convert into relief pitchers tomorrow and be just as good as Lincoln/Burnett), they have Hanson, Heredia, Polanco, Josh Bell, and then lower guys like Clay Holmes, Kingham, Tony Sanchez, Wyatt Mathisen, and Barrett Barnes who have the potential to at least as good as half the players you’ve mentioned. Even a guy like Victor Black could still become a good relief pitcher.

Now, you are definitely right that Huntington should have done better so far outside of the obvious picks like Alvarez, Cole, Taillon… But it’s a little early to give up on the thought of some of the high school players he drafted ever becoming as good as Presley.

DK: I appreciate that, Chris, but you’re measuring by intentions rather than by results. That train’s left the station. Littlefield had five drafts, not six. Same number as the current management team, same amount of time to evaluate both.

Let me restate this clearly: The concept that Littlefield’s system was barren in 2007 and that this one in 2012 is dramatically upgraded is easily blown to bits.

The only marked difference between the two, really, is that this management team spent A TON more money to get either the same or inferior results.

Oh, and this management team worked WITHOUT a meddling owner telling them who to pick, as happened when Kevin McClatchy insisted on a college player and pushed for the drafting of Bryan Bullington when the player Littlefield, Ed Creech and his people wanted was Clayton Kershaw.

Really, guys, this is one of those narratives that’s been repeated again and again and again, to the point that a lot of us — myself included at times — have accepted it as true that the minor league system is just exponentially better now.

It isn’t.

There are a lot of things incorrect in this statement. First, Littlefield did have six drafts: 2002-2007. So he had one more draft than this management team currently has. Second, I don’t think anyone would deny that the system looked barren in 2007. Kovacevic’s entire argument is based in hindsight around 12 players, with two of those players yet to make their major league debuts. Of the ten players in the majors, five are relief pitchers, and two look like bench players (Pearce and Presley). For an entire farm system to produce that result five years later is not good.

I also don’t think you’re going to find many people who think that this farm system compares to that one. Forget keeping things in perspective and only evaluating the systems as they stood in their respective years. Let’s give the 2007 system the benefit of hindsight, then ask ourselves this: in five years, do we think the current system will have better results? I don’t look at this system and see it limited to five bullpen players, two bench players, one star, and two starting fielders. That would be massively disappointing if that was the end result from all of the talent in this system.

Also, as I mentioned above, this group developed a lot of those players, despite Littlefield drafting them. So the strength of this system includes guys like Kyle McPherson and Duke Welker, who both still have prospect eligibility.

The Littlefield defense is strange, considering his track record of drafting was so horrible. Littlefield didn’t want Kershaw. The mention that Creech and his people wanted Kershaw is correct. I’ve heard this story. Littlefield saw Kershaw, wasn’t impressed, and went with Brad Lincoln — not Bryan Bullington, since he was taken in the 2002 draft and this was the 2006 draft. This was the same General Manager who didn’t want Andrew McCutchen the year before, and only made the pick because his scouts begged him to take McCutchen. It’s the same General Manager who passed on Jason Heyward, a Georgia prep player who was favored by Ed Creech, who was from Georgia and was pushing for Heyward. It’s the same GM who took Bryan Bullington first overall in 2002, then called him a future number three starter. Maybe Littlefield could have had a better system, but that was Littlefield’s fault.

There are things you can criticize the Pirates for right now. There are things you can raise questions about. But you can’t question that the farm system is significantly better. It’s not a “narrative”. It’s a widely held opinion, and it’s held by some of the most respected national prospect writers. A lot of the criticism from Kovacevic lately come across as a guy holding a personal grudge. The things he is focusing on — Navy SEALs, e-mails, and questioning the talent in the farm system — have very little to do with the collapse by the major league team this year. Some of those things are non-issues. Three days of intense training? A crazy sounding motivational e-mail? The only item of significance is the discussion of the farm system, and that’s off base.

The only people I’ve seen who have criticized the quality of the system have been in Pittsburgh, and a lot of the criticism is misplaced anger over the major league team. It’s a doom and gloom view, where it sounds better to say “the Pirates are horrible, and it’s not going to get any better”. These people also don’t see the prospects they’re talking about. The people who are watching the system, whether it’s this site, Baseball America, or Jonathan Mayo, don’t share the opinion that the system is weak. I’m not sure that there’s anyone who would look at what was left in 2007, and what the system has now, and would disagree with the fact that the system has been dramatically upgraded. It all just seems like a strange argument to make, and a strange one to continue. There are legitimate things to criticize, and things that actually cost the Pirates wins this year. There’s no need to try and criticize an area that is widely seen as a big positive, all while doing so without a lot of first hand knowledge of the subject.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates beat the Braves 5-1.

**Pirates Notebook: Correia’s Final Start as a Bucco?

**McDonald Steps Away From Game to Get on Track.

**Evaluations Being Completed On Second Straight Collapse.

**Alen Hanson and Nathan Kilcrease Nominated For Awards.

**The 40-man roster/payroll page is updated. Two performance bonuses were reached. Kevin Correia received $100,000 for surpassing 170 innings, and Joel Hanrahan received $15,000 for finishing 50+ games. Both of those are via Rob Biertempfel on Twitter.

**Starting in 2014, there will be no more blackouts for FOX Saturday out of market games for MLB Extra Innings and MLB.tv customers. Great news, but too bad it couldn’t happen next year.

**The average WAR by draft pick, via Ed Giles on Twitter. Note the massive drop off after the first 50 picks. It’s not easy getting a player in the middle to late rounds of the MLB draft.

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.

Share This Post On
  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.wratcher Bob Wratcher

    Kovacevic has little credibility. Much of what he writes about is allegedly passed on from an anonymous scout or some other deep throat type source. It all started with that fairy tale piece a few years ago about Mario buying the team. I would have a lot more respect for him if he would simply admit what we all know – he hates the Bucco front office. He and Perrotto have become tabloid sensationalists.

    • Lee Young

      I LOVED his writing at the PG. Since he moved to the Trib as a columnist (aka, ‘opinionist’) much less so.

      Btw, he HAS admitted he is not a fan of the FO on his blog. So it isn’t a secret. But, you’re correct imho, in that it colors his writing.

