Friday, December 31, 2004

Pirates Draft Analysis

WTM is at it again - he recently posted player-by-player analyses of the last six Pirates drafts. It's certainly too early to say anything definitive about the Littlefield drafts, but WTM shows us that the early signs aren't so good. 2002 isn't very promising: the first overall pick, Bryan Bullington, isn't even really looking like a future big-leaguer right now. Second-rounder Blair Johnston flopped at Hickory, and third-rounder Taber Lee hasn't hit much. Fourth-rounder Wardell Starling, sixth-rounder Brad Eldred and twelfth-round pick Bryan Holliday could wind up being productive players - and Eldred in particular looks to have been an inspired pick, especially for an organization in need of power - but it doesn't look like Littlefield got much talent despite a favorable draft position.

2003 first-rounder Paul Maholm had his 2004 derailed by a facial injury. Second-round pick Tom Gorzelanny has pitched very well and third-rounder Steve Lerud has showed promise, but after that no one else from the 2003 draft has done anything terribly interesting. (It also appears the Pirates only signed 21 players from that draft, which hurts their odds of turning lower-round picks into prospects.) 2004's draft looks a bit more encouraging, but it's hard to read too much into only a couple months' worth of stats.

I'll stop talking now - WTM is the real expert in these matters, and those last two paragraphs you just read are only my way of saying that I find his analysis of the Pirates' situation compelling.

WTM's year-by-year writeups also say a lot about the weird careers of minor-league baseball players. Nothing for these players is permanent, and at any minute a player could be promoted or demoted or released without anyone knowing or really caring. This seems funny to me, since a lot of these players are only a few steps from the big leagues, at least theoretically. But some of these guys might as well be ghosts.

2002 23rd-round pick Dean Devine: "Retired after a few games."
2001 13th-rounder Jeff Dutremble: "Pitched briefly in 2001, then was injured and eventually released."
1999 42nd-rounder Frank Torre: "Signed but never played."

I'm sure this isn't noteworthy to anyone else, but I find it fascinating - these guys were all probably stars for their high school and college teams, then they get at least a theoretical shot to play in the best baseball league in the world and have their highlights all over ESPN - but then they get flushed out of baseball and they completely disappear from public life. There's nothing illogical about it, of course, but the contrast between what could have happened to these guys and what actually did intrigues me.

As I write this, I'm thinking of my first grade teacher's son, whose name was/is Ron Stephens. In 1985, he graduated from Linsly in Wheeling, West Virginia and was drafted by the Red Sox. He pitched at the University of Cincinnati instead and was there when I was in first grade. He visited our class once. He was a huge guy, or at least that's how I remember him. I feel like I remember him ducking to get through the doorway, but there's no way he was that big. Anyway, his mom knew I liked baseball, so she had Ron give me a ball. It stayed on my shelf all the way through high school, and I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere.

Anyway, Stephens got drafted again in 1988 by the White Sox. I know he pitched at least a couple of years in their system and was very good in at least one of those years, I believe for Utica. Stephens never made the majors, though, and now I can't find his minor league numbers - or any real information about him. Does anyone know anything?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Baseball America's 1989 Almanac Stephens was drafted in the 58th round by the ChiSox. Other notables taken in that draft by Chicago include Robin Ventura (1st), Johnny Ruffin (4th), and John Hudek (10th). They also selected Joey Eischen (5th), Rich Batchelor (7th), Marvin Benard (39th), and Ozzie Timmons (43rd), but it doesn't look like any of them signed.

As for Stephens, here is his line at Utica in 1988:

8-0 59 34 10 48 8

I believe his only teammate to make the big leagues was former Red Sox outfielder Dwayne Hosey.

Others from the Top 10 New York-Penn League prospects who made it include Marquis Grissom, Luis Gonzalez, and Woody Williams.

Unfortunately I don't have any books that cover the 1989 minor league season, so I'm not sure what Stephens did after that year...


9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, forgot to list his ERA: 0.92.

9:14 PM  

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