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Pirates’ Down Year On The Farm May Affect Them In Trades

The loss of Taillon in 2015 affected the Major team in terms of depth and trading power. Photo by Bill Gentry/

The loss of Taillon in 2015 affected the Major team in terms of depth and trading power.
Photo by Bill Gentry/

If you currently spend $2.99 a month to hear about how great a 21st round pick can be in five years, this article may upset you. I’m not going to sugarcoat how poor this year has been for the Pirates’ minor league system.  Coming into the year, Baseball America ranked their farm 7th overall; I personally put them at 4th.  The reasons for the downfall are myriad.


This is as good a place to start as any.  Injuries started early for the Pirates, as Brandon Cumpton succumbed to Tommy John surgery in March.  Cumpton was nothing special, probably a #4 starter as a ceiling, but he was the start of the injury parade.  In early May, Nick Kingham fell victim to Tommy John.  Those two were legitimate options to be called up as depth options for Pittsburgh in 2015.  Promising 2014 draftee C/OF Kevin Krause went under the knife himself for elbow issues.

The kicker, however, is the sad tale of Jameson Taillon.  After undergoing Tommy John in April 2014, it was thought that Taillon would be fit enough to open the 2015 season in AAA Indianapolis, scrape the rust off, then come up in late June after the Super 2 deadline had passed.  Well, Taillon didn’t even make it to a team until mid-June, itself a sign that his TJ recovery was not going well, and then was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia that will keep him out the remainder of the 2015 season before he even pitched.


Tony Sanchez has apparently demonstrated to the Pirates that he’s unable to defensively be a starter in the Majors.  Fellow catcher Elias Diaz has put up a 700 OPS in Triple A this year.  Luis Heredia continues to slide off the radar of being a prospect (47 IP, 5.89 ERA, 18 BB, 22 K).

It’s difficult to say that Josh Bell is disappointing (.312 AVG, 811 OPS), but his lack of power (4 HR, .119 Isolated Slugging Percentage, .140 is minimum you really want) is odd.  It’s hard to see him being a valid Major League starting 1B with that lack of power.  When 5′-10″ Alen Hanson is out-homering you, that’s not a good sign.

Fellow 2013 1st round draft picks, Reese McGuire and Austin Meadows, have both been disappointing for different reasons.  McGuire has an empty bat that portends no power (.270 AVG, 9 extra base hits in 259 AB’s, 622 OPS), while Meadows (.300 AVG, 759 OPS) has been underwhelming with little power (.094 ISO) of his own.

2014’s draft class has been a no-show this year.  SS Cole Tucker has slap-hit his way to an empty .290 batting average but with a 682 OPS.  Sure, he has 21 shiny stolen bases, but there’s no power there.  And if he grows into some power, he’ll probably outgrow the shortstop position and his bat won’t be enough at another position.  The trio of high school pitchers — Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, and Gage Hinsz — have combined for a whopping total of 20 innings in 2015, with Keller not even pitching yet this year.  All three are at short-season Bristol, which is disappointing in its own right, as previous high-end high school pitchers were challenged at the more advanced short-season New York-Penn League (the new West Virginia affiliate).  This year has been a complete lost year for all three of them.


The 2008 draft has been Neal Huntington’s most successful draft class to date.  The ascendancy of the Pirates to perennial playoff contender has been augmented by Pedro Alvarez (1st round), Jordy Mercer (3th round), and Justin Wilson (5th round), who was flipped this past offseason in a 1-for-1 deal for Francisco Cervelli.  Getting two starters and one bullpen guy out of a single draft is a success; typically, if you can get 1 starter and 1 bench/bullpen guy that’s good.

Since then, the drafts have not directly produced much talent.  Yes, it takes at least 4-5 years to properly assess a class, but it’s not too early to make projections on some of them:

  • 2009 — Terrible. No direct major contributions.  Tony Sanchez (1st) doesn’t have a future here because of his defense.  Pirates have used picks in trades like Vic Black (supp 1st), Brooks Pounders (2nd), Colton Cain (8th), Brock Holt (9th), Aaron Baker (11th).
  • 2010 — Up in the air.  Most production from a healthy pick is from 25th rounder Casey Sadler, which is both positive and sad.  Jameson Taillon (1st), Nick Kingham (4th), and Brandon Cumpton (9th) can sway this pendulum greatly if they return healthy in 2016.  This was the draft where the Pirates gambled on signing some premium high school pitchers and missed — Jason Hursh (6th), Austin Kubitza (7th), Dace Kime (8th), and Zack Weiss (10th) all didn’t sign.
  • 2011 — Success.  Thanks to Gerrit Cole (1st) becoming an ace, even if Pirates don’t get anything else out of this draft, I’m happy — setting aside my 1 starter, 1 bench/bullpen theory.  Tyler Glasnow (5th) seems on the verge of joining Cole as a front-line starter.  Josh Bell (2nd) is overrated, in my opinion, but could contribute.  Jason Creasy (8th) and Clay Holmes (9th) could also be contributors in a couple of years.
  • 2012 — Could get interesting.  Mark Appel (1st) left a gaping hole when he didn’t sign, but the Pirates are getting some potential out of down draft picks like Adrian Sampson (5th) and Max Moroff (16th).  Overall, I don’t think draft this will produce enough.
  • 2013 — Odd draft.  Austin Meadows (1st) has hit, but not much power.  Reese McGuire (1st, for Mark Appel not signing) has the makings of a bust.  Blake Taylor (2nd), Buddy Borden (7th), and Shane Carle (10th) have already been used in trades.  Adam Frazier (6th) could be a bench guy and Chad Kuhl (9th) could be a middle reliever.
  • 20142015 — Way too early to judge, but not looking good.  This is the worst part — the Pirates have had back-to-back drafts with little to no upside picks.  The 2015 draft resembles a mid-era Dave Littlefield draft in terms of lack of upside and appears to be shaping up as a wasted effort (yes…I’m calling it after a whopping one month, it’s that bad).  Getting little out of consecutive drafts would be a terrible outcome for a team that needs to rely on the farm system for sustainability.