      Back on the PG, he could be more objective and let his readers draw their own opinions. I miss THAT DK.

    • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

      Really? As opposed to whom?

  • http://cityplanning.tumblr.com brendan

    Additionally the Pirates farm system was ranked 26th out 30 after 200
    7 by Baseball America. Yes you can make a list of players who were in the system in 2007 who are now playing the majors. I’m not sure what that proves. If that list compared favorably to to other teams perhaps you could make some sort of argument contending Littlefield’s system wasn’t ‘barren.’ But DK doesn’t offer that sort of comparison.

  • wtmiller

    It’s hard to overemphasize the degree to which Dejan is comparing apples to oranges. He’s looking at a bunch of guys who weren’t considered significant prospects, or weren’t considered prospects at all, but who managed to make it to the majors mainly because they were with an extraordinarily weak team. Odds are the current system has a bunch of guys like Presley, Hughes, and Watson, maybe far more than the 2007 system produced. We just don’t know who they are yet so it’s easy to pretend they don’t exist.

    And, like Tim, I’m not at all impressed with this great hoard of talent Littlefield accumulated over six years.

    • Lee Young

      WTM…Dejan (and his bloggers) hammered me unmercifully when I postured a similar defense to what Tim wrote.

      I also communicated with him privately and again got a similar type reply.

      I ended up having to agree to disagree. It wasn’t worth getting upset about.

      Tim’s article, to me, is a breath of fresh air to my ego. I have been wrong many times in my life (too many….lol), but I found HIS argument indefensible.

      Foo

      .

      • whiteAngus

        the problem i have with DKs argument is that he gave both Littlefield and Walker 5 drafts, yet most of Littlefield’s guys took longer, or WILL take longer, than 5 years to make it. how come Huntington doesnt get this priveledge? its a known fact that it takes a ballplayer longer than 5 seasons after drafted to stick in the big leagues. huntington’s draftees deserve a chance to grow as both ballplayers and men and not be written off just because they arent stars right out of the gate.

  • http://twitter.com/EamonConQueso Operation Shutdown

    Wow. The utter decimation of an argument.
    I’m all about reporting that questions anything, but defending Dave Littlefield doesn’t make DK Woodward and Bernstein, it makes him Geraldo.

    • http://cityplanning.tumblr.com brendan

      I’m even all for him going back and examining whether or not Littlefield’s system was better than is commonly perceived. He claims the idea it was barren is easily blown to bits and it sure seems like he thinks he’s done so. But listing some players who were in the system in 2007 and who are now in the majors does not do so. He seems to have little interest in doing the work to substantiate his thesis.

      • Lee Young

        not only that, but because of his doofusness, he left us with FOUR #5 starters for 2008.

        NH has been trying to build a pitching staff ever since.

        .

    • wtmiller

      “it makes him Geraldo”

      Heh

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-YaZhynka/100000448392567 Richard Ya’Zhynka

      Kovacevic did a good Geraldo impersonation with the “Navy Seals / Stark email” story. He used only anonymous sources. Not one person was willing to put his name behind the accusations that Kovacevic alleged were made. Kovacevic failed to state that Stark, in the text of the email, wrote that he was quoting an Olympic Gold Medalist regarding the “hippie-boy-scout-hell’s-angel” reference. And Kovacevic failed to even attempt to get a quote from the Pirates before writing his highly critical report.
      Kovacevic sensationalized the story in the hope of getting it more attention than it deserved.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-YaZhynka/100000448392567 Richard Ya’Zhynka

        I agree with Tim Williams: ” A lot of the criticism from Kovacevic lately come across as a guy holding a personal grudge.”

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

          I feel like its hard to tell; it may be some kind of personal grudge, but it may also just be sensationalistreporting. You don’t sell papers with, “everything was just, meh, today.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

    It would be interesting to re-read this article 5 years from now to see how things pan out. Bottom line is, who cares where are farm system is rated? I care about whether or not the players in the farm system turn into legitimate big leaguers. Cole and Taillon have the pedigree, but have been anything but dominating in the minors, maybe they are the future Grilli and Hanrahan or maybe they turn into the 2 dominant starters we hope they will be. Somewhere right now is the next Mike Piazza who was drafted very late and was considered organizational depth at best when drafted. I would take Piazza over Sanchez any day if drafted in the same year even though Sanchez would have been rated much higher. It’s an inexact science, lets just hope some of the guys in the system pan out.

    • Lee Young

      Hopefully in 5 years we’ll find out that Tim vastly UNDERvalued our prospects…lol

      .

    • whiteAngus

      of course you would take Piazza over Sanchez. if it wasnt for lasorda, Piazza never would have been drafted at all. some would also say, if it wasnt for PEDs, Piazza never would have made the majors either.
      but cole AND taillon have had dominating starts in the minor leagues. this cant be denied. they also have struggled. but so have guys like shelby miller who overcame a horendous start in 2012 and is showing his true stuff. but because hes with the cardinals does he get a free pass? if miller were a pirate, which he definately should have been, and struggled in 2012, does he get written off as not dominant???
      FACT: the pirates top 20 prospects, right now, is the strongest group of potential talent the Bucs have ever had. it’s not because Im an NH “apologist” or because Im a Buc fan. Just look at the names and the potential. Most of these men will not become regular Bucs players. It does NOT mean that the system failed. This is just how things go. The Rays have had enormous amounts of talent in the minors but only a few of them will stick with the MLB team. This is normal.
      To me, and to most, DK is not going to like anything NH and the boys are going to put on the field as a whole. Thats fine. Just like Smizik, it’s going to be fun rubbing all of the future success in their faces.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

        Don’t really care about Shelby Miller and I never said Cole/Taillon didn’t have dominant starts, but they had many more average or poor starts than dominant ones (especially Taillon). Neither had the strike out numbers their stuff would suggest. None of that though means they won’t be the dominant starters we all hope they become but it also doesn’t mean the pitcher the Pirates draft next year in round 30+ doesn’t end up being better then either of them. My point with Piazza and most of my comment was that rating minor league systems is a very inexact science. Sure it’s nice that we have some highly regarded prospects (too bad most are at the lower levels) but maybe all we get is a couple serviceable major leaguers or if we are lucky we get 3 or 4 all stars. I will hope for the latter. Also, if none of these players become major league star players, then yes, the system failed.
        Also I am not trying to back up DK in the least

