Monday, January 28, 2008

Prospecty stuff

*Baseball America published capsule descriptions of some players who didn't quite make the cut, including three Pirate prospects: Charles Benoit, Serguey Linares, and Nelson Pereira. Linares is pretty well known as one of Littlefield's impulse buys last year, and Benoit has been starting to attract a little bit of attention among Pirate prospect-watchers, but Pereira might be a little more obscure. I, certainly, had never heard of him before now, which is a shame, because he's actually got kind of an interesting background. BA seems bearish on Linares and cautiously optimistic about the other two, which sounds about right to me.

*Pereira isn't our only international prospect attracting notice. John Perrotto says that several other teams kicked the tires on Sam Vasquez, a 19-year-old pitcher with our DSL team. Any specific A-ball pitcher is a longshot to become a useful ML pitcher, but when you gather a large clump of interesting arms together, there's a pretty good chance that at least one or two will pan out.

*Perrotto also mentions a possible switch in our AAA affiliation, from Indianapolis to Buffalo. The Buffalo Bisons were our AAA partner from 1988-1994, before bailing on the deal and signing up with the Indians, with whom they've remained ever since. The Cleveland connection through Huntington is interesting here, and the closer geographical proximity to Pittsburgh could be an advantage for us (although Indy isn't terrible in that respect by any means). I had blogged about our situation with Indy in December, and it's worth thinking about some of the points there in light of this new information. With Indy turning huge profits, we might just be trying to create additional leverage for ourselves, in order to strike a more favorable deal when the current agreement expires. If we do end up making the switch, Buffalo is a slightly better offensive environment than Indy, and it seems to suppress strikeouts to a significant degree, so color your expectations for prospect performance accordingly.

*I went to PirateFest (more on that later), and I got a chance to ask a question during one of the management Q and A sessions. I used my shot to try and pick Huntington's brain on draft philosophy (i.e. fastball movement or fastball velocity, curveball or slider, power or speed, physical projection or track record, etc.). His response was pretty general (not surprising), but he did mention that he was interested in having pitchers with clean mechanics (where we've sometimes focused on injured prospects or guys in need of work over the past few years), and he sort of hinted that for position players they would focus on tools and ceiling (which could be good or bad, depending on how they implement that strategy). Another fan tried to get them to commit to taking a position player with this year's first-round pick, and to management's credit they wouldn't bite that hook, sticking with the line that Greg Smith had taken in the P-G a week before. If the best player available ends up being a pitcher, we need to bite the bullet and take the pitcher. An impact player is an impact player, regardless of where he ends up on the diamond.

*I found this BA article about the distribution of each team's Top 30 prospects pretty interesting, even if it says more about where we've been than about where we're going. Compared to the average, more of our top prospects were college players and reclamation projects, while fewer came from high school and international signings. None of that is news, but it's nice to be able to put some numerical support behind the common knowledge.

*We're apparently scouting a Georgia high-schooler named Xavier Avery. At this point in the process, it means very little, but there's no harm in filing the name away just in case he ends up in our pile on draft day. If nothing else, it's nice to see us doing some work in Georgia, after Creech ignored the area for so long.


WTM said...

The X factor with AAA franchises might be the decreased willingness to load up on minor league vets. NH has signed quite a few, because they have to field a team, but not to the degree DL did. Minor league teams, especially upper-level ones, place a lot of importance on willingness to put together winning teams. The increased emphasis on development, as opposed to winning, that NH seems to want may make the Pirates a less attractive affiliation.

I don't suppose you've gotten your BA prospect book yet. They were supposed to arrive last week, but I'm still waiting. I'm especially curious to see where the Pirates ranked among the 30 organizations.

Vlad said...

Yeah, I haven't gotten mine yet, either.

If the org is serious about taking high-ceiling H.S. kids, then the whole prospects vs. vets thing may be a moot point for another three years, while we work through the Creech valley in our system's talent distribution.

WTM said...

I shudder to think what the upper levels are going to look like in two years. The pitching situation is dreadful. Even the worst systems usually have a handful of good arms scattered around, but once you get past TJ Lincoln and Mr. First Round Setup Man, there's almost nothing besides a few marginal relievers. Maybe they can get Nelson Figueroa and Brian Meadows back for AAA.

richiehebner said...

Mine hasn't arrived yet either. Amazon has put off a shipment date. Maybe BA is trying to decide between us and the Astros at 30, and the internal squabble has delayed publication. Good try on Huntington, Vlad. I'm not surprised he wasn't specific either. Did you happen to meet my namesake?

WilliamJPellas said...

I still think it's far too early to be writing off Daniel Moskos as "a setup man"---though I agree that no projected closer, no matter how good, should be drafted as high as the Pirates picked Moskos. As for Lincoln, I believe he was the real deal in college, and if he can make a successful recovery from his surgery, he can still be a very good big league starter for us. We'll see.

Agreed that many AAA franchises find themselves in a semi-contentious relationship with their parent clubs. I don't know if that has always been the case, or if it's a comparitively recent development. I suspect it's more recent, as big league clubs that are spending multiple millions on payroll alone are perhaps more reluctant to subsidize minor league clubs---at least, high minor league clubs, ie, AA and AAA. This in turn puts the onus on the Buffalos and Louisvilles of the world to be independently profitable in their own right. Again, I don't know any of this for certain, but I would be surprised if AAA teams could get away with backtalking MLB clubs the way so many of them do if the MLB clubs owned the AAA teams outright or otherwise had more of a legal say in how they operate.