The year is 2023 and it’s opening day for Major League Baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Ke’Bryan Hayes is gearing up to take a run at winning his third Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in a row, as Liover Pegeuro and Nick Gonzalez field grounders from 1st Baseman Mason Martin. In the outfield Bryan Reynolds, Travis Swaggerty and Oneil Cruz are playing catch, while waving at the fans in the packed bleachers. On the mound the phenom Kumar Rocker is effortlessly throwing into the mid and upper 90’s and is returned crisply out of the glove of Francisco Alvarez, who was acquired a few years earlier in the Adam Frazier deal. Down in the dugout, designated hitter Rodolfo Castro grips onto his newly minted Louisville Slugger, while trying on his shiny batting helmet with the Pirates P proudly positioned in the middle. Prior to the season the Young Bucs, as they are collectively called, have been named as one of the up and coming teams in the league and are primed to make a run at the NL Central Division Crown. This is the goal, which is becoming somewhat of an expectation, that some Pirates Fans have set General Manager Ben Cherington and his new regime. Others have taken it on step further and just assume that this is what is going to happen.
Could this scenario play out in real life? Yes, although everything would have to go exactly according to plan. Should it be the expectation? Maybe, but I see it more as something to hope for. Should it be an assumption? Absolutely not, because it leaves no room for any circumstance outside of each prospect at every position reaching there full projection; which even in the best run organizations rarely comes to fruition.
These assumptions, and expectations to a certain degree, lead fans to make statements about already having enough middle infield prospects or not acquiring a centerfielder or even outfield depth because Pegeuro, Gonzalez, Swaggerty and Cruz already have those positions filled. Could they? Possibly, but it is not even close to being guaranteed. There are too many factors that could affect a prospects development, not including injuries, to believe that each and everyone of these players futures are promised.
There have been countless studies done on the success rate of prospects in both the top 100 in all of MLB, that can be utilized to predict outcomes within the Top 30 prospects on each individual team as well. Broken down it’s as simple as the fact that approximately 70% of top prospects are not successful, as in being at or above a 2.0 WAR; which is the standard set for what constitutes an every day player in Major League Baseball. The overwhelming majority of players on this lists will be described as busts if and when they do do eventually reach the majors. Yet, somehow, I am supposed to believe that the Pirates are somehow immune to what amounts to almost 30 years of research at this point.
Along with the eight current players within the Pittsburgh Pirates Organization that I already mentioned, I could safely count at least six other sure-fire prospects that are destined for greatness according to some. This would mean that thirteen (Reynold’s is no longer a prospect) are destined for greatness, along with two players the team has yet to acquire and may not actually do so. Therefore, we can safely say that would be between 40-45% current above average Major League Players, 2.0 WAR or higher, currently in the system.
If you are counting on them being All-Stars the number drops to more like 16 to 17 percent, due to the 4.5 WAR cutoff for superior careers. Also if you want to differentiate between pitchers and position players, the rate of busts among pitchers is actually higher. Although, I don’t think this is necessary as I have already clearly made my point.
The reason(s) you acquire more players at each position, is so that you have a backup or two, and hopefully more, if your original plan does not work out. Also you have actual prospects and/or Major League Players who have genuine trade value when the time comes to add a player to your roster or restock the farm systems for future windows of opportunity; and in the best case scenario, to keep the current one open. You want guys competing for every position at every level of the organization, not one guy at each that you hope works out.
As a self proclaimed Prospect Junkie and supporter of all things both Minor and Major League Baseball, I wholeheartedly wish for the success of every player in the Pittsburgh Pirates Organization, while keeping my expectations realistic and making absolutely no assumptions along the way; because as my 8th Grade Science Teacher Mr. Curci always said, “Never assume anything!”.