Tagged: Search For Respect

2008 Pittsburgh Pirates Top Ten Prospects

2008 Top Ten Prospects Honorable Mentions
1 McCutchen Bixler Meek
2 Pearce Corley Molleken
3 Moskos Davidson Redmond
4 Lincoln Delaney Sakamoto
5 Walker Herrera R Sanchez
6 Astacio Keel Valdez
7 Ford
8 Welker
9 Benoit
10 Bresnahan

(Edit 12:45 PM: Readers let me know I left Romak off. My bad. When he was left exposed I pulled his index card. Put Romak below Walker and drop Bresnahan to the honerable mention list.)

It’s a sad day when I have to dig through so many lower level relievers to try and find some stuff. But these are the guys I think have the best chance to move forward in the Pirates system next year.

Ford is a guess because of his back injury; Astacio could get an early call up if Huntington doesn’t find a right-hand reliever and that could stunt his development. Is Lincoln going to be Lincoln anymore after surgery? I dropped him a rung because I just don’t know. And is Pearce really going to maintain? I’m not so sure I agree with the fans he will but threw him in at #2 because he got the job done.

Honestly, after Lincoln everything starts to get blurry. Walker is an obvious top 5 but does he really fit after being moved out from the dish? Benoit is my wild-card guess and I just like Bresnahan’s stuff. Herrera could be a top 10 but until he proves his value this year, I’m not putting any stock in him. However, I have not seen him pitch either so who knows.

Jared Keel is my sleeper. I’m guessing he’ll start in Hickory to get him on track and since he lives there (the local boy plays here again theme) and then be off to Lynchburg at some point in the year. We’ll see how he does away from his mom then. Just kidding Jared.

Pacheco could be here but he was a bit old for the SAL last year. Boone is another guy I just don’t have that gut feeling about. He has some stats in his favor but I’m not sold. Kyle Bloom – is he finally back? We’ll find out in 2008.

As for JvB, Bullington, Burnett, Perez, Bayliss.. Bullington is by far the better of the group, I think Burnett gets released in camp and then files ten grievances, and Perez and Bayliss are marginal.

JvB? It’s amazing how much abuse he took last year. I think his stuff is a lot better than 2007 showed us but he’s obviously going to take more time to develop it because it’s too trackable. And that worries me about Jeff Andrews as our pitching coach – he should have known that.

Here’s the 2007 top 10 list in review:

                        2007 Top Ten Prospects
BA Bucco Blog John Sickels
1 McCutchen McCutchen McCutchen
2 Walker Lincoln Lincoln
3 Lincoln Van Benschoten Lillibridge
4 Herrera Walker Walker
5 Sharpless Bullington Bixler
6 Pearce Ford Felix
7 Bixler Redmond Redmond
8 Corley Lillibridge Sharpless
9 Redmond Sharpless Herrera
10 Felix Corley Ford

Andrew McCutchen’s final line in 2007:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS AVE OBP SLG
164 611 90 164 29 5 11 57 236 62 106 29 7 0.268 0.338 0.386

As we look back on the top 10 prospect lists from last year, we see the two big gurus (BA and Sickels) had Mike Felix and Yoslan Herrera who both bombed; all three had Josh Sharpless who took a step backwards and was finally released by the Pirates, cleared waivers and then resigned to issue more walks in AAA; BA and Bucco Blog had Brad Corley who regressed as well; and I had Van Benschoten who bombed but I saw Ford a bit better than the other two.

Todd Redmond took a step back at Lynchburg but I credit that to the Pirates forcing +88 innings on him 2005 to 2006 more than anything. This year his arm will either break off or he’ll hold on and we’ll get a better idea if he can master High-A.

BA had Pearce which I totally overlooked and the two gurus had Brian Bixler ranked while I left him off in favor of Corley. I’m still not sold on Bixler as an everyday player and his 23% K% with a .396 SLG, while also bombing with Team USA, continues to keep me away from him. Is he really a top ten prospect? Perhaps.. perhaps. He still has time to grow.

So none of us did exceptionally well but that’s to be expected in such a marginal system. Hopefully this time next year it will be easier to compile this list.

