My plan for tonight was to discuss the Pirates’ history and track record with drafting prep pitchers. I was going to be discussing this because today’s featured prospect in our top 20 countdown was Mitch Keller, who is the best prep pitcher they’ve drafted in recent years.

It was inevitable that the discussion on prep pitchers would touch on the disaster that was the 2009 draft. But that wasn’t going to be the main focus of the story, because focusing on how bad the 2009 draft turned out is a story that we’ve written many times. It didn’t need to be written again.

And then, Tony Sanchez was designated for assignment today, which made it difficult to talk about prep pitchers and make it seem like you’re not focusing solely on the 2009 draft. So this will primarily be a focus on what happened with that draft, but I’ll get to the Keller part in a later section.

The Pirates took Sanchez with the fourth overall pick in 2009, passing up on a lot of high-priced prep pitchers. Those guys included Shelby Miller, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob Turner. They also included Tyler Matzek, Matt Purke, and Chad James. And while Miller and Wheeler stand out from the group now (with Turner having some trade value over the years), there was no standout at the time, and the entire group looked weak compared to other years, despite the fact that they were asking for the same big bonuses that stronger classes received.

Rather than roll the dice with one of the prep pitchers, the Pirates reached for Sanchez, who was rated as a late first round pick. They weren’t the only team that reached. The Orioles followed them by taking Matt Hobgood with the fifth pick. The Braves took Mike Minor seventh, and the Reds took Mike Leake eighth. Both were safe, low upside picks at the time, and both worked better than the Sanchez and Hobgood picks.

The pick of Sanchez was made so that the Pirates could load up on prep pitchers in the middle rounds. They spent big on Zack Von Rosenberg ($1.2 M), Colton Cain ($1.125 M), Brooks Pounders ($670,000), Zack Dodson ($600,000), and Trent Stevenson ($350,000). Von Rosenberg was the big guy, taken in the sixth round, but rated the 41st best prospect in the draft by Baseball America. Cain was ranked 109th, and Stevenson was rated 197th.

None of the prep pitchers amounted to much. Cain was dealt as one of three players for Wandy Rodriguez. Pounders was dealt for Yamaico Navarro. Stevenson retired early, and Von Rosenberg retired this year after each struggled to add velocity with their tall, projectable frames. Dodson was the best of the bunch, and just left the Pirates to join the Orioles as a minor league free agent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds more opportunities there, since he won’t be in such a crowded system where he is further down on the depth charts.

So the Pirates reached for Sanchez, saving money rather than taking a top prep pitcher, and they used the money saved to load up on prep pitchers, with none of those guys working out. The prep pitcher part wasn’t a mistake, and I’ll get to this later. But let’s focus on Sanchez, since it seems appropriate to take that look today.

The pick of Sanchez in hindsight looks really bad, and it looked bad on draft day. The Pirates were a team clearly in rebuilding mode, and needed to focus on upside as much as possible. Sanchez wasn’t a bad prospect at the time, and there was some upside. Here was the pre-draft report from Baseball America:

“Sanchez, who grew up playing with Miami shortstop Ryan Jackson in South Florida, dreamed of playing for the Hurricanes when he was younger, but he was overweight and overlooked by many recruiters out of high school. He’s slimmed down by 35 pounds in three years at Boston College and made himself into one of the nation’s premier college catchers. Sanchez is a slightly above-average major league defender with soft hands, quick feet and a solid-average to plus arm. He excels at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. Offensively, Sanchez has solid-average power, but his bat is not a sure thing. He punishes fastballs but struggles mightily against breaking balls, though he’s an intelligent enough hitter to lay off breaking stuff that he cannot hit. He has a mature approach at the plate and excellent makeup on the field and off.”

The problem with Sanchez eventually became that his bat did start to develop, but then his defense started to decline, he developed a case of the yips with his throwing, and his entire game started a downward spiral. That happens. Prospects don’t work out a lot of the time.

But the Pirates shouldn’t have been in that situation with Sanchez to begin with. In 2008 they drafted Pedro Alvarez — a big bonus first rounder — and still had room for over-slot deals for guys like Robbie Grossman and Quinton Miller.

