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John Baker Brings A Fresh Perspective



In the span of a month, the Pirates traded first baseman Josh Bell and righthanders Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon, bringing 11 new prospects into the system.

Pittsburgh fans are no strangers to following their share of prospects, but they have seen a concerning trend of those prospects having more success in other organizations.

In November, the organization announced the hiring of John Baker as farm director, going with a new approach aimed to fix some of the player development issues.

“We’re really trying to reposition the job,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said, noting that in his new role Baker will “spend as much energy as possible thinking and helping us in anything related to how players get better on the field, hopefully focus the job on player improvement, and then by extension coaching and coaching development.”

Cherington learned in his own time as a farm director that the position can get caught up in a lot of administrative work, detracting from the player development side. The Pirates liked Baker’s combination of being a former player, his post-playing career work in coaching and his mentality.

“We were just struck by how he wakes up and thinks about his day,” Cherington said. “He’s really very curious at how humans get better at things. We thought he would bring a really fresh perspective, one that is aligned at a high level with where we want to go.”

The Pirates are focusing on an individual approach to development, while increasing the availability of new technology and analytics for every player. Top pitching prospect Quinn Priester noted the changes he’s seen in the system in this area.

“The new management has made it a point (to say) that you guys are in control of your careers. We’re here to help you, but it’s largely on you to do the things,” Priester said. “We’re going to give you every resource we can, but you’re going to be the ones who make it happen and explore those resources.”

BURIED TREASURE

— The Pirates acquired five prospects from the Padres and Mets for Joe Musgrove in a three-team deal, led by center fielder Hudson Head and catcher Endy Rodriguez, adding depth to two positions that are thin in the system. They acquired four prospects in the Jameson Taillon trade with the Yankees, including righthander Miguel Yajure, who could have a shot at the rotation in Pittsburgh at some point in 2021. The Josh Bell trade with the Nationals brought back Wil Crowe, who also should be in the rotation in 2021, and Eddy Yean, who is one of the bigger breakout candidates in the system.

— Righthander Quinn Priester leads a big group of age 21 and under prospects who received invites to big league camp. Joining Priester are middle infielders Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales and Ji-Hwan Bae; first baseman Mason Martin and outfielders Cal Mitchell and Canaan Smith-Njigba.

Greensboro Ballpark

2021 Freitas Awards: Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class A)

The Grasshoppers are destination for fun in Greensboro. The High-A East affiliate of the Pirates was honored for excellence on the business side of minor league operations.

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