Unlike last year when the Pirates were riding high on industry perceptions of certain players, this year the Pirates do not have any high-end prospect performing at peak level, as even Tyler Glasnow was injured for a month this year.  As a result, they can’t sell the allure and upside like in years past.  Every one of their top 6 or 7 “blue chip” guys is either injured, coming off an injury, or just plain have had a down year.

So when Neal Huntington enters trade discussions, he’ll have to work extra hard to sell opposing GM’s on taking these damaged goods.  Or, even worse, he risks getting sandbagged by an opposing GM who is feigning disinterest in the Pirates’ prospects, all the while trying to squeeze an extra player into the potential deal to make up for the supposed drop in prospect value.

It’s time to face the facts that the Pirates’ farm system has peaked.  Setting aside Tyler Glasnow, all 6′-8″ of him, there are no more high-impact prospects like McCutchen, Marte, Cole, and Polanco (he’ll get there).  There are some complementary pieces like Hanson, Bell, Kingham, and Meadows, but I don’t foresee any of them being frontliners.  Taillon, for me, is downgraded to a mid-rotation arm with the lost season of 2015 and one TJ surgery under his belt already.  He’ll be 24 next season and in need of AAA time to make up for 2015 — his clock is ticking.

The Pirates can make a play for any player they want on the market.  They could get Cueto, Hamels, Chapman, or whatever high value target comes on line.  But they may have to overpay just a touch more in 2015’s midseason than they would have in the offseason leading up to it.

About Kevin Creagh (170 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

64 Comments on Pirates’ Down Year On The Farm May Affect Them In Trades

  1. Wow not so subtle dig on P2. I do appreciate your take.!i just hope half the hitters we project to develop power do. What gives me hope is that many young players start off slow in developing power, see bobby Bonilla, Jose Batista ( too late for us of course). ideally you want great k/bob ratios and power but in many cases I think if you had just one I’d start with k/bob and hope on the power. I do admit Reese McGuire total lack of power is startling.
    Thanks for the good read and site

  2. Ok, saying that the 2015 draft is already a bust shows how little you followed any type of draft coverage. Our 2015 draft was praised by ESPN, Baseball America, Fangraphs, and for its mixture of upside (Kebryan Hayes, Jacob Taylor) and reliability (Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer). Newman was ranked as high as number 2 by Keith Law. Just because we didn’t swing for the fences with our first pick doesn’t make it a bust… Especially with us drafting so low.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 2:03 PM // Reply

      I follow it quite closely. I’ve been in the Pirates prospects world for quite a while.
      It doesn’t matter what all those other sites say, I use my own independent thinking and analysis. Check the BA Top 100 archive sometimes for who the leading authority liked and you’ll see (as our Prospect Value article in December showed) a lot of busts.

      This draft is very low on upside, even lower than 2014’s uninspiring draft.

      • csnumber23 // July 19, 2015 at 4:54 PM // Reply

        Haha, your independent thinking is laughable buddy. The fact that you are calling a draft class a bust after a month is all I need to know about your knowledge.

      • I understand what you’re saying and agree on the 2014 draft being awful but I do question the independent thinking part. Unless you are seeing these players first hand, you are going to be using these other sources scouting reports and analysis so you can’t completely discount them.

        • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 8:17 PM // Reply

          This isn’t directed to you — most people look at prospects and “wish upon a star” thinking that every one will develop into a star. They don’t. The BA Top 100 is littered with guys you will scratch your head over and say “who”?
          Check out our Prospect Value article —

          Look at the bust rates for players, especially #51-100. My opinion, after researching this, is to hold on to the most premium of prospects #1-25 and sell the rest in deals. Remember, GM’s are trying to inflate their players to sites like BA, BP, Fangraphs to pump up trade value. At the same time, they downgrade others to keep them below the radar.

          Just remember that if you’re reading a pay site, they depend on opinions from farm directors and scouts from primarily the home team they cover. I know because I used to write for one and the farm director was on speed dial.

  3. Lol yes talk about Austin meadows who’s a consensus top 25 prospect and mcguire who is a top 100 and say they don’t carry value. Your over thinking things prospects all have question marks

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 2:04 PM // Reply

      Meadows has an isolated slugging percentage less than .100 — a starter in the MLB is around .140 to .150. He’s not even hitting for 2B power at this point. For a player who was put in the Jay Bruce-comp, he’s not showing any level that Bruce/McCutchen/etc showed at the same age/same level.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 2:05 PM // Reply

      And McGuire most likely won’t be a Top 100 prospect next spring when that list comes out. Horrible year at the plate.

  4. Hello, Debbie Downer! McGuire has made a couple of top 50 midseason prospect lists for all of MLB. Meadows has made most of them. Josh Bell has made a couple. Evaluating the hitters in the Pirates’ farm system based on raw stats is silly, Altoona and Bradenton (where the GCL Pirates also play) are humongous pitchers’ parks. I also want to quarrel with your evaluation of Cole Tucker, several non-P2 industry sources have evaluated his performance this year very positively. Also I saw no mention of JaCoby Jones, who many people in the industry see as at least a power-hitting bench infielder.

    I notice you didn’t take any notice of Angel Sanchez, Stephen Tarpley, or Steven Brault in your writeup. All have been dominant starters, and all were acquired in trades. Also, I saw no mention of Willy Garcia or Harold Ramirez, two Latin OF’s who have made solid progress this season.

    I doubt the Pirates are a top 5 farm system this year, but that mainly has to do with the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, and Twins all taking advantage of either huge Latin American budgets or favorable draft positions rather than any collapse of the Pirates’ farm system.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 2:08 PM // Reply

      Willy Garcia — K/BB ratio will be his downfall
      Tarpley — I like, but he’s overage for Low A
      Brault — not a starter long-term, lacks out pitch
      Ramirez — seems like a 4th OF, doesn’t have enough power or size for me.
      Cole Tucker — not enough power, will get bat knocked out of hands
      Jacoby Jones — overage for his level, poor defense

      I need to see more power from Josh Bell than 4 HR over halfway through the year. I’m pretty clear on McGuire at this point.

