Frank Coonelly Discusses State College

Here's a good interview with Frank Coonelly in State College's Centre Daily Times. The interviewer's main concerns, for obvious reasons, are the minor league system in general and the State College Spikes in particular, so Coonelly gets pretty specific about some of the issues the Pirates have faced this year in stocking their minor league affiliates. 

The Spikes’ .231 winning percentage is the organization’s worst.

“We’re not happy about it at all,” Coonelly said. “It has been very disappointing. But we understand why it is what it is. It’s just the way our draft went. We didn’t draft in the higher rounds particularly many pitchers. In terms of the position players that we had, we had several positions where we selected multiple players. Hopefully we don’t have a situation like this again.”

 

About six weeks ago I said almost exactly the same thing about pitchers. Since I wrote that, the Bucs signed fifth rounder Justin Wilson and above-slot draftee Quinton Miller, but it was too late for them to help the Spikes this year. (And Miller probably would've been assigned to Bradenton anyway.)

The biggest problem with the pitching at State College--and Coonelly doesn't say this, for obvious reasons--was that nearly every pitcher left over from the Dave Littlefield regime was just wretched. Among Littlefield acquisitions, only Kyle MacPherson and Yoffri Martinez really got it done, and even those two weren't great. Drafting more pitchers would have helped, but it's not as if the Pirates didn't need hitting help also, and there probably would have been a trainwreck at State College no matter what, since Littlefield didn't leave many hitters for the Pirates to work with, either.

On the hitting side, Coonelly claims that the Pirates were hamstrung by taking lots of hitters in the draft who played the same position. That's true, but it only explains part of the problem. Third-rounder Jordy Mercer and fourth-rounder Chase D'Arnaud both played shortstop, and ninth-rounder Matt Hague and 34th-rounder Matthew Payne both played third base. In addition, the Bucs had eighth-rounder Jeremy Farrell to play third a little bit (he played first, too). So the Pirates bumped Mercer and Hague up to Hickory, which probably helped all five players' development but hurt State College. Also, the Spikes lost their best hitter, '08 draftee Cole White, when it turned out he had to return to the Army after playing his college ball there. 

On the whole, the Huntington draftees in State College's lineup were okay. Not great, but okay. Again, they got absolutely nothing from Littlefield's acquisitions. The best Littlefield-era hitter was Andy Vasquez, who posted a .697 OPS.

It is not really reasonable to have expected Coonelly and Huntington to make State College a good baseball team when they only really had the draft to help them accomplish that goal. Sure, many State College players were acquired in the draft, but for the most part, these players weren't huge parts of the problem. The problem was all the holdover players the Pirates had to use to fill in the gaps. These players were almost all terrible. 

In short, the problems at State College don't really say anything about the new Pirates management's ability to draft and develop players. Most of the blame for the Spikes' poor season lies with Littlefield, who left a ticking time bomb for his successor to deal with, and with the new management's decisions to be more aggressive in promoting players, find playing time for the most promising ones and get players to age-appropriate levels. Don't worry about State College; it doesn't mean a whole lot, and it probably isn't going to happen again next year.

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