Readers ask about Mr. Neal Huntington

Neal Huntington will be named the Pirates next general manager Tuesday and folks have been asking a lot of questions so I thought I’d take a few moments to answer some.

Was Huntington promoted in 2005 as the Indians now want to claim, or was he actually demoted?

"Indians GM Mark Shapiro, who recently had his contract extended through the 2007 season, announced yesterday the contract extension of four of his closest advisers.

Huntington, however, has been demoted from assistant general manager to special assistant to the general manager, which is essentially a scouting role. Huntington will team with Gary Tuck and Steve Lubratich as the Indians’ advance scouts in 2005." — Cleveland Morning Journal, March 1, 2005

Cleveland rebuilt in 2002 and are now division champs. What was the main trade that brought the Indians the youth they are winning with today and what was Huntington’s role?

"Even though Cleveland has traded away some valuable big-league talent, the organization has stockpiled a terrific group of young players.

Heading the list is Triple-A shortstop Brandon Phillips, pried from the Expos in the deal that sent Colon to Montreal. Phillips, at the age of 21, is clearly among the top prospects in the game and a terrific athlete who can do it all on the field. Cleveland, which also received Class A outfielder Grady Sizemore and Triple-A left-hander Cliff Lee in the deal, did its homework on the trade… Cleveland cross-checker Tony Lacava was Montreal’s farm director last season.." ESPN, August 7, 2002

Huntington was essentially a mouthpiece for Mark Shapiro at the time and had just taken over that role. In fact, in a 2005 interview with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Huntington indicated he was only just being pushed out the door by Shapiro to begin his evaluating days with the Indians (the demotion, as listed above).

The Indians, of course, gave away Brandon Phillips to the Reds and it was Huntington who decided on a relief pitcher Jeff Stevens to complete the trade. Other notable deals Hunting was credited with included obtaining Milton Bradley in 2001 and trading Ryan Church in 2004 for Scott Stewart.

Not to mention the disastrous Roberto Alomar trade in 2002 he kissed off on and his desire to see Shea Hillenbrand in a Indians uniform at the trade deadline in 2005.

Thus, he was sent to the field to learn how to better evaluate it seems. Huntington put it best when he said:

"All we’re trying to do is gather as much quality information as we can and put it in a consolidated form and give it to the staff. Then they take it from there." ESPN, September 2005

The key words – THEY take it from there.

Do you know of any Huntington signees over the years?

Carl Sadler is one

Bill Thurston — the next Pirates pitching coach?

I don’t think Mr. Thurston will be leaving Amherst College anytime soon. But you bring up an interesting connection between Thurston, Huntington, and Dr. James Andrews and his ASMI lab.

I’ve mentioned for two years here that the Pirates had opportunities to retain and evaluate players better by using the lab, but Dave Littlefield rejected that notion over the years. Ryan Vogelsong in particular, was even willing to pay his own way to better himself but the Pirates refused to allow him that opportunity.

And Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, who is one of the more extreme believers in the lab, sent Oliver Perez down and look at him now. Littlefield had a chance to have Perez evaluated for a mere $2,500 +/- but decided against it.

Will Huntington start using the lab? Doubtful, at least team-wide. But will Huntington start employing new-school bio-mechanical research into his game plan within the Pirates system? I have to believe he will with all the bounce-back type delivery arms we have floating around waiting to break.

I’m a firm believer in hard pitch counts for young pitchers (less than 2 years in the big show) and the Pirates have employed a 35 pitch limit AA down. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been adhered too as well as it could. And in AAA this year we’ve blown at least one 40 with one young arm.

While Huntington doesn’t seem to believe as strongly about hard pitch counts, it will be interesting to see if he reduces the limit to 30 AA down and limits maximum pitches per outing to around 80 High-A down. That might have saved Brad Lincoln, among others.

When was the last time an advance scout became another teams general manager?

I can’t find that it’s ever happened. I’m guessing it has, I just can’t find an example.

Last Saturday Mark Shapiro said Huntington was "one of our chief evaluators and one of our strongest voices on every level." That’s a very curious statement to make considering the Indians just clinched the division and are heading to post-season play now without one of their "chief evaluators" and "strongest voices."

