Prospects Alone Won’t Get the Job Done in Pittsburgh

2-23-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

The goal is to win a championship, right?

I mean if being competitive was enough for fans, I’d say the three years the Pirates reached the playoffs in the last decade would be seen as more of a success. Well folks, I’m here to tell you, that goal simply isn’t going to come without getting parts and pieces from elsewhere.

It’s funny, all many have wanted to tell you are things like ‘trust the process!’ or ‘they have to build through the system!’, now all of the sudden I’m here telling you, eh, I know you’ve picked prospects you really believe in, but some of them are gonna get traded.

Well, that’s all part of the process folks were telling you to trust. At some point this team will have to go get major league players to fill major league roles. In a normal market, I’d probably just be telling you they’ll have to spend money or sign some guys. In this market, I’m telling you when the time comes Ben Cherington will have to spend some of the savings account he’s been hoarding since he got here, in the form of prospect capital.

I’m not saying that time is now, but I’m also not saying it for sure shouldn’t be. When you’re building a team you must recognize where the holes are in your system, of course try to fill them with prospects to develop, but at the same time understand where you have so many a blockade is set up where you can trade from strength.

If that guy you want and need comes available now, you can’t let a silly perceived timeline deter you from making the move. If for instance the Pirates we mentioned earlier from last decade had done that, they never go get AJ.

It’s an important period of time for this effort. Selfishly, it’s a much more fun time to talk about the rebuild process, because I can start brainstorming real baseball trades. You know, like this team needs an upgrade here, what do we have in the stock room we can move to get it? As opposed to who can we get for one of our few really good players who might be good 4 years from now?

Doesn’t mean there won’t be more conversations like that, but where we are now is a different level in which we get to start daring to consider it ok to actually, you know, improve the major league product.

I’m not blind, some of you have been at this point through this whole damn thing. I’m hoping as you watch over the next year or two some of the prospect that came in get sent out for MLB players in return, you at least see why that part had to happen.

I just caution you, if and when this build comes together, it won’t be 100% constructed from this farm system. Just won’t.

I’m not here to predict which prospects will get moved or who they should target, but the fact we’ll eventually get to this point is the safest bet in sports. It’s not even just because the system is incapable of providing, it’s more about timing.

I’m a firm believer in precursors. In chemistry or team building you can’t just put a bunch of players (or substances) together and get the reaction you’re looking for, sometimes you need a precursor that pulls everything together. That’s exactly what AJ was for this team. He brought moxie along with his skills. He showed this group of kids it wasn’t just ok to expect to win every night, it should be expected as a professional athlete.

It was suddenly ok to be proud of your team, it was for the first time in seemingly forever ok to not use the franchise history as a crutch.

He was the straw that stirred the drink and under his shadow others blossomed into leaders themselves.

More than anything, you might have a more talented team with nothing but a bunch of 1st or 2nd year players, but the likelihood it pulls together into a winning squad is asking a bit much.

There’s a reason you can’t point to a club that developed everything and won without making moves to pull it off.

Just look at these numbers.

66% of first round picks make MLB. That means just play in the league, not succeed. In other words, Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, and Will Craig are all in that 66% win rate.

Round 2 it drops all the way to 49%.

Rounds 3-5 and the percentage drops to 32%.

6-10, you guessed it didn’t you? Down to 20% and so on and so on.

In other words, as sexy as that draft was on paper last season for the Pirates, the likelihood that the top 5 picks all make the league, let alone turn into stars isn’t high.

I don’t say this to discourage you, I still think stacking prospects as the Pirates have is the best way to mitigate this reality. I bring it up because when the time comes and the Pirates decide to move someone like a Bubba Chandler (chill it’s just an example, not a prediction) for that first baseman they need or a locked on veteran starter, the odds are on their side this time.

Of course they should sign free agents as well, but let’s face it, that’s not going to slap fans who’ve been conditioned to scour the prospect rankings in the face, this stuff will.

Stacking prospects can work to a degree, but as we just saw this off season, at some point protecting all of them becomes impossible, so of course you’re going to consider moving some of them.

I commend some of you who’ve bought into a process you were absolutely not on board with when it started. It’s because of that admiration I feel the need to prepare you for some of the product of that work heading right back out the door.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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