This is where the other 2009 blunder comes in, and that was with Miguel Sano. There was a belief that the Pirates were not only saving money for the prep pitchers, but also saving money for Sano. They didn’t get Sano, with part of that being their fault, and part of that being an agent looking to stick it to the organization. I don’t really want to get sidetracked on Sano though. I don’t care about him nearly as much as Pirates fans do. When I think of Sano, I think of how I traded him in a keeper league this summer for Jake Arrieta and Corey Kluber before Arrieta’s big breakout in the second half. My Sano memory would be pretty favorable, except I lost in the championship, frustratingly because my pitching staff had a bad week. But I digress.

The Pirates went signability for Sanchez, spending the money on a group of over-slot prep players and saving money for a top international prospect, rather than spending money on an uncertain guy in the first round. But even that was a mistake, and this isn’t using the hindsight of how the situation played out. And maybe they learned their lesson the following year.

In 2010, the Pirates had another draft where they had a few top prep guys to take. They were deciding between Manny Machado and Jameson Taillon, and while Machado looks like the better pick right now, they went with Taillon, who I still think will work out well for them. Both players were much stronger than the 2009 prep class, so this is a bit of a different situation. But they followed this by taking Stetson Allie and giving him $2.25 M in the second round. They went over-slot on Nick Kingham and a few guys in the later rounds, after some of their top ten round deals fell through due to MLB’s process of delaying over-slot signings.

Not only did they spend in the first round AND on over-slot deals in later rounds, but they went big on the international market. They gave Luis Heredia a $3 M bonus that year (a move that hasn’t worked out for them either), on top of the normal budget they had (so far, the best guys from the rest of the 2010-11 class were Jin-De Jhang, Carlos Munoz, and Edwin Espinal). They did the same thing in 2011 when they spent big on Gerrit Cole in the first, went over-slot in the middle rounds, spent huge on Josh Bell, and went big in signing Harold Ramirez and Elvis Escobar.

Overall, the mistake here was that the Pirates shouldn’t have gone the signability route, even with all other factors considered. At a time when they needed upside, they didn’t go that route with the fourth pick, which is a pick where you need huge upside (although the draft had a steep drop off after the first two or three picks).

Granted, the rankings at the time might not have helped them. Jacob Turner was the best ranked player in the prep pitcher bunch, being rated fifth overall by Baseball America. Maybe things would have turned out better for him in Pittsburgh, but if he had the same outcome, we’d be talking about a more expensive mistake right now, without using the term “reach”. Next up was Tyler Matzek, and then Matt Purke. The fourth and fifth ranked prep pitchers? Shelby Miller and Zack Wheeler.

On the college pitching side, the Reds did a good job in getting Mike Leake. He was rated 14th overall. Guys rated ahead of him were Alex White, Aaron Crow, and Tanner Scheppers, who the Pirates drafted, but couldn’t sign, in 2008. Kyle Gibson was also ranked higher, but fell on draft day due to injury concerns.

So it seems pretty unlikely that the Pirates would have ended up with a result much better than Sanchez, unless they happened to favor Shelby Miller or Mike Leake over higher ranked guys. Or, maybe they could have gotten a hold of a crystal ball so they could take the 22nd ranked prospect, Mike Trout. They could have even gone another signability route and drafted Wil Myers (who was ranked one spot ahead of Sanchez) and ended up with one of the biggest hyped prospects in baseball in recent years.

Maybe it would have worked out better if they would have drafted a player who was a better fit for the number four spot. But it doesn’t seem like the odds were strong for this happening. Still, that type of move not working out would have been more excusable than the Sanchez move, since the Pirates would have been going for upside across the board. That was a time when every spare dollar should have been going to building the farm system, rather than guys like Ramon Vazquez and Eric Hinske. And they showed in 2010 and 2011 that they could afford to spend on an expensive first round guy, over-slot middle round guys, and a special exception on the international side. So that made the Sanchez decision look worse.

