I was reading a little blurb on Jose Tabata today on BA and it got me thinking a little bit about his status as a prospect. It seems this year that many Pirates prospects are having great years, but they just aren't developing quite how we (as fans) expected them to. The reason I find this especially interesting with Tabata is mostly because I was thinking back on Neil Huntington's comments regarding his age, and how it was a "non-factor" to management. Anyway, I'm starting to think maybe its because management views (and maybe always viewed) Tabata as a top-of-the-order hitter (especially at this stage in his career). If anything, he's become faster this year, his plate discipline is improving, he's trying to steal more bags, and on top of that, management's been batting him at leadoff ever since receiving him. I just think it's possible that the people in charge were always looking at him a little differently than everybody else, and that sort of makes his start this year that much more interesting.
It also got me thinking about our 'system' in place in the minor leagues. It's been reported as much improved, but also strict compared to other teams. It seems like last year all the prospects we acquired in our trades struggled, and had a hard time adjusting to it. At the end of the year, however, we started to see better outings, and then all the sudden this year we've had a lot of those same players posting legitimately enormous improvements across the board. The three that first come to mind are Bryan Morris (who had a terrible year last year), Jeff Locke, and Nathan Adcock. None of them performed very well when we first acquired them (5.57 ERA, 4.08 ERA, and 5.25 ERA respectively) and now after having spent some time in the system all three are posting excellent K/BB ratios, large strikeout numbers, and good ERA's (all better than any other phase in their careers to date).
The general point of this is to try and put the struggles of some other prospects in perspective, specifically but not exclusively Tim Alderson and Gorkys Hernandez. Honestly, I was never a fan of either, and I more or less considered both of them busts even a week ago, but after thinking about it a little bit, I think there's good chance that those guys came into our system and management wanted to change just about everything. Both prospects are very young for their levels, obviously talented, and probably struggling with new approaches, mechanics, etc, etc that management, as shown with Bryan Morris, will simply force on you whether you're willing or not. Even if they have a bad year, I'm not so sure that's necessarily a horrible thing for their development. It's strange to say, but it seems like there might need to be a little bit of regression (or failure) before there's any real growth with certain players. So, to put it straight, I think the year to really examine those two players might not even be till next year, where they'll either have bought into it or not. A good example this year for Hernandez is Neil Walker, who's done just about everything management has asked of him and is having his best year to date by far. The turnaround is pretty remarkable, which leaves me skeptical, but at the same time he's doing things he legitimately hardly hinted at before, most notably with plate patience (which we've heard management harp on continuously).
Anyway, it's an interesting topic, and it certainly seems like our system is starting to do some really positive things developing players. Obviously acquiring talent is only half the battle, and I guess we'll see throughout the year if these guys can keep it up, and if some other guys start to turn it around as the year moves on. Cool stuff.