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

      I could go on and on about the many different reasons I disagree with you, but primarily it’s due to the fact that farm systems are very much relevant to the success of the major league club. For the last 20 something years, even while Pittsburgh still had Barry Bonds and they were winning divisions, their minor league system was left to fester. If there’s one truism in baseball, its that talent breeds talent; the players are commodities. Now, whether that commodity is a first overall pick, or a productive major leaguer, it’s very difficult to get something for nothing. It becomes even more difficult to improve when you have no real talent to begin with and a limited budget. The prospects are the key, and what DK is most guilty of is not trusting people who actually have the responsibility of judging talent. DK is not a baseball scout, he’s not a former player, hell, his writing doesn’t even focus around baseball. He’s a general sports writer, and even if you don’t want to trust Tim’s opinion, you should at least trust every single major baseball publication telling you what’s going on. There will always be the outliers, the players that come out of nowhere, that just proves that the system of projection is imperfect. But normally talent comes from exactly where you think it will.

      • http://twitter.com/quirkytravelguy Quirky Travel Guy

        “his writing doesn’t even focus around baseball. He’s a general sports writer”

        Please… I know this is a popular talking point lately among the bucs dugout crowd, but this is an absurd criticism. The guy was the beat writer for years and still has those sources and that in-depth knowledge. He certainly has more credibility when it comes to the Pirates than pretty much any other journalist in town (which, I admit, isn’t that hard when your competition is people like Brink and Biertempfel.)

        If you want to disagree with Dejan that’s fine, but to argue that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he doesn’t cover baseball exclusively is just crazy.

        • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

          But it’s pile on Dejan Day! Also known as shooting the messenger.

          • szielinski

            The messenger should be shot when his message amounts to drivel on paper or on screen.

          • http://twitter.com/AppDevRecruiter ChiAppDevRecruiter

            Pile on! The guy’s a hack – a tiny insignificant reminder of what’s wrong with modern authoritative media. Their “authority” is showing now that us information-commoners have access to more data (and we’re creating our own, more informative ways to interpret and make use of it, too) than we’ve ever had and it’s clear that there’s no need to read any further for information; hence – the big switch – the media’s now focused on sensation. In every rag, you’ll find Chicken Little, falling skies, and boogeymen.

            • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

              Ah yes, let the masses figure it out themselves, by watching Faux news.

        • wtmiller

          When he’s making factual errors like the ones with the number of drafts Littlefield had and the Pirates picking Bullington over Kershaw (who was 14 years old at the time)–and these sorts of errors have been very common with Dejan since he left the beat–it’s pretty hard to argue that he DOES know what he’s talking about. I’m sure he still has his sources, but he leaps to conclusions without knowledge of basic underlying facts, then blocks anybody who tries to correct him. These criticisms are perfectly justified.

      • dropkickmurphys

        I guess my question is that why is NH only beefing up the rookie leagues in his fifth year on the job?

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

          you mean the draft from this year? What, are these guys supposed to step into AA? I’m interested to see how the upcoming draft goes for the Pirates as far as placement. 2 top 15 picks should make for an interesting scenario.

          • dropkickmurphys

            No, I mean until this year, there’s been little talent at the lower levels, that is evidenced by the lack of talent at the higher levels now. NH should have been having this kind of talent at the lower levels since his first draft. Five years into his term, he’s stockpiling talent at the lowest levels of the organization…why?

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

              As far as specifics, I’m still not entirely sure who you’re talking about. I know, from a development standpoint, it seems like they’re taking a lot more high school guys, most of which they’re starting in the GCL…position players anyhow. Many of the pitchers they’ve started in State College though, and nearly all of the top picks for the last several years have gone straight to West Virginia, which seems to be an aggressive move according to some. There are also the international guys, which arguably most of them start off in the GCL simply because the ones with high upside are only 17-19.

              I guess as a general answer to you question, it’s probably because it’s easiest to acquire a bulk amount of potential talent whenever it’s younger guys being drafted, or coming from latin america, and they have to start somewhere. But I think overall, the rookie leagues look beefed up now simply because there were a lot of players that were drafted this year that normally wouldn’t have played until next year when they would have been placed in State College, and the foreign academy seems to really be kicking now as well. I think some forget how young that place still is.

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    Oh geeze, Kovacevic doesn’t know huh? He’s an actual reporter. Again, the defense of the stupid things the farm system is doing doesn’t reflect well on the defenders. Was Littlefield great? Of course not, or he’d be a GM here still, or somewhere else. He wasn’t Satan though, either. Until Nutting booted McClatchy, the Pirates were handcuffed in their decisions. The Ramirez dump being the biggest example. And Littlefield’s acquisition of Morris showed how crappy he was as a GM, bidding against himself and taking on that contract? But just because he was a crappy GM doesn’t mean some of his things didn’t work out, it’s going to work out no matter who is in charge for some guys, just a matter of numbers. It’s a losers argument, the other guy sucked WORSE. I’d prefer Neil be so much better it’s obvious. And guys in A ball are a long way from being a sure thing. Littlefield’s Rule V fiasco should have ended his tenure then.

    • Mark Ludwig

      He never said he’s Satan. He said he was a bad GM and DK, even though he is “an actual reporter,” was demonstrably wrong when he said things like Littlefield wanted Kershaw over Bullington (I was unaware that baseball allowed you to draft 7th graders in 2002) and trying to argue that the 2007 system was anything other than barren.

    • whiteAngus

      the main issue for me here is that DK was a beat reporter for anything any everything pittsburgh. he certainly has every right to his opinion on how the team is run, but if you want true reporting on everything PIRATES, you need to follow the baseball sources, such as Baseball America, MILB, and a dozen or so other major outlets. DK is a sports reporter, not a baseball reporter.

    • wtmiller

      “He wasn’t Satan though, either.”

      Pazuzu maybe, but not Satan.