  5. I’m assuming you have witnessed all these players in person. It takes some time to adjust to the rigors of playing everyday. Josh bell will be fine maybe 20 homers a season but with gap power an a high average. He has vastly improved at first after limited time at the position. Reese McGuire has been a fine defensive catcher an is way to early to call a bust. There is a lot of time for these players to turn around. Injuries happen a. They might just be overly cautious. Never go to your website it was on mlb trade rumors needed a laugh so I clicked

  6. You act like power is the only thing that a prospect needs! Believe it or not there are other ways to be successful in the mlb. You shouldn’t judge every prospect on their power abilities.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 2:08 PM // Reply

      Don’t need HR power, but you need the ability to hit for more than just singles, especially in the minors. It doesn’t get easier in the majors — most prospect dominate minors.

  7. Looks like someone is ‘maybe a bit jealous of Tim’ and P2. Think you should limit yourself to fantasy baseball because your knowledge of real baseball and real baseball stats and what they mean s quite lacking. Stick to your fantasy league and leave judging real talent to someone that has real eyes to do so.

  8. Kevin,

    I think you’re missing the context with some of these players. Cole Tucker, for instance, played most of this season as an 18-year-old in the full-season South Atlantic League. If you compare his numbers and overall performance to those of other high-school bats from the 2014 draft, you cannot possibly fit him into your “down year” narrative. Same with Meadows and McGuire in their proper peer group (2013 HS bats).

    I agree, of course, that the two major pitching injuries hurt, but to your point about trade value, were the Pirates to make them available, don’t you think these players (Tucker, Meadows, and McGuire), along with Glasnow, Bell, and Hanson, would have more value today than they would have a year ago?

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 8:33 PM // Reply

      I think Glasnow is the only one of the 6 you specifically mentioned that has greatly increased his value. Hanson is around the same. Tucker, Bell, and Meadows slight drops and McGuire large drop.

      When the dust settles next spring, I can only see the Pirates having Glasnow, Taillon, Meadows, and Bell in the top 100. Glasnow — top 15, Taillon 40-50, Meadows 45-60, Bell 75-100

  9. Considering that the Pirates don’t trade away top prospects makes moat of the points in this article moot. However, I do agree the recent Taj of injuries to their pitching in the minors is concerning, especially Taillon who was projected to be a front of the rotation guy with Cole for years to come.

    Still, when your compare the Pirates farm system to the rest of the league they are looking pretty good.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 8:31 PM // Reply

      If you want to go by Baseball America’s farm rankings, then I’ll confidently predict the Pirates will be right around #15 next March when they come out.

      The Pirates have TRIED to trade away top prospects. The Houston Astros database leak revealed they were willing to Luis Heredia for Bud Norris, so think about that one for a minute. They came very close to trading Polanco in a package for Giancarlo Stanton a couple of years ago, in which NH said he was ready to do something “crazy, not stupid”. And finally, multiple industry sources have stated that the Pirates offered the Rays a better-perceived package for David Price last year, but the Rays went with the more MLB-ready package from the Tigers.

      • Darkstone42 // July 23, 2015 at 11:17 AM // Reply

        Baseball America noted the Pirates as just outside their top 5 farm systems in the midseason report. That’s not “right around #15” that’s probably somewhere in the 6-8 range.

  10. Reading your article was quite entertaining, always fun to read some comedy. If it wasn’t meant to be a comical article than it just shows how jealous you are of Tim and P2. I understand why you are no longer there as Tim deals in reality and you in fantasy. Hope you know other sports because you knowledge of baseball is really lacking.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 8:27 PM // Reply

      The archive on TPOP for my work is available for your use to compare how my opinions have turned out.

      As for reality vs. fantasy, the reality you are presented is the one that is filtered through whatever author you read. If you want articles that are cheerleading articles about how great players are doing in short-season ball or how you don’t need to worry about struggling players, then go for it. Sounds like you’ve made your choice on whose flag to follow.

  11. Chris Hale // July 19, 2015 at 2:38 PM // Reply

    WOW. I have never heard the Pirates farm system talked abut anything close to what I’ve just read. MLB.COM has the Pirates as the #5 overall system in baseball. If you count Taillon they currently have 5 top 50 prospects. Keith Law rated Kevin Newman as one of the best players in the draft. I encourage you to re-visit this article in about two years. You look a the current ML roster which is the 3rd best team in baseball was assembled from the system. I think they know what they are doing.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 7:42 PM // Reply

      I will be happy to revisit this article in 2-3 years. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. I stand up for my articles, positively or negatively. I only ask that if/when I’m correct in 2-3 years that you come back and say so, too.

      • And what will be the criteria when we re-evaluate this in a few years? I think it’s safe to say about 80% of prospects don’t end up contributing anything significant. So if only Glasnow and Bell are contributing in 3 years, and McGuire and Tucker are still knocking on the door at AAA, were you right or wrong?

        It’s easy to look back and say only a couple of these guys ended up helping, but that’s actually the expectation for baseball prospects, so you’re not exactly Nostradamus there.

        As far as the downfall of prospects this year, basically the only one I agree with is Meadows having a very down year. The others you are so concerned with are fine, though obviously if a bunch of pitchers have TJ, they’re not going to progress for at least a year.

  12. It seems like you only value “power” when it comes to hitters. “Power” is an overused term for home runs, which is reflects baseball writers’ and commentators’ inability to articulate intelligent analysis (it’s like when the talking heads refer to a pitcher’s “stuff” lol). To say that alen Hanson has more “power” than josh bell is completely short-sighted. In case you didn’t know, the pirates organization purposefully de-emphasizes home runs in the minor leagues. They stress pitch recognition and situatonal hitting. Also, home runs or “power”, as you mundanely put it, are the last aspect of a minor league player’s game that develops. So if Austin meadows only has a few home runs in the first half in A ball but is hitting .300, who cares? From what I’ve read from reputable sources that cover the pirates system extensively, he has done everything his coaches have asked of him this season. Btw, was starling marte, whom you recently lauded, a bust in your eyes when he only hit 3 home runs in A ball?

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 7:51 PM // Reply

      Marte was not a bust when he hit 3 HR, but that was in just 57 games because (surprise) he missed time after getting hit by a pitch. Meadows had far more fanfare as a top draft pick than a player who signed at age 18 out of the DR for less than $100K.

      Yes, there is more to “power” than “dingerz” and yes, the Pirates emphasize contact/strike zone control. But to say they don’t care about “power” or HR or whatever is incorrect as well. There’s no organization that is saying “Eh..just put the barrel on the ball, don’t worry about hitting a HR or driving the ball into the gap”.

