Sunday, November 02, 2008

Talk about expanded scouting

I would rather read one story about the Pirates signing a South African short-stop prospect than a hundred about Doug Mientkiewicz, Chris Gomez, Jason Michaels, and Luis Rivas. From yesterday's PG:

The Pirates, trying to mine all areas to get prospects into their minor league system, hope they've found a diamond in the rough in Mpho Ngoepe from South Africa.

Ngoepe, 18, is a switch-hitting shortstop who signed with the Pirates about a month ago, then made a cameo appearance in the Instructional League in Bradenton, Fla.

"We need to find talent wherever it is," general manager Neal Huntington said. "It will be a great story if he makes it to the big leagues."

The Pirates scouted him in Italy over the summer for some European/African baseball showcase to watch Ngoepe and were impressed enough with what sounds like some very raw baseball talent to sign him. He's going to play for South Africa in the WBC this spring and though he'll likely be overwhelmed by that experience, it's something for hardcore minor league watchers to keep an eye on.

The main point to take from this story isn't that Ngoepe might be a future star or that he'll even make the big leagues. It's that the Pirates had scouts in ITALY this August, digging for talent from unconventional sources. In the past, the Pirates barely scouted the Bible Belt.