This summer, the Pirates are expected to graduate Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, and Josh Bell to the majors. They could also graduate guys like Chad Kuhl, Max Moroff, Adam Frazier, and other draft picks who are expected to start the year in Triple-A. Maybe after all of that happens, the silly debates about how the Pirates can’t draft will go away.
The draft debates are never consistent, but they usually focus on one of several key arguments:
1. The lack of drafted players who are currently on the active roster. Players who were previously on the roster don’t count. Players who were traded away don’t count. Players who were once on the roster, are injured now, but could return don’t count. Top prospects like Glasnow and Bell don’t count. In fact, no prospect at all counts.
2. The lack of a player for a specific need. No team in baseball, no matter how good the farm system or the drafting, will have prospects for every position, ready to take over for every injury.
3. The idea that first round picks don’t count. This removes Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez from the success column. It also removes the future success of Jameson Taillon, and Josh Bell’s bonus rules him out.
I’ve written the article before that the Pirates are good at drafting, and the argument requires that you give credit to past MLB production from players no longer in the system, trade values, plus the development of prospects who haven’t reached the majors yet (like the class mentioned above).
No matter where you stand on this issue, there are a few things that everyone can agree on. The big one would be that the Pirates haven’t been perfect, and have had some bumps along the way. Their 2008 draft was good, but not great. Their 2009 draft was a disaster. The 2010 draft was derailed by MLB’s former policy of delaying over-slot signings. And the 2011 group could be good enough to make up for those previous two years.
Today I published an evaluation of the amateur scouts in the organization, looking in detail at the players signed by each scout. During the process, I noticed that there has been a large turnover in the scouting department the last few years. It was only later that I realized a lot of the area scouts responsible for that 2009 draft are now gone.
The pick of Tony Sanchez was made by Chris Kline, who didn’t really add any other prospects in his time in the organization, and wasn’t brought back after the 2013 season. His other notable picks were Jonathan Schwind, who is currently in Altoona, and Pat Ludwig, who made it briefly to Altoona. He also has Neil Kozikowski, Michael Fransoso, and Henry Hirsch from 2013, his final draft.
Zack Von Rosenberg was the big over-slot guy that year, signed by Jerome Cochran. There weren’t many other prospects signed by Cochran in his time with the Pirates, with the one exception being JaCoby Jones in 2013. Cochran was with the organization through the 2014 season.
Brooks Pounders was taken in the second round that year, with Sean Campbell as his signing scout. Campbell did have a big pick in 2008, getting Justin Wilson in the mix. However, he wasn’t brought back after the 2010 season, and didn’t have anyone else close to Wilson’s success.
Trent Stevenson was signed by Bump Merriweather, who was gone after the 2009 season. Merriweather didn’t have many other picks, with the only other notable guy being Mike Colla, who made it to the upper levels.
Colton Cain was signed by Mike Leuzinger, who was one of the more successful area scouts before he left the Pirates following the 2012 season. It’s interesting that Cain is the only prep pitcher from that class who brought value to the organization, after being sent off in the Wandy Rodriguez trade.
The best prep pitcher from that 2009 draft ended up being Zack Dodson, who was drafted by Trevor Haley. If you read the article today, you’d see that Haley is pretty much the best scout in the US part of the system. So it’s not a surprise that he got the best player from that prep group. He also was responsible for the Pirates’ best pick from that draft, taking Brock Holt in the ninth round.
The Pirates had another prep pitcher who didn’t work out from the 2008 draft, and that was Quinton Miller. He was signed by Buddy Paine, who was a holdover from the Littlefield days, and didn’t return in 2009.
What really stood out to me after looking at this was that all of the scouts who made picks that eventually helped the Pirates in the majors are still around. The one exception here was Campbell with Justin Wilson. The scouts who missed big in the 2009 draft are now gone. And I don’t think they’re gone because of that draft, but most of the guys who are gone didn’t have any prospects from any other draft. Looking at those track records, it’s not surprising that these guys didn’t stick around.
That brings us back to the topic of the draft evaluations. The Pirates went college heavy in 2008, and as a result, they’re already starting to see that draft class depleted in the majors. Pedro Alvarez was non-tendered for his final year, Jordy Mercer is starting to enter arbitration, and Justin Wilson was traded for Francisco Cervelli.
The 2009 class went heavy on prep pitchers, and none of them worked out. Neither did Quinton Miller in 2008. But the prep pitchers after 2009 started having better track records, and maybe it’s not a coincidence that the scouts from post-2009 are still around, while the scouts who signed the prep pitchers in 2008-09 are largely gone.
The 2010 draft started to turn things around with the Kingham pick (Larry Broadway), along with two later round picks in Brandon Cumpton (current crosschecker Greg Schilz) and Casey Sadler (Trevor Haley). The 2011 draft was huge, thanks to Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow (Rick Allen), Josh Bell (Mike Leuzinger), Clay Holmes (Darren Mazeroski), and Jason Creasy (Schilz). And even though they missed out on Mark Appel in 2012, they still have the scouts who got the backup plans in Max Moroff (Nick Presto) and John Kuchno (Anthony Wycklendt).