  • TonyPenaforHOF

    Tim, DK’s article isn’t a defense of Littlefield – its an example of a lousy system. His article is designed to show our system did improve, just not to the point we need it to. Your article just celebrates the “we suck less” theory of success. Sorry but not good enough. Pirate fans deserve more. Nutting paid for more and didn’t get it.

    • whiteAngus

      you see, youre wrong. and i’ll tell you why. all of the big time MILB sources: writers and such, whom get paid to report on minor league baseball, have said that the pirates are one of the most improved systems in the game. Baseball America and MLB.com and both stated such in the last month alone. Nutting has paid for the ENTIRE FRANCHISE to get better and it 100% has done that. Sure, the pirates MLB squad is slowly getting better and “sucks less”, but saying that the entire franchise “sucks less” is just hate thrown at NH and his boys. its flat out wrong.

      • TonyPenaforHOF

        Ok whiteAngus lets use logic instead
        of emotion to break this down.

        1) Yes, they are much better.
        Everyone, myself included, gives the credit where it is deserved – to Nutting,
        Huntington, Stark, Smith et al. That point is not in dispute. What is just as
        clear is the overall quality of the organization isn’t great. It’s just below
        average. If that is good enough for you that’s great – but it isn’t good enough
        for me. Pirate fans deserve Tampa Bay/Oakland levels of production. Granted
        they are not winning World Series, but they are finding talent, developing it
        and exploiting inefficiencies in the MLB system to produce the maximum level
        possible. They are doing it with a weaker draft position than Pittsburgh and
        getting better results.

        2) The Pirates struggle to attract
        free agents. That fact is also very clear. Why? Something isn’t right in the organization.
        At the organization I work for we say potential clients “vote with their
        feet”. Well, if we are ponying up real money and they aren’t coming it
        must be for a reason. Hurdle has a reputation of being a player’s manager, PNC
        Park is rated by the players as one of the best places to play and there is no
        better fan base in the world. They support Pittsburgh sport heroes for life. My
        brother works in professional baseball and he spoke to Dave Parker this summer.
        Parker told him the support from the people of Pittsburgh is unbelievable to
        this day – over 30 years after he did anything! Ask Jack Lambert, ask Bill
        Mazaroski, ask anyone who has played in the Burg. They even cheered the goalie
        from the Sabers for his OLYMPIC performance! There are no better overall sports
        fans in the world. This isn’t NY where you are just a number or Tampa/Oakland
        where the fans don’t care. This isn’t St. Louis where the Cardinals are
        supported and the rest of the franchises struggle. ALL Pittsburgh sports team
        are supported. So why won’t good free agents come? I don’t know, and it isn’t
        my job to. It’s the GM’s to figure it out and fix it – and it isn’t happening.
        Look at what we got for the money spent in FA’s this year – over $15
        million on free agents that produced a NEGATIVE WAR. Oakland spent $39 million
        over 4 years and got 2.9 WAR, .289 BA, 23 HR’s, 82 RBI’s and 16 SB out of
        Cespedes. How would that look in the Pirates lineup in right field? Can you say
        winning season with a young, talented outfield for the next 3 – 5 years? Now
        look at today – Marte, Cutch and Snyder, who we acquired by giving up a good
        talent, even if it was a relief pitcher. Not the same is it.

        3) The Minor league experts system
        of ranking talent skewed. It isn’t based on performance data as much as draft
        position and their own rankings. A state legislator once told me “follow
        the money my boy and you will see the truth”. Ok let’s do that. BA and all
        the other companies making money off this make predictions, then evaluate their
        own predictions over time. When these predictions don’t pan out it is a development
        issue with the team. That’s why all the references to these organizations hold
        very little merit. What does hold merit – looking at every team in baseball
        over time, correlating their draft position, money spent and overall impact at
        the MLB level. That is how you see if the organization is effective. Care to
        look at Pittsburgh vs. Tampa and Oakland? That would be ugly.

        4) Latin prospects are making the
        system look better. This is a credit to the organization and Neal gets his
        piece. But how much credit is his? I don’t know but those closest to the organization
        have written publically the Latin American program is virtually separate from
        Neal’s operation. That makes sense because the of the physical and cultural
        barriers.

        IF we are evaluating the system on
        results in the key areas here there is no “hating” on anyone. They
        moved the organization forward. Now it’s time to raid both Oakland and Tampa’s
        talent to create the Real Best Management Team in Baseball.

        • wtmiller

          “Yes, they are much better. Everyone, myself included, gives the credit where it is deserved – to Nutting, Huntington, Stark, Smith et al. That point is not in dispute.”

          Um, yes it is. Dejan’s whole point was to dispute it.

          “The Minor league experts system of ranking talent skewed. It isn’t based on performance data as much as draft position and their own rankings. A state legislator once told me “follow the money my boy and you will see the truth”. Ok let’s do that. BA and all the other companies making money off this make predictions, then evaluate their own predictions over time.”

          It’s a conspiracy!

          “I don’t know but those closest to the organization have written publically the Latin American program is virtually separate from Neal’s operation.”

          No, it’s separate from SMITH’s operation. Huntington has taken a lot of blame for the Sano fiasco, deservedly so IMO. But you can’t have it both ways. If he gets blame for Sano, he has to get credit for Hanson, Polanco, Heredia, et al. And if he gets blamed for what Smith does, he has to get credit for what Gayo does. Dejan has correctly blamed Littlefield for failing dismally in Latin America, yet Gayo was Littlefield’s int’l scouting director most of that time. SOMETHING changed.

          • TonyPenaforHOF

            Really Tim? Point 1 – I don’t know
            what article you read, but we will have to agree to disagree. The point I took
            away was Littlefield was a mess but we are not in as good of shape as we should
            be.

            Point 2 – Not a conspiracy but human
            nature. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s work and Freakanomics. Then read Stephen
            Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It all says the same thing -
            people will act in their own self interests. The industry needs to evolve more.
            At one point in human history science believed the sun rotated around the earth, the world was
            flat and leaches were used for medical treatment. As the industry evolves it
            will debunk popular notions. I am pointing out how these commercial outlets are
            inherently flawed based on their own self interests. They can’t be taken for quality.

