Pirates Notebook: Drafting for signability to get Sano?

A lot of rumors have come about lately, mostly from ESPN’s Keith Law, stating that the Pirates are looking to take a high school player like 3B Bobby Borchering, C/3B Wil Myers, or RHP Matt Hobgood with their first pick. These players would provide a signability advantage, with the possibility of working out pre-draft deals. The idea would be to free up money for top Dominican prospect, Miguel Angel Sano.

In Law’s latest Top 100 list he ranks Myers the 16th best prospect in the draft, Hobgood the 19th best prospect, and Borchering the 22nd best prospect. Baseball America considers Borchering one of the safest prep bats in the draft, with the 6’4″ 200 pound third baseman projecting as a power hitting corner infielder. Hobgood has a 90-94 MPH fastball, which tops out at 95 MPH, but is projected as a sandwich round talent by BA. Myers is ranked by BA as the third best catcher in the draft, but is also a sandwich round talent. (All of the links above require subscriptions to read)

If the Pirates were to go this route, they wouldn’t be taking the best player available, no matter who went with the top three picks. However, would that be a bad thing if they used the savings on Sano? Let’s weigh this out.

The Pros: This draft isn’t exactly a loaded draft like last year. There are a few players at the top of the draft who seem to be sure things, like Stephen Strasburg and Dustin Ackley, but not many players stand out, unlike last year where you could have gotten Buster Posey with the fifth pick, or Justin Smoak with the eleventh pick. So taking a prospect ranked in the 15-25 range wouldn’t be as big of a reach this year as last year or any other year. If the Pirates then went on to sign Sano, they’d be getting two first round talents.

The last time the Pirates ran in to an issue of signability, they drafted Daniel Moskos, paying $2.475 M, which was right at slot level for the fourth pick. However, this year there isn’t going to be a Matt Wieters on the board when the Pirates are picking (unless Dustin Ackley is somehow there). The combination of a slot friendly deal, and a Sano signing, would probably be the same amount as what the Pirates ended up paying Pedro Alvarez last year.

The Cons: The whole reason for all of this speculation is that the Pirates are looking to free up money to sign Sano. So what happens if the Pirates don’t sign Sano? Now they have a lesser talent, and nothing to show for it. There is also little guarantee on Sano at the time of the draft, as the international signing period comes almost a month after the June 9th draft. The anticipation is that Sano will command a similar bonus to Michael Inoa last year ($4.25 M), but there’s no guarantee that a team like Boston or New York won’t swoop in at the last minute and offer a lot more to sign Sano.

The only way to guarantee a top prospect is to draft one. There’s a possibility that the top three players off the board will be Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, and Aaron Crow, in that order. While that doesn’t leave many standout talents available, it does leave plenty of players who are better choices than the “signability” group. Even if the Pirates were to take a high school pitcher like Shelby Miller, widely considered a top 10 talent, they probably wouldn’t pay a huge amount. Last year the Baltimore Orioles took college pitcher Brian Matusz with the fourth pick, and paid him a $3.2 M signing bonus. Baseball America had Matusz ranked as the best pitcher in the draft, and the second best overall player behind Alvarez.

The Conclusion: The Pirates have to take the best player available. There is no guarantee that they will get Sano, but the Pirates can guarantee themselves a top prospect in the draft. If the draft was held today, I would hope that Dustin Ackley or Aaron Crow would drop to the Pirates. If that didn’t happen, there would still be a lot of guys on my draft board before guys like Borchering, Myers, or Hobgood.

If we end up drafting a top player AND signing Sano, we can always make up for the costs later. I’d rather see the 2010 payroll cut by $3-4 M than see the Pirates take a lesser player in the first round, with no guarantee of getting the top prospect in the international signing period. Overall I think this whole idea is off-base. The difference between the #4 pick last year ($3.2 M) and the assumed slot price ($2.75 M) was about $0.5 M, and Brian Matusz held out until August 15th. Based on what we saw last year, I highly doubt the Pirates will draft based on signability, all to save about $1 M (which is likely to be the case, unless they wind up with the chance to draft Ackley, at which point the Pirates have to take him, regardless of cost).

More Draft Notes

-Tanner Scheppers has been watched by NPB scouts (Japanese league) and could use the idea of signing with the Japanese league as leverage in the upcoming draft. That could be bad for us, as it could cause Scheppers to slip past the Mariners and Padres, making it harder for us to get a better pick. Keith Law says that the Pirates haven’t gotten permission from Scheppers to re-draft him, although I wouldn’t want to see that happen for reasons already noted.