This all really complicates the simple version of the “Pirates can’t draft” theory. That theory assumes the Pirates are constant, which definitely isn’t true, because they don’t have the same scouts now compared to when Neal Huntington first took over. The scouting process has evolved, with new area scouts brought in, plus an additional national crosschecker added to the mix. I don’t want to say that all of the old scouts were replaced due to performance, since that might not be accurate in every case. But it’s hard to ignore the poor performances that match up with the scouts who are no longer in the organization, just like it’s also hard to ignore that the guys still around are the ones with stronger track records.
When evaluating the Pirates’ drafting abilities, the simple and correct approach might be to just avoid pass/fail grades, and look at how the organization has changed in response to good and bad picks. Of course, we still need to see final results for recent draft picks before we can fully conclude that the Pirates are making changes to their scouting department for the better. But even without the MLB results, and just based on the prospects in the system, it looks like they’re trending in the right direction, and keeping the right scouts in the organization.
**Evaluating the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Amateur Scouts. Here is the study of the amateur scouts, which ended up being a long and very detailed article.
**Winter Wrap-Up and World Baseball Classic Notes. The final winter league update of the off-season.
**The Pirates Don’t Have Many Position Battles Heading Into Spring Training. From the weekend, I broke down the position battles heading into Spring Training.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Not signing Latos has nothing to do with “throwing in the towel” or “cheap nurturing” etc. simply put the pirates and 28 other teams could have had him if they wanted. and all passed. Given the head case and lack of coach ability his doesn’t surprise me in the least. Hurdle wants clubhouse guys and Latos is nowhere near that. No other rationale needed.
I agree Latos is a clubhouse cancer and as long as we sign someone else I’ll be happy. But Volgesong…. C’mon!!!!!
Nurturing = nutting. Damn autocorrect
Geez — My main comment is that I thought it was a good article.
Tim identified the names of the scouts and who they signed and noted if they remain with the organization or not. I would guess – and assume – that it would take a new GM some time to evaluate his staff and to find out who to keep and promote or who to let go.
With respect to the Pirates’ ability to draft, IF, Glasnow, Tallion and Bell all graduate to the majors this year and add value, then I believe the question should become moot. If they don’t, they still had quite a few successes, particularly when you consider the minor league/drafted players that they traded away to secure talent for the major league club.
NH also has appeared to have mastered the approach of bringing in released players, adding them to the major league roster, then releasing them for a slight upgrade in talent while rarely losing the player that he released to help build some depth in the the upper levels of the majors.
Worley was a good find for half a season. Holdzcom may only have 10 innings of fame, but many of them were important innings, Geez, even McHenry was a godsend when he arrived in the season when all catchers on the Pirates were cursed.
Latos for one year and $3 million. The Pirates can’t offer that? Extremely disappointing.
Maybe they just didn’t like him. Maybe his wife hates Pittsburgh. To assume that 3mil was the only factor in this is absurd.
No, she doesn’t like NMR.
That’s understandable, right?
Very. Hates Connor Joe…HATES.
That could be it right there, given her fight in the PNC stands when Latos was in Cinci. How could you ban a player’s wife from the stadium for her own safety? Both the Pirates and the Latoses may have considered a deal with the Pirates a nonstarter.
Spend 2 on vogelsong not 3 on latos wtf!!! This offseason blows
If we threw say $4 mil at Latos, it would be either:
– as an insurance if one of the other 5 starters go down (this wouldn’t be a bad idea – and Tim is a proponent of this type of thinking)
– in the hopes that he would unseat Vogelsong for the 5th spot (again competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing
But as NMR stated below, he is not a sure thing … and he might be disruptive when he doesn’t get his “fair” shot at a spot. At which point, he walks away with $3 million…
Sign him at $5M with clauses that allow for the termination of the contract for “conduct detrimental”…something like that, I’d think.
Might be setting yourself up for a whooooole drama fest unless you get really specific with the language of what constitutes “detrimental conduct”.
I can easily imagine him doing something totally stupid, the team terminating, and him flipping out and throwing people under the bus because he feels he didnt do anything warranting termination. Hell, it doesnt even have to be valid to be a distraction to what matters…the games.
Latos deal doesnt make sense on any level.
PGH doesnt beat that offer, other teams dont beat that offer, and Latos has a value at only 3 million? In this market? That makes zero sense on all sides.
Latos cant be that much of an asshole, right? 3 million?
I think im more confused as to Latos only getting that much in general than PGH seemingly not throwing 4 million at a fine option.
Now do people here believe this isn’t anywhere *close* to an AJ Burnett situation?
Wait now I’m confused. You mean the situation back when the Yankees had him and everyone thought he shrank in real competition?
Not exactly…some here have rationalized away the Latos makeup issues, i.e. attitude, as no worse than AJ Burnett with the Marlins and Yankees.
The two players aren’t anywhere close to being comparable.
Yeah if people werent convinced, you gotta be now.