      Honestly, are you really excited about Meadows’ .091 ISO this year? Not disappointed at all? Not when McCutchen at the same age had a .123 ISO in AA after he was rushed by Littlefield? McCutchen’s pedigree on draft day was equivalent to Meadows. It really wasn’t until McCutchen’s debut did people elevate his profile to what it is today — meaning he was never courted as a “wow” prospect.

      And as for Marte, feel free to Google my name and Starling Marte and Adam Jones where I correctly predicted his future and probable floor in the Majors. I was way ahead of the curve on him.

  13. I’m sorry. This article has no substance or credibility to it. The injuries happen in every farm system and it has sucked not seeing a taillon or kingham in the majors. Here are the issues though.

    Bell – from all the video I have seen, he has been hitting the ball hard. The home runs will come. He is a stud hitter. Also, his home run in the futures game was gorgeous.

    Tucker – one of the youngest players in that league and he has held his own and gotten better as the year went on.

    Meadows – one of the hardest leagues in the country to hit. He will be a star one day.

    McGuire – he always had questions about his bat. His defense has been good but hopefully the bat will come around. He is still very young.

    The pirate system is loaded and I don’t know how you can make the statement that it is hurting our chances in trades. Also, the dig at pirates prospect was very unprofessional.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 7:58 PM // Reply

      The core takeaway from the article is “injuries and down performances will impact how the Pirates deal at the deadline”. That’s irrefutable to me.
      When NH picks up the phone and looks to move prospects, there is a severe deficit to the depth he can deal from.

      Taillon/Kingham/Cumpton (lesser extent) — no one’s going for them
      Bell — 4 HR at AA and is a 1B
      McGuire — 614 OPS and just 9 XBH (all 2B) all year
      Sanchez/Diaz — no
      Tucker — 689 OPS, inability to draw walks, if he makes majors (which I doubt) he’ll be a 7 or 8 hitter

      Someone may go for Hanson. Glasnow should only be included in a premium deal.

      I’m sorry to burst the bubble that the Emperor is not wearing new clothes. As for Pirates Prospects, how are you certain I wasn’t referring to BA, BP, Fangraphs+, or some other pay site? Never mentioned a site by name.

  14. You’re definitely being too hard on Reese McGuire. Firstly, McGuire wasn’t drafted for his offense. He was drafted because his defense was remarkably advanced for his level. Secondly, catchers develop more slowly than other position players. Their first priority, especially in a system like Pittsburgh’s that emphasizes pitch framing, is learning how to play defense and manage a professional pitching staff.

    In general, power stats in the low minors often don’t tell you much. The Pirates aren’t worried that Josh Bell isn’t hitting for power because he’s hitting and they’re confident that the power will come. Huntington said almost the exact same thing about Meadows, who can’t even buy a beer for another year and had a lot of growing to do. They obviously also think highly of Tucker, who is performing despite being pushed aggressively in his first year in the system.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 8:04 PM // Reply

      Thank you for the measured response in the sea of hot fire.

      Tony Sanchez wasn’t drafted for his offense, either, but rather his Gold Glove potential defense (scouts, not my words). He was compared to early career Yadier Molina.

      High school catchers are an extremely volatile subset of draft picks. For the Pirates in recent years, look no further than Neil Walker and Wyatt Mathisen. Kyle Skipworth for FLA (at the time) was highly touted. Yes, HS catchers do make it, but many, many get moved off the position.

      It doesn’t matter how much the Pirates prioritize defense, pitch calling, pitch framing…if you are posting 614 OPS in High A, that’s not a good sign of things to come.

      I’m not giving up on Meadows, but rather saying that he is not making himself an attractive asset to OTHER teams for the Pirates to deal him. And I’ll disagree about Tucker performing well with a 689 OPS.

      • Whatever, nerd. Isn’t there a tagine someplace in need of its Moroccan?

        Also: MOAR DINGERZ!!! *watch Todd Freaking Frazier finish another swing totally fooled/one-handed and get a “GABP Special” out of it anyway*

  15. Whatever, nerd. Isn’t there a tagine someplace in need of it’s Moroccan?

    Also: MOAR DINGERZ!! *watches Todd Frazier finish another swing one-handed and wind up with a fucking “GABP Special” anyway.*

  16. 1) You’ve mentioned alluded to your methodology and research on several occasions in response to several of the above comments but it’s not clear what comprises that methodology or research. It would be useful I think to outline that work. You go out of your way passively aggressively take a shot at Pirates Prospects, whatever criticisms one might have of that site, they do have a number of folks on the ground who are actually seeing the prospects in question on a regular basis, so it’s understood they’re deriving their coverage, rankings, etc from that in person info, it’s not clear where you’re sourcing your info.

    2) Jameson Taillon. 12-14 months is the average recovery time for Tommy John. He had his surgery in April of 2014. This would suggest the timeline for his recovery was pretty typical. I’m not sure who expected he would be at AAA to begin the season, rather than in extended spring training. I didn’t read any reporting to that effect. The Pirates approached his rehab conservatively, which seems to me the best course of action. The hernia is obviously immensely disappointing but I think to characterize the TJ rehab as not going well prior to that is somewhat inaccurate.

    2) Tony Sanchez was well out of the Top 20 Prospects prior to the season and Heredia was at the bottom of the list, so their performance thus far doesn’t change the perceived quality of the farm system.

    3) Elias Diaz and Reese McGuire – You’re support for dismissing the positive defensive scouting reports, for McGuire in particular, seems to be that Sanchez once had a positive defensive scouting report out of college. This is definitely true but that report changed fairly quickly once he entered the system. Whereas the acclaim for McGuire defensively seems to have not only remained consistent but increased. Offensively McGuire hasn’t shown much extra base power. But given his age relative to his level and plate discipline, as well the development curve for catchers that doesn’t strike me as a concern just yet.

    Perhaps it’s fair to assert Diaz’s stock has dropped some as he’s not replicated his 2014 AA numbers at AAA. But a plus defensive catcher at AAA is still a valuable asset.

