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2008 Draft Picks Take Center Stage In Arizona Fall League

This is a tough time of year for the blog. There's very little baseball for us, obviously, and no one really saying much, which makes things tricky. I was thinking the other day about how a lot of blogs in times like this publish these posts that look back at what happened, and I have certainly done that too, but ideally you don't want to look at things, you want to see things. You want to have a spark of inspiration behind what you write rather than just beginning with a premise and trying to create something to write about. So I think I'll skip the 2010 summary this year, since most of the season was awful and most of the summary would be stuff we've already talked about too much. (Akinori Iwamura bad! Defense somehow even worse! Neil Walker good! Zach Duke actually not that bad!)

Anyway, there is some Pirates baseball going on right now in Arizona. You probably saw in the post below this one Keith Law's tweet that Justin Wilson is touching 95 MPH out there. That's great velocity for a lefty, and it's great that he can do that after pitching 142 innings for Altoona this year, but it probably also helps that he knows he isn't expected to go six-plus innings. None of the Bucs' three pitchers, including Wilson, Brian Leach and Aaron Pribanic, have allowed a run yet. Among the hitters, Jordy Mercer has been the best so far, going 6-for-14. Tony Sanchez is at .333/.333/.385, Andrew Lambo is at .292/.292/.458, and Josh Harrison hasn't hit much at all.

Wilson, Leach and Mercer are from the Pirates' 2008 draft, and now that we've had two years to see what a real draft looks like, it's interesting how it has shaken out. The Pirates had 50 selections in that draft. They signed 32. Of those, by my count, eight (Chris Aure, Edwin Roman, Matthew Payne, Alan Knotts, Albert Fagan, Allen Ponder, Owen Brolsma, Craig Parry) appear to be out of the organization already. Chris Simmons, who was drafted (by the Pirates) out of the U.S. Military academy and who was deployed to Iraq, probably isn't coming back either, and neither, probably, will Kyle Saukko, who played very little this season. And Brent Klinger was a pretty marginal prospect to begin with, and he had shoulder surgery this season.

That leaves 19 players out of the original 50. Several of those are role players who I would say have almost no shot at big-league success, including David Rubinstein, Kyle Morgan, Mike Williams, and Cole White (who has a pretty good excuse, given that he was in the armed forces for a couple years after being drafted), along with with Wesley Freeman, who looks like a bust.

That leaves 14 players. Among them are Pedro Alvarez, who already is a starter in the majors, and Justin Wilson, who has an excellent chance of contributing in the big leagues. There are also three pretty good speculative prospects in Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller and Jarek Cunningham. Mercer and Chase D'Arnaud look pretty likely to make it to the bigs, but they haven't given much reason to expect big things once they get there. And after that, there are fringy prospects and potential role players: Benjamin Gonzalez, Jeremy Farrell, Matt Hague, Calvin Anderson, Michael Colla, Tyler Cox, and Leach. 

This looks pretty depressing on paper, but I don't mean it to be a condemnation. In fact, still having 14 players who could potentially get to the big leagues two years after the draft is probably a pretty good result overall. The results also show how important it is for the Pirates to spend money in the draft, since all of the seven best prospects are either early-round picks (Mercer, D'Arnaud, Wilson) or big-bonus players (Grossman, Miller, Cunningham) or both (Alvarez).