Reality Check, Part II

UPDATE 3:03 AM: Just wanted to add a couple of things about Barton in response to Rogero's comment below. Barton has gotten on base a lot in the minors, but he's been old for his leagues. You can't take those numbers at face value, especially not for the purpose of predicting what he would do in the majors this year.

Let's play a game Rob Neyer used to play a lot:

PLAYER A Age 25, Class AA .291/.409/.462 381 AB 27 2B 12 HR
PLAYER B Age 26, Class AA .333/.407/.478 138 AB, 7 2B, 3 HR
PLAYER C Age 24, Class AA .305/.392/.468, 472 AB, 32 2B, 11 HR
PLAYER D Age 25, Class AA .314/.416/.440 389 AB, 18 2B, 9 HR
PLAYER E Age 24, Class AA .304/.396/.440 368 AB, 21 2B, 7 HR
PLAYER F Age 25, Class AA .282/.393/.488 451 AB, 29 2B, 20 HR

Which one's Barton? Can anyone guess?

Player A is Mike Stodolka, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2000 draft. He was a minor-league free agent after the season, so the Royals re-signed him to a minor-league deal. He made the transition from prospect to bust long ago.

Player B was Pirate farmhand Adam Boeve in 2006.

Player C is Angels third baseman Freddy Sandoval. Ever heard of him? I hadn't. Ever seen him on a list of the Angels' top ten prospects? I haven't. And Sandoval's younger than Barton, and he plays a tougher position, and he can steal bases.

Player D is Barton.

Player E is Tampa Bay first baseman Chris Nowak, who was eligible for the Rule 5 draft. He also can steal bases. Nobody took him, and nobody talked about him.

Player F is Marlins third baseman Lee Mitchell. I'd never heard of him before today. I believe he would've been eligible for the Rule 5 this year too; in any case, he was drafted in 2003 and isn't on the Marlins' 40-man. Nobody noticed him.

My point here is that a high OBP at the Class AA level means almost nothing for a 25-year-old. It certainly doesn't mean the player is going to have a high OBP in the majors. It often just means he's beating up on journeymen and younger prospects. Guys in their mid-20s who can post a good batting average and a good OBP at Class AA are not rare. In fact, they often aren't even considered prospects. And yes, I know that some of them aren't as athletic as Barton. But some of them are. And some of them have better power, or are younger.

I don't mean to be down on Barton. He can certainly be a decent bench outfielder in the majors. He'd be a good Rule 5 pick for the right team. But the Pirates don't need a bench outfielder right now, and they definitely don't need one who'd might well be out of his league in the majors right now anyway. I mean no disrespect to anyone who lobbied for Barton, but I think his are the sorts of minor league numbers that become a lot less interesting when one considers their context.

* * * * *
Following up on Pat's "reality check" post from Tuesday, I continue to be surprised about all the negativity I see about everything Neal Huntington has done so far. So, picking up where Pat left off, let's continue:

1. There is no reason whatsoever to be upset about the waiver claims Huntington has made. Ty Taubenheim, Kevin Thompson, Josh Wilson, Jimmy Barthmaier and Phil Dumatrait are not world-beaters, but, to my knowledge, Huntington has never claimed that they were. And while I'm not exactly sure why the Pirates acquired Wilson, these are all minor moves that, given the terrible state of the back end of the Pirates' roster, have just about no downside. If the worst thing that happens here is that the Pirates lose Shane Youman, well, trust me, there is nothing to complain about.

2. In my opinion, no one should be upset that the Bucs didn't pick Brian Barton or Chris Lubanski or whomever in the Rule 5 draft. (Well, except Lubanski's parents or something.) Lubanski's an interesting player, but he hit .208 in 168 at bats at Class AAA last year, and the Pirates already have a zillion outfielders. How are they supposed to keep Lubanski on the roster all season? And how are they supposed to keep Barton, another outfielder who flopped in a small sample at AAA last year and who doesn't have Lubanski's upside?

If the Pirates were short on outfielders, then I could almost see the complaint, but outfielders are the one thing the Pirates already have enough of. And there's a reason so many teams chose pitchers this year - it's really hard, especially in the National League, to keep a position player on the roster the whole year unless he can play lots of positions or is already very good. Neither Lubanski nor Barton fall into either of those categories.

I hesitate to even mention this name here for fear of a flame war, but remember all the problems the Pirates had with J.J. Davis in 2004? Davis wasn't a Rule 5 pick, of course, but he was out of options, so the Pirates couldn't just send him to the minors willy-nilly. So Lloyd McClendon kept him glued to the bench, where his presence handicapped the Pirates tactically. And then twice a week, McClendon would put Davis into a game and Davis would, like, try to throw a runner out at home by throwing the ball into the bullpen, or something, probably because he couldn't stay fresh from sitting on the bench all the time. Then, the Pirates had to claim that Davis had an injury - Davis said he was fine - in order to send him to Class AAA for a long rehab assignment.

Now, think whatever you want about Davis, but keep in mind that, unlike Lubanski or Barton, Davis had thoroughly dominated AAA by then. Would you really want the Pirates to spend the entire year with an outfielder on the roster who'd play as much as Davis did in 2004, and probably just as badly? Would you really want that even if it meant that Steve Pearce, who has no business in the minors, had to go back there? Would you want it even if it seriously stunted Lubanski's development (as it almost certainly would)? And why would you want to do that with a player like Barton, who'll be 26 early next season and has almost no star potential?

Relievers are much easier to keep on the roster than outfielders. Evan Meek has a better chance of working out than Barton or Lubanski would, and if he does, then you can trade a more expensive reliever for a prospect you don't have to hide on the major league roster.

3. No one should be upset that Huntington hasn't made a major move yet. These things can take time, so let's wait a couple months until we flip out. Huntington isn't acquiring Ty Taubenheim instead of making major moves. The more important moves will probably come later. If they don't, let's complain then.  

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