    3) Josh Bell – Bell is certainly still a work in progress. His mechanics and lack of power are fair issues to point out. He has shown excellent plate discipline thus far. I think there are some concerns there, and it’s fair to suggest he may end up an average regular rather than an above average player.

    4) Cole Tucker – Tucker just turned 19 a few weeks ago and is in A ball. So at this point his triple slash line doesn’t seem especially relevant. Everything I’ve read nationally and locally has suggested positive developed. He retains a good deal of projectability. My sense is stock at worst has held steady and has gone up according to many reports.

    Generally I think it’s fair to say the overall stock of the farm system is down, in large part due to injury. I don’t think it’s down to the degree you assert it is. But I’m not necessarily quibbling with result but rather the process and methodology by which they were reached.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 19, 2015 at 10:57 PM // Reply

      Thanks for the questions:
      1. Steve and I went through every BA Top 100 list from 1994 to 2005 and found out how many WAR each prospect gave their team during the 0-6 team-controlled years. The players were put in tiers of Hitters and Pitchers and then subtiers of 1-10, 11-25, 25-50, 51-75, 76-100 based on their ranking. Player bust rates were calculated on who could produce at least 3 WAR (0.5 WAR per year) or Zero WAR or less. Results were striking.

      2. Jose Fernandez of the Marlins had TJ in mid-May 2014 and was pitching in the minors in June 2015 (13 months). Pirates didn’t have Taillon on any team until July, where he of course didn’t make a start due to the groin. Yes, 12-18 months is the range, but for most it is pretty consistently 12-13 months back on the hill.

      3. Point about Sanchez (lesser extent Heredia) is that these high-profile prospects aren’t performing to even include them as 2nd or 3rd pieces in a deal.

      4. I don’t question McGuire’s defense as much as his offense. That bat just won’t play. At this point, I can’t see him advancing to AA next year. Diaz doesn’t seem like a starter to me, maybe a 50 game starter at best.

      5. Yes, the plate discipline is surprising, as I wrote about in The Paradox of Josh Bell article.

      6. Yes, Tucker is young for his level. But here’s a question — say Tucker’s bat develops because he fills out his frame…will that fill out take away from him playing SS and will that newly developed bat play at 2B or 3B?

      Thanks for reading.

      • While I appreciate you taking the time to respond, I have to say firstly before replying, that what I find most problematic, more so than the analysis is the passive aggressive shot at Pirates Prospects. If you want to level honest criticism at the site, by all means. But taking veiled shots and then coyly insisting you weren’t referring to Tim, et al suggest you have an axe to grind as as a result of your time writing for the site and negatively contextualizes the analysis that follows.

        1) While I appreciate and am familiar with your previous work assessing the trade value of prospects that doesn’t answered the question I asked. Which was how did evaluate the players currently in the system and mentioned in the above post.

        2) You didn’t address the claim that it was widely assumed Taillon would begin the year at AAA. In a February Q & A Taillon himself said he’d begin the year in extended spring training. That the Pirates choose to have Taillon throw in extended spring training rather than for an affiliate doesn’t mean his rehab wasn’t going well.

        3) I think it’s fair say the stocks of Sanchez and Heredia haven’t improved at best and have dropped at worst. But that said there’s a number of other players who’ve raised their stocks and replaced them as potential third players in such a trade. Adam Frazier and Max Moroff for instance.

        4) and 5) I don’t want to repeat myself with regard to McGuire. But with regards to the offense. What’s your basis for ‘the bat just won’t play’ beyond the stat line? Given his age and his current level and that’s he’s catcher at this point the scouting reports matter just as much as the stat line as far as I’m concerned. To be fair they vary a bit. But aside from the lack of power what’s the issue you’re identifying? Lack of power is a reasonable issue to raise if we’re talking about Josh Bell at AA but less a player who just turned 20 at A+ who plays a premium position at plus level.

        6. Tucker isn’t just young for his level but the 8th youngest player in the Atlantic League as of Opening Day (McGuire and Meadows were among the Top Ten youngest in the Flordia State League as well). Have you seen him play? How do you rate his range, footwork, hands, arm, etc? Simply gaining say 20 lbs certainly wouldn’t mean he couldn’t credibly play SS, unless you reason to believe such a weight gain would be an issue for him some in particular. It’d make him roughly the same height and weight as Jordy Mercer who’s listed at 205. Or Brandon Crawford who’s 215. Or Xander Bogaerts who’s 210. Or Jhonny Peralta who’s 215. Or Brad Miller who’s 200.

        • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 10:22 AM // Reply

          I didn’t realize that Tim has achieved sainthood in recent years and is beyond reproach. Whether I have an issue with him or not is inconsequential. The opening 2 lines of:
          If you currently spend $2.99 a month to hear about how great a 21st round pick can be in five years, this article may upset you. I’m not going to sugarcoat how poor this year has been for the Pirates’ minor league system.

          show just how thin-skinned he is and how strange it is for his loyal readers to feel the need to carry his flag or spray paint his name on the water tower to defend his honor.

          I’m not going to debate any more of your numbered points. You have your stance and I have mine.
          I promise that if I’m wrong, I will write a follow-up article. I only ask that all of the readers, once they’re doing putting away the tar and feathers, do the same if I am right.

          • Since you’re so full of integrity and willing to admit when you’re wrong, were you wrong about Brian Sabean?

          • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 11:37 AM //

            What an interesting point to bring up out of all the things I’ve said…um…sure? You can’t argue that the Giants have won 3 of the last 5 WS. I always say “Flags Fly Forever”, so there’s no denying that.

            Do I agree with his methodology of how to assemble to team? No, that’s not what I would like to see (the Lincecum 2 year recent extension is just incinerating money that could have been better spent, did it to “keep the gang together”), but it has worked for the Giants.

            Since you, I’m guessing, know me from my OBN days, then feel free to resurrect the “Did Anyone Want To Draft Posey Over Alvarez?” thread. Look at the lambasting I took there for having a contrary opinion the week after the 2008 draft. That’s one that I stood by and I didn’t even expect Posey to be THAT good.

          • Or I could find the many overly optimistic things you wrong about Chase d’Arnaud, Tony Sanchez, Rudy Owens, Jarek Cunningham, Luis Heredia, etc.