At this point, the Pirates have nothing remaining from the 2009 draft, unless you count Mark Melancon, who was acquired for Joel Hanrahan and 2009 9th round pick Brock Holt. The worst part of the draft is that the three best players are Holt (traded away), Jake Lamb (didn’t sign as a 38th rounder), and Matt den Dekker (didn’t sign as a 16th rounder, but one of those guys who I’ve heard the Pirates had a deal with, only to see it fall through due to MLB dragging their feet). So the Pirates did draft some good talent, but none of them are in Pittsburgh.

Fortunately, 2009 stands out as an outlier when you look at the other drafts. The 2008 group had Alvarez, Jordy Mercer, and Justin Wilson, who led to Francisco Cervelli. The 2010 group still has Taillon and Nick Kingham set to arrive in the upcoming year or two. The 2011 group looks to be a monster class after Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell arrive this year.

But that 2009 draft was a disaster, and if Sanchez is gone (I think he’ll get claimed by a team needing a catcher), that would completely close the book on the class.

So What About the Prep Pitchers?

My original intent tonight was to discuss the strategy of taking prep pitchers, in relation to Mitch Keller. The Pirates spent a lot on over-slot prep pitchers from 2008-2011, before MLB changed the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In fact, they spent about $8 M in bonuses on these guys, which was the same amount Gerrit Cole received. Cole got that money because he was a strong bet to realize his upside as an ace — or at least as strong of a bet as you can be as a top prospect.

Putting that in perspective, the prep pitcher approach from 2008-2011 will be a success if just one of those players can emerge as a top of the rotation guy like Cole, and Tyler Glasnow is that guy (I don’t count Taillon in the 2008-11 group, since he was a first round pick). The entire purpose of taking so many over-slot prep pitchers was that maybe one or two would see huge developments in the system, and give the Pirates a steal. Glasnow has been that guy, and 2016 could be the year where he transitions to the majors and starts making his way to being an ace. Add in Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes as some of the guys who could also make the majors, and the prep pitcher approach will have worked out, even if the 2009 guys were a disaster That’s why I don’t think taking them was a mistake — you need to take a ton of these guys to better your odds that one will work out.

And this brings me to Mitch Keller. The Pirates are still taking over-slot prep pitchers under the new CBA, although their process is a bit different. They take these guys in the early rounds, or sign fewer of them in the middle-to-late rounds. They also have been going for more JuCo guys, who still come with the chance of rapid improvement in the system, although a bit less than the prep guys.

When the Pirates traded Trey Supak, there were complaints that they traded a guy with such high upside. And Supak does have a lot of upside. But if the 2008-11 drafts taught us anything, it’s that high upside arms reaching that high upside is a rarity. Dealing one prep arm isn’t a problem. You hope it’s not the one who breaks out, and the odds are going to be in your favor. Whether you deal for a guy like Jason Rogers remains to be seen by how he ends up working out.

As for Keller, he’s just another high upside arm, and the best one in the system from the 2012-15 drafts. But if the Pirates want another Glasnow, or even another Kingham or Holmes, they’ll need to continue drafting a lot of prep pitchers. And since they can’t draft as many prep pitchers under the current system, it might take 6-8 drafts to get enough pitchers for a Glasnow to emerge, rather than four years like the previous system.

For now, Keller is the top guy to watch, but none of them are in Glasnow territory yet.

**Pirates Agree With Neftali Feliz on a One Year Deal. The big move today, with full analysis on what this could mean for the bullpen and Mark Melancon.

**Pirates Designate Tony Sanchez For Assignment. Some quick analysis on the Sanchez move, which was the corresponding move for Feliz.

**Pirates Q&A: Off-Season, Polanco Extension, Number Three Starter, Payroll. This week’s Q&A feature.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Top Prospects: #18 – Mitch Keller. We will be rolling out a player per day for the top 20 countdown. If you buy your copy of the Prospect Guide, you’ll get all of the reports, along with our grades, and the reports of the 21-50 prospects and every other player in the system. It’s the most information you can find on the Pirates’ system, and the cheapest price you can find for a prospect book this time of year, especially with the Top Prospect and Annual discounts.

