Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Will he keep his job: Ed Creech

Kevin McClatchy has stepped down. Dave Littlefield has been fired. Clearly, changes are taking place at the top of the Pirates organization. For the next few days, I'm going to look at some other prominent members of the Pirates' organization and whether or not I think they'll get to keep their jobs in 2008. Today we look at the head of scouting, Ed Creech.

Ed Creech and director of player development create an interesting "chicken or the egg?" scenario in the Pirates' organization. Who's fault is it that the Pirates almost always seem to have no talent in the minor leagues? Is it Creech's fault for drafting poorly or is it Graham's fault for not developing Creech's picks well in the minor leagues? Today, we'll look at what Creech has done and attempt to answer that question, as well as the question of whether or not Creech should keep his job.

Creech became scouting director when DL took over the team in 2001, meaning he missed the 2001 draft. Because Baseball-Reference is the greatest site in the history of the world, we can take a look at every single pick Creech has made prior to the 2007 draft, which we can't really judge (fairly) yet.

The following jumps out: only Brian Bullington, Brad Eldred, Matt Capps, Chris Demaria, Nyjer Morgan, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny, Josh Sharpless, and Steve Pearce have reached the majors, with Pearce being the only player picked after the 2003 draft to make it up. Not only is that a really low number of players, it's an even smaller number of impact players. From the 2004 and 2005 drafts, only Walker and McCutchen have given the impression that they could change that based on minor league appearances. It's not really fair to judge the 2006 draft yet, but Lincoln has already lost a year and none of the other higher-round picks have really distinguished themselves at all, as far as I can tell (admittedly, I am not the most well-versed in the Pirates' minor league system).

So the question is whether or not this is Creech's fault. After all, guys like Pearce are often brought along too slowly (he was started at Lynchburg this year despite playing 90 games their last year with an OPS of .830 and the fact that he was 24-years old) and don't even see AAA until they're like 26, at which point they're not really young enough to be a prospect. But you only have to look at Creech's first round picks to see that he's no draft wizard. With the first pick in 2002, he took Bullington with the first pick and either he or DL (I don't remember which) immediately proclaimed him to be a solid #3 starter. Among the next ten choices were BJ Upton, Prince Fielder, Jeremy Hermida, and Zach Greinke (also in that first round: Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, Nick Swisher, James Loney, Joe Blanton, Matt Cain, and Jeremy Guthrie). In 2003, Creech took Maholm, who projected out to just about what we're seeing today; a middle of the rotation lefty. This draft doesn't appear to be as deep as the awesome 2002 draft that we whiffed on, but Lastings Milledge, Conor Jackson and Chad Cordero all went in the first round. In 2004 we picked Neil Walker, who wasn't a bad pick, but was picked for the hometown PR value. Jered Weaver went with the next pick and Steven Drew, Josh Fields, and Billy Butler all went soon afterwards. In 2005 we picked McCutchen first and it's hard to nitpick that one yet. In 2006 we picked Lincoln, who was ranked as the second best pitching prospect in the draft, but we passed on Andrew Miller (who was ranked as the first best in the draft) as well as Tim Lincecum and Brandon Morrow.

Now I know that it's hard to nitpick all of these drafts. There were certainly some people not taken for signability reasons and there were some people that have surprised everyone with their rise through the minors. Still, if the Pirates can't afford to compete in the first round you'd think they'd be mining the later rounds for talent. As we know from Dejan's DL post-mortem, they barely even scout the most talent laden regions of the country. That's gotta fall on the scouting director as much as it does on the GM. And this isn't a new pattern for Creech. A year ago at OBN, WTM detailed Creech's career in baseball; he drafted poorly in Montreal, St. Louis, and Los Angeles all through the 1990s before coming here. My favorite part of the story is the 1997 draft in which Creech had EIGHT picks in Montreal and picked Donnie Bridges, Chris Stowe, Scott Hodges, Brian Hebson (who actually reached the majors), Thomas Pittman, TJ Tucker (also reached the majors), Shane Arthurs, and Tootie Meyers (though it is true that it doesn't appear that 1997 was a terribly deep draft).

So, we know Creech has drafted poorly in Pittsburgh and we know he drafted poorly before he got here. Instead of working around the purported financial restraints, the Pirates more or less just seemed to throw their hands up in the air and say "What are we supposed to do?" in most of the drafts run by Creech and Littlefield. Oh yeah, and he had a hand in the drafting of a reliever with the fourth overall pick this year.

So does Ed Creech keep his job? There's absolutely not logical evidence to suggest that he should. No GM in their right mind would want this guy running their scouting department, from what I can tell.