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Analysis: Pirates’ woeful drafting, development hard to ignore |
Breakfast With Benz

Analysis: Pirates’ woeful drafting, development hard to ignore

Tim Benz
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first round draft pick Shane Baz and his family tour the ballpark with general manager Neal Huntington after he signed with the team Friday, June 16, 2017, at PNC Park.

As the Pirates were licking their wounds on the heels of a 17-5 defeat to Philadelphia the night before, I was at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs and Reds on Saturday afternoon.

Just as a fan, swigging Old Style and spilling nacho cheese all over my shorts.

I did both of those things. Repeatedly.

Chicago came back from 5-0 down to win, courtesy of a Jared Hughes blown save. And something struck me while watching the two teams.

No, this isn’t going to be a story blaming the Pirates by way of comparing their $102 million payroll to the Cubs and their $198 million payroll.

Rather, this is going to be a story about blaming the Pirates for not acquiring their own young talent and developing it like the Cubs.

Oh, and the Reds.

Yes, even the Reds.

For all of the griping we do as baseball fans in Pittsburgh about the financial inequities of the game, more of a light has to be cast on how poorly the Pirates have drafted and developed talent.

If the Pirates were better in that regard, maybe their inability to keep up financially wouldn’t be such an issue.

Considering how often the Pirates have selected in the upper tier of the draft over the years, where are all their prospect home runs like what the Cubs have?

Tyler Glasnow has disappointed. Jameson Taillon has yet to show he was worthy of a No. 2 overall draft choice. Gerrit Cole is starting to look like an ace. Too bad he is doing it for the Astros.

Gregory Polanco is nowhere near the superstar we were led to believe he would be.

Starling Marte is good, not great. Josh Bell has regressed in Year 2.

Stetson Allie and Luis Heredia are long forgotten about. But I’m sure Alen Hanson is about to pan out …

… in San Francisco.

You get the point. Meanwhile, that Cubs roster is caked with guys Chicago either drafted and developed on their own or were acquired with little-to-no Major League experience.

For example, Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber were first-round picks of the Cubs. David Bote, who had a huge pinch hit during the comeback, is an 18th-rounder. Willson Contreras is an international signee. He didn’t play that day. Neither did the injured Kris Bryant, a first-rounder who won an MVP.

Contreras and Baez are all-stars. Happ and Schwarber have combined for 20 homers. Almora is hitting .326.

Anthony Rizzo had all of 49 games of Major League experience in San Diego before the Cubs acquired him. Addison Russell had never played in the big leagues in Oakland before moving to the Windy City. They’ve combined for four All-Star Games.

Meanwhile, the Reds — a small-market team that spends $8 million more than the Pirates on players — sport a lineup boasting Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett. They each made the All-Star Game. Votto was drafted by the Reds. Cincinnati grabbed Gennett off waivers at 26 and Suarez had just 85 games of experience with the Tigers when Cincinnati traded for him.

Then there is Scott Schebler, who is hitting .283 with 12 homers. He spent 19 games with the Dodgers in 2015 before joining the Reds.

Is this one day of cherry picking by me? Yeah, it is. But these are two divisional rivals, one of whom is of the same demographic make up as the Pirates. And you get the point.

We can point fingers at the structure of baseball. We should. We can point fingers at ownership for not spending more. We should.

But the failure there has also been a breakdown when it comes to the baseball end of Pirates management. That may be in the general manager’s office and scouting department. That may be in the tutorial end of on field development.

More than likely, it’s both. That’s when the Pirates have to be introspective and say — in the words of Led Zeppelin — “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

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