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Alvarez vs. Beckham: What's the Long-Term Plan?

In the comment section to a previous thread, Patthatt writes:

How about we take the HS guy with a huge upside in Tim Beckham, be patient and hope he develops over the next 3-4 years like Andrew McCutchen, and possibly Neil Walker, and cross our fingers that the combination of young talent above, other draftees, and whatever new people we bring in through the expected trades later this year and beyond make the Pirates a perennial contender from 2011/12?

So far, I personally favor drafting Beckham, but others know a lot more about these players than I do. And either way, I think the Bucs should take the best overall player, or the most talented player, without regard for when he will get to the majors. It's the second overall pick, and you shouldn't try to get fancy with the second overall pick. You should just draft an awesome player, regardless of who he is.

There is something to this strategy, though, or at least its general outline. I recall seeing a comment on a message board once that I thought was interesting (no link, because I can't remember who said it or where). The idea was that if you're a new GM working with a non-contending team with no farm system, you should pick up a bunch of high school talent in your first few drafts, then grab a bunch of college talent in your next couple drafts, then watch them all arrive in the majors at the same time. It's idealistic, of course, but it's an interesting strategy, and it seems like the Pirates' best shot at winning a couple division titles in a row.

Think about it -- if the Pirates draft Pedro Alvarez and he's in the majors by the end of 2009, what good does it do? I suppose it's possible the Pirates contend in 2010, but I seriously doubt it. If the Bucs draft Beckham and he doesn't get to the majors until 2012, the Bucs probably won't be much worse for wear, and they get to keep Beckham through at least 2017. 

It's pretty sad that our organization is in such terrible shape that we have to think about how to be competitive in 2016 and 2017 but, again, that's about when high school draftees from the 2009 and 2010 drafts would be entering their primes, and it's also about when we can finally expect our revamped Dominican program to really start working for us, if it ever does.

By the way, this is something like the strategy the Brewers have employed (probably inadvertently at first, although now I'm pretty sure they're doing it on purpose). They grabbed Corey Hart in 2000 and Prince Fielder in 2002 out of high school. They then grabbed Rickie Weeks as a college junior in 2003; he was only about a year and a half older than Fielder. Then they took Ryan Braun out of college in 2005, and he zoomed through the minors and arrived in 2007; Braun is just a few months older than Fielder. After taking high school pitcher Jeremy Jeffress in 2006 (which admittedly muddies the waters), they grabbed an advanced college hitter in Matt LaPorta with their first pick in the 2007 draft, and now they seem to be trying to get LaPorta through the system as quickly as possible. Between Hart, Fielder, Weeks, Braun, J.J. Hardy and LaPorta, the Brewers now have a core of young hitters who are all pretty close to the same age. 

Again, this only should pertain to this particular pick as a tiebreaker. If the Bucs feel that Alvarez is markedly better than Beckham, they should take Alvarez. But if, as some have suggested, the player to whom Alvarez best compares is Evan Longoria, then we should keep in mind that one reason picking Longoria was so great for the Rays is that the Rays already had a large collection of similar-aged talent to surround Longoria with. The Bucs don't have that. If the Bucs can grab their B.J. Upton now and wait a few years to grab their Longoria, that'd be ideal.