Pirates Notebook: Wrapping up the draft

Day three of the draft isn’t as exciting as the first two days. The top prospects are long gone, and there are a few guys who fell, or a few hidden gems, but for the most part it’s hard to get a quality player from this round. Not impossible though, it just takes a lot of investing.

For example, take the 39th round pick, Keifer Nuncio, a high school right handed pitcher. Nuncio is 6’0″, 195 pounds, with a fastball in the 88-91 MPH range, and a solid curveball. Nuncio ranks #60 on the Rivals list of high school prospects. Baseball America ranked Nuncio the 41st best prospect in Texas, and said he would be a top five round talent if he was a little bigger and a lot more signable.

That last part is the problem. Nuncio is said to want first round money, which is a big risk, considering his small size. There’s no incentive for Nuncio to sign. He’s already considered a solid talent, and he can only try to improve on that in the next three years at college. After three years he could very well be in position to go in the first round. It’s not that uncommon for a guy to raise his draft stock in college. All we have to do is point to the number one pick this year, Stephen Strasburg, who went un-drafted a few years ago, only to return and be in position to demand a record shattering bonus.

For a team like the Pirates, already loaded up on signable players, Nuncio seems like a backup plan, as there would be little money to meet his demands otherwise. In fact, it seems like there’s a lot of backup plans who were taken on day three by the Pirates, as possible options in case things don’t work out with the guys at the top of the draft. Here are a few of my favorite picks from the final day (along with Nuncio):

Niko Spezial, 32st round: Spezial has a good size at 6’3″, 230 lbs. The left handed starter is committed to Wake Forest next year, after being ranked as the tenth best prospect in New Jersey by BA. He has an 86-91 MPH fastball, but he lacks a breaking ball. Earlier this season he pitched a no-hitter through five innings, striking out 11 of 15 batters. He’s a big game pitcher with a feel for hitting.

Robert Doran, 36th round: Doran is a big pitcher out of JuCo, at 6’6″, 225 lbs. Doran had a 2.58 ERA and an 81:24 K/BB ratio in 92.1 innings pitched. His fastball is only clocked in the high 80s at best, but he keeps the ball down, which seems to be what the Pirates favor. He is committed to Texas Tech next year.

Jacob Lamb, 38th round: Lamb is the 15th best prospect in Washington. He played shortstop, but was drafted as a third baseman. Lamb has good arm strength and is a good hitter. He was the player of the year in his high school league. However, he fell further than expected, and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo sees him honoring his commitment to Washington University.

Brett Lee, 40th round: Lee is a 6’4″, 185 lbs left handed starter who has committed to Florida State next year. His goal is to become a pro ball player, so it could be possible that he takes his chance with the Pirates, although he seems like the type who could go much higher after three years in school. Lee had a 1.64 ERA in 2008, with an 89:20 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. In 2007 he had a 1.41 ERA and a 50:11 K/BB ratio in 39 innings. I couldn’t find the 2009 stats, but I can only assume they are just as good. Lee has an 88-92 MPH fastball, plus a change, curve, and slider. The FSU coach calls Lee a big strong LHP, very good curve, with an effective changeup.

Kevin Gelinas, 45th round: Gelinas was another large pitcher taken from the JuCo ranks (more on this later). He’s 6’5″, 225 lbs, and the 12th best prospect in Arizona according to BA. Gelinas had a 1.68 ERA and a 79:26 K/BB ratio in 53.2 innings pitched. He has a 90-93 MPH fastball, and an inconsistent slider that’s a plus pitch when it is working. He can be overpowering.

Blake Brown, 48th round: Brown is a left fielder, 6’0″, 185 lbs, and has committed to Missouri. Brown hit .440 with 11 homers and 11 steals in 2008. He’s a five tool player with good speed, a strong throwing arm (clocked at 89 MPH from the outfield), and his defense is still a work in progress. Seems like a player who will require a lot of money, as he could go to college for three years, with little injury risk, and be drafted much higher next time around.

Matthew Taylor, 50th round: Taylor is a left handed starter, 6’1″ and 160 lbs. He throws in the upper 80s, touching 91 MPH, and has a solid curveball. An interesting note, he was ranked as the 17th best prospect in Georgia, according to Baseball America. That’s one spot ahead of our fourth round pick, Zach Dodson.

If we could sign just one of these guys, it would be great (my favorites are Blake, Nuncio, and Lee). However, I feel that most of our money will be spent in the first two days of the draft, and unless we get turned down a lot, I don’t see many (if any) of these guys getting signed this year.

