Looking back at the farm & rumors

It’s time to take a look around the Pirates farm system as we work towards announcing Bucco Blog’s 2008 top ten prospects.

A few pitching performances that stand out in the system last year:

Olivo Astacio Hickory 48.3 7.3 5.2 13.2 1.39 .218
Eric Krebs Hickory 37.3 8.2 5.3 11.6 2.26 .241
Charles Benoit Hickory 79.7 8.3 3.3 9.4 2.65 .243
Pat Bresnahan Lynchbg 60.3 8.1 4.8 9.4 2.75 .239
Derek Antelo Lynchbg 63.7 9.6 2.5 7.2 2.81 .274
David Davidson Altoona 59.7 6.6 4.5 8.3 2.44 .206
Matthew Peterson Altoona 63.7 7.1 3.8 7.9 2.73 .216
Chris Hernandez Altoona 56.7 8.4 3.2 8.7 3.09 .247
Brian Rogers Indy 65.0 6.9 4.4 9.0 1.85 .212
Franquelis Osoria Indy 54.7 8.4 3.1 5.4 3.10 .249

Dewon Brazelton and Shane Youman dominated the starters in the Pirates farm system last year but unfortunately, Neil Huntington DFA’d Youman and Brazelton was immediately signed by the Cardinals after the season. John Van Benschoten, Byran Bullington, and then Luis Munoz rounded out the top five.

As for relievers, the Pirates have quite a few. Krebs work in Hickory is no surprise if you follow the ‘Dads. He pitched very well when he found the zone.

I think the shocker of the year has to be Charles Benoit, the 10th rounder in 2006. Not only did he dominate the Sally League, he carried it forward out to Hawaii and dominated there as well. Perhaps he should be given a shot at starting? I don’t know enough about him to say.

I think I expected too much of Arizona State product Pat Bresnahan last year. He was drafted in the 5th round in 2006 and then came into the system that year and tossed another 68 innings. I think he took a step backwards in 2007 because of the extra workload that year despite his wonderful numbers and 2008 could be an exciting year for him, probably in Altoona. That is, if the Pirates find a rover who can keep him in the zone.

And now a few hitting performances that stand out:

AB POS H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 xERA
Danilo Sanchez Hickory 69 C 13.5 1.7 9.0 4.5 7.69
Jonel Pacheco Hickory 463 OF 11.5 2.1 3.2 5.6 6.59
Jason Delaney Lynchbg 250 1B 13.1 1.4 5.9 8.0 6.33
Jared Keel Hickory 326 OF 9.0 1.8 5.9 8.4 5.81
Jamie Romak Lynchbg 294 OF 8.6 1.7 6.4 10.4 5.42
Neil Walker Altoona 431 3B 10.2 1.1 4.4 6.0 5.17
James Boone Hickory 107 OF 12.1 1.4 2.8 6.9 4.89
Shelby Ford Lynchbg 360 2B 10.0 0.5 3.4 6.8 4.68
Francis Poni Hickory 116 C 9.8 1.2 2.1 8.9 4.68
Kent Sakamoto Hickory 457 1B 10.0 1.1 2.4 6.9 4.60
Tripper Johnson Lynchbg 485 3B 9.4 0.7 3.8 5.3 4.59
Kristopher Watts Hickory 307 C 9.0 0.9 3.1 6.1 4.55

Yep – three catchers. Look at Sanchez’s walk rate.. the equivalent of one every 4.3 at bats. Wow. He was very old for the league but he raked none the less. Pacheco was old for Hickory too but he finally figured low-A ball out and had a very good year.

Now compare Ford and Walker. Despite the fact Walker had more power, Ford was only 1/2 a run per nine innings off the 1st rounder’s production. That’s pretty impressive for a middle infielder even though Walker was probably still a bit under the gun from his wrist injury the year before. Ford ended up missing the last part of the season from back problems related to his newly implemented weight lifting regime so he should be back in the saddle in 2008. I can’t wait to see where his power numbers go.

Jared Keel, 31st rounder in 2006, has to be the surprise of the year – he mashed at Hickory in up and down streaks until he finally gave out from fatigue the last month. But what makes Keel’s performance all that more interesting is that he played numerous positions all year while raking. I’m guessing Kyle Stark will settle him into a corner outfield role at Lynchburg and watch and see what he’ll do instead of continuing to push the super utility button Graham had imposed on him.