            You can claim all you want that you were not a cheerleader. You were. You know. I know. And anyone who followed your work at OBN and to P2 knows it.

            So obviously you had an agenda then and did not truly believe or remotely support your biased opinion about many Pirate prospects. Just like now you clearly have an agenda and do not truly believe or remotely support your biased and now pessimistic opinion about the Pirates. Perhaps your agenda this time around would not have been so transparent had you not let it be know how resentful and hurt you are whatever Tim did.

            But congratulations on the added attention this article has received. I assume that was your intention. Unfortunately you still lack any shred of objectivity.

          • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 4:17 PM //

            Agenda implies that I set out with a specific goal in mind. I didn’t in 2009 at P2 and I didn’t in 2015 at TPOP. I wrote an article on a Friday that I expected would generate some interest, maybe a comment or two. I didn’t greedily rub my hands together and revel in what a hot take I had just created and unleashed.

            The word agenda is used when one party has pre-conceived biases against a second party. You clearly do. So enjoy adding this article and comment section to your scrapbook of all my other work you keep bedside. Have a good time parsing this over at your other message board.

          • I don’t have any particular fondness for Tim or Pirates Prospects. It’s a site I read as a source of news and information about the Pirates minor league system and amateur talent–prior to the shift to the subscription model–along with Kiley McDaniel, Keith Law, BA, BP, and

            I don’t have any problem criticism of the site or Tim. I was simply taking issue with doing so passive aggressively. That said this post has now generated 46 comments, which appears to be more than the other baseball related posts in total. So whatever your grievance with Tim (which may be legitimate I don’t know) he’s certainly directed a substantial amount of traffic and user engagement your way.

            The majority of criticism this post has drawn is not a result of negatively assessing the state of the system or even taking a veiled swipe at Tim. It’s a result of basing your assessment of players in A and A+ on stat lines. I can only assume that’s how you reached your conclusions, because as far as I can tell you’ve not responded to question asking if you’ve seen the players in question nor have you quoted scouts or other sources of information. Additionally in the case of Taillon your assessment of his rehab his based on inaccurate information (as I mentioned previously a quick google search reveals that in Feb he himself said he was slated to begin the year in Extended Spring Training) and assumptions about what his initial assignment meant with regard to his health (with no additionally reporting or sourcing to support that assumption).

            Certainly some if not many of the players you’ve negatively assessed will flame out and/or not come close to their projected ceiling. That’s pretty much a given, when one considers the attrition rate of all prospects they’d always be wise to take the under. But it’s not simply about hit and misses. But the quality and depth of analysis.

            I’m a Pirates fan and so I certainly welcome good news about any and all players in their system. But much more than that I prefer substantial analysis, regardless of conclusion. With regard to prospects in particular I look for information beyond what I can find on their Fangrapsh, BR, and pages.

            I hope you’ll at least take a moment to consider that the majority of negative feedback your receiving isn’t a result of taking a dim view of the system or anything personal, or even a disagreement about the conclusion in some cases but rather is simply folks who feel that you’ve insufficiently supported your thesis.

          • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 4:13 PM //

            I’ve been doing this a long, long time in terms of evaluating prospects. The research was done back in December for bust rates among BA Top 100 prospects here on the site. I watch video, read reports, interpret stat lines.
            SPOILER ALERT — national guys at BA, BP, don’t visit every team and see every guy in person for 10 consecutive games. They rely on contacts, video, maybe see a guy for a game.

            Putting any service up on a pedestal, local or national, is silly. At the end of the day, prospecting is riddled with imperfections in process. Can’t miss prospects miss all the time, whether through injuries or lack of performance.

            This article in question was not geared to be an exhaustive analytical, 3000-word treatise on the state of farm system performance. Rather it was showing a problem in the year 2015 due to injuries, performance regression, and draft classes not living up to standards that would allow players to be packaged in deals.

          • While I appreciate your ‘Spoiler Alert’ I’m familiar with the process of prospect writers, so that isn’t necessary but thanks.

            I’m not sure what I wrote suggests I’m putting any one national outlet on a pedestal. In fact I didn’t write that, so I can only assume you’re simply projecting your own frustrations with regard to those writers onto my comment. I read a number of writers national and otherwise and certainly don’t think anyone person has monopoly on prospect wisdom or insight. My take away is based both overall consensus as well the quality of the analysis. That is to say if a writer offers analysis that contradicts but does so in a substantial and convincing fashion I’ll certainly weight that more heavenly.

            Whatever research you may have done simply isn’t reflected in the article, both in terms of accuracy and and analysis beyond stat lines.

  17. Kevin, with all due respect this is quite the 180 for you. There’s no doubt there are websites completely dedicated to cheerleading while attempting to deny it. But haven’t you done the same yourself in the past?

    • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 8:07 AM // Reply

      When I wrote for Pirates Prospects, which is what you’re driving at, that was a time when the farm system was on the rise. At that time a lot of the writing, whether by me or others, was to demonstrate to people that hope was on the horizon. I’m sure you can dig out an example or two of my writing that doesn’t hold up, but by and large I never was a “cheerleader”. Most of my work there, especially in the later years, was focused on the business side of baseball — which is more interesting to me. I wrote about the budding TV contract bubble far before it became en vogue. Wrote about the Incremental Value of A Fan, based on how much a typical fan spends at a game. Debuted the Surplus Value of A Prospect there with Steve.

      All of this was done to reverse-engineer just how much revenue the Pirates actually take in, both to educate myself and others, in an attempt to show why the Pirates (Nutting) aren’t going to spend $150M on payroll.

      And yes, I have been a proponent of prospects and building through a strong farm. Have I missed on a few? Sure. Have I been right on more than a few? Definitely.

      This isn’t like a permanent 180, either. It’s just saying that at this point in time in 2015, the farm system is down and not as vaunted (in one man’s OPINION) as led to believe. again, I feel this will impact the Pirates’ moves.

      Humans are allowed to evolve and have opinions that change. It’s part of our charm. No one’s opinion is set in stone.

  18. Well I for one appreciate the take. Differences of opinion sharpen everyone’s personal analysis, I will say while it is hard to comment on recent draftees it is possible to gain an understanding of the present draft philosophy, Kevin how have the people doing the drafting over the last seven years or so have changed their philosophy?

    • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 4:02 PM // Reply

      Thank you. When I was at an event in May at PNC, a question was asked to NH about his evolution as a GM. He said he inherited a poor evaluation system, a set of scouts that weren’t to his liking, and that he (NH) has improved his game over the years. Imagine that…someone’s opinion changing over the course of time and not set in stone!

      As for drafting, the past two years have obviously been much lower in order than his drafts from 2008-13, so they’re just letting the board come to them and whoever they have as best available they’re taking. In my opinion, they’ve gone too safe in their drafts when this is the time they should be taking risks. Players in 2014-15 drafts aren’t realistically expected to be in the majors until 2018-19, which is when the Pirates will need to reload their team in my estimation. So wouldn’t it be better to take a chance on an arm or bat with upside in the 20’s draft slot rather than a safer pick?

      Joe DelliCarri took over as Scouting Director in 2012, so it’s difficult for me to say that was the change in philosophy.

  19. How many of these players have you seen in person?

  20. While I’m certainly open to a reasonable discussion of whether the Pirates farm system has taken a step backwards this year, the sentence

    “this year the Pirates do not have any high-end prospect performing at peak level, as even Tyler Glasnow was injured for a month this year”

    demonstrates that you will bend every fact to “support” your point of view. His injury and performance are not related, as an ankle injury will not scare another GM off a potential trade, and the fact is Glasnow has dominated this year, it’s irrefutable, as you might say. 2.12 ERA, 1.88 FIP, .882 WHIP, 10 K/9, 2 BB/9 all while stepping up to AA as a 21 year old.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 11:47 AM // Reply

      I always dislike arguing semantics because words are misconstrued and misinterpreted based on pre-conceived notions…

      “this year the Pirates do not have any high-end prospect performing at peak level, as even Tyler Glasnow was injured for a month this year”

      When I wrote this article on the night of 7/16, Glasnow was in the midst of his best start of the year and his 3rd back from his ankle injury. As of today, he has pitched only 56 innings in 2015 due to missing about six weeks of game action. He’s probably going to top out around 9 or 10 more starts and get (roughly) 55-60 additional innings. That will put him at about 110 total innings in 2015. Last year he pitched just 124 innings.

      With his dominant performances, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect Glasnow to be in AAA getting time at the level in July. This year has not increased his IP total to about 150-160 and he won’t see significant, if any, time at AAA.

      To me, that implies he has not had a peak level year.

  21. Everything is relative, as they say. Cole’s .689 OPS looks pretty bleak until you consider the Sally league avg is .692, so he’s basically a league avg hitter (in a league that uses a DH) as a capable SS and one of the league’s youngest players.

    Same story for Meadows and McGuire. FL State league avg OPS is .649, so McGuire is a little below league avg (again incl DHs) while extremely young and playing good defense at a premium position. Meadows’ .750 is actually the 23rd best OPS in the league with 19 of the 22 above him being older than he is. I do concede his recent lack of power is a concern, but overall, he has not taken a step backward this year. Oh, and look who’s leading that league in OPS by a wide margin, Harold Ramirez, over a guy 5 years older than he is. Has Ramirez also taken a step backward this year? If you leave out all the guys that have taken a huge step forward, you’re left with the guys that (somewhat) fit your narrative, but your argument isn’t very strong.

    And just to be clear, Ramirez isn’t the only one that fits my narrative. Angel Sanchez, Moroff and Frazier (just off the top of my head) have all taken steps forward bigger than McGuire MAY have back slid.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2015 at 4:08 PM // Reply

      Think about it this way — when NH is on the phone and wants a high-end starting pitcher, who moves the needle on the interest meter? It’s not Angel Sanchez, a 25-year old who spent most of the year in AA and projects as a 5th starter or middle reliever. If the Pirates got Jeff Francoeur (I hope not), maybe they move Adam Frazier. But neither of those two are any different than what every farm system has. Yes, Moroff has greatly increased his profile this year, but he’s a 2B, not a SS long-term.

      Harold Ramirez has had a great year in 37 games, due to continued injury issues. His great surface stats will regress by the end of the year. He’s reminding me of Jose Tabata, in terms of build and HR potential. Tabata was dubbed mini-Manny (Ramirez) but never developed his power. Ramirez is not demonstrating much as of yet, plus his 11-for-21 in SB this year indicates some inability to either get a solid first jump or misreading of pitchers.

      The end result of this reply is — who do the Pirates have RIGHT NOW in July 2015 that other GM’s are interested in for deals? To me, it’s a smaller pool.

  22. Really can’t argue the overall point that the farm is going to go down more than a few notches. The slanted negativity actually got me to click, but the only angle that I find fundamentally moronic is calling the 2014-15 drafts “busts.” I actually like the Cole Tucker pick and the prep pitchers in 2014. This year who really knows. Only need 1 or 2 out of the 30+ signed to hit to look smart.

    Overall, it IS a down year. No break-out prospects. Taillon and Kingham with TJ. No power from Bell and Meadows. When you are talking about 50 AB’s from Ramirez (who also reminds me of Tabata) or Frazier or Moroff hitting like Brock Holt, its hard to get excited. What we all want is to see Josh Bell look like Darryl Strawberry or Meadows resemble a pale Gary Sheffield. Instead, we are reading articles on a dude named Yeudy or something.

    While I’m a big NH fan and think JT and Glasnow are going to be freaking lights out at PNC, I also know a lot of these cats aren’t going to hit… or hit for someone else after they get dealt. But I think what it comes down to is this…. when I come home from work I just don’t want to read that my favorite baseball team’s farm isn’t developing. I want hope. I want optimism. And I want that first basemen from Arizona for JaCoby Jones and Stetson Allie and everybody else that will never matter in Pittsburgh.

  23. Darkstone42 // July 23, 2015 at 11:24 AM // Reply

    I don’t get the criticism of Tucker, who’s playing at a level higher than his age suggests he should be and holding his own, hitting for average and getting on base, and his coaches love his maturity. Or of Meadows who hasn’t shown power in a *league which suppresses power because the ballparks are enormous* but who has hit for average, gotten on base, and driven the ball to the gaps, especially lately.