As a side note, Brooks Pounders (2nd round), Zach Nuding (37th round), and Parker Bangs could make the ultimate porn-name rotation. I was hoping we would have also added Jordan Flasher to the mix. The most ironic thing of all is that the team is owned by a guy with the last name Nutting. (Geez Tim, take it too far why don’t you)

Looking back at day one

I’ve talked about day one a few times, but I wanted to bring up the whole “reaching for Tony Sanchez” issue one final time. I went through all of the draft picks in the first three rounds, comparing the draft slots to the Baseball America ratings to find the biggest reaches in each round. The results:

Top 5 First Round Reaches:

1. Slade Heathcott, NYY, 29th, 43 spot difference
2. Matt Hobgood, BAL, 5th, 35 spot difference
3. Randal Grichuk, LAA, 24th, 34 spot difference
t4. Mike Minor, ATL, 7th, 28 spot difference
t4. Tony Sanchez, PIT, 4th, 28 spot difference

The Pirates had one of the bigger reaches in the top three rounds when they took Brooks Pounders in the second round, despite not falling on the top 200 of Baseball America. 11 other teams took guys not in the top 200, so this was not unique for the Pirates, however, the Pirates were the earliest to do so.

I will say this much. There is no question that the Pirates drafted for signability in the first three rounds. Tony Sanchez will cost around $2.5 M, according to several reports. Last year the 49th and 53rd picks ran around $1.7 M combined. Since the Pirates went with Pounders, I’m guessing the price will be slightly lower, probably around $1.5 M total at max. The 84th pick went for $450 K last year, which is about slot, so I’m guessing that’s what the Pirates pay.

Overall the Pirates could be spending around $4.5 M on their top three rounds, which leaves $5.3 M if they spend the exact amount as last year (it could be more, although I only think they’ll go all out if they miss out on Sano, which I hope doesn’t happen).

The six figure term has been thrown around, and I’ve seen a lot of people are thinking this will mean $500 K at least. Not necessarily. The Pirates got Jarek Cunningham for $100 K last year, selected in the 18th round with a commitment to Arizona State. They also signed Wes Freeman, selected in the 16th round with a commitment to Central Florida, for $150 K. So don’t assume that six or seven players will take up the entire draft budget. While I anticipate (or at the least hope) that we will be shelling out

some Robbie Grossman and Quinton Miller $1 M contracts, I also anticipate several deals on the lower end of six figures.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 6/10 victory. Here are the big impacts from Thursday’s win:

1. Andy LaRoche: .377 WPA
2. Paul Maholm: .317
3. Steven Jackson: .110
4. Matt Capps: .097
5. Delwyn Young: .056

Paul Maholm is currently in the lead, and only increases that lead today.

Maholm and Diaz

Speaking of Maholm, any time he pitches I feel the need to put the Jason Jaramillo vs Robinzon Diaz catcher’s ERA comparison up.

Notice the huge difference between Jaramillo and Diaz with Maholm? I hope the Pirates do, and continue putting Diaz in when Maholm pitches.

Prospect Tracker

Updates to the Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Tracker:

-Gorkys Hernandez received just his third hit in 27 at-bats since joining the Pirates.

-Jose Tabata returned yesterday, but re-injured himself.

-Pedro Alvarez went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run Wednesday. Thursday’s game was suspended.

Other Stuff

-My day two review of the draft (Suddenly the draft looks great) was featured by ESPN’s Rob Neyer on his blog. His comments on the Pirates’ approach:

Few drafts are ever considered a “big success,” and this one probably won’t be, either. That doesn’t mean the Pirates shouldn’t be applauded for maybe trying to find a different path to success.

We tend to focus on the first-round picks because that’s where a big chunk of the money goes, and because you’ve got a better chance of drafting a star in the first round than the second, a much better chance of drafting a star in the first round than the third, etc. And of course if you’re going to win someday, you’ve got to come up with some stars.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume that a No. 4 pick in the draft typically has a 20 percent chance of becoming a star, but maybe Tony Sanchez has only a 10 percent chance. How many players with a five-percent chance do the Pirates have to sign — with the money they don’t spend on Sanchez — to balance the Sanchez pick? Three? Four?

The draft is terribly imprecise and inefficient, as this very organization has proved many times over. So we can hardly fault them for trying something a little different. If the Pirates wind up spending a reasonable amount of money to sign their picks this year, you might call them innovative, or daring, or maybe even foolish. Just don’t call them cheap.

It seems that Neal is taking an approach to load up on quantity rather than focus on quality in the first round. I guess it comes down to a preference. Do you want to play the $5 slot machine, or do you want five shots at the $1 slot machine?

Either way you’re spending the same amount. In the second method you’re minimizing risk, and since it’s not impossible for players to become stars outside of the first round, diversifying your portfolio of prospects isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I will add this: while few drafts are considered a “big success”, the bar has been set so low in Pittsburgh (SEE: Draft Database for results since 1985) that getting just one star player would be considered a “big success”.

-The Pirates traded for Chris Snelling, who will join their AAA team. I haven’t had much time to read about this, so I assume this was to replace McCutchen in center field (last I checked, Indy had Jeff Salazar playing center).

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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  • Anonymous

    Keifer Nuncio 2009 RHP IF 6-2 195 R R Katy Katy TX Texas

    The most current information on Nuncio, Perfect Game….

  • Brian

    dude, you are killing it. keep it up.