Today, Bob Nutting met with the media, and one of the things he mentioned over and over was how the Pittsburgh Pirates need to continue to develop players from within. You’re not going to get any arguments on that approach from me. I’m a guy who believes that small market teams like the Pirates, Rays, and Athletics need to rely heavily on their farm system. They need to be giving chances to guys like Andrew Lambo, rather than signing guys like Kendrys Morales. They need to wait on Gregory Polanco to arrive, rather than signing someone to enter the 2014 season with a “guarantee” at right field.
Fortunately the Pirates are in good shape with their farm system. Baseball America has already rated them the top farm system in the game, and they’re anywhere from #1-3 based on the rankings that have already come out from various outlets. Tonight, Baseball America released their top 100 prospects, with the Pirates having seven guys on the list. The Pirates have had anywhere from 6-7 players on each list, with only MLB.com’s list having six players in the top 100. A lot of the guys in the top 100 will be arriving in the next year or two, giving the Pirates a huge boost of young talent.
The Dominican Republic has been a big help in this area. Two of the top prospects highlighted by the top 100 lists are Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson, who both came out of the Dominican. I talked with Bob Nutting and Clint Hurdle about this topic today, and I wrote what I think is a great look at how the Dominican academy is paying off. The article is set to go up tomorrow morning.
Today, Hurdle mentioned that guys like Starling Marte, and soon guys like Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, and Joely Rodriguez give tangible evidence that the Pirates can develop players from other countries.
“The draft was our big event. It wasn’t the free agent market in the winter. And we were able to go outside the norms in some areas to go draft some people, and take advantage of the opportunities that we had that way,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “But now the brand adds tangible evidence that we’re moving the right direction. Tangible evidence that we can grow players up from different parts outside of the United States, and give them every opportunity to excel here as well.”
The farm system is obviously paying off. The Pirates saw Starling Marte in 2012, Gerrit Cole in 2013, plus guys like Jordy Mercer, Jeff Locke, and Justin Wilson play roles. In 2014 they should see top prospects Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon arrive, along with guys like Andrew Lambo and Stolmy Pimentel getting a shot. By the middle of 2015 they could see Nick Kingham, Alen Hanson, and Tyler Glasnow, along with Tony Sanchez getting a shot at the starting catcher’s job, and guys like Brandon Cumpton, Phil Irwin, and/or Casey Sadler breaking into the back of the rotation or bullpen. In the years after that they could be looking at guys like Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire, Harold Ramirez, Luis Heredia and Clay Holmes making the jump to the majors, not to mention all of the lesser role players or average starters.
The Pirates got here because of their farm system. They wouldn’t have been contenders in 2013 without Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer, Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, and all of the depth options throughout the year. They’re going to start relying more heavily on those internal options with those waves of prospects finally arriving. And I believe that as long as the Pirates stick to this approach, and don’t start selling off prospects and blowing things up like the Brewers did when they finally became contenders, that the Pirates will remain successful and won’t have to worry about “windows to contend”.
Links and Notes
**If you haven’t ordered your copy of the 2014 Prospect Guide, you had better act fast. I just opened up the last case of books today. I say that’s the last case because I don’t think I’ll be ordering more this year. Each year I order the books in bulk through the publisher, which allows me to save several dollars per book, and I pass that savings on to you to keep the price of the book low. You’ll still be able to buy the book from the publisher after I sell my supply, but the bulk discount price won’t be included, which means you’ll be paying $25, plus $3.99 for shipping. Right now you can buy the book for $25 shipped on the products page of the site.
**Baseball America Puts Seven Pirates In Their Top 100. Nice to see the Pirates getting consensus recognition for having so many top prospects.
**Andrew Lambo Doing Defensive Drills at First Base (Video). A few notes about this video. He was receiving throws from everyone who will be in the infield in 2014. Also, you don’t see this in the video, but Lambo actually made more plays than Gaby Sanchez. I’m not too worried about Lambo at first base. I don’t think he’s going to be a plus defender, but I also don’t think he will be a liability. The big question will be whether his bat can translate over to the majors.