**Winter Leagues: Elias Diaz Makes Possible Winter Finale Count

 

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90 COMMENTS

  1. If there was such a big concern about his catching ability, they could have easily moved him to another position as he is athletic and – per their position stated with the Jaso pickup – catchers develop pretty well on the corners typically.
    So similar to Neil Walker, why wasn’t Tony offered a chance to play at 3rd or 1st and get full AB’s. His bat looked like it could have developed well enough with the reps.

  2. “And since they can’t draft as many prep pitchers under the current system, it might take 6-8 drafts to get enough pitchers for a Glasnow to emerge, rather than four years like the previous system.”

    I was onboard with the mid-round prep strategy pre-2012, but it seems to me like 6-8 drafts’ worth of mid prep guys to get one stud is getting to the point of just wasting a lot of picks. It makes me curious whether a draft-dependent team like the Pirates is better off in the long run with one Glasnow, or several MLB-serviceable contributors in other areas (assuming they instead took lower risk picks).

    • One of the times where its easy to go “yeah no shit”. Getting Tony reps, while neat, clearly never should have been a desire at that point. Im all for getting Diaz downtime and not having him play every game, but a 50/50 split was about 20-30 percent dumb.

  3. Everyone knew that the Pirates went the cheap route in taking Sanchez. Lets not think anything else here. He was a reach that did not pan out. At 28 in the draft he might have been a good pick but at 4 your need someone with superstar potential. Even if that player does not work out then at least your team reached for the star. Bullington was another wasted pick. At number 1-1. When he was selected the GM stated he was a potential number 3 starter. How in good conscience can anyone take that kind of player at that spot in the draft? He, was not worth it. So again as with Sanchez, the team thinks you save money by doing this, but in the long run you throw money away. Lets hope this type of drafting never happens again. Not getting Sano, has ruined the Pirates in the DR. Wonder why they are not associated with high end talent, it’s because I believe the agents do not trust them. I have been harping on this for years but until we get someone from an agent other than banana, I will believe this. They are looking under rocks now to get talent. Pay the player peanuts and hope he becomes a success, is their philosophy it seems. Where did most the international signings come from this year? Not the DR. I rest my case.
    Feel free to comment and disagree.

    • My take: Huntington is far too enamored with finding the “best value”.

      Agents in the DR care about one thing, money. Trust isn’t in their language. Handshake deals are made an broken without word getting out.

      Huntington was snake bitten by the Sano>Heredia situation, so he started looking for the next best thing which led to Columbia with Harold Ramirez / Dilson Hererra and eventually Kang in Korea.

      IMO, the international program has stalled since the Ramirez signing for this reason. Good LA prospects have been missed, as was Byung-ho Park this winter, because Huntington was afraid of the prices.

    • I don’t disagree with Tim’s thought yesterday regarding this signing further signalling a Melancon trade, but I also wonder if they’re actually shooting to build a strong pen of multi-inning arms instead of building strong rotation. Cole is the only guy on the staff that has even an outside shot of pitching 200 innings, and also the only one who you know is going to give you 6+ every 5th day. Maybe bullpen usage is the next evolution in the Pirate doctrine.

        • I wouldnt hate the idea that, if you are gonna have Vogelsong (why why why) you build up a legit bullpen so that the 1-2 months with that SP has a bullpen able to throw innings if he (if lol) aint good.

          Id like it more with one more Latos like arm, but it is what it is.

          • I think the Pirates strategy is to add a lot of low cost depth and sink or swim with Glasnow, Taillon, Bell, Hanson, and the rest of AAA. It seems like they’ve added a lot of fallback options.

      • I had the same thought, but when you consider both options, dealing Melancon seems much more likely than an unconventional approach like that. Not that they wouldn’t do it, just that it would be outside the box.

        That might have been First Pitch if Guido Knudson was the guy DFAd.

      • Just had a conversation at a bar last night about the thought of only having two true starters at the top of the rotation (Cole and Liriano now but just as an example) then fill the rest of your pitching staff with 10 quality arms that can give you three innings apiece. Very interesting idea/debate, just not sure how you go about finishing games without defined set-up man and closer.