While there are a few quality pieces around, they are few and far between. Stark has inherited a totally marginal system with holes everywhere, so he has his work cut out for him, especially if Huntington, Coonelly, and Nutting refuse to gut the big league team for prospects.

A friend of mine close to the Rays say they have been talking internally about Jack Wilson. Now, I laid this rumor to rest earlier in the month saying it would never happen but there might be renewed interest. I’m hearing the Pirates made it known Wilson wasn’t available to a different club at winter meeting and that circulated around the hotel. Now some are hearing that rumor might have been planted.

I would be shocked if the Rays take on Wilson’s contract and give up a prospect knowing what I do about the Rays. Plus, I can’t see Huntington playing Castillo 155 games at short, although if he’s serious about rebuilding then it’s a no-brainer. We’ll have to see where this goes.

My Ian Snell piece yesterday spurred one NL person to email me today and say Huntington "doesn’t seem to have an idea where he’s going yet." Evidently Huntington has a couple of folks pe’od because he may have indicated more product would be available earlier than he’s offering up and those teams were counting on it. So they have asked him to get off the pot and deal before the GM meetings in December.

One scout thinks the Pirates are playing this "We dunno what we’re goin’ to do…" game all along hoping to get better values late. A lot of teams have baited the market hoping to steal value but those teams won’t be able to continue that posture anywhere near as long as the Pirates can. The longer the Pirates hold out guys like Marte and Snell, the more they are going to get for them by desperate teams who are in need.

Interesting concept.. if it works.

The market for Jason Bay is diminishing by the hour but there are several teams interested if Huntington will deal him with the assumption they are taking on risk. That’s not the way Huntington wants to deal Bay I’m guessing so don’t be too surprised if the Pirates keep him hoping he mashes early and someone hits the DL on a team going somewhere. If a club offers the 2 – 3 prospect package of players Huntington wants, Bay will be gone.

An email from a Pirate fan today speculated that teams could be playing Huntington early because he doesn’t have a trade record and he’s a newbie GM wanting to look good. That’s reasonable, but I think every GM plays every GM for all they can get so that’s nothing new.

But it is important to watch what Huntington does. So far he’s added some minor league depth like any GM would do and DFA’d a back of the rotation southpaw he’s all but certain to lose. In minimal at bats, Huntington is batting .205.

Readers have been asking me if the Pirates gut the roster, should they be gutting Gorzelanny, Capps, and Sanchez too. My thought is this – if Huntington can improve the club dealing any player in the system, he should do the deal. Nobody should be untouchable.

That being said, Gorzelanny is about as close to ace material as the Pirates have had in years so a 4+ prospect package of players who can step in and play today isn’t outrageous by any means with his service time and our lack of desire to deal him.

Sanchez? His defensive game was off in 2007, he’s a league average defender at third, a singles hitter who hits better than league average in a big park.. I’m not so sure Huntington can get better than he has with Sanchez keeping him at second.

Capps? I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, his numbers don’t suggest he’s going to continue to dominate. He had a nice 2007 ERA.. the question is, was that the best we’ll ever see out of him? If so, does that warrant a thought about dealing the power arm? Or should Huntington keep him no matter what knowing he’d at least become a premiere setup man if he falls out of grace closing?

Tough questions.

I expect Capps, Gorzy, and Sanchez will all be around for 2008 unless Huntington gets blown off the map with an offer, and that’s not likely unless it’s late July and a team is in the hunt.

Forget my thought about Kenny Lofton manning centerfield I had the other day. After finally taking the time to compute play-by-play defensive stats, Lofton is a disaster anymore. Now paying for Mike Cameron..

Some have asked me about Coco Crisp and I’ve been telling them we have a Crisp defender in Duffy. I’d rather go get a BJ Upton or even Josh Hamilton (is he even healthy?) for the extra bat on top of near equivalent defense. We can stand to sign someone on a three year deal with McCutchen taking a corner (left?) in 2009 and 2010.

Spurring the Brewers, the Reds signed Cordello to a 4/46 deal and everyone immediately called it a ridiculous signing. That’s $11.5M per year which is about the same as a +2.5 win player would get playing 162 games.

The money is high but it typically is when a team targets. Cordello will probably put 10 wins in the Reds pocket next year from 2007 and that makes them a .500 team (in theory, of course). Now if they can only get rid of Griffey and his $16.5M contract, they might have something over there.