ERIE -- Prospect rankings serve a purpose in the minor leagues and are used by virtually every baseball outlet for comparison purposes, but the dirty little secret about them is they are often worthless and/or way off base.
They glorify high draft picks who have never accomplished anything, and they frequently fail to recognize, for various reasons, players who actually have proven themselves with impressive numbers on the field.
Take Quincy Latimore, for example.
The Curve's left fielder drove in 100 runs and hit 19 homers last season for Single-A Bradenton.
He led the Pirate organization and the Florida State League in RBIs and became just the 10th Bucco farmhand since 1995 to drive in 100 (the Curve's Adam Hyzdu was another one with 106 in 2000).
He's only 22 years old and is still developing as a power hitter.
And it's not like he was a late-round draft pick who came out of nowhere. He was taken in the fourth round of the 2007 draft out of high school.
The young man certainly has the look of a top 10 prospect, yet he's way down at No. 21 on Baseball America's list ranking the Pirates' minor leaguers.
Something doesn't add up there.
Latimore got off to a strong start in his Double-A debut Thursday night, going 2-for-4 with a two-run double that barely missed being a grand slam.
"That's what he is, he's a run producer," said Curve manager P.J. Forbes, who saw Latimore hit .311 with runners in scoring position last season, resulting in 86 of his 100 RBIs.
"If he stays in his game, gap to gap, he's gonna drive in 100 more this year," Forbes added.
Latimore has that kind of lofty goal. His aim is to get better every year, meaning ...
"If I hit 20 [homers] and 101 [RBIs], that would be better than last year," said Latimore, who also had 31 doubles a year ago.
It's easy to find the knock on Latimore. He strikes out a lot -- 136 times in 518 at-bats last year.
He also has never hit for a high average, posting a .266 mark in 2010 and .256 for his career.
The strikeouts and batting average must be to blame for his low prospect ranking, but one would think driving in 100 runs as a 21-year-old in a tough high-A ball league would earn him a little more respect than that.
"His whole thing is approach," Forbes said. "When he stays gap to gap, he's gonna be an effective hitter. It's when he starts trying to pull the ball, coming off things that he gets in trouble."
The manager added he was most pleased that Latimore stepped to the plate in a clutch situation in his first Double-A game and was ready to deliver. Latimore smoked the first pitch he saw in the eighth inning for the game-tying two-run double that nearly left the yard.
"He goes up there and gets a first pitch out over the plate and does damage with it," Forbes said. "We talk about that all the time. He executed."
Latimore drove in 70 runs in 118 games at low-A West Virginia in 2009, hitting 11 homers and batting .251. He also struck out 116 times -- which again hurts him in the eyes of the prospect rankers -- and he doesn't like to walk (only 30 last year, 23 in 2009).
But this guy does have 170 RBIs the past two years.
"It's something I take pride in, trying to knock runners in, so I really bear down and try to get me a good ball to hit," Latimore said.
I don't mess around with ranking prospects. I'm a stats guy, not a hype guy, and prefer to go off of what I see in major categories -- power production in Latimore's case.
There have been many, many players who have come through Altoona who didn't come close to putting up the kind of numbers Latimore has and yet somehow were ranked in the top 10. Most of them flopped either here or Triple-A.
Prospect rankings aren't even close to an exact science, and maybe the Pirates really do have 20 prospects better than Latimore.
But I don't buy it, not when a guy is 22, getting better each year and coming off a 19-homer, 100-RBI season.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.