The league doesnt ignore those general skills to that degree often. He’s not an elite arm, but he’s far more interesting than 3 million from a talent standpoint.
You mean as in we’re saving money for the AJ signing once he comes out of retirement? ‘Cause I’m thinking that…
He still actually never announced retirement
Yes, but if he “unretires” it would probably be for the second half of the season. He never did like Spring Training. Might be able to sign a nice contract after the All Star break if somehow he could prove he was in shape and could still pitch.
So is this really set to try to have Vogelsong hold the fort until June in the HOPE the Pirates aren’t out of it by then and in the HOPE Taillon will prove himself to be the real deal and not experience growing pains? They apparently make little or no effort on Latos? $3Million too rich for them?
When 4 million=too rich for the entire league, something else is at work.
Which doesnt absolve PGH from it, but does beg the question “what in the hell is Latos like as a person?”
White Soxs just signed Latos for 3 mil…. I guess we really are ‘retooling’ this year.
I don’t see your logic here. This is not the #3 /4 starter that we need. As proof of that statement … The best offer Latos had from 30 mlb teams (most of which are trying to win games) was $3 million for one year – no options or clauses. Additionally, the Pirates were willing to throw potentially more money at Vogelsong. We must feel he is the better candidate – less upside but more stability. After all, this is a potential club house cancer who has averaged 108 innings the past two years.
Where did you see Bucs were willing to give more to Vogelsong? He signed for 1 year/2 million
It also has escalation clauses
Well I guess I see your point but Latos has the upside to actually be in a ML rotation compared to Volgesong who is a #6 starter at best. With Latos we have a chance to actually have a contending level rotation while with Volgesong we have someone to eat innings until TG/JT are called up.
Honestly, can anyone think of recent example of makeup hurting a player more?
I don’t consider physical addiction an attitude problem. Hamilton made his mistakes, no doubt, but it was ultimately health that took him out of the game, and he was still able to land a hundred million dollar contract once back in.
Latos is healthy, by all accounts. He’s just an a**.
Latos may be that…but you’ve gotta be a special kind of not wanted for your team to spend $63M (90% of contract) to send you a division rival for nothing in return.
And, by the way…I would’ve loved for the Pirates to have offered to pay $10M/3 years of Hamilton…that’s a dice roll worth taking.
Only way to rationalize this is if Latos truly is that big of an a**hole, and by the looks of this miniscule contract combined with being traded three times in the last year, the league seems to have spoken.
What gets me though…is that the indicators that he’ll suck aren’t really strong.
Sure, he tanked after being traded last season, but…on 30 July, he was sitting on a 3.41 FIP…which was pretty much on the mark for his career average.
So, unless he just forgot how to pitch in two months…he seems a safe bet.
I don’t think you can call anyone needing a pretty sizable correction safe, but that’s a matter of semantics most likely. If your point is that of all the guys needing regression in order to playable, Latos looks to be the safe*est*, than I certainly agree.
Which even further shows how toxic clubs view him.
Mike F’ng Pelfrey got $16m guaranteed, for f’s sake.
Yeah, just saying the talent is still there…it’s not as if he’s a dice roll in the sense someone like Fister is.
On the bright side…I think Papelbon just got a wake-up call going into his last season.
A truly shocking show by all teams. No one guessed his attitude issues would take his value down to “this guy is almost not worth anything.”
Hell, people were assuming it’d take 8-10 on a 1 year deal.
This is the league saying “we’ll take an a**hole, and we’ll take a guy who might suck, but we’re not touching an a**hole who *also* might suck”.
Waiting for a tweet from somewhere that Bucs were runners up.
I think the most accurate assessment is that the Pirates now have improved in all facets including drafting and development from the absolute worst in the league in the previous era to running from average to slightly above or below average depending on what slice of the pie is analyzed. That is huge progress. It doesn’t fit the “BMTIB” nonsense and to me most of the Pirates organization “haters” that lazily spew statements like “the Pirates can’t draft” is as much a counter statement to the over amped self congratulation of the execs than it is based on in depth analysis. Which is fine for the average fan but when journalists do it it is at best lazy and at worst just pandering without taking the time to do the analysis. That’s why this site for this purpose is so good and important.
I really dislike the argument that if we traded Zach Rosenberg for Mike Trout 3 years ago – it somehow gives value to Zach. All it really means is that we found another team that was incorrect in judging Zach’s ability to pitch in the majors. Even if we take the Oakland A’s path in drafting college players that are ready to trade, that incorporates a whole different aspect of an organization – the ability to make a trade. This has very little to do with drafting.
If I was a GM, I would create a process that tracks the cumulative WAR of every drafted and signed player in each draft class through their free agency year (roughly 6.5 years). If you are above the major league average, great. If you are below, start breaking down the draft classes by things like signability, development, injuries, etc.
Although, at the same time, if other teams see skills and results which suggest eventual success, it is an affirmation of the process the team trading him used initially to evaluate him. Baseball, in all elements, is more hit or miss (get it?) than most other things, which is why I love Hurdle’s focus on process.