  4. Can you imagine if they drafted Trout in 2009. Cutch in center with Trout in left and Marte in right. They would’ve won a World Series with that line up.

  5. THEN, I was proposing Matzek, Wheeler and Storen. In that order.
    I thought taking Sanchez was stupid. Now I know it was stupid. When you get a high draft pick, you will occasionally miss. But more often than not, the top 5 picks are the MOST valuable in the draft. To waste it taking a late first/early second round talent seems idiotic. IF the team values pitching, you take one of the really good pitchers that year. You don’t take a guy targeted as a MLB back-up.

    • I give you guys who remember your preferences credit…too much Phish tour in the late 90s/early 00s for me, apparently.

      • I remember that draft. I really wanted a pitcher. It was Wheeler/Matzek, Matzek Wheeler for me. I thought Storen was a good choice too, but liked the other two more.

        Shows how smart I was

  6. The fact an entire draft class was worthless makes the turnaround of last few years all the more impressive.

    As for Sanchez, he was his own worst enemy w his attitude and childish behaviour. Baseball is way too hard and competitive to act like a Johnny Manziel wannabe and achieve success.

    Maybe this will be the wake up call he needs to salvage his career.

    • I don’t think Huntington & Co get enough credit for what they’ve done with Major League acquisitions – the piece of the puzzle that has actually driven their resurgence.

  7. Whew. I wasn’t even going to read this one because I’m so sick of talking about the 2009 Draft, but that was really, really well done.

    However, my memory does differ from Tim’s regarding the overall goal of the focus on prep pitching, and pitching in general. Yes, it was widely agreed that this approach was the only way to get that top of rotation arm – and only ending up with one or two of those would be successful – but there was also talk of not just ending up with those TOR arms but filling a staff and using the extra arms to acquire position players. I can remember Huntington talking about pitching always being in high demand, and the goal would be to eventually parlay this demand into the position player talent that was lacking.

    In hindsight, that was probably naive but at least logical if you believed achieving that goal was realistic. For all that investment – both money, time, and opportunity – from a rebuilding team with such little talent to amount to one or two pitchers – albeit good ones – was an awful strategy from the start, if true.

    Regardless of intent, the obvious reality is the execution of this plan has gone extremely poorly to date. Not only is the club still waiting on those one or two arms to develop, their misses haven’t been close. No solid #3’s or back end starters. Hell, three years in a row now the club has gone outside the org to find *middle relievers*. That’s abject failure, by just about any standard.

    The organization has rightfully evolved, and have found ways to succeed that didn’t require success in drafting and development. Pulling that part of the org up to standard will keep them at the top of the league as their next core evolves.

  8. In 2009 Catcher was a position of need in the system, primarily because the Pirates had passed on Wieters and Posey in the previous drafts. Can’t blame NH on Wieters, if memory serves me, but Posey over Pedro would have been the better choice. With Posey in hand there is no interest in Sanchez. Could we dream about Trout? Not fair to assume that. But Machado over Taillon would have been the better choice. The lineup with Posey and Machado in it would have been awesome, not even considering Sano. Three different choices by NH and the lineup looks remarkably different.

    • Your memory serves you. NH was hired after Daniel Moskos was selected when Wieters was available. As a consolation prize, at least I get to watch both Wieters and Machado play in Baltimore.

    • In hindsight, Posey was the better pick over Alvarez. I would like to see their scouting reports on both, especially Posey to see why they didn’t take him. The same for Taillon and Machado. I’m sure that they have reviewed their process internally. It would be nice to ask Greg Smith what went into the choices.

      • I fully agree! I’D love to see those reports. One thing that may have occurred when NH was hired is that they retained much of the scouting staff. I didn’t pay attention to how much turnover there was in the scouting organization when the GM position changed over. The 2008 draft may have been influenced by holdover from the previous management group, which other than Cutch and Walker obviously didn’t have a clue.

