In view of the Pirates 2013 success, some baseball fans are falling all over themselves in an attempt to jump on the Neal Huntington bandwagon. One talk-show caller last week was concerned a large-market team would come in and swoop Huntington away from the Pirates.
That is not going to happen and not just because Huntington is under contract through the 2015 season.
Huntington deserves tremendous credit for the Pirates' 2013 success. But much of that credit is not based on his ‘plan’ of stocking the farm system with lush talent, but rather extremely savvy personnel moves made on the MLB level. If Huntington had struck out on Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano -- as he did with the majority of his free-agent signings -- we would not be having this discussion.
Huntington’s drafting skill may well prove him a genius, but that day has not yet arrived. Thus far, among players drafted during his tenure, the biggest successes are Pedro Alvarez, Gerrit Cole, Jordy Mercer and Justin Wilson. And, yes, I understand his staff was instrumental in the development of other players, notably Starling Marte, but this discussion is about the draft, where so many of the Huntingtonphiles focus their love.
If you want to discuss brilliant drafting, you need to look at the World Series, which begins tonight and matches the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. The Cardinals are a participant based primarily on their success in the draft. It’s not just that they are selecting good players but they are doing it in later rounds as well as the early ones and getting those players to MLB with remarkable speed.
The Pirates drafted seven of the 25 players who were on their postseason roster: Alvarez, Cole, Andrew McCutchen, Mercer, Neil Walker, Tony Watson and Wilson. Four of those players were taken in the first round, one in the third, one in the fifth and one in the ninth.
Except for Cole, taken in 2011, all were drafted in 2008 or earlier.
Look at the Cardinals:
They drafted 16 of the 25 players who were on their NLCS roster. If that’s not amazing enough, eight of those players were drafted in 2009 or later.
The St. Louis players and the years they were drafted:
2006: Jon Jay, Shane Robinson
2007: Pete Kozma, Adron Chambers, Tony Cruz, Doug Descalso.
2008: Lance Lynn, Kevin Siegrist
2009: Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal
2011: Seth Maness, Kelton Wong
2012: Michael Wacha
That list does not include Allen Craig, who was on the disabled list and who led the team in RBIs during the regular season. He was drafted in 2006.
Now consider the Cardinals success drafting after the fifth round, where the Pirates have had almost no success:
Craig 6th round, Maness 11th, Carpenter 13th, Rosenthal 21st, Adams 23rd, Chambers 38th, Siegrist 41st. That list includes two starters, Carpenter and Adams/Craig, and Rosenthal, the closer, as well as two other valuable relievers, Maness and Siegrist.
The St. Louis pitching staff has seven members drafted in 2008 or later. The Pirates have two.
Even when picking in the first round, the Cardinals are picking late. The three pitchers on their roster taken in the first round are Shelby Miller, a 15-game winner this season, 19th; NLCS MVP Michael Wacha, also 19th, and Lance Lynn, another 15-game winner, 39th.
What a brilliant record of drafting.
This is not to suggest the Pirates drafting record has been poor. Compared to the Boston, for example, the Pirates have done well. On their ALCS roster, the Red Sox had six drafted players, only one taken after 2007 and only one after the second round.
Nor is this to suggest Huntington drafting strategy has been a flop. To the contrary, there’s a good chance it will prove successful.
But for the moment, it remains favorable but questionable. And pales next to the amazing success of St. Louis.