Monday, August 10, 2009

The Path Chosen...

Here's the Bucs first ten draft picks (* - high school): 1, Tony Sanchez, C, $2.5M; 1-Supplemental, Victor Black, RHP, $717K; 2, Brooks Pounders*, RHP, $670K; 3, Evan Chambers, OF, $423K; 4, Zack Dodson*, LHP, $600K; 5, Nate Baker, LHP, $176K; 6, Zach Von Rosenberg*, RHP, $1.2M; 7, Trent Stevenson*, RHP, $350K; 8, Colton Cain*, LHP, $1.125M; and 9, Brock Holt, 2B, $125K.

That's $7.881M spent on the top ten selections from a $10M budget. They have another eleven guys signed, and a little less than $2M left in the draft kitty.

The other signees: 11, Aaron Baker, 1B; 13, Walker Gourley*, SS, $115K; 18, Ryan Beckman, RHP; 21, Phillip Irwin, RHP; 23, Jose Hernandez, OF; 24, Jason Erickson, RHP; 30, Ty Summerlin, SS; 33, Pat Irvine, OF; 34, Zac Fuesser (JC), LHP, $125K; 42, Marc Baca, RHP; 43, Edward Fallon, RHP.

The Pirates have room for a couple more signees; Neal Huntington said they may end up with 1-3 more players.

This year, they had the advantage of not tying up so much of the budget in one player, as they did when they signed Pedro Alvarez for $6M in bonus sugar.

So they targeted they number one commodity in baseball, pitchers. Seven of their top ten picks were spent on arms, and five of them were high school hurlers. And they needed some pitching; Quinton Miller and Justin Wilson are they only two pitchers drafted last year that have a pedigree.

That's the good news. The bad news is even if they guessed right on the youngsters this year, they're all a long way from PNC. Tony Sanchez is the only 2009 draftee to make it to A ball this year. He's zoomed past Andrew Walker at West Virginia, and has Kris Watts and Steve Lerud, at Lynchburg and Altoona, squarely in his sights.

After him, a handful of players are getting their feet wet at short-season State College. Two of them are pitchers, Nate Baker and Victor Black. The others are Aaron Baker, Evan Chambers, Jose Hernandez, Pat Irvine, and Ty Summerlin. None are setting the world afire.

The rest are in the Gulf Coast Rookie League or Florida Instructional League. That's not a surprise, considering how young the class is. But what it does is illustrate why the suits have dumped the MLB team for upper level prospects.

Except for Alvarez, none of the past two draft classes have players that have advanced beyond High A Lynchburg, and that's where they should be at this stage of the careers. But it leaves Altoona and Indy terribly barren of players, and that's what the management chose to address.

If the 2008-09 draft classes pan out (and that's no sure thing), they should start landing in the bigs between 2012-2014, maybe later.

That left the new bosses two options. First, they could wait for the gap between the upper and lower levels to fill in over the years and tie up the roster they inherited, with a free agent or two, until 2013.

Or they could blow up the team for prospects and try to patch the feeder system first, knowing that the MLB product would suffer for two or three seasons. Both choices are iffy propositions.

For better or worse, they decided that the core they were given wouldn't cut it for one more contract, so they opted for Plan B.

The risk with hanging on to the old team was that they had shown no aptitude for winning games and were perilously thin in pitching.

The risk with the prospect route is that you can't be sure that the kids, no matter their upside, will ever develop. You also run a very real chance that the MLB team will have defeatism ingrained in it if its not competitive while waiting for help. And there is that fan thingie...

Well, we know the road they chose. And in 2012, we'll find out if its the right path.

How'd they get to this precarious position? Ted Keith of SI's Inside Baseball starts his column off with this:
"...the most dedicated fans in baseball trudge...into a... gorgeous ballpark that hosts an annually ugly team. It must be the ballpark, and the view and the misplaced hope of success that is drawing those fans each night, because it sure isn't the baseball."
He goes on to cover the moves over the past 17 years that have made the Pirates the Pirates.

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