Upon reading Chuck Finder's reminder that Jeff Sues was the Pirates' 2008 minor league pitcher of the year, my thought was, wow, really? Jeff Sues was the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year? And the answer is yes: Sues pitched out of the Lynchburg and Altoona bullpens, struck out a bunch of guys he was older than, and won the award. Good for Sues for battling back from what seemed like several lifetimes' worth of injuries, but man, that's bleak. It doesn't look much better when you consider who the other candidates might have been. Jimmy Barthmaier, maybe? Jesse Chavez? Kyle Bloom? Ron Uviedo? Tony Watson? Barthmaier and Watson's seasons were probably the best by starters who pitched the whole season, and that's not saying a whole lot. This is worth thinking about before blasting Neal Huntington for the Pirates' not getting better immediately in his tenure. The farm system was just so bad.
Remember who their overall minor league player of the year was in 2008? Anybody? I'll wait. It was Jim Negrych, who had a good year with the stick but was a bit old for his levels, can't play defense and isn't really a prospect. Oh, and how about this one? Who was Indianapolis' Most Valuable Player in 2008? It was Neil Walker, who posted a .280 OBP. How about Altoona's 2008 MVP? The immortal Jonel Pacheco, who posted a .774 OPS. Lynchburg's? Jared Keel.
At the minor league levels, "most valuable players" and "best prospects" don't mean the same thing. But it's telling that most of these guys are irrelevant now. Sues and Negrych are very marginal prospects at best; Walker is still trying to hack his way out of AAA purgatory; and Pacheco and Keel aren't even in the organization anymore. This is just where the Pirates' minor league system was then. And we haven't even addressed the debacle at State College, where the Spikes went 18-56 thanks largely to a terrible collection of ballplayers left over from the Dave Littlefield era.
Wow, what a mess.