BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates have been to the playoffs each of the last three years. They're coming off a 98-win season. So there's a lot of focus on 2016 around McKechnie Field.When general manager Neal Huntington met with the media for 15 minutes before Monday's 1-0 Grapefruit League loss
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates have been to the playoffs each of the last three years. They're coming off a 98-win season. So there's a lot of focus on 2016 around McKechnie Field.
When general manager Neal Huntington met with the media for 15 minutes before Monday's 1-0 Grapefruit League loss to the Phillies, though, most of that time was spent talking about the future.
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A healthy farm system is vital to any team, even moreso to those from smaller markets. So it's significant that Huntington believes the organization has one of the best groups of on-the-verge prospects it's had for years.
"Certainly since [manager Clint Hurdle] has been here," he said. "This is the most near-ready group that we've had, both on the mound and position player group. You could go back to [Andrew] McCutchen, [Neil] Walker. That was a fun group as well as you think of what they can become. And this group is in that mix."
Hurdle became the Pirates manager in 2011; McCutchen led the team in WAR for the second straight year that season.
Now the group of youngsters includes names like Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Elias Diaz, Josh Bell and Alen Hanson.
"They've played like they belong," Huntington said. "They've shown up with consistent quality at-bat after consistent quality at-bat. They've not been intimidated by big leaguers, they've not been intimidated by the speed of the game. They've gone out and done very well so far."
Huntington touched on a variety of subjects, including how decisions are made when rosters are constructed.
"We work hard to focus on the process and understand what goes into each player's outcome. The work pregame. The work postgame. We try not to get caught up in outcomes," he said.
"Sometimes a ball may be well struck and the wind knocks it down. Sometimes a ball is well-struck and it leaves the yard because of the wind. So we try to understand what goes into each inning. We also try to understand who they're facing. A guy may go 0-for-3, hit the ball hard three times and face two Major League pitchers and a Triple-A prospect. The other guy may go 3-for-3 and face three A-ball guys that don't have much chance of making the club.
"It's understanding everything. At the same time, we do have tough decisions to make. Our work is to prioritize based on the tools and the skills that we're seeing, not necessarily were they getting hits or making outs."
Hagen** is a reporter for MLB.com.