Pirates Notebook: Is the draft a success?

Let’s rewind the clock back to the morning of June 9th, about seven hours before the draft. Rumors were slowly creeping out that the Pirates would draft Tony Sanchez with the number four pick, ranked as the 32nd best prospect in the draft according to Baseball America. Later in the day Keith Law would break the news that the Pirates had reached a pre-draft deal with Sanchez, which sent most Pirates fans in to a frenzy.

My initial thought was that the Pirates would spend on a guy who fell to them in the second round. None of the big high school arms happened to fall to the second round, and the Pirates ended up selecting Victor Black and Brooks Pounders with their first round comp pick and second round selection.

There was a lot of complaining that the draft was a total bust, just four picks in. My feeling was that the draft would be a make or break for Neal Huntington.

Then day two came along, and the Pirates started drafting pitchers, and kept drafting pitchers, then drafted Brock Holt, then some more pitchers, and more pitchers, most of them prep arms. The plan was suddenly clear. Go with signability picks in the top rounds, and draft the tough to sign high school arms with the lower picks. The only question was, would it work?

Fast forward to the present. In the last two days the Pirates have signed Zack Dodson, Colton Cain, and Zack Von Rosenberg for a combined $2.925 M, which is almost half a million more than they gave Tony Sanchez, their number one pick. Meanwhile, Sanchez is in West Virginia, batting for a .326/.450/.494 line in 109 plate appearances.

Here’s another important number: zero.

That’s how many of the top first round high school arms have signed. That group includes Jacob Turner, Zack Wheeler, Tyler Matzek, Matt Purke, and Shelby Miller. Add in some college arms like Mike Leake, Aaron Crow, Alex White, and Kyle Gibson, and you still have zero.

As for the Pirates, they’ve done the following:

-Signed their first round pick right away, and watched him see quick success in the minors
-Signed Victor Black, ranked as the 50th best prospect by Baseball America
-Signed Brooks Pounders, a prep arm who currently has a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings, with a 15:4 K/BB ratio
-Signed Evan Chambers, who despite the .213 average, has an impressive .379 on-base percentage
-Signed college pitcher Nathan Baker, who has started his career with four shutout innings
-Signed Dodson, Cain, ZVR, and Trent Stevenson, all hard to sign prep arms with college commitments
-Signed Brock Holt a second baseman with some decent power (5 HR in 171 AB)

So while guys like Tyler Matzek are holding out for $5-7 M signing bonuses, the Pirates have spent $7,861,900 on a great catching prospect, five talented prep arms, two college arms, a center fielder who has drawn comparisons to Kirby Puckett, and a second baseman with a little pop in his bat.

In a time when the Pirates can’t seem to win anything, it’s clear that they’ve won when it comes to this draft. As far as I’m concerned, they could shut it down now and this draft would be a success (although I don’t wish this to happen).

As for the rest of the draft, the Pirates have spent $7,986,900 on reported contracts. That leaves a little less than $2 M to get to the $9.8 M figure they spent last year. That still leaves some room to run up the score a bit with some more signings. Here are ten guys on my wish list:

1. Matt Den Dekker - Junior from Florida, could be this year’s Robbie Grossman.

2. Jordan Cooper - Committed to Kentucky, 92-93 MPH fastball

3. Joshua Urban - Committed to Texas, mixed reports on velocity, but size could allow for good velocity

4. Jeffrey Inman - Was supposed to be top NCAA JR last year, but had a down year

5. Michael Heller - Ranked #129 by Baseball America, strong commitment to Florida

6. Joseph Schoenfeld or Wes Luquette - I’d take both, but one of these prep catchers adds nice depth

7. Matthew Dermody - Committed to Iowa, seems like he wants to sign, hard throwing LHP

8. Brett Lee - Committed to Florida State, seems like he wants to play pro ball

9. Jacob Lamb - Would be a tough sign, as he can go much higher with his hitting after going to Washington for three years

10. Aaron LaFountaine - Good hitting center field project, maybe this year’s Wes Freeman?

Obviously the “success” of a draft is determined by results, and we won’t know those for several years. That being said, if we’re judging by early results, I’d say the draft is a success. If the Pirates can sign a few more guys from the list above, that would just make it even better.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 8/7 loss. Here are the big impacts for tonight’s loss:

1. Chris Bootcheck: -.284 WPA
2. Ryan Doumit: -.138
3. Brandon Moss: -.085
4. Andy LaRoche: -.084
5. Lastings Milledge: -.048

Anyone else worried that the Pirates bullpen will somehow blow all of these draft signings?

Other Stuff

-The Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch for 8/8 is up.

-Cory Humes of MVN and Pirate Revolution did an article for Baseball Reflections, saying that Neal Huntington should extend Andrew McCutchen. I totally agree, especially with the Evan Longoria comparison. I’ve been saying that for ten damn years. OK, maybe just since the month before Cutch was called up.

-The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette released their top 30 Pirates prospects. I question Victor Black being ranked so high, especially above Rudy Owens. I can see Black being ranked high due to talent, but then why is the talented Quinton Miller ranked so low? I agree on the main message, the list is a good testament to the talent that is now in the system.

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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