Even if that guy who had those skills doesn’t work out, if other teams value his skills and potential, it’s likely he actually possesses skills and potential, and the scouting process is sound and should be trusted on decisions in the future despite its specific failures.
It would be interesting to know how much the Pirates are using the newer analytics info into the scouting process too. I imagine quite a bit, and that they have a system-wide process set up. They are looking more and more like a very well run organization; I just hope the big market teams don’t start snatching up too many of these guys.
This coming season, the Pirates should graduate Glasnow, Taillon, Bell, Diaz and Hanson. These players ought to become members of the core for the next seven years or more. Focusing on the draftees, we have a slot appropriate pick (Taillon), a daring bet that has paid off (Bell) and a low-risk lottery ticket bet (Glasnow) that has come up a winner. Even thought they are minor leaguers, these three already provide value to the organization. They are:
1. Tradable commodities have some value in a market that recognizes the importance of high-quality prospects.
2. Potential stars who could provide much baseball value for little monetary value.
3. Players who could fill roles for years to come, thus reducing the complexity and risk of building future teams.
4. Productive assets who can put fans in seats and in front of television sets, who promise to augment the monetary value of the franchise as productive members of a top franchise.
So, before they even accumulate WAR, Taillon, Glasnow and Bell are valuable members of the organization. They thus count as draft successes — even if each one suffered a career-ending injury this spring.
Becoming productive Major League players only completes the process initiated when they were drafted. Process is the key term: A good process should produce good results. But a good process only diminishes the risk of draftees failing to provide value. It does not eliminate it.
Thus, the Alvarez pick was sound, but unsatisfying. The Cole pick was sound, and satisfying. The Taillon, Glasnow and Bell picks were sound, but the future is under determined.
machado would have been a better pick, just sayin. but that pick is way up the food chain and not the scouts fault.
I prefer position players, talent being equal. But, if Taillon becomes a #1 or 2 starter, then I’d give the FO it’s due.
Taillon was considered to be a great prospect. Drafting him was not a blunder.
Still, the Pirates have strong position players everywhere (either MLers or on the cusp prospects) save for SS.
Try this…take your logic, and find me teams who *aren’t* “successful” at drafting.
The Angels. The Yankees. The Mariners. The Brewers. The Pirates (as led by McClatchyfield). The Rockies. The White Sox. Each team has had successes, but have mostly had unproductive farm systems in the recent past. Blame bad processes.
You could absolutely make the some prospect value arguments for every one of those teams save for the Angels and White Sox. But you won’t, because you’re a Pirate fan.
He is, are you?
I feel like you bring me down every single time I read the comment section of any article this site posts (which is every one).
I guess you must know everything.
Sorry for harshing your vibe, man.
Ha, thanks. I was sitting at a bar for way too long when I wrote that last night lol.
Now that’s a scenario I betcha we’d get along much better in…I’ll buy the first!
Aren’t we all?
Tim, have you done any research to compare the Pirates drafts with any other organization?
IMO, without any research to back it up, they have done a good job recently. Your site keeps us well informed of these players and there is quite a few on the cusp, many of whom are not first round picks. If all clubs had to rely only on the draft, where would the Pirates?
Great article and insights Tim, thanks! It is encouraging that there seems to be an evaluation process in place regarding scouts effectiveness and that the quality of the department seems to be improving.
And even though they missed out on Mark Appel in 2012
Perhaps the pick of Meadows with the Appel pick should count for 2012? 🙂 🙂
Indeed as it turns out the Appel non-signing could end up being one of the big moments in franchise history.
Tim….the opening of your article, the “1, 2, 3” says it all.
But, my favorite part is:
the scouts who missed big in the 2009 draft are now gone.
There is of course another piece to the puzzle…
It could be that the Pirates are as good as anybody in the business in DRAFTING – but are not as good at coaching and developing players as other teams. My understanding of their approach is to move players through the minors methodically – and use a “formula” that treats each prospect pretty much the same way.
So a guy like Austin Meadows will spend a full year at AA regardless of how well he performs to get the requisite number of AA plate appearances and he will then seen a full year next year at AAA.
Other organizations are more aggressive in moving players forward – sometimes it hurts the player – other times it challenges them and gets the most out of them as soon as possible.
Meadows really isnt the best example to use, since his situation is equally about the fact that he’s blocked at the ML level as opposed to the team just never ever ever having guys skip a level or move quickly over a level. Meadows will go level to level both because PGH values guys getting reps at each level and because the timeline makes too much sense for him.
Good problem to have for the team in his case.
Plus, the little fact that literally no homegrown Pirate player has spent a full season at every level of the minors for developmental purposes. This is so, sooooooo overblown.
Your argument is going to naturally lead to the hindsight opinion that “Cutch would have been just as good if he skipped a level.”
Thats not a great argument.
Hahaha…congrats. You’ve made your point by using the league f’ng MVP as an example of questionable development.
Did not say it was questionable – just responded to your absurd suggestions – and why is it necessary to use the language and attitude – chill out a bit – it is only a game and the opinions of others is not always something to trash – as I said before – their is a site available that encourages that sort of thing – you might be happier there.