  9. I just wish they would start hitting on some later round stuff. Seems every year or 2, St Louis brings up some 10th rd no name that plays well.

    • Not doing it every year, but we do have names like Watson, Wilson, Holt, Sadler, Cumpton,

      Not a ton of guys who put out a massive WAR rookie year, but useful arms. Hell, Sadler seems like a steal pre injury. Guys beyond a certain point are more a win for the development team than they are draft scouting. Props to STL for fantastic development.

        • Yes. Drafted by DL, the development was a new FO group.

          Watson may be really fortunate that the timing worked out like that, or he may have been starting in bigs after a few years in the minors in a DL era move.

            • Your point really seemed to be to seemingly downgrade PGH for not being STL in terms of really late picks over a period of time being good. If that wasnt the point, i didnt easily get what you meant.

              PGH doesnt seem terrible in later rounds compared to most of baseball. Not a ton of late round studs, but enough late round useful members that we should feel okay about it.

        • Considering his age, yes right now he is a success. If in 2 years he’s still at 0 ML games, it changes the nature of the argument.

          Even if you doubt prospects, as far as that draft pick being successful its been very much that up to this point. Otherwise why bother commenting on a prospect blog if we take the stance that all prospects arent successful until they reach the majors?

            • Im not getting upset at all, just asking about the nature of the argument. We surely have to get into more than ML value when discussing some prospects and their draft spot or we’d logically then have to just not discuss it at all until (and if) they make the majors.

              Because yes, he hasnt been a ML success or given ML value. But for many, that wouldnt make him at this moment a non quality draft selection at his draft slot.

          • Yes considering his age, he is 22. He will be 23 Aug 23 2016.
            In high school he began lifting weights mentored by his older brother Ted Glasnow who was an all-American decathlete at Notre Dame University. Both graduates of Wm S. Hart high school.
            That said, give Tyler time through his development.

            ,

      • Glasnow in same draft taken with Cole, Bell. Not a too “late rounder”. Lets keep in perspective.

  10. Regarding the 2009 draft, I can remember Keith Law commenting at the time that he agreed with the approach to draft numerous prep pitchers but didn’t agree with the selections. It is interesting that Greg Smith who was in charge of drafting for the 2008-2011 drafts was promoted to special assistant to the GM, when the first 3 drafts could have gone much better. I believe that if Machado had been selected instead of Taillon, we would have had 2 division titles already. Not that Taillon was a bad pick, just that there was a better pick there.

    • Yes, yes, yes…from an outsiders perspective, the amateur scouting side of the organization still seems to be somewhat of a black box. Nobody really seems to know who has influence, who’s good, and who’s not. Hell, the organization announced something called a “Performance Team”, yet nobody from Pirates Prospects – who are around the system constantly – even know the names of the cross checkers that are employed by the club.

      It’s seems painfully obvious at this point that the area of the org with most room to improve is amateur scouting, and I’m not sure its even close.

        • Not to pile on, but didn’t it actually take until 2013 for the system to crack the Top 10?

          Undoubtedly partially blamed on the Littlefield Era, but recent rebuilding clubs have demolished that timeline of success.

      • True, but in fairness this is the one area with biggest failure rate for every organization. However, Pirates have significant room for improvement compared to Cubs/Cards.

      • I know the names of the cross checkers.

        Jack Brown, Jimmy Lester, and Matt Ruebel are National Supervisors.

        Jesse Flores is the West Region Supervisor.

        Rodney Henderson is the Southeast Region Supervisor.

        Everett Russell is the Midwest Region Supervisor.

        Greg Schilz is the North Region Supervisor.

        I can tell you who some of those guys signed when they were area scouts. What I said the other day is that I don’t know how involved they are with each specific player in their new role, since the only information released is the signing scout.

          • Not sure on most of them. I have media guides that go back to 2011, and everyone is in their same positions, with the following exceptions:

            -Ruebel was hired before the 2012 season. Looking back, BA rated him one of the top 10 future scouting directors that year. I should add that he’s no longer a crosschecker. He was promoted to Special Assistant to the GM this off-season to replace DelPiano and Benedict.

