Friday, February 1, 2013

International Pitching Prospects: Trend or Concidence

Quick, name the Pirates best pitching prospect brought into the organization via international free agency.  Luis Heredia probably came immediately to mind and that would fall in line with consensus view point used to answer the given challenge.   Then it gets difficult.  Name the second best pitching prospect for the Pirates acquired as an international teenager.

That second best pitching prospect - whoever he is - isn't on Buried Treasure's top 30 prospects.  He's not identified on Pirates Prospects' top 20 list either.  In fact, an exhaustive search of the internet will show that no international Pirates pitching farmhand is good enough to garner a mention on a top prospect list.  A few more important facts for context.  Luis Heredia received a 2.6 million dollar signing bonus. The Pirates have several top international hitting prospects: Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, and Dilson Herrera to name a few.  None received a bonus over $220,000.

The point to be drawn from this is that the Pirates have been woeful in developing international signees into solid pitching prospects in recent years.  In fact, the development of pitching prospects sourced from international signings has been worse than the much more maligned issue of the development of positional prospects from the draft.  Currently, pitching prospects from the draft - namely #2 and #1 overall picks Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole - along with the 2.6 million given to Luis Heredia have given the Pirates their prospect pitching depth.

Latin American hitting prospects have helped provide balance looking at the system overall.  Even though the method of providing balance in the system has been unorthodox, it will work, but only if it continues.  Banking on that could potentially be foolish.  Instead, the development of international pitching prospects would be ideal.  At this point, that hasn't happened.  So far, it's early enough that it's probably a coincidence, but the Pirates need to avoid making it a trend.  Only time will tell if the Pirates are able to do that.