How you could write that with a straight face is beyond me…
Why you want to be a jerk and offensive is beyond me – what did I do to deserve all of your crappy attitude?
My crappy attitude? I have your back far more than most here.
Other organizations are more aggressive in moving players forward –
Do you have the facts to back this up, or is this just a subjective opinion? I think that the Kris Bryants of this world tend to skew our thinking.
OK – here is one example…
A current major leaguer with a contending team – Level/plate appearances…
And not quite as impressive – but another starting player on a contender
Talk about a losing argument. Dozens of examples of rushed prospects can be produced just as easily.
Id warrant to guess that this issue comes down to it just being easier to point out about 2-4 guy who skipped some levels and are quality than to try to remember the guys who skipped a level and looked hilariously overmatched for years.
Exactly! Nobody remembers the failures.
Oh I remember them – think we just had one leave town – Pedro might have benefited from learning to hit AAA pitching well before he was rushed to Pittsburgh. We also can point to the cases of Marte and Polanco – both of whom had a lot of people wanting them sent back to Indy early in their career – could easily have slipped into the trash bin had this been done – could have destroy their self-esteem and confidence.
I am not the only person to ever suggest that Hurdle prefers “experienced” [underperforming?] veterans to younger players – if I recall correctly he was fired in Colorado when he lost the young guys. That – in my opinion – has carried over to how the organization approaches development. Why give a guy like Adam Frazier a shot at making the team when you have Sean Hurdle around. It took way too long to dislodge Barmes from SS a couple of years ago.
We also havent had near the quality depth in the upper levels until the last few years, so if in 2 years we still go with purely vets itll be a fireable problem. I havent loved it to this point, but we’ve not exactly been stacked with high quality options in AAA the last 2-3 years.
Im all for Gift like players, but he’s just as likely to suck terribly on offense as any player. Clint Barmes he’s not.
You’ve driven this argument off the deep end…now it’s Hurdle’s fault?
I have ALWAYS blamed Hurdle – this is not new. He is a loser – ruined a good team in Colorado and did not deserve another managerial job – I said that BEFORE the Pirates hired him. When you bench Tulo and lose the young players on that team and prefer S-Rod to a young player I worry that you are not the right manager to deal with the transition that this team will need to go through over the next few years. Anyone who thinks I am over the top should go look at the Denver papers when he was fired – the owner liked him – the GM liked him – some older players [Todd Helton] loved him. I see NO evidence that he knows how to develop and grow young players as a manager.
So his teams love him, his owners love him, he’s won a ton here.
Makes sense to hate him.
What has “he” won other than enough games to get to a one game play in – no division – no league – no WS. Sorry – sounds like a loser to me – you and the other “settlers” enjoy counting wins – I want to count flags and pennants.
The key part of the Rockies – the young guys who were the future DID NOT love him – Tulo specifically – that is why he was FIRED!!!!
Here he coached the epic collapse. He had a one game lead on the Division going into September 2 years ago and blew it, The streak that matters is at 36 and counting. Look at his Rockies record – success early and collapse later. Let’s see if he is the manager to bring out the best in young players who are expected to arrive in the next year or two.
Factually he has won a league and raised a pennant (their only pennant in the teams history).
Go on over and rant at DKs site with this one. Loser and settlers and that lovely tough guy talk isnt actually discussing this, its yelling the loudest.
See, I think development is exactly what makes their lack of draft-produced pitching to date so damning. I don’t see any logical way one could look at the massive success Benedict & Co have had getting the most out of talented but flawed Major League arms and claim they don’t know how to develop pitching. Fact is, “Searage Magic” can’t shine a turd. The question isn’t whether or not it has “worked” on the Locke’s and Morton’s of the world (to say nothing of the dozens of failed prospect arms), it’s whether or not the Locke’s and Morton’s had as much inherent talent as the Liriano’s, Burnett’s, and Volquez’s.
The inability to even produce middle relievers out of so many drafted pitchers early on clearly shows the lack of talent that was being given to these guys to develop.
Maybe it’s because they’re “major league arms”? A guy in the minors is still a guy in the minors. It seems to me, a guy who is nothing but a fan, that they’re focus on fastballs down in the zone and pitch to contact is a sound strategy. Guys like Glasnow, Kingham, Tailon on the way, plus under the radar guys like Hughes, Watson, Sadler, Cumpton, etc. (actually I think that’s it, but still…) are proof in my opinion that the Pirates strategy and development is far from damning.
Maybe ZVR, Miller and the other “failed” drafted players fooled more than just the Pirates? Just because they were heralded picks at the time doesn’t guarantee future ML success.
Yeah, this is my exact point.
The development, at least pitching-wise, hasn’t been the problem. The scouting/drafting has.
I guess I am less a worshipper at the Searage/Benedict altar than you. I remember Jonathan Sanchez and Wandy Rodriquez – both of whom we were told would benefit from the coaches. Worley is another failure – again we were told he was fixable but in the end we were told he could not be used because he was very hittable.
