With the upcomeing draft the Pirates and it's new regime try a new approach.
In their never ending, I mean this present cycle of Pirates rebuilding, management’s efforts to construct a winning team have largely focused on one area: pitching. The thinking is that solid arms are the most valuable commodity in the game, and that a surplus of talent in that area can yield high returns to fill in holes in other areas.
Despite picking eight pitchers in ten years in the first round of the amateur draft, and a focus on obtaining young hurlers in trades all the Pirates have to show for their work is a pitching staff for whom mediocre is a compliment. Well, that and fifteen consecutive losing seasons. Although the offense hasn’t exactly been stellar during that time period either. But you get the idea.
A big reason for the Pirates dearth of pitching prospects (aside from management’s general inability to identify, you know, talent) is arm injuries. Of those eight first round picks, five missed most of a season in the minor leagues with shoulder or elbow problems, and many weren’t the same players even after coming back. Amazingly, that stat doesn’t even include Kris Benson, once the crown jewel of the Pirates farm system, who missed a year with Tommy John surgery after making it to the big leagues.
Apparently though, the new Pirates regime has seen enough of these scenarios, and they're taking drastic measures to prevent them; very drastic.
On April 23, last year’s top pick, Daniel Moskos was pitching for Class A Lynchburg. With one out to go in the fifth inning, he was two pitches under his limit for the day. Free-swinging Willy Cabrera was up, and the Hillcats’ staff wanted Moskos to get through the inning so he would be eligible for the win. Unfortunately, Cabrera worked a long at-bat then ended up reaching on an error, at which point Moskos was lifted. Given the circumstances, you would think the story would end there. It didn’t.
Lynchburg manager Jeff Branson and pitching coach Bob Milacki were each docked three days pay for allowing Moskos to exceed his pitch count. Although Pirates GM Neal Huntington did not delve into the issue, he did confirm their is a new organization-wide influence on keeping strict limitations on young arms. GM Neal Huntington's take:
"If a pitcher gets close to that area of his limit, the staff can make a decision as to whether to let him face another batter or not,” Huntington said. “But, once he reaches that ceiling, there’s no decision to be made. He’s out. We all need to pull in the same direction. Is it going to happen overnight? No, unfortunately, it’s not. We’re trying to draw the thought process from our staff. But, once we reach a decision, we do need everybody to be compliant. The pitcher extending himself at that level exposes himself to significant injury, and that’s not something we’re willing to risk."