OK, the boys of summer are working out their kinks in February. We thought this would be as good a time as any to see how the Bucs first draft class of the Neil Huntington era was working out.
You might remember Pedro burning the midnight oil before signing a deal. The Pirates were rebuilding a dysfunctional farm system, and he was their poster boy. But he wasn't alone; the Pirates signed 32 players that year, and 17 of their top 25 picks. So who's around to rep the class of '08 in Bradenton?
Eh, not many. 16 of the 17 picks after the 20th round are no longer in the system, not too surprisingly; the back half generally is farm fodder. RHP Zach Foster, 25, is the last of the tail-enders to collect a Bob Nutting paycheck, and his career is pretty much on track as minor league depth. Five of the remaining fifteen from the top twenty are gone, too - OF Rob Grossman (#6), OF David Rubenstein (#11), 1B Calvin Anderson (#12), LHP Chris Aure (#15) and OF Wes Freeman (#16) have also left.
At least Grossman brought something back, as he was part of the Wandy Rodriguez package, and there's certainly value in that.
Of the ten left standing, half will be working out on minor league fields this spring. SS Benji Gonzalez, 3B Jeremy Farrell, RHP Mike Colla, SS Jarek Cunningham and RHP Quinton Miller didn't wriggle an invite to the MLB camp, although Colla, Cunningham and Miller are all still fringe prospects.
Then there were five. SS Jordy Mercer, SS Chase d'Arnaud, LHP Justin Wilson and 1B Matt Hague all could begin 2013 at Indianapolis, with Mercer and Wilson the only true prospects. Pedro will return as the incumbent starter at third, as befitting the second pick overall and $6M bonus baby.
Off course, there's more to team building than the draft. 2008 is when the Bucs brought in 1B/OF Garrett Jones as a minor league free agent. They turned a couple of their international signings into players; OF Exicardo Cayones went to the Yankees as part of the AJ Burnett deal, and C Ramon Cabrera went to Detroit for LHP Andy Oliver.
SS Jodaneli Carvajal and 3B Yhonathan Barrios, both inked when they were 16, are still bumping around in A ball. SS Gift Ngoepe, their South African pick, is at Altoona and could end up a bench infielder with a good glove, good wheels, and bad bat. 2008 is also when the Million Dollar arms from India, LHP Rinku Singh and RHP Dinesh Patel, were signed after winning a TV show in India. Patel is gone, but Singh is still slinging at West Virginia; pity he didn't get to start out in T-Ball when he was seven.
All in all, it can be safely said that the new FO didn't exactly hit the ground running, though they did pick up two eventual starters, which is a good off-season by most accounts. Still, they didn't lay a very solid foundation from the start, and that's helped delay the building-from-within blueprint.