The Pirates have signed 12th-round pick Jeff Inman, a pitcher from Stanford. Inman had a terrible season in 2009, but he was a highly regarded prospect before that, so the Pirates paid a well above slot bonus ($425,000) to lure him away from a senior season at Stanford. There's a lot of downside risk here, but there's also upside as well. The Pirates have now signed all of their first 14 picks, and I'm not sure there's any reasonable argument to be made that the controversial selection of Tony Sanchez with the fourth overall pick was due to a general unwillingness to spend money.
In fact, they've spent a ton, much more than I thought they would, getting a surprising number of tough-to-sign prospects under team control. Now that they have, I give the 2009 draft my endorsement. I wasn't on board with the Sanchez pick when it happened, but his hitting so far has swayed me a little, and I like the idea of spending a little bit on a hitter rather than a lot on a pitcher, since amateur pitchers are always such a risky proposition. The next few picks after that (Victor Black, Brooks Pounders, Evan Chambers) didn't do much for me either. But the players the Bucs got in the late rounds--Zack Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, Trent Stevenson, Joey Schoenfeld, Inman--more than make up for any questions I might have about the first few picks. If the Bucs were to sign a couple more players by the deadline, too, all the better.
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I have some friends here from out of town right now and haven't had as much time as usual to watch the games, but it's hard not to notice a 17-2 score, particularly after some of the other blowout games the Pirates have been on the wrong end of recently. I'll try to refrain from commenting much on the last week or so until I can get to a computer and watch some of the archived games, but in general I'll say this--whenever there's a period of bad baseball like this, there are always a ton of people ready to be angry.
The fact, though, is that the Pirates are still a sort of garden-variety bad team, and every garden-variety bad team has stretches like this. Things should improve, at least to a degree, if only because no team is this bad for an entire season. The trades the Bucs made a couple weeks ago weakened the talent of the team in the short term, but not nearly enough to turn them into the Cleveland Spiders. They should bounce back and return to garden-variety bad baseball, which isn't necessarily fun, but at least will have the benefit of showing which of their dozen or so marginal major leaguers deserve a clear shot at a job next year. I don't mean to apologize for bad baseball, but I do see it as a necessary evil right now while the Bucs continue to sort things out--the groundwork for the Pirates' struggles this season and next was laid years ago. It is fair to get angry, but it's not particularly fair to draw draconian conclusions from the trades. The Pirates weren't good before them, either, and there wasn't much they could have done this year to change that, and they're not as bad now as a couple weeks of bad baseball make them look.