Maybe Shapiro meant Huntington is a fiery redhead loud-mouth who is excellent at evaluating Indian chiefs on the range?  Some say that makes about as much sense as what Shapiro seemed to be saying.

Is it possible Frank Coonelly picked his man from reading a book?

I suppose that’s about as plausible as Robert Nutting deciding he wanted another nice guy UMass grad who worked in player development for a respected organization.

Is there any truth to the Internet rumor that Mark Shapiro wasn’t going to renew Huntington’s contract after this year?

Wow – haven’t heard that one. But since one of Shapiro’s ‘strongest voices’ was delegated to pencil pushing scouting, who knows. Maybe.

Jake, tell me something positive.

Well, hmm.. how about this. Huntington’s contract will probably only be three years and Tony LaCava’s contract ends after 2010.

I’m off to Miami.

Speaking Frankly to Frank

This isn’t a pleasant story and I’m probably going to lose some close friends in the game because of it, but it has to be told. Not because the fans need to hear it, but because Frank Coonelly needs to hear it since I assume he is in his due diligence stage on Neal Huntington since he hasn’t signed yet, and Coonelly isn’t likely to hear it from others in the game.

I don’t expect this post to make a lot of sense to my readers but I know it will to the right people.

Baseball consists of a very tight fraternity and, unlike the experience you might have had in your college days, nearly everyone instantly becomes a member of that fraternity by virtue of their position in the game. How long they stay there, however, is based solely on their credibility.

Most of these fraternity members help each other out no matter what the personal cost. For instance, if a GM is considering a trade he’ll ask his in-house fraternity entourage to dig up all they can on the player he wants. Those lieutenants, in turn, will call their fraternity brothers and sisters to get the scoop and report back to the GM.

The fraternity has only a few cardinal rules that, when broken, will immediately get one of its members blackballed around the game. Chief among them is that a member doesn’t backstab another member.

Isn’t that right Mr. Shapiro?

For instance, if you always wondered why David Littlefield had few trade partners around the game, or always seemed to get taken when he did make a deal, now you know one potential reason why – some around the game say Littlefield not only broke that cardinal rule in the hours before his second interview with **** Freeman and Kevin McClatchy, but also later when he put his team together.

And many in the fraternity knew it.

When Robert Nutting announced the firing of David Littlefield, members of the fraternity who had a friend that desired to be considered for the Pirates GM position jumped into action by calling their closest allies rallying support. That’s typical because those who are under contract with another club obviously can’t solicit their own cause.

But what is not typical is when a senior member of that fraternity ends up pushing his support behind a member of his own club seemingly in the hopes of getting rid of him, instead of supporting the very fraternity member he was asked to rally behind after he said he would.

Especially when that member of the senior member’s own club was the one who took the phone calls from the allied members seeking the senior member’s support for their own candidate.

That becomes multiple back stabbings.

The end result is that the guy who seemingly got the position now has a long road to hoe to establish any credibility back with the fraternity he just screwed members of, he faces anger and a loss of credibility within his potential new club because some of those members are in the fraternity and are fighting mad he didn’t do the right thing to begin with, and he’s quickly finding out he can’t hire the help he wants because fraternity members are turning their backs on him.

Frank, hiring a #4 guy who had been minimalized over the years to the point of being excluded from his club’s inner circle is one thing, but to hire a guy who just castrated himself from the fraternity is quite another.

You need to take a long, hard, look at what you are doing because, other than the other potential backstabbers that exist around you who are in ‘save-my-job-mode’, the few good people you do have are quite angry – as are some key players as we hear it.

Set an example.. do the right thing and back up. You’ve got the names right, you just have the wrong order. You’ve told the media Huntington is not your pick up to this point – now confirm it by installing Tony LaCava as the GM and make Huntington HIS "special advisor".

Because, as JP has probably already told you, that’s the only way LaCava will be allowed to leave. LaCava can pick Huntington, but Huntington can’t pick LaCava.

