Pirates Notebook: Make or Break for Huntington

I’ll give Neal Huntington and the Pirates’ front office credit: they don’t care at all what the fans of Pittsburgh think. They’re going to do what they think is right, regardless of the public backlash that will come from the moves they make.

I think that’s a good thing. You can’t make your decisions based on the demands of the fan base. The fans are exactly that: fans. They don’t know anything. 99% of people criticizing the Tony Sanchez pick have never seen Sanchez, and probably haven’t seen any of the players drafted today. Their only information on the prospects comes from one or two web sites, and these sites aren’t always 100 percent accurate. The fans will read a report and think they’re on par with the Pirates’ GM, but that’s not exactly the case.

That even goes for a guy like me, who starts following the next draft not long after the previous draft has been completed, and reads as much as possible on the subject. I may think the Pirates were better off with Jacob Turner or Aaron Crow with the number four pick, but the thing is I’ve never seen Turner or Crow pitch a game. I base my information off of two things: stats and the scouting reports of one or two sites.

It’s hard to make an accurate judgment on stats. Sure, Jacob Turner struck out two batters an inning in prep ball this year. However, that’s against players who went and took an Algebra test the next day. That doesn’t guarantee success against guys like Albert Pujols in the majors.

Then there’s the scouting reports. I said this a lot tonight, but Neal is paid to not only evaluate these guys (and in a more in-depth manner than reading a few articles and checking stats), but he’s also paid to rank these guys. If it was as easy as looking at the Baseball America top 200 and making your selections based on the list, anyone could do the job.

I’m certain that every team had a different set of rankings, and that none of those rankings matched the Baseball America rankings. There may have been some similarities in some areas, but I know there’s no way one group of rankings matched another. So who’s to say which set is right? We favor the BA rankings, because that’s all we know on these players.

I give credit to Neal after tonight’s draft for making the tough choices and for seemingly sticking to his rankings. However, this draft is going to be the make to break for his career as a GM. If these picks work out, then Neal will look great for seeing Tony Sanchez as a solid option at #4, rather than a late first rounder like the media rated him. If these picks flop, Neal will be joining Dave Littlefield in the scouting department.

As for those picks…

Pick #4: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College

A lot of people will compare Sanchez to Daniel Moskos, but there is no comparison. There was no Matt Wieters in this draft available to the Pirates at #4. In fact, the talk that the first round prospects were pretty equal in talent was given some credit today.

A lot will be made by Bucco fans about the Pirates taking Sanchez (ranked 32nd by BA) at #4. However:

-Baltimore took Matt Hobgood (#40 at BA) with the #5 pick.
-San Francisco took Zach Wheeler (#12 at BA, and considered the most signable prep pitcher) with the #6 pick.
-Atlanta took Mike Minor (#35 at BA) with the #7 pick.
-Cincinnati took Mike Leake (#14 at BA) with the #8 pick.

All of the top high school arms (Matzek, Turner, Purke, Miller) were on the board for picks 5-8. Aaron Crow was also on the board. You could make the argument that all of these picks were made due to signability issues. Then there’s the BA rankings as a whole. 29 players remain in the top 111, despite the fact that tomorrow’s day starts with pick number 112. There were even 12 players taken who weren’t ranked in the top 200 by Baseball America (the Pirates took one of them).

So if the biggest complaint on Sanchez was that he was ranked low, I don’t think that’s a valid reason to hate the pick. What I do know:

-Sanchez is considered a slightly above-average major league defender. A lot of talk after the pick said his defense was major league ready now.
-He has soft hands, quick feet, and a borderline plus arm, which is a great combo for throwing out runners.
-He excels at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt.
-The big issue is on offense. He has solid-average power. He crushes fastballs, but struggles against breaking balls. However, he’s a smart enough hitter to lay off the impossible stuff, and has a mature approach at the plate.

One thing I thought was ironic was that Baseball America had Max Stassi and Wil Myers ranked slightly higher than Sanchez, but Stassi hasn’t been drafted yet, Myers went with the 91st pick, and six catchers were drafted in-between Sanchez and Myers.

My Summary: I made it known that I thought Turner or Crow would be better here. I still think that. I’m not going to say Sanchez was a bad pick, but it certainly is interesting, and it will especially be interesting watching it all play out. Sanchez looks like a great defensive catcher, which is important for sticking behind the plate. If his hitting works out, we could be looking at our starting catcher in a few years (not saying we don’t have a good one now, but I don’t trust Ryan Doumit’s health long term behind the plate).

Pick #49: Victor Black, RHP, Dallas Baptist

Black was an interesting selection, taken right around where he was ranked by Baseball America (which was #50). Black is 6’4″, 205 pounds, and throws a 92-95 MPH fastball, topping out at 96.

Black had a good curveball as a freshman, but has struggled with the pitch recently, with his curve now rating below average. He now throws a sharp slider and a good changeup. His control is the biggest issue, but shows room for improvement.

My Summary: Black could very well wind up as a reliever, which would put his fastball around 94-96 MPH consistently, and would also make things easy on him by providing a need for just one “out pitch”. His fastball rates as All-Star caliber, and overall he rates as a solid-average player at the Major League level.