    McGuire’s an elite defensive catcher, and he’s got a good eye and a good contact skill. It hasn’t translated into results, but he’s not swinging a limp noodle, either. He hits a lot of line drives.

    Bell’s home run power hasn’t come around, but he’s a great hitter without it. Sure, it’s unconventional, but it’s still valuable. And he just made an adjustment to his swing a week or two ago and has hit two home runs since then.

    I just think your expectations on these kids are unreasonable. Not everyone is going to hit in the minors like Michael Conforto. That doesn’t make them non-prospects.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 23, 2015 at 12:03 PM // Reply

      Meadows– it’s the ISO for me. Sub 100 is poor, no matter how humid or big the parks are. Where’s the 2b or 3b’s?

      McGuire — Austin hedges was great defender that had a poor hit tool. At age 20/21, his OPS were in high 700’s. McGuire has two low 600’s. To me, 9 xbh in 280 abs is a limp noodle.

      Bell — if you’re a supposed top 100 1b prospect you need to have a strong power bat.

      Tucker– yes, he’s young, but the lack of power doesn’t portend success. Top prospects go to Low A first year, so it’s not uncommon. I’m worried that he’ll outgrow SS and his bat won’t play elsewhere.

  24. Kevin, are you reconsidering your comments in light of recent player performance? Specifically:

    1. Austin Meadows has the 5th highest OPS in the FSL at .764. The 4 guys ahead of him are ages 22, 23, 24 and 23. So far in the 2nd half of the season, he has 5 2B’s, 1 3B, 3 HR’s, and an ISO of .137 … while being basically one of the youngest players in the league and one who plays CF, an elite defensive position.

    2. Reese McGuire since the AS break is hitting .309/.350/.362. Again, he is 20 years old and plays an elite defensive position extremely well. He bats lefty and has a good contact rate. He has no power yet – true. But any elite defensive catcher who hits L-handed, does not fan, walks, gets on base, hits .280 and above, and has a 70 arm, and is extremely young for his level has a lot of value – a lot.

    3. Your criticism of Tucker was wrong. Tucker is showing he can play SS. He JUST turned 19. So far 2nd half, Tucker is posting .316/.343/.439. A .782 second half OPS for one of the youngest players in the league, playing SS, who is an elite base runner is significant. You are concerned with ISO – and his 2nd half ISO is .123. You then claim you are concerned that he does not walk – after dismissing McGuire’s ability to walk because he lacks power.

    In short, you are cherry-picking negative stats for some of the youngest players in the leagues, and ignoring the fact that these kids are doing well against guys 2-3 years older. Look at it this way – how would McGuire, Meadows and Tucker be doing if they stayed at their present level until 2017? They would be age-appropriate and freaking mauling the league, wouldn’t they ?

    4. As to the 2015 draft picks: Pronouncing the draft a “bust” after 3 weeks was … well, absurd. The players are now refuting your comments.

    Hayes: .364/.452/.442 at age 18.
    Newman: Terrible June, much better July, .237/.283/.398, 10 XBH, 6 SB’s.

    5. Finally, your negative comments on the 2014 prep pitchers is just silly. These pitchers are 18 and 19 years old. Supak has pitched just 16 innings, logging 3 BB, 17 K’s. Keller has been hurt. Hinsz has been hurt. Dismissing 19-year old pitchers because they have been hurt is pretty ridiculous.

    6. You cannot POSSIBLY judge the 2014 and 2015 drafts before 2017, at the earliest. Doing so in your article rightfully brought up the substantial criticism you received in these comments.

    • Steve DiMiceli // August 1, 2015 at 3:51 PM // Reply


      I haven’t joined the conversation much on this thread, but let me respond to a few of your points.

      1). I take your point on Meadows not as an feather in his cap, but rather an indicator of how down the FSL might be this year. His OPS over a full season would have been good for 14th among qualified hitters last year and put him in a tie for 15th the year before.

      The good news is he might be making progress and honestly, I can live with a player who finishes the season stronger than he started it. That’s kind of the aim after all.

      What following up on your point did was highlight just how good Harold Ramirez has been this season. He’s actually leading the league among players with 200 PAs. That list includes the recently promoted 22 yr old Michael Conforto who in a similar sample was out OPSed by 20 yr old Ramirez by over .100 points. His .151 ISO is good for 12th in that sample and makes him one of two players in their age 20 or younger seasons in the top 24. Worth noting that he’d lead the league in OPS in the same sample and would be fifth in a deep class the year before. When I combine his half year in the FSL with his showing against over aged pitchers in the Pan-Am games, it’s difficult not to like what Ramirez is doing this year.

      2) There just aren’t a lot of FSL catchers at any age who make a splash in the majors OPSing around .600 in the FSL.

      3) Tucker’s taken big strides and sustained the improvement over two months.I was actually mildly concerned when his name popped up in trade talks the other night. He’s a player moving up my list.

      4) I actually like the 2015 draft as I think the Pirates picked players that played to their organization strengths. They’re good at developing college pitchers and contact hitters and they loaded up on this type of player. However, you’re reaching by citing Newman’s July numbers an OPS under .700 in a month in not really progress though I’m still willing to give him time.

      5) Pirates have a lot of players in the system with good peripherals, bad ERAs. Supak is one. I’m keeping an eye on all three for sure.

      Kevin’s overall point about the clout of system taking a hit to pitcher injury is a valid one however.

      6) I agree with this point.

      • Comparing where Meadows would have ranked in the FSL last year is not a compelling point – and indeed, it really is not a point at all. Also, you basically ignored the fact that he is outperforming the vast majority of the league while being 2, 3 or even 4 years younger than the competition.

        Further, as to McGuire – high contact rate, high walk rate, and low K rate, along with high-level defense and a lefty bat, make him a significant prospect. I don’t ignore his very low ISO. That is certainly a legitimate shortcoming. But I don’t think it valid for you to cite the one problem McGuire exhibits – literally, his one failing. He walks, he runs the bases, he hits for average, he does not strike out, he is superb defensively at an elite defensive position, and yet the only point you raise is his ISO.

    • Kevin Creagh // August 3, 2015 at 7:40 AM // Reply

      Nothing that would happen in two weeks would change my mind, nor would anything in August of this year.
      If my opinion changes and the various players prove me wrong, I will write an article stating so.

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