Worley and Wandy are both really far from failures. Its true neither went full on AJ and had 3+ terrific years, but when neither of those guys failed to be productive over at least 1 season.
They havent hit on every one of these guys, but you had to stretch into guys who didnt fail to even come close to developing a pattern of them not being elite at helping players be useful.
Jonathan Sanchez did suck. Proving that they aint magic, just really good at their jobs.
I’m not “worshipping”, I’m pointing out facts.
Wandy Rodriguez was coming off four consecutive sub-3.75 ERA seasons of at least 190 IP. You’re absolutely wrong that he was someone thought to “benefit from the coaches”. He also put up a 3.65 ERA in 138 IP as a Pirate before getting injured.
Searage & Benedict have been as successful as anyone in baseball… not Gods, not the only ones to have success…but unquestionably at the top of their profession.
It’s hard for me know what to think about that kind of turnover because I don’t really know how it’s typically done gamewide. Do good scouts spend 20+ years with an organization or do people tend to move around?
People/Scouts tend to move around. It is rare for a scout to last long with an org. SI did an article on it awhile back (year or so ago, I think).
Very good article, Tim. The affirmative “Pirates can’t draft” hot take is just as incomplete as the affirmative “Pirates are good at drafting”.
Neither is really accurate. Not only are these judgement not static, they also come at a make-or-break time in the organization.
If the Pirates can successfully graduate pitchers like Kingham, Taillon, and Glasnow plus start adding position players like Bell and to a lesser extent role players like Moroff, Frazier, etc then this will literally change the organization.
If these kids fail, though, that’s a damn near fire-able offense in my book. An organization like the Pirates simply must do better than that.
Lets hope for paragraph 3 then, in your post….
This logic goes both ways, FWIW. Rene Gayo is seen as the savior of the organization by some, but looking at the time frame of his successes, it can be argued that he hit a hot streak just as it’s been argued Huntington ran cold.
Logical, wasn’t really debating, just really saying that if your 3rd paragraph ends up being the case, good news for us… that was all
I *think* the folks pushing the Pirates-can’t-draft narratives will end up looking just as silly as they did after the Hoka Hey narrative blew up in their faces, or like when the Huntington-wastes-money-in-free-agency narrative turned out to be completely wrong…and no, the fact that they’re largely the same people isn’t coincidental.
It’s completely fine to acknowledge the drafting *has been* sub-par, but these things aren’t static.
Tim, thanks for pointing out the turnover of the scouts that ran the ’08-’10 drafts, I was unaware that it occurred.
I think the biggest reason for criticism is that the Pirates touted how much money they spent on the draft, yet very few if any impact players were produced from those 1st three drafts. I can remember national writers saying that they liked the Pirates approach but not necessarily the players they drafted. It is good to know that a lot of those scouts are no longer with us.
I think a good analysis would be to wait a number of years (10?, 15?), then combine the WAR of the players in the class and compare it to the total dollars spent.
I would not call Pedro a success. He is 8 years removed from his draft and can’t find a job. He should be entering his prime
I think being a good scout requires knowing when to push for your guy and as importantly knowing when your area just doesn’t have the talent in a given year.
For example, maybe ZVR was the best player in Cochran’s area and it surely must be tempting to push for _the_ guy from your area. But he should have known not to push. Of course some of that is up to the cross-checker.
They all want to do their jobs submit reports, and make recommendations, but it is the cross-checker’s job to filter through all of that locality good ole boy stuff, and then make his recommendation. After him, there may be 3 or 4 other levels of review before somebody utters a name on draft day(s).
Good scouts and above are well worth the minimal amount teams pay for them to sit out there in the heat, cold, rain, snow, and put up with the “my boy” parents and coaches. BTW, what part of TN are you from?.
most of these scouts do it for the love they have for the game. I know, they do get paid, but I haven’t seen any scout on the fortune 500.
I agree. I knew quite a few who made the circuit around Tennessee, and it is definitely the love of the game that keeps them doing the job.
Interesting article, particularly the part about the bust of 09.
It is a complicated question…
There are only 5 draft picks that are going to break camp…Cutch, Cole, Mercer, Watson, and Hughes…a fifth of team was acquired by draft…doesn’t sound all that impressive…
You can toss in Cervelli, I suppose, as he was acquired for a draft pick….and Niese….and Harrison…and, I guess…maybe sorta Melancon as they got him for a guy who was a draft pick (Holt)…and Hanrahan…who was acquired for two other picks. Oh, and Locke, too.
So, that’s 10…or 40% of the team directly and indirectly here by way of the draft.
Considering guys can be gotten as FA, draft, international signings, (non-draft pick) trades, and waiver claims…building 2/5 of the team from just one of those takes a lot of pressure off the others when it comes to producing results.
To be honest…that’s a heck of a lot better than I thought it was going to be when I started typing this…
In fact…pretty damned good, now that I think about it.
