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Understanding the Pirates...or at least trying to

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by user Timothy Moreland(Bball3345)

In the offseason before the 2004 season began, a 24-year-old by the name of Chris Shelton had come off of a minor league year in which he hit 21 HRs. This season was not for the Detroit Tigers, his current team but none other than the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was without a doubt the most productive player in the low-minors for Pittsburgh in 2002 and 2003. Still, when the Rule 5 draft rolled around, Shelton was left unprotected. It seemed like quite a curious move. If one tried to understand the Pirates, he could come up with only two possible explanations: Shelton had hit zero home runs in Double-A ball in 2003 and he did not have a true defensive position.

First, the fact that Shelton had no home runs in 122 ABs of Double-A should not have been a warning sign to the Pirates because the drop in power can be explained by late season fatigue and adjusting to a higher minor league level. A player that had hit 38 HRs in his previous 647 minor league at bats does not become a slap hitter all of a sudden. Second, Shelton had the ability to play catcher, although not well, in addition to playing primarily at 1B. Shelton appeared to be a young Craig Wilson, which by the way Wilson gets zero respect from the organization helps to explain why they did not protect Shelton. Explains it, but does not justify it.

So on the day of the Rule 5 draft, Pirates players Carlos Rivera, two years older than Shelton and a less productive 1B, Jason Boyd, Humberto Cota, and Mike Lincoln, who was released from the team a few days after being protected for the Rule 5 draft, were among the players protected. The Pirates organization that were and still are low on talent had no reason not to find room for the promising slugger, Chris Shelton. Ultimately, the Tigers jumped on the opportunity to draft Shelton in the Rule 5 draft. Not being able to find room for Shelton in their minors when less talented players were on the major league team has led to Pirates fans having to watch Shelton drooled over by scouts and begin the 2006 season hitting a home run virtually every night.


Mon 04/17/06, 5:07 am EST

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