WTNYOctober 08, 2003
Buc is Cub backwards
By Bryan Smith

Wow, great Cubs game. But, what I learned for the future is about the Cubs' bullpen. Yes, I would love to have a team with Remlinger, Farnsworth, and Borowski. They all bear down on right-handers very well, and all finished the season well. But, the 'pen seriously lacks depth. Mark Guthrie had a horrible September and lost last night's game, Dave Veres was responsible for a Division Series loss, and Alfonseca is terrible. The team doesn't need to pursue a closer, but right-handed middle relievers are a good idea. I would also go with Todd Wellemeyer, whom started fantastically in the Majors....

#4 Organization- Pittsburgh Pirates

Organizational Record- 399-288 (.581)
AAA Nashville- 81-62
AA Altoona- 78-63
A+ Lynchburg- 76-59
A- Hickory- 82-54
SS Williamsport- 46-30
GCL Pirates- 36-20

Awards and League Recognition
Eastern League Cy Young- Sean Burnett
Carolina League MVP- Chris Shelton
South Atlantic League MVP- Jorge Cortes

Top 4 Draft Picks Performance
1. Paul Maholm- 2-1 1.83 25H/34.1IP 32K/10BB in 8 NY-P starts (LHP)
2. Thomas Gorzelanny- 1-2 1.78 23H/30.1IP 22K/10BB in 8 NY-P starts (LHP)
3. Kyle Pearson- 3-2 2.05 26H/26.1IP 25K/10BB in 9 GCL appearances (RHP)
4. Craig Stansberry- .307/.370/.434 14XBH in 166 NY-P AB (3B)

Organizational Overview
While many will look at the 2003 Trade deadline and infer the Pirates sold out, they actually built a great farm system. Other big decisions, like taking Brian Bullington and making John Van Benschoten a pitcher were huge decisions.

The Pirates have four big pitchers at the top: Bullington, Van Benschoten, Sean Burnett, and Ian Oquendo. Van Benschoten has the highest ceiling, a converted NCAA Home run champ. He is still learning the art of pitching, but has mid-90s heat and a 12-to-6 curve. Bullington is out to prove that the top draft pick wasn't wasted, and has similar tools to the top pick. He has the traditional four pitches, with his slider being his out pitch. Burnett is a soft-throwing a leftie that hasn't had a bad season since joining this organization. For some reason, you have to believe in this kid, whom has had three straight years with improving K/BB rates. Oquendo has super-high potential, but this was his first big season. He must take his big curve to the next level in 2004, and then he could be the top choice.

It was the mid-season acquisitions that turned this organization from solid to top-five. Freddy Sanchez is a great middle infielder, a future second hitter whom has Bill Mueller potential. Yes, I think it's possible for him to win a batting crown at one point. Jason Bay will be Giles' replacement next season, which are extremely large shoes to fill. But he more than proved himself in the PCL, and even impressed Lloyd McClendon in September. Finally, Cory Stewart is an Independent League signing made prospect, whom has quickly become the second-best southpaw in this system. There is a decent possibility that Stewart will be the first of the starters to reach the Majors, which is by mid-season in 2004.

The final group of Pirates prospects are hitters that have produced, but lack the skills. Chris Shelton and Ryan Doumit are following the Criag Wilson path, although both have good skills. Shelton threw out 26% of basestealers, which indicates he may stay behind the dish. Doumit is lesser defensively, and will may be behind Walter Young on the Pirates' first base depth chart. J.J. Davis is a former first-round pick that hit 26 homers in the PCL this past season, and will have the Pirates RF job next year. Davis is a former pitcher whom has turned his power on the last two seasons.

Dave Littlefield was told to drop payroll a couple of seasons ago, and is still working at that at. By landing Sanchez, Bay, Stewart, and Bobby Hill, he's proving he can identify solid prospects. The next route is to turn these players into solid Major Leaguers, and put the Pirates into the playoffs again.

Top 12 Prospects
1. John Van Benschoten
2. Brian Bullington
3. Sean Burnett
4. Ian Oquendo
5. Freddy Sanchez
6. Jason Bay
7. Chris Shelton
8. Cory Stewart
9. Jose Castillo
10. Ryan Doumit
11. J.J. Davis
12. J.R. House

Well, I'm 1-0 in Championship Series predictions so far. In the Boston-New York game one, expect the Yankees to pull out a close game. Mark Prior should pitch a big game for the Cubs, while the North Siders will beat up Brad Penny. Peace...