            Point 3 – I agree. It is not Smith’s
            operation, it is Huntington’s and the door swings both ways. So great job Neal,
            you effectively supported Gayo and his team! How about the rest of the
            organization’s talent assessment, development and recruitment? How is that
            going?

            • wtmiller

              Point 1 — Yeah, really. I guess you missed this statement:

              “The only marked difference between the two, really, is that this management team spent A TON more money to get either the same or inferior results.”

              Point 2 — If you’re trying to make the case that BA and the other prospect mavens out there have some sort of vested interest in saying the Pirates’ system is much improved, you’re not making it. The single biggest reason for the praise they’re giving the system is the breakout season for Hanson and Polanco. Neither BA nor anybody else predicted that. Meanwhile, BA in particular has been critical of the Pirates’ drafting. You don’t seem to have any familiarity with these outlets and their treatment of the Pirates over time. Your argument just boils down to, They’re part of an industry therefore they suck.

              Point 3 — Tim’s article and my comments weren’t about the rest of the team. I’d fire Huntington if it was up to me. That doesn’t change the fact that the farm system is vastly improved.

              • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

                Do you dispute that the Pirates have spent a ton more money on the farm system under Neil then they ever did under Littlefield? I think that’s true. Has the ROI on that been as good as the ROI on what Littlefield did? That’s the point I think that is being made. Of course, the more money you toss in there, you should be getting better quality prospects. If you assume X amount of dollars spent eventually turns into a ML win, do you think that so far Neil has outperformed Littlefield? I don’t think so. Of course the data will be much clearer in 5 years, 10 years, etc.

                Dejan points out the ineptitude of the front office, and the defenders of the faith leap to the barricades. If you like, I’ll say the mediocrity of the front office. For the money Nutting spent, they deserve better than mediocre, especially from the best management team in baseball.

              • TonyPenaforHOF

                Wilbur – your point # 2 is way off.
                I never said or implied these outlets “suck” at all. I am saying the
                industry of public player assessment is not statistically normed yet. What that means to those who don’t have a deep grasp of statistics – the minor league data has not been studied long enough to be considered statistically valid. In order to do that, a study must be conducted comparing successful major league players with minor league players once they understand how to measure the same
                information and variables. MLB statistics like WAR are going to make a study like this possible. What I am pointing out, but obviously hitting an emotional nerve, is the minor leagues don’t have the same type of data fully developed to make an accurate comparison.

                For that reason, and that reason alone, ALL minor league sites and publications have to be taken as less than valid for statistical reliability. They are still entertaining to read, but they are more opinion than fact.

                • wtmiller

                  So in other words, no judgments whatsoever can be made about minor league players and it’s all bullshit. That includes Dejan’s writing, btw.

                  Of course, what you’re doing here is confusing statistics and scouting. The validity of minor league stats has been studied extensively, but there’s no reliable method for translating them to major league stats. Of course, prediction systems that project major league performance based on major league stats have a high error rate, too, so I guess we can also conclude that all comparisons of major league players are bullshit, too.

                  Back in the real world, though, it’s universally accepted, even among statheads, that scouting is a critical component of assessing minor league performance, which is why people like BA, BP and Keith Law rely primarily on the views of scouts in assessing minor league systems. They don’t do it just based on stats. It’s all opinion and everybody recognizes that. Major league teams base their decisions on scouts’ opinions. That’s how it’ll always be. You either accept that, or you resign yourself to the view that every word written about minor league players is bullshit and that there’s no legitimate way to say that the Pirates’ system is much better, as Tim does, or not significantly better, as Dejan does.

                  • TonyPenaforHOF

                    Wow Wilbur, you are emotional! Your statement has less logic than a bar room at 2:00 AM.

                    No, my statement doesn’t say all minor league information is inaccurate. What I am saying is it’s imprecise because it’s not fully developed. One day it will be and arguments like these will look even sillier than it does right now. The best sources in the industry are with the teams themselves because it gives them a competitive advantage. That’s why Boston tried to hire Billy Beane away from Oakland. They knew he was ahead of them. He didn’t go, but the elements of his system were copied and they won.

                    The same premise applies to all performance data. Yes, there is and always will be some human elements. But, no Wilbur that’s not the way it will always be. The human elements will decrease over time once MLB players are fully statistically normed and variables accounted for. Since this isn’t finished at the Major League level, the minors will lag behind. Over time minor league training programs, players and organizations will be easier to evaluate. The successful programs will be copied and used.

                    BTW – those who understand organizational excellence have this down. The elements of success can be generalized and universally applied.

                    Until then we have to rely on the current system to evaluate and develop talent. If we use that system and apply the principles of organizational excellence we can compare the Pirates organization to the best there is – Tampa and Oakland. We don’t stack up.

                    • wtmiller

                      Totally and utterly wrong. Oakland tried to boil it down to stats and failed. The Moneyball draft was a flop and the methods the A’s used led to a long stretch of non-success. Oakland is succeeding now because they’ve gone back to a much more traditional scouting approach. Tampa was always a traditional scouting team. It’ll never be boiled down to stats.

                      Btw, your statement that some teams are much better than others at scouting contradicts your premise. Statistical analyses obviously aren’t anywhere close to being perfected, yet some teams, like Tampa and Texas, are extremely good at scouting. That’s because it’s not now, and never will be, possible to evaluate minor league and amateur players entirely by stats, but it IS possible to make good judgments often enough to succeed without having a perfected statistical framework. The Rays’ and Rangers’ systems were lauded by BA and the other experts you denigrate before they started producing good major league teams. The Rays’ breakout in 2008 was widely expected (although not to that degree) by the prospect mavens because they were correctly able to judge the Rays’ young talent as being very strong. The Astros’ system has been heavily disparaged by the experts for years now and, sure enough, they were right. DL’s disaster was regarded very poorly by all the prospect folks and they were right about that, too, as even Dejan’s pitiful list of successes shows. These guys are wrong a lot but, on the whole, they have a pretty good handle on a very inexact science.

                    • TonyPenaforHOF

                      Well Wilbur, good thing we live in
                      America. Everyone can have their opinion, even those who are dead wrong.

