With all due respect to Pat, who I think is dead-on in his writing about 99% of the time, there are a number of assertions I disagree with here (like the notion that the phrase "five-tool" doesn't really mean anything, for example), but I'll just concentrate on this one:
There's a couple reasons why I think the Pirates are looking towards Alvarez as the pick. One is that I assume that Huntington is planning on building around Walker and McCutchen and Alvarez is about the same age as the two of them. Adding a third player to that core would be just another step in the right direction.
If, in fact, the Pirates are leaning toward Alvarez (and most indications suggest that Pat's right about that), I hope it would be for the sole reason that he's the best player available, because the idea that McCutchen and Walker will form the core of a good team is just way off base.
McCutchen might become a star, but the evidence there is far from definitive. He was mediocre in Class AA last year. While he appears to be back on track this year -- so far he's shown a good mix of contact, speed, patience and power at AAA -- that's no assurance of future success. For perspective, McCutchen's list of PECOTA comparables entering this season included Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Torii Hunter. It also included busts like Choo Freeman, Jason Romano and Corey Smith. I usually roll my eyes when someone brings up Chad Hermansen on a message board, and I don't think McCutchen is nearly as likely to go belly-up as Hermansen was, but a bit of caution is in order. You can compare McCutchen to someone like Jay Bruce or Justin Upton to see why. There are better prospects out there.
As for Walker, even if he works out I don't think he's a core player. He's never shown the sort of power you'd hope to see from a third baseman, and his career minor league OBP is .324. His performance this year has been horrible. In fairness, he's been young for his leagues, but other than the first-round pedigree, where's the evidence that this guy is an elite prospect?
Maybe I'm putting words in Pat's mouth some here, but the question remains: Are these guys core players? I'd say that McCutchen has a pretty good chance of being one, but it's far from certain, and that's it. He's one player. After that the Pirates' minor league system has Steve Pearce and a bunch of suspects.
In other words, there's no core here. It just doesn't exist. The Reds have a great core of young players. So do the Diamondbacks. The Pirates don't. That's why, all other things being equal, I'd prefer a high-upside high school kid. If the Pirates want to take Alvarez, that's fine with me, but it had better be because he's the best, not because they want to add to some existing core (and certainly not because of who is agent is). They can grab the Pedro Alvarezes of the world later, once they actually have that core in place.
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Incidentally, if you'd told me when I started blogging that I would become some sort of advocate for toolsy high school talent, I would have laughed at you.