Of those 3 you mentioned, Cutch, Watson, and Hughes were all Littlefield guys I think. Really, it only takes one or two guys to shift peoples’ thinking. If the Pirates picked Mike Trout instead of Tony Sanchez no one would be trashing their drafting ability. It takes more players than that to make a team and have a good org but I think people tend to focus on the big whiffs rather than look at a bunch of decent useful pieces…still 2016-17 will be huge in assessing what they really can do I think. On paper it all looks pretty good. It will be interesting to see what develops from their drafts of having no top 20 picks also. The ability to procure the future all stars and major contributors from the bottom of the first and second rounds will go a long way in proving what they can do. Picking the top 12 players is one thing, knowing who the top 60-70 are is a whole ‘nother ball game.
The scout/scouts who went in on Cutch should get an extra bonus for having to drag DL into the decision to pull the trigger. I have to imagine being a scout during that era was maddening.
No doubt. Despite all of the improvements where are the Pirates without Cutch?
The Pirates have three starters from International signings. They do very well in turning a rock into a Gem. I know, we get upset when they don’t put their hat in on a high priced International signing, but what team has three starters for the price they paid. They stold Marte and Polanco. Kang, well the knew something no one else knew. Now you see tons of scouts in Korea.
The error in that kind of logic, Blaine, is in the comparison. That’s what we’re doing after all, right? Judging the Pirates drafting *relative* to the rest of the league.
Please tell me that anyone can reasonably do the same sort of six-degrees-of-kevin-bacon analysis you just did on the Pirates for their competitors. None of us have that kind of time, and you can be damn sure the Pirates wouldn’t be the only ones looking better in that regard.
You may be correct…I have no idea where the Pirates would stack up with the rest of baseball…but, gut-wise, I think they’d be, at least, average.
Where I think the weakness in my argument is…is this: they should probably be better than average considering where this team has drafted. If we discount the last two drafts because…well, they really haven’t had time to bear fruit…in the ten previous they had 6 top-4 picks, 2 #11 ’s, a thirteen, and the Appel incident.
So, picking that highly…should they have had better results? I don’t know. I think one could easily say ‘yes’…but it’s really hard to quantify what ‘better’ even means.
Even if we discount Melancon because he came from pieces that came from draft pieces…
The team still has this as fruits of its’ draft:
2 bullpen arms
Half of its’ starting eight fielders.
To me, that seems pretty strong.
But, it is watered down by the fact that Harrison was acquired for guys drafted in ’03 and ’97…and Locke is here for a guy drafted in ’00. So, yeah…that weakens the point.
As you can see…I really could go either way…but my original point was, when I started banging on the keyboard…I didn’t really think this team could be so strongly tied to the results of the draft…but it is…and what does that mean? Hell if I know.
Great response, Blaine. I’m all for introspective discussion, and you bring up good points.
If I had to offer an answer to your last question, I think that points to a part of this organization that gets far, far too little credit: pro scouting/player acquisition. The ability to turn drafted players into superior big leaguers, a la middle reliever Justin Wilson > above average starting catcher Francisco Cervelli.
I agree…and that’s why it’s difficult to quantify a lot of this…because the facets of the organization don’t work in isolation.
So, even if we’re just ‘average’ in drafting…does that really matter if another sector of the club is able to make incremental gains by turning that ho-hum player into a better acquisition via trade?
To turn that around…would it really matter how good the team was at drafting if it brought in studs….but player development stunk?
What’s going to be interesting though, is how the organizational philosophy reacts to the team’s success. Let’s agree that Pedro was a dud…he happened to be a dud that led the league in homeruns and was an All-Star. When you’ve got the #2 pick…even a dud can be a somewhat useful player. Now the question is…can a group of people whose experience in drafting was based on having early picks adjust to end of the round selections?
It’s interesting stuff, but questions like this are such a moving target.
and you realise that Marte and Polanco were also drafted in the International part of the draft so one of the top 3 outfields in the MLB were all drafted by the Pirates
They were international free agents…not ‘draft’ picks.
True enough, but it takes even more scouting skill, IMO, to identify or quantify the work ethic, mental toughness, and basic skills in a 16 year old and project he may be able to make the upper reaches of the minors or into MLB some day.
Amazing that the Pirates signed Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, Elias Diaz, and Yeudy Garcia for a grand total of $375,000! Great scouting and development – two are already big contributors at the MLB level, and the other 3 may join them shortly.
Polanco 175K, Hanson 90K, Marte 85K, Diaz 3K, and I don’t know what Garcia got. Definitely some great bargains there for sure. Especially when you think of all the money it cost to get Heredia, Elvis escobar, Ramirez, the De La Cuz two, and even Jin-De Jhang. Willy Garcia cost a moderate 280K. A lot of great foreign signings. The domestic signing that really hurt most recently was Jon Sandfort: 463K and out of the system in 3 years.
Complete, utter bullsh*t.
Uncalled for – calm down and be civil or go troll on DK’s site…
But I bleeped out the “i”… 😉
boy that is a harsh comment, makes me uneasy offering my opinion and facing that wrath,,,, Nah, I would fire back but with kinder words, for sure….
Haha, please do!
But spare us the laurels lavished on someone apparently good enough to predict how any 14 year old – the age these kids actually start getting scouted – will mature in two years, let alone once they get to the Major Leagues. Nobody has that ability.