                      I may not be conveying the
                      information clearly. Some conversations need to be said not written. This may
                      be one of them.

                      In regard to the quality of BA and
                      all the other prospect companies out there, my exact words were “imprecise
                      because it’s not fully developed.” That means there is some degree of
                      accuracy, just not to the level of statistical accuracy. That is not a generic
                      term – it is an academic one. There will be accurate projections. There will
                      also be inaccurate projections. You accept the premise the inaccurate
                      projections are just part of the industry. I do as well. But we disagree they
                      will continue to be as important in the industry. Over time the scout’s role
                      will change, from just evaluating talent to finding the talent, skills and characteristics
                      for success. They do this now to a degree, but it is very raw. 20 years from
                      now it will be much different.

                      How you got “That’s
                      because it’s not now, and never will be, possible to evaluate minor league and
                      amateur players entirely by stats, but it IS possible to make good judgments
                      often enough to succeed without having a perfected statistical framework” from
                      what I said is beyond me. That isn’t even close to the meaning of what I wrote.

                      I understand this is simplistic but I am trying to break it down
                      so you can understand.

                      It’s already happening in the NFL. Football is a much easier sport
                      to play but the concept is the same. Their scouts watch a ton of film, but the
                      teams and the NFL have narrowed down the characteristics of a successful
                      football player. It takes real front office ability to scout talent – like the
                      Steeler have shown – and dig out late round picks and unsigned free agents but
                      most of the teams in the NFL are able to field competitive teams through the
                      draft.

                      You seem very sensitive to any criticism about your profession.
                      I would advise you rethink that trait. A lack of self-reflection does not lead
                      to a successful career.

                    • wtmiller

                      You’re the one who completely and categorically dismissed the opinions of these prospect experts as meaningless (while apparently accepting Dejan’s as having some meaning). These are your exact words:

                      “That’s why all the references to these organizations hold very little merit.”

                      So now you’re retreating to academic equivocations like “imprecise but not fully developed,” which is a far cry from your original dismissive position. Yet in all your meandering generalities, which have wandered farther and farther from your original claim, you’ve never offered one scintilla of evidence to support your claim that they’re all so biased that their views of the Pirates’ system “hold very little merit.” Using faux academic phrases doesn’t make a coherent argument. Evidence does.

                      Oh, and baseball scouts watch a ton of film, too, as well as watching guys actually play, and they break it down systematically into the skills that they believe make a successful baseball player. And–since you show no familiarity with how they operate–BA and the other prospect outlets get most of their info from these scouts.

                      And my profession hasn’t even been discussed here. But spouting off about things you have no knowledge of seems to be your standard practice.

                    • TonyPenaforHOF

                      I totally stand by my statement of “hold very little merit”. If they want to prove their effectiveness show us publically. I’m all ears.

                      You keep going back to the idea of scouts and film to mean data. It doesn’t. Data is quantifiable, replicable and transferable. Knowing it in your gut as a scout is one thing, being able to quantify and replicate it is another. THAT holds a TON of merit. Right now what is the success rate of MLB players by round in the draft? First round is very high – as it should be. That is the lowest bar for the scouts to cross so it should be the highest percentage. How about the rest of the draft? Those are low to virtually non-existent.

                      Now there are players who make it after the first round. Why? Once that is broken down and quantified, THOSE key elements will be in demand.

                      What are those key elements? Does BA have them? How about P2? Do the scouts? If you have this please publish it. I have never seen it.

                    • wtmiller

                      You keep rebutting your own arguments. Yes, it’s true that the success rate is much higher in the first round. In fact, research has shown that it declines rapidly WITHIN the first round. That, and the fact that success is much lower in later rounds, results from the fact that there is a limited number of premium talents. What’s more, these facts show that scouts, despite their lack of “perfected” evaluation systems, are remarkably good at identifying the best talents. That’s a credit to them considering that baseball, unlike football, is an intensely skill-oriented game.

                      And, yes, scouts do quantify the desired skills. They normally use a 20-80 point system, scoring both present and projected future skills. It’s a good system because it conveys the amount of projection needed, which is a far bigger issue in baseball than other sports. They generally rate hitting, power, speed, arm and fielding for hitters, based on specific criteria that vary some between organizations. 50 represents average major league skill, and the other point totals are tied to particular levels of production. BA is quite familiar with the system and now includes ratings in their prospect guide.

                    • TonyPenaforHOF

                      I know the 20-80 system. It’s survey data, not quantified data. Survey data is much less reliable than quantified data.

                      Again, name the system based on data that is quantified, can be replicated and transferable. There isn’t one. When one gets developed it will change the way players are drafted. Until then BA and everyone else must keep using the less reliable method in order to make money.

                    • wtmiller

                      This is just empty gibberish. Here in the real world, AS YOUR OWN ARGUMENTS SHOW, people are able successfully to identify good baseball players as amateurs and minor leaguers. And it’s from those people that BA gets their info. The fact that they don’t have some 23rd century method of quantifying a batter’s ability to identify a breaking ball doesn’t negate their opinions. This isn’t Star Trek, it’s real life.

                    • TonyPenaforHOF

                      No problem Wilbur. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, using this kind of knowledge to make money and make my organization sing, you keep swearing on a blog and living off the work of others. Good night.

                    • wtmiller

                      Good idea, since you know squat about baseball.

            • whiteAngus

              but you have been biased against NH since day one, TPFH. you yourself have exclaimed complete dislike for Huntington since day one. I understand the dislike since you think he dismantled the 2008 team which you believed should have been given a chance. but to me, I think nothing that NH and his team will do will ever get you to approve of them. this is kind of DKish, and no I dont mean dickish.

              • TonyPenaforHOF

                What are you talking about? You must be confusing me with another person.

                Sorry white Angus but I was a huge supporter from NH on day one. That’s because I am a supporter of the Pirates, the organization was a mess under Littlefield and I want them to win. They talked about patience and the plan, all of which I bought into.
                If you look at the “Plan” it makes sense on paper – draft high end talent and pay the overslot money because overall it costs less to develop high impact talent than buy it as a FA or trade for it. Pitching is more valuable than position players as well. So on paper it looks good. I feel they failed in their execution. That is where the quality of the FO talent makes the difference.
                I wanted the team blown up in Neal’s first year, not his second. I didn’t care about contending with older players coming up on their FA years. I want a team that can compete year after year.

