SOUTH HILLS – If Clay Davenport’s projected standings are to be believed, the Pirates would do well to be aggressive in the free agent and/or trade markets before Opening Day. If you’re unfamiliar with Davenport’s projections, they are a hybrid cocktail of computer-generated projected performances combined with his subjective thoughts on which players will might fill in for injured players, what prospects will be promoted, etc.
SOUTH HILLS – On MLB Network this morning, national reporter Ken Rosenthal likened the A.J. Burnett decision to a white plume of smoke rising from the most holy of chimneys in the Vatican.
SOUTH HILLS – Happy polar vortex, folks. To warm up your day, ESPN’s Keith Law has released his rankings of the game’s 30 farm systems. It’s premium content, but what I can tell you is the Pirates rank third behind the second-ranked Twins and No.1-ranked Astros.
SOUTH HILLS – It’s that time of the year again when in the bleakness of January top 100 prospects give us a brief reprieve from polar vortexes and serve as a starter course for that hopeful, optimistic time when pitchers and catchers report. MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list came out last week and featured six Pirates. On Monday, Baseball Prospectus released its top 101.
SOUTH HILLS – Six Pirates made MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list last night and you could argue that’s light as Reese McGuire has a ceiling as a All-Star catcher, who impacts both defensively and offensively, and Nick Kingham has a chance to be durable, No. 3 type starter. I think the Pirates could place eight in Baseball America’s top 100.
SOUTH HILLS – With the Mets indicating they’ve taken Ike Davis off the market, with James Loney and Corey Hart and Logan Morrison definitely off the market, there are few obvious external candidates to fill one of the Pirates’ greatest needs – a left-handed hitting first baseman.
CLARK BUILDING – There was an amazing statistic in USA Today earlier this week that showed the combined wealth of the richest 85 people on the planet is equal to the combined wealth of the poorest 3,500,000,000. Yep, that’s 3.5 billion. The gap between the rich and poor – the amount of wealth the top 1 percent control – seems to be growing in every country, in every industry, including baseball.
CLARK BUILDING – The most significant development to date in a quiet offseason for the Pirates is not any signing or trade, it is the level the farm system has obtained. As we reported earlier this month, the Pirates will be ranked as the No. 1 farm system entering 2014 for the first time in the history of the Baseball America Handbook.
While the No. 1 ranking seems meaningful for the club what exactly does it mean? What exactly is a team gaining with that status? After all, you’re probably aware the prospect game is quite the inexact science and there’s a significant attrition involved.
So because we’d like to think we’ve become better at evaluating prospects as a people, I thought I’d examine the top of the Baseball America’s organizational rankings from 2006-09, the most recent classes that have had five seasons to elapse from the time of the ranking.
What do we find? The following ….
BASEBALL AMERICA’S TOP THREE FARM SYSTEMS BY YEAR (2006-09)
*Bolded records denote postseason trips
2006 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total
1. Arizona 76-86 90-72 82-80 70-92 65-97 383-427
2. Dodgers 88-74 82-80 84-78 95-67 80-82 429-381
3. Miami 78-84 71-81 84-77 87-75 80-82 395-415
Here’s what Baseball America wrote: Signing Justin Upton is the icing on the cake for minor’s most loaded system (which included Stephen Drew) …..(Miami’s) postseason fire sale brought depth, top-tier talent to a system that already had some of both.
Justin Upton is valuable but has not become the next Griffey Jr… and he’s now with another team. Stephen Drew also developed into a solid regular but fell short of superstar status some predicted … The Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera to Detroit for a package that was headlined by Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Whoops. … The Dodgers had an amazing collection of top 100 prospects that included Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton and Chad Billingsley.
2007 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Total
1. Tampa 66-96 97-65 84-78 96-66 91-71 434-376
2. Colorado 90-73 74-88 92-70 83-79 73-89 412-398
3. Arizona 90-72 82-80 70-92 65-97 94-68 401-409
Here’s what Baseball America wrote:The Devil Rays have benefited from their lofty draft position, taking OF Delmon Young (No. 1 overall, 2003), RHP Jeff Niemann (No. 4, 2004) and 3B Evan Longoria (No. 3, 2006) with premium picks in recent years. … Much like the Devil Rays, the Rockies have a balance of hitting and pitching and have procured talent in a variety of ways. They’ve done well with early draft picks such as SS Troy Tulowitzki, 3B Ian Stewart and RHP Greg Reynolds, and they’ve also scored with OF Dexter Fowler, C Chris Ianetta, OF Jeff Baker and 1B Joe Koshansky—all taken in the fourth round or later. ….No. 1 on this list a year ago, the Diamondbacks remain strong despite graduating SS Stephen Drew, 1B Conor Jackson and OF Carlos Quentin to the majors and trading three prospects to the Yankees for Randy Johnson. It’s still a hitter-heavy system, headlined by OFs Justin Upton, Chris Young and Carlos Gonzalez, 2B Alberto Callaspo and C Miguel Montero. Many of Arizona’s best prospects came from the drafts of former scouting director Mike Rizzo,
Tampa Bay actually missed on a fair amount of early picks… but they made up for that by turning late-round picks Alex Cobb, James Shields and Matt Moore into top-of-the-rotation starters while hitting on Longoria and Price…. Colorado had its hits and misses but still delivered two postseason berths with its collection of talent.
2008 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
1. Tampa 97-65 84-78 96-66 91-71 90-72 460-350
2. Boston 95-67 95-67 89-73 90-72 69-93 437-373
3. Cincinnati 74-88 78-84 91-71 79-83 97-65 409-401
Here’s what Baseball America wrote: Unlike in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series last year with plenty of contributions from homegrown players. More help is on the way, as RHP Clay Buchholz and OF Jacoby Ellsbury are ready for full-time duty and RHP Justin Masterson and SS Jed Lowrie could join them at midseason. Boston’s willingness to invest in the draft and in the foreign market have the lower levels of the system teeming with talent as well. The Red Sox’ No. 2 ranking is their highest ever.
The biggest difference between big-market rivals Boston and New York in recent years is Boston’s ability to draft and develop talent. Even though they lost Jacoby Ellsbury this season, Jackie Bradley and Xander Bogaerts are ready to become regulars. … The majority of Cincy’s core players are homegrown.
2009 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
1. Texas 87-75 90-72 96-66 93-69 91-72 457-353
2. Miami 87-75 80-82 72-90 69-93 62-100 366-444
3. Oakland 75-87 81-81 74-88 94-68 96-66 420-390
While this is not a perfect study, it’s meaningful to be on this list.
Texas, Tampa, Oakland, Boston, Arizona, Los Angeles (N), Cincinnati and Colorado each appeared at least once on this list in the four-year study and each made at least two postseason appearances (3 small markets, 2 mid-markets, 3 large markets) … The only team to be ranked in the top three from 2006-09 and not reach the postseason is Miami. So eight teams enjoyed some postseason time after earning a top three ranking and only one, the Marlins, failed to covert a rich system into success.
Now, any system has to be supplemented with prudent trades and signings. But an elite farm system should correlate to on-field success, according to Baseball America’s most recent applicable lists. The Pirates should be in position to make a postseason trip or two in the next five years.
SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – I’ve begun working on our 2014 season preview material and as part of that information-gathering process I spoke to a former baseball executive last week. He loves the Pirates system, their depth of pitching and positional prospects, and their young major league core pieces. But he did point out one area of concern (beyond market size/spending) going forward.