When I think of scouting kids’ maturity and personality I think of a lot of scouting reports I’ve ready after the fact; where a scout said Manny Ramirez was a model kid and Bonds was a team guy. A lot of crazy stuff like that. You don’t know what will happen down the road. Tabata was showing signs of being a flake before the Pirates got him, walking out on his team in the Yanks’ minors. Nobody worked harder than T.O. but he was an absolute moron as a teammate and when things weren’t going well. Hell, I read an entire book in gradeschool about the love between OJ Simpson and his mother. So much for that carrying over. Then you had guys like Jim McMahon who had a public persona as a jerk and loose cannon and was the absolute leader behind the scenes and on the field. There’s so much we are being fed or having withheld from us as fans.
The Pirates international strategy doesn’t make sense because Gayo is some form of Dominican soothsayer. It makes sense because the *massive* amount of risk and uncertainty in scouting 14-15 yo kids means that spreading the money around to ten athletes like Marte and Polanco will eventually allow you to hit as much if not more than spending it all on one “stud” prospect.
We rationalize misses in the draft by talking about how uncertain it is to project an 18-21 year old kid…now tell me *anyone* has the power to do that when they were freshmen in high school.
I just read an article on fangraphs breaking down the projected WAR for every team and where those players came from; draft, FA, international signing, etc. The Pirates were 4th in MLB in % of their 2016 projected WAR coming from international signings. Obviously Gayo had nothing to do with Kang but I’d imagine a large portion of that total can be traced to him. Do you really just consider that throwing a bunch of crap at a wall and having some of it stick? I’d think there has to be a higher level of correlation there personally.
Not at all saying Gayo is talent-less. He’s very good at what he does.
But yes, the Pirates general Latin American strategy is *exactly* that. Bring in enough talented, projectable athletes for pennies that you’ll eventually hit on a few. Giving Gayo more credit than that begs the obvious question of if he’s so much better at identifying 14 yo kids, why not pool those resources and target the best of the crop?
As for that study, it kind of makes my point. The vast majority of that projected WAR attributed to Gayo comes from one player, signed in 2007. We shouldn’t judge Huntington’s drafting based only on a few years worth of a sample, and neither should we judge Gayo for the same.
I don’t think that 24% of our WAR is coming from one player….
The Los Angeles Angels have the 6th highest percentage of projected WAR from the amateur draft. That means they’re good at drafting, right?!
Of course not, because over half their projected WAR from the amateur draft comes from a single player, Mr. Trout.
Mike, who are the players making up the IFA portion of the Pirates projected WAR? Kang, Marte, and Polanco.
Kang obviously wasn’t a Gayo sign, and Polanco only accounts for about 2 WAR of that total. That leaves one player, signed in 2007.
9.3 projected WAR can’t all be attributed to marte. I don’t get your reasoning here.
No, about 4 WAR of it is, with another 3+ going to Kang(not a Gayo signing)…which is my point. Can you really make overarching claims about an entire facet of talent acquisition when the majority of it comes down to one player signed nine years ago?
Ok but now were excluding polanco? The only “overarching” statement I’m making is that if the pirates have the 4th best projected WAR from international signings in all of the mlb and one guy is directly involved in about 2/3rds of that total then he deserves more credit than getting lucky with some longshots.
So, we’re not to believe that Rene Gayo was able to see a future ML OF when he saw Starling Marte playing SS as a 16-year old kid in the DR? The whole story about this particular example in Sawchick’s book from last year is also pure BS, too?
Scouts have a gift to see what type of a player a young man can become. Are they wrong more than they’re right? Of course, but the best one’s are wrong less often.
Your absolute statement that nobody is able to project what type of a player a 14-year old will be in two years is the utter BS!
Gayo saw the talent in Marte but it is not his job to coach him up and find his best position for need.
I’m basing my statement on what Travis Sawchick’s wrote in his book, Big Data Baseball. He said Gayo saw Marte as a defensively challenged SS, bUt noted he could run fast and spray line drives. In the book it clearly says Gayo saw him as a future OF and Pirates signed him to become one.
As for coaching him up, of course that is for coaches to do, not scouts.
Then explain to me the dozens and dozens and dozens of kids he’s signed you haven’t even heard of?
You’re telling me Gayo didn’t also “see a future ML” in them?
He signed them out of the goodness of his heart? Is he running a charity down there, too?
Might as well shitcan the whole scouting department and throw darts to determine whom to select then.
Give me a break!
I wouldn’t predict that kind of success, but nice to recognise it when it happens, for sure…. Seems, changing topics from the international signings (only slightly as they count), that we are set-up in the next 3 years to have quite a wave that actually helps every day replacements and allows for thoughtful trades for the same. Unfortunately it never is that easy to predict, perhaps back to your post that I’m responding too… Off to bed, Chinese New Year is over and got to go to work tomorrow 🙁 🙁 🙁
$350K for those guys is an amazing stat. Compare that to some of the Cubans who have yet to work out and the huge contracts they came up with.