                Here is what will get my approval, from NH or his replacement – putting a organization that is highly effective in all aspects of it’s operation. Period.

                • Kevin Young

                  You are a master debater my friend. You give long-winded, nonsensical explanations and wind up countering your own arguments so many times that frankly it just leaves me confused. So to get straight to it, what is your problem with an organization that is now steadily improving as far as wins go, has the most top 20 prospects by league in the minors (with 2 more top 15 picks in the coming draft to add to the system. Which you yourself claimed earlier that 1st round picks are slam dunks), and has their best player locked up for several years at a friendly price?…Please explain.

                  • TonyPenaforHOF

                    Overall performance of the organization is ok, not excellent.

                    Latin AmericaB+

    • whiteAngus

      when you have 6 players, and nearly a 7th, on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list, you have a pretty good damn system.
      .
      signed,
      reality

      • TonyPenaforHOF

        You should have signed it Chad Hermansen, Bobby Bradley, JJ Davis, Stetson Allie…

        • http://cityplanning.tumblr.com brendan

          Obviously everyone knows that prospects bust. I don’t think that’s news. Ultimately the only way to judge the current state of the farm system is based on current projections of players in it, for better or worse.

  • http://twitter.com/jfranco77 John Franco

    Here are a few: Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Nyjer Morgan, Brad Lincoln, Sean Burnett, Steve Pearce, Ronald Belisario, Alex Presley, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Kyle McPherson, Duke Welker and Rudy Owens.
    OK, so that’s one superstar, a good regular (Walker), two 4th outfielders (Tony Plush and Alex Presley), and a bunch of pretty good relievers.
    Does anyone think that in 5 years, Cole, Marte, Heredia, Taillon, Bell, Hansen, Polanco, Black, Locke, Wilson, Barnes, Holmes, Tony Sanchez, Kingham, etc… won’t have produced more value than that? Anyone other than Dejan, I mean? The bottom line is that we don’t know. The Pirates could have a bunch more flameouts. So it’s kind of a dumb argument to make at this point, but I think most people would agree that things look better than they did when the first group was the “cream” of the crop.

    • whiteAngus

      exactly. DK is not giving NH’s draftees time to succeed OR flame out.

    • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

      The bottom line is we don’t know. Which is why declaring victory at this stage is for what, exactly?

  • john.alcorn

    Thank You, DK’s overwhelming ego has been driving me nuts for the last several months. He now values his opinion as fact and ignores expert opinion to the contrary. All the while he has scouted any of the affiliates and their prospects.

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

    Oh snap….Tim Williams/DK fued!

  • fisk72

    I’ve been going to Bradenton every year for the past 6 spending the majority of my time @ Pirate City. I’ve seen DK there once & spoke to him briefly. He did a quick interview with Woody Huyke on Herredia & then took off for a Pens function in PA. He was there an hour total. On the other hand I see Tim there every single time – all day long. I’ve asked him on occasion about newly drafted players – he always knows quite a bit about all of them. My point is, I trust the guy who puts the time in watching these guys day in & day out. It helps immensely that he reports without the hubris and bombast of the “professional journalist”. Thank you Tim for another fine year.

    • whiteAngus

      DK is a pittsburgh sports reporter, Tim is a pirates writer. i think this says more than enough.

      • fisk72

        Agree completely. Dejon has “people” that tell him things; Tim puts the time in to actually see it.

        • whiteAngus

          Tim, Kristy, Wilbur, etc… they are all about Pirates baseball. Kristy is more for the masses, pretty much a knowledgable field reporter, but shes a very good writer. WTM and I have gone at it many, many times on other sites but I have nothing but respect for his baseball knowledge, which still pales next to my own.
          >:-D

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      Ok this isn’t going to be popular but it needs to be said.

      1) I really appreciate the work of P2 – especially Tim, Wilbur, Kristy and Kevin. Sorry Nancy but I usually don’t get to the AAA reports, but when I do they are well written and informative. They offer a different point of view and insight we can’t get from the newspapers. I read it every day and look forward to the posts.

      2) They are not experts in acquiring, developing and evaluating baseball talent. They are reporting on the actions of the players, remarks by the members of the organization, results of the games. Maybe I am mistaken, but I don’t know of an evaluative statistical model developed by P2 that does any of the above. WAR, UZR/150, all the advanced measures used in the articles are from someone else. That’s ok, but we are not getting new information. We are getting it repackaged for our convenience. That’s why I find the site useful.

      3) P2 has no experience or training in effective organizational practice. Again, that’s ok, but to make statements about the quality of an organization becomes an uneducated opinion.

      DK, Smizik and the rest of the media don’t have any of these qualities either. They are the same as P2, just from a different perspective. Places like Fangraphs, MLBtraderumors and a few other places do have their own models, but no one has a comprehensive statistical model for the minor leagues. All everyone is doing is giving their opinion. That’s great, until it gets mistaken for facts.

      The facts with the PBC – they are not producing like the Tampa and Oakland. Do I know why? Nope. Do I care why? Nope. Can I recognize the difference? Yes. Do I understand organizational excellence? Yes. Do I see it in the current FO? No. Has enough time passed? Yes. Are we better off today than under Littlefield? Yes. Is it good enough? No.

      • piratemike

        I see we are on the same page.

  • wtmiller

    “This was the same General Manager who didn’t want Andrew McCutchen the year before, and only made the pick because his scouts begged him to take McCutchen.”

    I just wanted to mention, in case anybody doubts this, that Littlefield himself told me, the one time I met him, that the scouts prevailed on him to take McCutchen.

    • http://twitter.com/DXR2 DXR

      Thanks. Do you have a link for an article that you wrote about this? I’d certainly like to read it.