Please get it right – you’re inches from putting a perfect team together. The respect you’ll gain from those in the game by making the right decision will far outweigh that little bump in the road you hit the last 36 hours.

Pirates on losing end of wild ride

Friday’s game was one of the more comical games I have seen all year. Miscues, fumbles, bad throws, out of position fielders, ridiculous game management calls by both catchers, dropped balls, and the list goes on and on.

In the end, the Cubs mashed past the Pirates putting them up two games on the Brewers who play Friday night.

This game was played so poorly by both clubs, it isn’t worth discussing.

Other than the 1st, 2cd, and 3rd innings of Friday’s insane game, in the last 21 innings the Pirates have had 79 men come to bat, managed just 12 hits (.164 BA) with three of those infield hits, struck out 32% of the time, and, believe it or not, managed just 40% of all balls they put in play to reach the outfield, and that includes the grounders through the infield.

Cesar Izturis left Friday’s game with "right elbow irritation", Jason Bay remained on the pine with his "knee" problem, and for the second day in a row, Salomon Torres refused to show up in time for the game. He’s expected in late Friday night. Word on the street is that Jack Wilson is not expected to show up Sunday and the Pirates will state his "hammy" is still bothering him. We’ll see.

I guess this is what I get for laughing at the Astros hire.

The more I talk to folks around the game, the more disappointed I am in Frank Coonelly’s pick for general manager, if Huntington is actually named GM.

Huntington isn’t a "brilliant" pick for anyone except Frank Coonelly who must be kissing Robert Nutting’s butt and his pocketbook. In fact, Huntington is an extremely poor and inexperienced pick considering the men potentially available like Logan White, Tony LaCava, Eddie Bane, David Forst, and many, many, others.

The Nutting kin theme seems to continue – maximum profits with little to no regard for competition. The players are upset, the clubs are laughing at us again, and agents are wondering who the Pirates could ever get to sign with them.

I’m totally disgusted. The scant bit of hope I had left in my locker trying as hard as I could to believe anything Robert Nutting said, will be flushed down the toilet when Huntington is announced.

We had a chance.. we had a chance..

Confirmed – Huntington is new GM

What do you know, John Perrotto got this one right.. Neal Huntington has been tapped to be the next Pirates GM.

There was some speculation that since Boston Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer interviewed Wednesday, that signaled that round one talks were continuing but, just as Perrotto reported, baseball sources around the game are confirming Huntington has accepted the position.

Other chatter around the game is that Dan Duquette’s hand prints are all over Robert Nutting’s "new" Pirates. It will be interesting to see if he is offered a position.

More when we hear it.

Perrotto: Huntington’s the GM

Beaver County Times writer John Perrotto stated this morning that:

"The Pittsburgh Pirates have all but settled on their next general manager and it appears their choice is going to be a surprise.

Multiple baseball sources told The Times on Thursday night that the Pirates are leaning heavily toward hiring Neal Huntington, a special assistant to the general manager with the Cleveland Indians."

Wow – just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse in Pittsburgh, Perrotto comes up with the name of Dave Littlefield’s assistant in Montreal.

Brutal.

Since Perrotto has been known to see flying cows at times, I’m not going to hold my breath that Coonelly and Nutting are so stupid they plan to hire Littlefield II.

What a PR nightmare.

Knowing Coonelly was still conducting interviews late this week, we’re going to write off Perrotto’s article as a joke on Pirates’ fans for right now.

A sick joke.

Amaro pulls out, Wade named Astros GM

Word around the game is that Ruben Amaro Jr. was handed the GM position with the Astros with Ed Wade becoming his senior advisor and Amaro withdrew his name.

Perhaps Amaro feels he has a better opportunity in Pittsburgh or Kansas City?

A week or two ago Bucco Blog had heard the the Pirates were considering a senior advisor type position but we didn’t mention it because the candidate we thought it was designed for, Chris Antonetti, quickly dropped out. Whether or not the Pirates actually considered it we don’t know.

But in any case, we wish the Astros all the luck in the world with their new GM Ed Wade.

* snicker … snicker *

And we hope Amaro isn’t on any list in Pittsburgh.

* gag *