Tuesday, August 16, 2011

As The Smoke Clears

Now that the smoke has cleared, what do the Bucs have? Well, one pretty dang nice draft class, for sure. They should; the $17M that the FO says it spent is an MLB record for one draft, easily whupping the old benchmark of $12M set last year by the Nats. And that's on top of the $30M they've shelled out from 2008-10.

The Bucs paid out two of their top four all-time bonuses to land Gerritt Cole and Josh Bell  - the quartet are Cole ($8 M), Jameson Taillon ($6.5M), Pedro Alvarez ($6M) and Bell ($5M) - and got two of their top four prospects in exchange, as they join Taillon and Luis Heredia at the top of the list.

Cole ranked second in UCLA history with strikeouts (376), third in starts made (49) and fifth in innings pitched (322-1/3). He was rated rated as having the "Best Fastball" and "Changeup" among college pitchers according to ESPN.com. and is considered with his curve to have three plus pitches.

He could be a fast-track candidate. Scott Boras thinks he could be ready after a season, and his contract is worth $9M if he's in the bigs in 2013.

Bell hit .548 with 13 home runs, 54 RBI and runs scored as a senior this yearat Dallas Jesuit (TX) High School.  Baseball America rated him as the top corner outfielder and fifth-best position player overall available in the draft. He's probably a Top 10 or 15 talent grabbed in the second round, and though the Bucs overpaid, they badly needed a big bat in the system.

We'd expect both guys to start at Low Class A West Virginia, although Cole could get a bump to High A Bradenton if the FO wants him in the fast lane.

Of course, to blow $17M, you have to sign more than a couple of guys, even if they are Boras clients. Third pick Alex Dickerson is a slugging first baseman, and they inked all ten top draftees this season, including six more high school pitchers and a college center fielder. Overall, they signed 24 players, the remainder college guys except for CF Candon Myles of South Grand Prairie HS.

Does this give the team a top feeder system? Well, not yet. But it's getting there; you'd have to think that with all the prep arms they've brought in that a couple will hit it big. And they doubled their number of elite prospects.

A couple of the prior high school kids are coming on, like Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain, Zack Von Rosenberg and Stetson Allie, though none are close yet.  So the Bucs are building block by block, trying to speed it up a little by priming the pump. But it's hard to turn high school kids into pros on a dime; they don't know how much they don't know.

A little better evaluation of some player trades might have helped speed the process, but that's why they're called prospects instead of certainties. But the system is in much better shape than it was four years ago from the bottom up and has a couple stars in the making.

The theory is that it takes 5-7 years to rebuild a system, and it's holding true in Pittsburgh. 2014 is looking more and more like the year they're for real.

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