            -Also, Rodney Henderson and Everett Russell were promoted to pro scouts this year.

            -Greg Schilz was an area scout in 2011, before being promoted to his new role in 2012. He signed Jason Creasy, Jake Burnette, and Matt Benedict in 2011.

            -I know that Flores was an area scout in 2009, because he signed Inman.

    • I completely agree with the Machado comment. If Machado is the starting SS on this team I think we actually may have already been to a world series.

      • Yeah but at least they grabbed current top shortstop prospect in all of baseball JP Crawford instead of Reese McGuire in 2013 oh wait…

        *cries in coffee*

        • I like McGuire but Crawford was the guy I wanted. Especially now when you see all the SS they have taken recently. Then again, in the 2009 draft I wanted them to take Alex White. You win some you lose some.

  11. 20 other teams missed on Trout also so can’t blame them too much. But would of been nice to have Leake just think we could of kept Locke in bullpen or not in our rotation. Oh well, things have turned around we lots of prospects that are ready to make the jump to the show. We still need another couple more good draft classes.

  12. The problem I see with the Sanchez pick is that they did not see his immaturity factor. You would think that having 3 years of college he would have a firmer grasp on being a mature adult. Sanchez was a knucklehead who probably still has not fully matured. Should this have been noted in their scouting process? Yes. If Sanchez came to the Pirates ready to pursue his career I would think that the results would have turned out differently. Not only was this a wasted pick but we spent a lot of effort finding catching solutions to fill the void that this number pick should of filled.

    • There must have been more there though…even BA touched on his off-field makeup being good. College programs are very regimented…there are very few “choices,” in college athletics for the athletes…you have weights, you have study hall, you have class, you have tutoring, you have meals, you have team practice, you have individual practice, and you have film. Every one of those things are scheduled out for you and when you get that taste of freedom, things can change. I agree with your conclusion 100%…but I think the maturity issue can be masked, actually I know it can b/c I coached and lived in that world on the basketball side. BC did their job and kept him under their thumb and it paid off for Tony b/c he became a 1st round pick even if the Buccos hadn’t drafted him it sounds like.

      • Unless you coached at a military academy I totally disagree with you. I played varsity football in college and received my graduate degree from BC. The idea that BC athletes in BOSTON have no freedom and that Sanchez was under the coaching thumb there is nonsense.
        They choice of Sanchez for signability reasons was a mistake…and the organization was roundly criticized for it at the time. Sanchez was not highly rated and did not merit the 4th pick.

        • Seems a bit of both. Players absolutely have freedom, but its limited. You’re busy enough that you do have a lack of time to get into a ton of trouble.

          Which is different once you get drafted, because if you want to you can go home after the game and head to the bar and be dumb. College guys can surely do that, but unless you have someone else take your classes anyone graduating with a 3.0 GPA or higher and playing sports full time is busy.

          Seems like Tony was always a weirdo, always a bit of a freebird that made really dumb mistakes. For whatever reason, in college that was not a major issue. In his early years as a pro, it halted some development time for him.

        • Ok…you can totally disagree. All I know is that I’ve been in it long enough to know and have friends coaching various sports in various spots around the country as well and all schedules are planned and laid out. I never said there is no freedom…they have a sense of freedom…but guess what, that freedom is already picked by the coaching staff when they’ll have it. You can disagree all you want, but you don’t make your own schedule as a collegiate athlete at the D1 or even the D2 level. There’s too much invested in you.

          I agreed that the pick was a mistake…I never questioned that or tried to sugar coat them making that pick. My point is that I don’t fault them for not finding character “flaws” or a “lack of maturity” when it seems to have been felt that was never an issue.

    • One man’s knucklehead is another’s free spirit. I said at the time – and still believe – things would have worked out much differently if Tony had been brought north out of a great Spring Training last year. Many folk though he had earned a spot on the roster – BA .364, OPS 1.179 4HRs.