Pick #53: Brooks Pounders, RHP, Temecula Valley HS

First let me say that I think it’s awesome having a pitcher with the name “Pounders”. It seems that Pounders has a build to fit his name, as he’s 6’5″ and 240 pounds.

He doesn’t throw a hard fastball, clocking between 88-92 MPH, but shows some room for improvement to an above-average fastball. He has good control, and throws three off-speed pitches. His curve is mid-70s, his slider is 76-80 MPH, and his changeup is 78-81 MPH.

So while the low 90s fastball isn’t encouraging, the change in speeds should be a good thing for Pounders.

My Summary: Seems like a solid control pitcher. Pounders projects as a solid-average to above-average major league pitcher. He has two pitches that could be above average (fastball and changeup), and combined with his good control and his size makes Pounders an interesting selection.

Pick #84: Evan Chambers, OF, Hillsborough CC

Chambers is an interesting selection. He was ranked #181 by Baseball America, which makes this another “reach”. However, Chambers draws comparisons to Kirby Puckett and Kevin Mitchell, due to his size at 5’9″, 215 pounds. Chambers is a center fielder who is athletic, an above-average runner, and fast enough to play in center.

His thick frame helps him generate raw power. The big issue is whether he can hit in the majors. He has trouble laying off breaking balls,
but if he can fix that issue, he would become a steal. In 188 at-bats this year he hit .324 with 11 homers and 27 stolen bases.

My Summary: I think the comparisons to Puckett and Mitchell are due to his size, but how great would it be to get a guy like that. Chambers is probably the most interesting pick in the draft so far for us, although it’s not hard to beat a catcher and two right handed pitchers who specialize in control. The Pirates are stocked in the outfield, and Chambers panning out to these comparisons would give them even more depth.

Looking Ahead to Day Two

The draft resumes tomorrow with rounds 4-30, starting at noon, EST. Even though it’s obvious Neal Huntington isn’t on the same page as Baseball America, here are the top remaining players according to BA, with their original rankings in parenthesis:

1. Max Stassi, C (30)
2. Sam Dyson, RHP (38)
3. Zack Von Rosenburg, RHP (41)
4. Brody Colvin, RHP (43)
5. Madison Younginer, RHP (45)
6. Keyvius Sampson, RHP (47)
7. Chris Dwyer, LHP (55)
8. Jeff Malm, 1B (59)
9. A.J. Morris, RHP (60)
10. Jason Stoffel, RHP (62)
11. Kent Matthes, OF (63)
12. Angelo Songco, OF (64)
13. Brian Goodwin, OF (65)
14. Dane Williams, RHP (68)
15. Jacob Stewart, OF (74)
16. Ryan Jackson, SS (80)
17. Austin Maddox, C (81)
18. Brooks Raley, LHP (82)
19. Andrew Doyle, RHP (87)
20. Ryan Buch, RHP (90)

A few guys I love from that list:

Madison Younginer: Throws a 93-95 fastball with a sharp downer curve between 72-74 MPH. The fastball is a plus pitch, with All-Star quality, and the curve also has the chance to be a plus pitch. Concerns over his delivery could make him a top closer in the majors instead of a starter. He throws 97 consistently in relief. He’s out of high school, so still improving. He’s 6’3″, 190 lbs.

Brian Goodwin: He’s a fast center fielder with a plus arm and good range. He’s planning on going to UNC where he could develop in to a high first-round pick. Has poor power right now, but could develop in to solid-average power. His hitting also looks to be solid-average in the future. He looks like he could be a Dustin Ackley, only not quite as good of a hitter. He’s expected to be a tough sign. Is a Scott Boras client.

Overall I feel that this will be what makes or breaks Neal Huntington. I also feel that signing Miguel Angel Sano is now a must, especially since we don’t appear to be spending much in the draft so far. I’d also love it if we got the two players listed above (I’d take Younginer first, as Goodwin will probably fall due to Boras).

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 6/9 game. Here are the big impacts for tonight’s loss:

1. Jack Wilson: -.178 WPA
2. Jesse Chavez: -.176
3. Andy LaRoche: -.152
4. Sean Burnett: -.120
5. Nyjer Morgan: -.064

Prospect Report

The Pirates Prospects Tracker is updated with the following:

-Jeff Locke made his debut for Lynchburg tonight.
-Pedro Alvarez went 1 for 4.
-Gorkys Hernandez went 0 for 4.

Not a good start so far for Locke and Gorkys. Hopefully Charlie Morton has better success. Speaking of which…

Other Stuff

-Charlie Morton will be called up to the majors to start tomorrow. Tom Gorzelanny is being sent back down to AAA to re-enter the rotation. Jeff Karstens will stay in the bullpen. I’m fine with this scenario (Morton in the rotation, Karstens in the pen) being a long term situation. Morton has a 2.27 ERA in 11 starts this year at AAA, with a 7.8 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9. Last year he struggled in his call-up to the majors, but that was mostly due to back pains. I’m looking forward to his debut tomorrow. The 25-man roster page has been updated with this move.

-According to Chuck Finder at the PPG, Tony Sanchez is set to sign a deal worth around $2.5 M, which is right at slot. Assuming the Pirates match the $9.8 M they spent last year, this leaves them with $7.3 M to spend on their remaining picks. I’d put Sanchez in Lynchburg to start his minor league career (although that’s because I live an hour away and I’m selfish).

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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, 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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