Through The Prospect Porthole: Capitalizing On Farm System Depth

12-22-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

A little over two weeks ago, the Pirates had eleven players poached from their Farm System during the Minor League Portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Ultimately, these losses will more than likely be proven to be inconsequential, as history has shown that the odds of picking an impact player in this fashion is nearly equal to winning the lottery.

Still, it’s hard to imagine that any team likes to have prospects removed from their organization for next to nothing. I mean the Pirates will receive between $12,000 and $24,000 for each player selected, along with the $100,000 for Blake Sabol, (Insert Bob Nutting Hoarding All His Pennies Joke Here); however, this is hardly maximizing the return on investment.

Plus, Pittsburgh shelled out approximately $148,000 of their own; so, how much money could they have realistically made on the day?

It’s pretty much near a wash when we are talking about million, and even billion dollar businesses.

So, why are we even talking about this?

Well, it seems that the main reason is to question why Ben Cherington and Company would only protect 31 players from the Minor League Portion, when they had the opportunity to add 38 players to the Triple-A Reserve List.

First of all, you would have to imagine Blake Sabol took up one of these roster spots. Secondly, the Pirates just lost two players-Miguel Yajure and Ali Sanchez-on waivers, who would need a place to land if they weren’t claimed. And finally, it’s hard to predict if and when guys will start to sign MiLB deals throughout the entire process; each of which would require protection as well.

The next reason-and probably the most likely explanation-would be trying to prove incompetence on the part of the Pirates Front Office. In other words, isn’t Cherington trying to build up a Farm System based on depth, rather than one that can be torn down?

Obviously, this is a little bit over dramatic; although, there could potentially be some truth left, when you wash away the bleak outlook that is often painted by the most downtrodden fans.

Just this past season we watched Luis Ortiz make his way from Altoona, and through Indianapolis, on his way to Pittsburgh; after having closed out the 2021, as part of the Low-A Bradenton Marauders starting rotation. During his time in the Florida State League, Ortiz posted a 3.09 ERA and a 1.260 WHIP, with 113 strike outs, across 87.1 innings at 22 years of age.

Now, with a couple selections by the A’s-with the #1 Overall Pick-and the Marlin’s a couple of rounds later, the Pirates lost a starter who had performed pretty well at LECOM this past season and a reliever that found his way north to Greensboro without much of a drop-off. You see, the Minor League Portion is different from the MLB side of things in that there is no requirement for how long a guy has to stay on an active roster or anything. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

So, 21 year-old Joelvis Del Rosario and his 3.68 ERA and 1.290 WHIP in 19 starts, along with 22 year-old Cristian Charle’s 2.52 ERA and 1.099 WHIP across relief appearances in Bradenton and Greensboro, are out the door for the Pirates; at a price tag of around $24,000.

No doubt this limited success doesn’t guarantee an Ortiz-like rise through the system, but it can’t be ruled out; and; at the very least, couldn’t they at least sell another team on the promise?

The same would go for getting some sort of return for Sabol-which the Reds did -as the rumors swirled around him at the Arizona Fall League. If you weren’t going to protect Sabol, why not try to get something for him?

Yes, I realize it’s easier said than done; yet, you have to think there was more smoke from other front offices around the league concerning the Pirates Farm System.

Sometimes it feels like Cherington thinks he is smarter than everyone else in the room; which isn’t the same thing as saying that he is dumb. Maybe, he’s just a little bit overconfident; in a rebuild that is leaving very little room for error, if he wants it to be successful.

Moving forward, Cherington and Company simply need to do better.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

7 thoughts on “Through The Prospect Porthole: Capitalizing On Farm System Depth

  1. Thanks this is well explained. The unnecessary loss of minor league talent does not inspire confidence in the breadth and depth of the Pirates’ baseball operations.

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  2. Do I misunderstand the ability to add and subtract guys from this protected list, same as the 40-man but without the DFA/waiver vulnerabilities? In other words, why not keep the slots filled and then just remove a guy when the spot’s needed?

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    1. Even with the 40-Man there was a point in the off-season when the only way to make room was through trade and waivers (not the normal DFA type of waiver); hence Sanchez and Yajure being claimed without the DFA process). The protected list was set much like this. Players signed to Minor League Deals could be added.

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      1. Right, but I’m asking why not have the 37 slots filled and then simply take the least attractive of them off when acquiring a more attractive player? If there’s a consequence to that (other than exposing to Rule V minor-league phase), then perhaps I could understand leaving several slots open, but otherwise it’s definitely poor roster management.

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      2. Because they can’t just take them off. Same went for the 40-Man. They would have had to make them part of a trade to clear up the spot.

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  3. Other than Sabol I wonder if anyone of these players were in the long-term plans or management before the draft. If the answer is yes, then someone dropped the ball but in more possible terms isn’t it possible or more likely that the players while good @ their current level had visible issues that made them in the eyes of the scouts- expendable if someone else wanted them because of flaws that may show up @ the higher levels?

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