We spend a lot of time talking about the top young prospects in the organization, and for good reason. The main purpose of a farm system is to produce talent for the big league team. Minor signings don’t usually get a lot of attention due to the fact that they probably won’t yield help in the future for big league players. Lost in all of that is the importance that organizational players can play to the system.
The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to have re-signed minor leaguer Greg Picart, per a tweet from Picart talking about another opportunity with the Pirates. Picart, who turned 26 in September, fits the definition of an organizational player, having spent his entire career in the Pirates’ organization. He’s been eligible for minor league free agency the last two years, but has been brought back each time.
Picart was born in New Jersey, but lived most of his life in Puerto Rico. Because of his Puerto Rican heritage, his favorite player is Roberto Clemente. He’s too young to have ever seen Clemente play, but has watched videos, and that was enough to make an impact on the utility player.
“Watching him play the game, he’s a man who played the game right, and played the game hard. The energy that he had on the video that I saw, it just impacted me,” Picart said about Clemente. “He’s a Puerto Rican guy who was playing for his country, was playing for his team. That’s me right there. Playing for my country, playing for my team, playing for my family. That’s why I like being here with the Pirates. The same team that he (played for), it’s just an honor, it’s just like a gift.”
Picart spent the 2011 season between high-A, AA, and AAA. He played for a week in AAA, didn’t get in a game in high-A, and spent most of his time in Altoona. On the field he provides depth at the upper levels, playing shortstop and second base, and also putting in some time at third base and left field. He’s also athletic enough that he could play anywhere. He’s even pitched one game, throwing an inning in high-A during the 2008 season.
“If they want me to play first, if they want me to play center, I can play there. I’m just a guy who likes to play baseball,” Picart said of his versatility.
Picart’s chances of reaching the majors are slim, especially at his age and level. He’s mostly used to fill out the rosters in the upper levels, taking up a role that you wouldn’t want to give to a younger player. You can only carry so many organizational players on the roster, so Picart’s ability to play anywhere on the field is a plus. Altoona manager P.J. Forbes knows the value of an organizational player. He classifies himself as one, after playing 13 years in the minors with three different organizations.
“He does it the right way,” Forbes said of Picart. “He shows up ready to play every day, and when he gets a chance he does something for the team.”
Off the field Picart has an important role that might be more important than his impact to the team on the field. He serves as the team translator for the Latin American players, a role he’s taken since entering the organization in 2004. He helps the coaching staff to make sure that the Latin players fully understand what the coaches are trying to teach them, and also translates for those Latin players during interviews.
Picart will most likely return to the role he was in during the 2011 season, splitting time between the upper levels, going wherever he is needed, and playing whatever spot the team needs him to play. On the field he helps by taking up a role that you don’t want to give to a “prospect”. His versatility allows the team to carry more prospects on the roster, with fewer spots needed for organizational players. Off the field he helps with the development of Latin American players, helping to bridge the language barrier between the players and the coaches.
We focus on the farm system in the sense that it’s all about player development and getting players to the majors. Picart’s overall impact to the organization might be slim, and his signing might go unreported, but he is one of the better stories in baseball. In a time when you see players going to the highest bidder, and rarely see players remain with one organization, it’s nice to see a player playing simply for the love of the game, and striving to remain with the same organization that his childhood hero once played for. He’s not getting millions of dollars, and he’s not playing in the majors. He’s just playing at whatever level he is needed, and at wherever that team needs him on the field.