2009 Draft Picks: The First Look

The 2009 draft started off very controversial. The Pirates, with the fourth pick in the first round, selected catcher Tony Sanchez, ranked by many as a late first round talent. They selected Victor Black at the end of the compensation round, right about where Black was expected to go. Then they took Brooks Pounders and Evan Chambers in the second and third rounds, both selections considered reaches.

Day two caused things to all make sense. The Pirates started drafting pitchers. Then they drafted more pitchers. Then after a brief break, they took some more pitchers. By the end of day two the strategy was clear: the Pirates were going with signability early, in order to spend money on over-slot deals in the later rounds on hard to sign high school arms.
They did just that, spending $8.919 M in the draft, including $3.825 M on above slot deals with pitchets Zack Dodson, Zach Von Rosenberg, Trent Stevenson, Colton Cain, Jeffrey Inman, and Zac Fuesser. That’s not to say that Sanchez, Black, Pounders, and Chambers were not talented. The Pirates claim that those four players, especially Sanchez, were taken in line with their internal rankings, which are likely different than those of ESPN and Baseball America.
The performance of those players indicated that the Pirates knew what they were doing. Tony Sanchez looked great in A ball, and helped Lynchburg in their playoff run, which ended up with a championship. Black and Pounders both pitched great in short season ball, while Chambers turned on the hitting in the final months at State College.
Below are the stats for all of the picks the Pirates signed from the 2009 draft. Click the table to see the larger version:

The Hitters: Tony Sanchez was very impressive in his debut, combining for a .309 average and a .948 OPS in 178 at-bats between the three levels of A-ball. Sanchez should start next season in Lynchburg, and I could see him finishing the year at AAA.

Evan Chambers struggled in his first month, but really turned it on in August, showing his hitting potential. Chambers is a five tool talent, and could start next season in West Virginia.
Brock Holt was on fire in State College, showing good defense, power potential from the middle infield position, and great hitting skills. Holt was taken in the ninth round, and could be an emerging middle infield prospect if he continues this success at higher levels next year.
Aaron Baker showed some power potential with a good amount of extra base hits, including three triples, which is impressive for a 6′ 2″, 220 lbs first baseman.
Joey Schoenfeld and John Gourley are both raw talents at their positions, although neither had the opportunity to show their stuff, as each signed fairly late in the season.
Jose Hernandez, Ty Summerlin, and Pat Irvine were all college seniors, and all long shots to be much more than organizational depth, although Hernandez and Irvine showed a lot of power in college.
The Pitchers: Victor Black has the upside of a hard throwing, late inning reliever, and showed those skills through his ratios in his time at State College. He averaged over a strikeout an inning in his 31.1 innings pitched, although he could use some work cutting down the walks.
Brooks Pounders also looked impressive, although like Black, the walks were a little too high. Pounders has four pitches that he can throw for strikes, with his fastball in the 88-90 MPH range. He’s got a big frame, but might not see his velocity increase beyond that level, giving him the upside of a 3-5 starter.
Nathan Baker and Trent Stevenson also put up good results in their limited time, with each player displaying solid control. Zack Dodson, Zach Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, and Jeffrey Inman signed too late to receive substantial playing time, or in the case of Cain, no playing time at all.
Phillip Irwin and Jason Erickson, both taken in the later rounds out of college, put up nice seasons in State College. Irwin pitched in the same University of Mississippi rotation as fifth round pick Nathan Baker. Both Irwin and Erickson posted strong strikeout numbers, and great control numbers.
Zac Fuesser, who signed for $125 K as a 34th rounder, posted strong strikeout numbers in a relief role, but struggled with his control, leading to a poor walk rate.
Ryan Beckman, Marc Baca, and Teddy Fallon don’t figure to be more than organizational depth.
Final Thoughts…

It’s too early to anoint any player a success or failure. While the early success of some players is encouraging, it’s only half a season, and in the lowest levels of the minors. This is especially true for Tony Sanchez. Sanchez played great, but until we see what he can do in AA, it’s too early to proclaim Neal Huntington a genius for taking Sanchez much higher than most rankings placed him.

Next year should be a very exciting year for this draft class. We will see the big high school arms in action. We’ll get to see whether Irwin and Erickson had legit success. We will see Tony Sanchez make the jump to AA at some point. We should also see a full season from top hitters Evan Chambers, Brock Holt, and Aaron Baker, who should all end up in West Virginia to start the season.

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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 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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