Monday, January 7, 2008

Down on the farm

John Sickels is pretty bearish on the prospects of our prospects. He just completed the 2008 edition of his annual prospect book, and he posted his grades for our Top 20:

1. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Grade A-
2. Steven Pearce, OF-1B, Grade B+
3. Neil Walker, 3B, Grade B (not convinced he'll hit quite as well as they expect)
4. Daniel Moskos, LHP, Grade B
5. Brad Lincoln, RHP, Grade C+ (pending recovery from TJ)
6. Brian Bixler, SS, Grade C+
7. Shelby Ford, 2B, Grade C+
8. Duke Welker, RHP, Grade C+
9. Brian Friday, SS, Grade C+
10. Andrew Walker, C, Grade C+
11. Jamie Romak, OF, Grade C
12. Nyjer Morgan, OF, Grade C
13. Brad Corley, OF, Grade C
14. Bryan Bullington, RHP, Grade C
15. Matt Peterson, RHP, Grade C
16. Romulo Sanchez, RHP, Grade C
17. Quincy Latimore, OF, Grade C
18. Marcus Davis, OF, Grade C
19. Tony Watson, LHP, Grade C
20. Josh Sharpless, RHP, Grade C

What a horrible system. There isn't much else to say about it.

John's grading system may not be intuitive for readers, so here's a quick breakdown: A guy's grade is a reflection of both his likely development AND his proximity to the majors. As such, a guy who grades out as a "C" could be either a bench-player-in-training in AAA or a guy in rookie ball with starter-level talent but maybe four years of development (and potential pratfalls) between then and now.

Right now, he's saying that the system includes one future star, three guys who look like potential ML regulars, and a bunch of guys who are either low-ceiling, injured, or playing for a spot on the 2012 roster. The sad part is that I can't disagree with him in any significant respect. Having Ed Creech as a scouting director is a development strategy right up there with sowing your fields with salt. Right now, we're easily bottom 10 among ML franchises, probably bottom 5, and most of the teams behind us are ones that just nuked their farms to make prospect-for-veteran trades over the offseason. We had to sign more than 30 minor-league free agents last year in order to provide enough organizational players to field teams at all levels, and that's probably not going to change for the next few years.

If you're interested in reading about prospects, I recommend Sickels's book. It makes a good companion to BA's book, and I usually buy both. There are a fair number of subtle differences in approach between the two, and as such they complement each other quite well.


WTM said...

What's so disturbing about the dismal state of the farm system is the fact that, as you say, the teams with worse systems have to some extent gotten that way on purpose by trying to win now. The Pirates are in this shape partly due to incompetence and partly because just about every other team in MLB is making more effort to build their systems, through Latin scouting, paying over slot, etc. Their situation is similar to some teams in the 1950s that were the last to start to develop farm systems and paid a high price with long periods of suckitude. The Pirates are going to have to make radical changes just to catch up to the level of effort that other teams are making, let alone catching up in the results they're getting. IMO, the organization is in FAR worse shape than it was when DL took over, due to both the lack of talent and the disorganization at the mgmt. level.

Vlad said...

I think the minor league talent gap between 2001 and 2007 is pretty much unquestionable, Wilbur. Just for fun, I went through and made a list of all the guys in the system in 2001 who eventually made the majors:

GCL: Jon Albaladejo, Rajai Davis, Ryan Doumit, John Grabow, Henry Owens, Leo Nunez.

Williamsport: Jose Bautista, Chris Duffy, Roberto Novoa, Chris Shelton, Ian Snell (going by Ian Oquendo at that time), Walter Young, JVB.

Hickory: Sean Burnett, Yurendell DeCaster, Nate McLouth, Mike Johnston, Chris Young.

Lynchburg: Tony Alvarez, Jeff Bennett, Dan Carrasco, Jose Castillo, Mike Gonzalez, Yamid Haad, Ron Paulino.

Altoona: Jeff Bennett, Shawn Camp, J.J. Davis, J.R. House, Carlos Rivera, Steve Sparks, Chris Spurling, Dave Williams.

Nashville: Bronson Arroyo, Humberto Cota, Chad Hermansen, Alex Hernandez, Rob Mackowiak, Damaso Marte, Sam McConnell, Brian O'Connor, Tike Redman, Craig Wilson, Jack Wilson.

Even without counting good prospects who blew up before they made the majors (like Bobby Bradley), that's still a pretty good slate of talent. How many guys in our system right now will make the majors?

Our big failure back then was the failure to properly leverage that talent (with guys like Arroyo and Young achieving their success with other teams, and Gonzo nearly doing so before DL called give-backs on the Brandon Lyon trade).

WTM said...

I'm guessing that there will be fewer from the lower levels even reach AAA, or possibly even AA, than reached the majors from the 2001 group.

WilliamJPellas said...

We are in truly frightening waters if you guys are correct, although an astute GM can still snag a handful of semi-useful players with the ol' "bring in a Greyhound bus full of Rule V, six year veteran minor league free agents, injury rebounders, and other scrapheap types" approach. I think that so far, Huntington has done some of that, but not nearly as much as he could do and as he ought to do given the dire straits in which we are currently sailing.

Again, it's not hopeless, objectively speaking. But if this "organization" is truly unwilling even to spend what it takes to grow up some cheap talent from within, it's throw-in-the-towel time.