Saturday, August 16, 2008

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

You could have probably guessed this from the tone of the posting last night, but I'm pretty excited by the events of the last week or so. There's a number of reasons why and I think that the reasons to be excited run a lot deeper than most people realize, so I'm going to try and lay them out here in a coherent and non-giddy fashion. Wish me luck.

Pedro Alvarez is a very impressive young talent. By now you've probably seen the YouTube highlight reel and it's impressive. The kid has a left-handed power swing that I can only describe as "textbook." His stock was hurt a bit by his hand injury, but by all accounts it shouldn't be a long-term issue. He strikes me as the kind of talent that's not available in the draft every year and the kind of talent that the Pirates haven't had in their minor league system in years. Taken entirely on his own, the fact that Pedro Alvarez is a Pirate is something that's completely worth being excited about.

Beyond that, though, there's many other good things bubbling under the surface for the Pirates. They managed to convince Robby Grossman, who some had pegged as a low first-round talent, to sign instead of going to Texas when many people were certain he was going to Texas. When Tanner Scheppers' workout didn't go well, the Pirates made him a final offer and took the remaining money they might've spent on Scheppers and signed another high-upside guy that everyone had pegged for college, Quinton Miller.

I've joked that the Pirates signed more talent in this draft than they did in seven of Littlefield's drafts but the truth is that there's no way to truly determine that two months after the draft took place. What this draft had, however, was vision. There was a contingency plan in case Scheppers' didn't work out. There was a plan to sign Grossman that you could see develop as he went from unlikely to sign to "50-50" to a Pittsburgh Pirate. It doesn't take a brilliant scout to see the talent in Pedro Alvarez, but the Pirates spent nearly four million dollars signing their other picks in this draft.

When people point at the payroll and wonder why it's so low, this is exactly why. Six million dollars spent on signing Pedro Alvarez is immensely better than $7 million spent on Jeromy Burnitz. The money has to go into building a foundation before it can go into the major league team. That's what was exciting about this draft: Pedro Alvarez may very well turn into a great player, but one great player isn't what's going to change the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates needed an entire organizational makeover when Huntington and Coonelly took over a year ago and while they still have a long ways to go, it finally seems like they're moving in the right direction.