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Bucco Breakfast: One more piece on international signings

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Dominican Republic v Australia - WBSC U-15 World Cup Group B Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

This is a followup to some of the discussion on the Pirates’ international signings. There were some questions about how the Pirates compare to other teams. Any serious examination is going to take a lot more than a Bucco Breakfast piece, but I thought I’d make one, very limited, comparison.

What I did was count up the number of international signings in each team’s top 30 prospects in the most recent Baseball America prospect handbook. That would be last year’s book, but the exact year shouldn’t really matter much because we’ve been trying to look at the Pirates’ performance over time.

Of course, this is a flawed process in a lot of ways. For instance, some teams, like the White Sox and Tigers, built their current systems heavily through trades. Others, like the Cubs and Red Sox, depleted their systems through trades. Another problem is that a team’s top 30 could be heavy with international prospects because their drafting is really bad. With other teams, international prospects could be underrepresented because the drafting is really good. This wouldn’t, however, apply to the Pirates, because there’s no principled argument that their drafting under the current front office has been anything other than below average.

Anyway, here’s what I found. The average is 10.4.

18: Yankees, Phillies
15: Nationals, Padres, Astros
14: Tigers
12: Angels, Cards, Jays
11: Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Marlins, Rays, Rangers
10: Braves
9: Indians, Twins, Giants
8: Cubs, Royals, Mets, A’s
7: White Sox, Reds, Dodgers, Pirates
6: Orioles
5: Rockies, Mariners
4: Brewers

Over time, for what it’s worth, the Pirates’ numbers were pretty steady:

2011: 6
2012: 7
2013: 8
2014: 10
2015: 7
2016: 6

The uptick resulted from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 classes, which produced Gregory Polanco, Elias Diaz, Gift Ngoepe, Willy Garcia, Alen Hanson and Jose Osuna.

I’m not sure whether this exercise necessarily says much about any one team, but the overall numbers (just over a third of all the prospects on the top 30) provide some idea of where the talent comes from. This correlates quite well with Craig Edwards’ ranking of prospect values. (Of course, Edwards’ list is current and the above numbers are a year old.) Of Edwards’ 131 most valuable prospects, almost exactly a third (44), including all of the top four, were international signees.

I don’t have any trouble concluding that a team doing a poor job in the international arena is dramatically lowering its odds of succeeding.

FanPost Fridays

  • Long John Silver posted Part 2 on his Rule 5 draft history. We all knew about Clemente, but there was some more guys I had no idea about.
  • Zogger52 notes that Cole Tucker has been hot in the Arizona Fall League, which concluded play yesterday. You can check out AFL stats for the Pirates’ players here. Will Craig has also been hot; he hit his sixth HR today. It’d be pretty darn timely if he built on the increased power he’s shown this year. Bryan Reynolds has been better lately, although his stats overall aren’t so good. Of the three pitchers, Blake Weiman did well, while Geoff Hartlieb and Matt Eckelman had a rough time.