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Pirates Focus On Improving Player Development

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A month after saying Neal Huntington was the best man for the general manager job going forward, Pirates owner Bob Nutting had a change of heart. Nutting announced on Oct. 28 that Huntington had been fired.

The Pirates were Baseball America’s Organization of the Year in 2015. Just four years later they were a 93-loss team that was rife with clubhouse turmoil—three players and one coach were suspended by the team during the season—and constant reminders that the organization had fallen behind in so many key areas of the game.

"There’s no question this year as the season progressed, it became more and more clear to me and I think to all of us that some level of change was going to be essential,” Nutting told Alan Saunders of Pirates Prospects.

The most obvious area of change needed was on the player development side.

Huntington had a strategy in 2016 to "bridge to the future” with Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong while waiting for prospects to arrive. That specified future never arrived.

Still, Huntington's long-term plan wasn’t bad. The future looked bright at the time. It featured Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and other players who participated in the 2019 postseason, albeit for other teams. The future also included other players who remained in Pittsburgh and have not yet lived up to their prospect hype.

The Pirates had the No. 1 farm system in baseball entering 2014, and they still ranked No. 7 three years later. Yet none of the key prospects came close to meeting expectations in Pittsburgh, most notably Meadows and Glasnow, who thrived almost immediately after joining the Rays organization.

That did not go unnoticed by Pirates ownership.

"Watching too many of our former players perform at a high level with other organizations, the level of frustration that I felt, the level of frustration that I know our fans felt, we simply cannot continue down that path,” Nutting said.

The good news for Pirates fans is that the next front office will inherit some top prospects who could help in the next year or two, led by righthander Mitch Keller, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and shortstop Oneil Cruz.

BURIED TREASURE

— The Pirates have been conducting interviews for their vacant general manager position, with Ben Cherington and Matt Arnold being two of the frontrunners. Cherington was previously GM of the Red Sox, and is the current vice president of baseball operations for the Blue Jays. Arnold is currently an assistant GM in Milwaukee.

— The Brewers have hired assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz away from the Pirates. Cruz was brought in prior to the 2019 season, along with hitting coach Rick Eckstein, to update the Pirates’ hitting philosophy using Rapsodo and other newer technology.

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