-The consensus is that this is a “deep” draft, which usually means “there’s not a lot of talent that stands out”. This year the talent between the middle of the first round and the third round is pretty much at the same level. I’m not sure if that means it’s a bunch of third round talent from picks 20-80, or if it’s a bunch of late first/early second round talent in that span. However, with such a deep draft, it’s nice that the Pirates have four picks in the top 100 (4, 49, 53, 84). Those second round picks could very easily land the Pirates some mid-first round talent, possibily even one of the names listed above in the “signability” group.

-Aaron Crow is expected to make his third start of the regular season for the Fort Worth Cats on Friday. Crow is an arm that is considered to be Major League ready right now. If the Pirates were to draft him, I could see him making a quick stop at Lynchburg (which I’d attend), followed by spending time in AA, some 2010 seasoning in AAA, and a call to the majors by mid-season next year.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated to include the 6-1 loss to the Cubs. The biggest impacts from that game:

1. Ian Snell: -.302 WPA
2. Jack Wilson: -.075
3. Nyjer Morgan: -.061
4. Craig Monroe: -.059
5. Adam LaRoche: -.056

As usual, the tracker will be updated tomorrow with the results from today’s game, but here were the players with the biggest impacts from today’s game with the Cubs:

1. Jesse Chavez: -.255 WPA
2. Jason Jaramillo: -.206
3. Delwyn Young: -.187
4. Andy LaRoche: -.118
5. Sean Burnett: -.100

B.U.C.C.O. Fans.com loves Matt Capps and Zach Duke

If you take a visit to the Baseball-Referenc

e player pages for Matt Capps and Zach Duke, you’ll notice that B.U.C.C.O. Fans.com is now the sponsor of each page. Of course after sponsoring these two players, Capps went on to get hurt, which leaves a strong possibility of a “B.U.C.C.O. Fans.com curse” to rival other sports curses like the Madden Cover, Campbell’s Soup, and being a pitching prospect in the Pirates’ system.

So if Zach Duke goes down in his next start, I’m sorry. I was just showing my support to Baseball-Reference, and to these two players.

Other Stuff

-Ken Rosenthal has some information on the Pirates in his recent column, specifically in regards to trading their high priced veterans like Adam LaRoche and Jack Wilson. Rosenthal notes that teams expecting the Pirates to dump salary will be disappointed. He cites a source that says the Pirates can maintain their current payroll through the end of the season, and still spend in the draft and the Latin American signing period. That would put to rest any of the above signability issues attached with Sano.

As for sending money to another team to make a LaRoche or Wilson trade work? Rosenthal says the Pirates are philosophically opposed to the idea of a small revenue team sending money to a large revenue team in order to gain better prospects. The Indians and Dodgers did this last year, when the Indians sent Casey Blake and cash to the Dodgers for catcher Carlos Santana and RHP Jon Meloan. Along with being a great guitar player, Santana was rated the top prospect in the Indians system this season by Baseball America, one spot ahead of Matt LaPorta, who they received for C.C. Sabathia.

If sending a few million yields a prospect like that, I don’t see the problem. The Pirates are set to spend about $4 M on an international prospect. Wouldn’t the idea of sending money to another team to get a good prospect in return be the same thing? In each case you’re buying a talented prospect. The only difference is that one is a free agent, and the other is via trade.

-Buster Olney listed some trade rumors in his recent blog post. He mentioned Jack Wilson and linked him to the Red Sox, citing that “rival executives” see a fit. As we learned last year with the Rays (stocked with top prospects and needing an outfield bat) and the Pirates (shopping two outfield bats and seeking top prospects), a “fit” doesn’t necessarily constitute a likely deal.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Nate M.

    I said this back on the Pirates message board. The Pirates can take a high school pitcher (Miller, Wheeler, or Matzek) and they probably wouldn’t sign for much over slot…you stated this as well and I think that’s the way to go. I think the Pirates should go the prep way anyways and if they cheapen out and not take the best player available it will be the same old stuff from the Pirates. Plus it would go against Coonelly saying “we’re going to take the best player available”.

  • Fla Pirate

    Aaron Crow or bust!

    Hopefully he falls to us and doesn’t blow his arm out at the last second.

  • Nate M.

    Zach Wheeler or bust!

  • Anonymous

    I vote Wheeler, Turner or Miller add who can be top of the rotation starters.

  • Tim Williams

    Dustin Ackley or bust!

    Right now I feel that if Ackley and Crow are gone, the difference in talent between the remaining guys is minimal. Therefore I’d draft based on need, and we need a good pitching prospect more than we need a good third base prospect.

    I don’t think Borchering is a bad prospect, and he’s not ranked too far below the high school pitchers. However with Andy LaRoche, Pedro Alvarez, and other guys like Matt Hague, Neil Walker, and Jeremy Farrell in the system, there’s no need to take a third baseman with the fourth overall pick.

  • Nate M.

    Don’t forget though that Borchering can play 1st too. That being said, I wouldn’t draft him #4 overall, I’m just saying.