7-15-21 – By Gary Morgan
It’s been a fairly positive stretch here for Pirates fans this last week, I mean no games or player movement tossed together with feel good moments like the All Star Game and the Draft and of course it’s been more positive.
It certainly hasn’t stopped the questions though, so lets dig in on a couple shall we?
Why Should Anyone Care About Farm System Rankings?
This one is tricky.
I mean, the easy answer is being top rated in anything you do is good right? Now, it means nothing for this version of the MLB level Pittsburgh Pirates seems to be the marching call for those who want to make sure you don’t experience joy.
Technically, it doesn’t mean anything is the truth. It simply means their group of prospects have high ceilings. It doesn’t mean they’ll all make it, it doesn’t mean they’ll all reach that projected ceiling, it doesn’t mean the job is done. It just means that right now, they’ve done a good job of acquiring, drafting and developing top end talent that should or at the very least have a chance to impact the MLB club in the future.
This isn’t some magic number. In other words there isn’t a history of teams having the top or near the top farm system and the MLB club wins in 2.75 years or something silly like that. In fact these ranking systems have very little to do with the actual timing of the prospects graduating. In other words, you could have the top farm system in baseball and the top 8-10 prospects are 18-19 in Single A.
Mitch Keller is a perfect example of tempering expectations here. He was the Pirates top prospect in 2018, and as high as 7th as rated by MLB. We’ve obviously seen him sputter start here and while he could very well figure things out and get back up here, and there are signs he’s making strides, he certainly didn’t have impact in 2019 when he arrived.
The point is, it matters because it’s the goal. You’re rebuilding your system, stands to reason you’d want to see it become a top ranked unit, right?
At some point things start to flip. These players start making the club and graduate from the prospect lists, and the hope is you have more coming from behind keeping the system well positioned to help.
Let’s say the Pirates are ready to add, and their internal top 30 prospects have 7-8 of MLB’s overall top 100 baked in. They can potentially trade their 7th or 8th ranked prospect for something they need in MLB without depleting their system. If they have a low ranked system with like 2 or 3 members of the top 100, it’s going to be much harder to make the call that one of them isn’t needed.
Long way of saying, yes it matters, no it doesn’t guarantee anything. That said, if I want to buy a house, I must first save some money for a deposit before making an offer. Now, you wouldn’t run around to family and friends telling them you’re a homeowner right as you’ve reached your savings goal anymore than you should be running around saying you have a World Series in the bag when your farm system reaches number one. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited or see a bright future, just means the work isn’t done. They’ll need more.
How Can You Be Excited About Draft Picks Before They Sign?
I think this one is just disingenuous outrage primarily.
If I’m trying my best to be fair, I can say academically, yes, the draft picks don’t matter unless they sign them. Of course.
This is Ben Cherington’s second draft, so I suppose trust isn’t established and of course some won’t sign.
Teams also do their homework. Yes, even the Pirates.
They won’t swing and miss on many of these picks, and I’ll be blunt, some they “miss” on will be intentional. Meaning they make a pick they don’t think they can sign late as an insurance policy for someone they picked early who was maybe 75% on signing. Or they pick someone late who they know won’t sign just to save the money to use earlier.
This isn’t worth worrying about. I’d bet the farm they sign 17-18 of their picks and all top 4. If they missed on one, it’s not like this becomes some disaster draft.
I’ve even had a few people question that Henry Davis will sign. C’mon, there’s being jaded, and then there’s silly, guess which one this is.
Why Does the Media Coverage of the Pirates Matter?
Well, if you have followed me on social media or read/listened to my stuff for any length of time then you’re aware its not about being positive or negative, it’s about honesty and fairness.
For instance here’s a statement that makes me mental. “This team can’t develop anyone so who cares about prospects!”
Now, if you say that, how could anyone argue that this has been the case? This is where fairness comes into play, because that statement doesn’t acknowledge every tangible thing that plays into development has been turned over since 2019.
Now, that doesn’t mean I can sit here and say problem solved any more than you can pretend nothing’s changed, but it certainly can’t be stated as fact that “this team” can’t develop.
It’s little stuff like that. And you’re very right as you sit there thinking I should just ignore the coverage like that if I don’t like it, and I largely do. Problem is, some of you don’t, and you take that straw man or overt falsehood to my doorstep where I have to look like I’m defending an organization rather than watching something unfold and talking about it.
The very reason Craig and I started this site was our frustration with a large percentage of the coverage of this baseball team. There are plenty of blogs, plenty of journalists out there and I’m sure most of you read a bunch of them, we have and do too. Many of them do great work, but few who don’t create false narratives that only make the general public more frustrated.
I want nothing more than the audience asking questions based in reality. All I want is a discourse based in truth. One of those truths that hasn’t changed is Bob Nutting, and I challenge anyone to find one instance of me saying with any certainty that he’s going to suddenly spend a ton of money or did enough in the past. I’m not unaware of what this team is up against both internally and from the league itself. But if you want to start a conversation about the draft with Nutting won’t spend to draft…, forget it.
You can be honest and still criticize. You can be skeptical but not pessimistic. More than anything, you can just admit, sometimes you don’t know how something is going to turn out. But man if everything is doom because of one man, I actually get it, but I’m not going to spend every waking moment fighting that off. He’ll either do what is required when it comes or he won’t. If he doesn’t we’ll let him have it, and if I’m honest with you, even if he does in fact step up, many will move the goalposts to make sure he still didn’t do enough.
He created this situation, and it isn’t our job to save him. Essentially, don’t expect any flowery tributes to the owner if and when they do actually pull it off. He’ll still be a big reason it took so long after all.
If that’s not the kind of coverage you’re looking for, well, we’re aware we didn’t pick the easiest path to fame and fortune, I’ll settle for the knowledge I’ve tried to be honest about this team.