      I have not been a fan of how the Bucs handle young players. Hurdle seems to opt for players like S-Rod and Chris Stewart rather than develop and put some faith in young – yes perhaps immature – alternatives. I looked at the “support” team Tim posted the other day – lot of good it has done in helping high value assets like Alvarez and Sanchez – or young players like Lambo, Marte [remember it was not long ago you had a large group of fans wanting to sent him to Indy and move on] and Polanco. Then their is Tabata

      • If it had not been for an injury, Neil Walker may have ended up being a non factor in the organization. The handling of Josh Harrison early on was questionable as well. Spending money on questionable free agent veteran bench and every day players has not only thrown money out the window at times, it has also put roadblocks in front of prospects.

        • You cant call out the team for blocking prospects and use Walker in that same post, because its silly to say they blocked him. An injury did allow him to start as soon as he arrived, but nothing about Walker’s minor league career suggested a guy demanding to be promoted until the year he was promoted.

          Maybe it was all lucky timing and they would have blocked him, but Walker didnt earn a promotion until the year he was promoted, and PGH did a ton to ensure he found a spot by moving him to a position he didnt suck at.

          • Walker was obviously not a catching prospect, and at AA he was an unremarkable third baseman and a very much less than exciting hitting prospect. If he wouldn’t have been extremely lucky in that they did give him an opportunity at second base, he would have been just another failed pick of Littlefield’s.

          • Where did you get the idea that he was not a good catching prospect? Having seen him play multiple times when he played for Lynchburg, I would strongly disagree. If I remember correctly he was not moved due to his lack of catching ability. I also do not remember him being a bad fielder at third base.

            • He was regarded as a terrible catcher, and thats not purely me saying it. Not a bad option at 3B, but a truly poor C that would never have played it without massive improvement.

              Finding a scouting report from the early years takes a good deal of work at this point (seems buried in the interwebs) but i truly dont remember anyone calling Walker even average at C.

              He was moved off C for lack of ability, moved off 3B to get his bat into the lineup.

        • Thanks – very good examples. I still shake my head at spending anything – let alone $2.5M for Sean Rodriquez. I would rather see the team give those Spring Training at bats to Hanson – or Frazier and see what they have to offer.

        • Name one prospect who has been blocked by a veteran rental player?

          Fair to say they move prospects at a slower pace than some teams, but they don’t block them if they’re ready to contribute.

          • At very least, no top 5 type prospect gets blocked. There can be examples of a 10-15 type being blocked, but they (to a fault) ensure the top prospects have a path to playing once ready.

          • I guess it depends on how you define prospect. I considered Walker a prospect after having seen him play. We traded for Akinori Iwamura. I consider that situation blocking a prospect. Walker showed by his production that he was ready to contribute.

            I am writing this as someone who as been very supportive of the Pirates since NH took over. The prior administration drove me completely nuts. NH came in with a plan, and has learned from mistakes. Hurdle has been a very good manager. I am very appreciative of the vast improvement that has been made over the last years.

            • When we traded for Iwamura, Walker was struggling to show advanced hitting in AAA. If anything, that was a quality depth move. They had a guy in AAA they were hoping would take that step forward, but showed little signs of doing so until the year Iwamura showed up.

              Walker wasnt producing. 2008 and 2009 saw really underwhelming AAA performances. The power was there but his ability to get on base seemed lacking even after plenty of time at AAA to adjust. We make the move for Iwamura, then Walker comes out and has a career year.

      • The Pirates don’t like having prospects on the 25 man roster for part time/depth roles.

        Not sure how fan attitudes have anything to do with how the organization operates.

      • It is fairly obvious he can’t even consistently make a routine throw to 1st base on a 3d strike Bruce let alone throw out would be base stealers.

      • Hurdle does trust veterans more than young players normally, but there are exceptions. Like Cole over Burnett in game #5 vs Cards in ’13.

        This year will be interesting to see how the prospects are integrated into the team.

      • What I am saying is looking at the track record. He was immature in his minor league adventures. In regard to the support system apparently a disconnect has and maybe still occurring within the system. Sanchez spent three years at BC and should have approached his #1 status with a mature approach. He did not come out of high school. That is all I am saying.

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