    • http://twitter.com/jrgsstuff Quinton McLargeHuge

      Maybe if he ever gets another GM job, he’ll listen to the scouting director about who to take in the draft…

  • leadoff

    I thought I would comment on this article because I think it shows clearly the problems that I have with the Pittsburgh media, they just don’t know baseball, period.
    They know stats that they like to use for their arguments against the Bucs when they are trying to bury them which is most of the time.

    As far as the farm is concerned, Littlefield did have restrictions on money that he could spend, that is a fact, if he could have been in Huntingtons position it is hard to tell what the farm would have looked like from 2007 till now.
    Make no mistake about it the farm is much richer with high end talent that it has ever been, some of us actually see a lot of these players and scout them for ourselves. Tim did not even mention some of the guys like Dickerson, Ozuna, Kilcrease and many more. Polanco is a stud every bit as talented as McCutchen or Marte, I realize he still has to prove it, but he and Marte are 5 tool players.
    This year in a pennant race from August on, the Pirates had as many as 4 rookies start games this year, they had at least 4 rookies in the bullpen this year. Where did these guys come from, I know the FARM. I hate to go back in the day on people, but there was a time when 1 rookie might get in a lineup not 5 to 10. Since these guys are rookies they had a lot of games when they played like it. So if the farm is barren, where did the rookies come from?
    Very few people that discuss or write about the Pirates understand the maturation process and none of the Pittsburgh media does from what I hear and read.

  • http://twitter.com/StevefromYukuDU Yukudukes

    I get tired of this argument being portrayed by the media where there is no talent at the top of the system when:

    1) You’re not allowed to talk about anything at the bottom. There is lots of good stuff happening down there too, but that hurts their argument.
    2) The Pirates have had 6 guys make their major league debut this year who could factor in for next season. They graduated 4 last year. How many players is an MLB system supposed to produce every year if that’s not good enough?
    3) Half of my personal top 20 is in AA of better (9/20 if you remove Marte and Locke from the mix)

    They traded off 3 key prospects, will graduate 2 more, Stetson Allie flamed and they didn’t have a first round draft pick. Yet the system will probably move up the organizational rankings. That’s not just from the no brainer picks at the top of the draft. The system is getting deeper even as my standards for prospects gets more stringent, IMO.

    • whiteAngus

      this.

  • http://twitter.com/jrgsstuff Quinton McLargeHuge

    Littlefield didn’t want McCutchen? Maybe he should have just let Ed Creech do his job.

  • piratemike

    Nutting and the front office he hired were all on the same page about building through the draft which wasn’t a new theory or ground breaking.
    Compared to what the previous regime was doing is like day and night.
    What has happened is that the Pirates have a true minor league system in the States and the DR. The vast majority of players are age appropiate and although there are organizational players who will never see the majors unless they buy a ticket that is not uncommon with every franchise.
    So in that regard I have to give this regime credit for doing something that other franchises were doing for decades and some always but the previous Pirate ownerships have ignored.
    .
    But I think somebody else with more knowledge, experience and better baseball savvy could have built the minor system while executing better trades, drafts, FA signings and building a better ML team.
    To me I think Huntington did some good things but if I had to give an overall grade a ‘C’
    would be the best I could give him and that is stretching it.

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      My point exactly! Well put.

  • Justin Gray

    Plus, he’s judging Littlefield’s drafts 5-10 years after the drafts, and judging Huntington’s drafts 0-5 years after. more players comparable to the servicable ones he mentions in his list of Littlefielders will surely arise over the next 5-10 years. I don’t know if this is on purpose, but DK definitely seems to be trying harder to get the more… yinzer-y… section of the fanbase all riled up about everything the management team does.

    • whiteAngus

      maybe thats who the real DK is?

  • Justin Gray

    he also used the fact that the pirates didnt draft Drew Storen, Mike Leake, or Mike Trout as reason to hate the Tony Sanchez pick… if you’re going to hate the sanchez pick, at least say they should have picked guys like Jacob Turner, Zack Wheeler, and i know i’m missing one other high upside pitcher… maybe Sale was that year? i forget and am too lazy to look it up.

    Storen is a relief pitcher, and leake is a back of the rotation guy. 20something teams passed on trout. Turner and Wheeler at least have some ace potential…

    but the fact that DK used the guys who are in the majors, Storen and Leake, but who have lower ceilings, just shows that he’s trying to connect more toward the casual fan who has heard of them, and not a fan who follows prospects.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Turner was my pick at the time.

      Storen was a signable pick. He was taken with the comp pick Washington received for not signing their 2008 1st round pick. If they would have taken Storen, who always profiled as a reliever, people would have freaked out more than the Sanchez pick, even if Storen worked out.

      Leake was also seen as a reach at the time. There were higher ranked players on the board. He profiled as a mid-first rounder.

      Trout was taken at the end of the first round. I don’t think anyone saw this coming. You could say the Angels did, but if you look, they had back to back picks, and took Trout second. Assuming they drafted to their board, Trout wasn’t even the number one guy on their list.

  • Justin Gray

    last post in my dejan rant…. is there anything really that wrong with what NH said to the tune of “some baseball people disagree with our fans” ? how is that worth raising a stink about? NH was probably telling the truth. he wasnt saying people were dumb.

    aaand no more rant

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I didn’t see anything wrong with it. The complaints actually reminded me of a quote from HBO’s The Newsroom: “Nooooo. You can’t ever imply that the viewer doesn’t know everything.”

      The truth is that Huntington was right. Baseball people have a different opinion on the team than the fans do. That wasn’t saying the fans are dumb. It was just saying that people in the business saw things differently.

      • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

        All of them? That’s remarkable. I’m guessing Dejan knows quite a few, right?

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I’d say the majority feel that way. I haven’t talked to many scouts who are down on the system. Baseball America’s prospect lists are made up from scouting inputs, and they are favoring the system right now. I’m not saying DK doesn’t know scouts. But if he’s saying the system is the same as the 2007 system, I don’t think he’s talking to them.

          • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

            No, he isn’t saying that. You are the one saying it’s ‘dramatically’ better. There is always a range of opinions. I’m wondering what Neil Huntington can ever say that you will find disagreement with. Say, what was the farm system ranking when Cam Bonifay won executive of the year, or whatever it was they gave him? Pretty high, right? I guess that was the only year they got it wrong?