2010 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Prospects Preview

If there’s one thing we learned in 2009, it’s this: predicting the approach this management team will take in the draft is impossible.  In 2008 the Pirates selected Pedro Alvarez, who was the top rated prospect in the draft.  In the second round they took Tanner Scheppers, who fell from a top 10 ranking to the second round due to injury concerns, and ended up not signing because of those same concerns.  The Pirates also went over slot on guys like Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller, and Wes Freeman in the later rounds, stealing each player away from a college commitment that was previously assumed to be unbreakable.

Going in to the 2009 draft, the assumption was that the Pirates would take the same approach: draft the best available player in the first round, draft a guy who fell from the first round in the second, and take a few over-slot guys in the later rounds.  The only problem comes down to that “best-available” label.  The draft rankings listed options like Tyler Matzek, Jacob Turner, and Shelby Miller as the best available players when the Pirates were set to pick fourth.  The Pirates insisted that Tony Sanchez was at the top of their rankings, took him, and as a result of the money saved, they were able to sign highly regarded high school pitchers like Zach Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, Zack Dodson, and Trent Stevenson to over-slot deals, along with a few other over-slot deals in the process.

The approach was originally panned, but after scouts got a look at Sanchez in his hot start in A-ball, the opinions started to change in favor of the approach.  So what approach will the Pirates take in 2010, after seeing them take two seemingly different approaches in 2008 and 2009?

First, the Pirates insisted that they would have taken top prospects Stephen Strasburg or Dustin Ackley if they were available.  Strasburg and Ackley went first and second in the draft, with the Pirates picking fourth.  In 2010, the Pirates will be picking second, and won’t have to worry about a situation where they hope teams pass on one of the top two guys.  The big question is whether they’ll repeat the 2009 approach, or spend big on a highly regarded first round pick like they did in 2008 with Alvarez.

I don’t think you can point to either of the previous two drafts as an example of what they will do.  I don’t think the Pirates have a blue print for drafting, just based off of my perspective from their previous two drafts.  I think they look at each individual draft, and plan their approach based on the talent in the draft.  I also think that’s how it should be.

You could criticize them for not taking the best available talent in 2009, but the truth is that there was no real consensus on the best available talent after Strasburg and Ackley.  Many outlets said the players rated after the top two were all on the same level.  Add to that the high school pitchers who were considered the top picks, and the uncertainty that surrounds high school pitchers, and you could see why the Pirates made the choice they made, taking Sanchez and spending the extra money on several high school arms, rather than just one in the first round.

Looking back at my 2009 Draft Prospects Preview, I can’t help but notice that the 2010 draft is shaping up similar to the 2009 version, at least at the top of the rankings.  The 2009 draft had Stephen Strasburg, the next big thing that no team would verbally commit to, but everyone knew was going first overall.  There was highly regarded college pitcher Alex White, the consensus best pitcher in the draft, and a future ace.  There was Grant Green, an offensive minded shortstop with four tools, considered the top position player in the draft.  Then there was Dustin Ackley, considered at the time the fourth best college player in the draft, but at the same time the best hitter at the college level.  My ranking of Strasburg, White, Green, Ackley was similar to the consensus opinion on those players.  In the end, White and Green saw their value drop, Ackley saw his value soar, and Strasburg went first overall, just like we all thought.

Now we look towards the 2010 draft.  We’ve got the next-next big thing in Bryce Harper.  No team will commit to him, but he’s projected as the best prospect in the draft.  Due to his age, there is the chance that he could fall in the draft, although that might depend on the level of performance by some of the players behind him.

Next there’s Anthony Ranaudo, the consensus top pitching prospect at the college level.  Just like Alex White in 2009, Ranaudo is coming in to the season viewed as a future ace, fresh off a breakout sophomore season.  I’m not going to say that Ranaudo will follow the same path as White and see his stock fall this season, because there wouldn’t be any reason to think that.  Right now Ranaudo is considered the next best thing to Harper, and there’s a good chance that he goes at the top of the draft once June rolls around.

I would like to take this moment to write a note to all of you future readers clicking over from the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Prospects Preview for a recap of the 2010 draft prospects: At the time of this writing, Ranaudo is fresh off a 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K outing and looking like the real deal.  However, if at this time next year he turns in to Alex White part two, let it be known that he faced Centenary. Hopefully by this time next year we’ll find out who that is and why I thought that performance justified him as a top draft prospect. Then again, maybe at this time next year (or present day for you 2011 readers), Ranaudo would have lived up to the hype, would have been selected by the Pirates, and would have signed after a long summer of negotiations with Scott Boras, with certain Pirates fans doing their best Chicken Little act every day leading up to that August 15th deadline.  If that’s the case, you 2011 readers can check out the Anthony Ranaudo page, located on the BUCCO Fans Player Pages section of the site.  One final note to you 2011 readers, I still hope to get the Wiki section finished soon.  Sorry for the extensive delay, even if I have a whole year to finish it from the time of this apology.  Back to the draft preview…

Following Ranaudo and Harper we’ve got Christian Colon, a talented shortstop prospect who can hit for some power, and who is considered one of the top hitting prospects in the draft behind Harper.  Colon is a little like Grant Green because of the position, and a little like Dustin Ackley, because he’s coming off a major injury which has his prospect status in question.

Then there’s several other talented college players.  One that I’m tracking right now is Drew Pomeranz, a college pitcher out of Mississippi, the same school that produced 2009 5th and 21st round picks Nathan Baker and Phillip Irwin.  The presence of Baker and Irwin may give them an edge to get Pomeranz to sign if the Pirates end up drafting him.  Odds are the Pirates have done their scouting on Pomeranz, since they took the number two and three pitchers out of the 2009 Mississippi rotation.

Two players who I am considering adding a page for are LeVon Washington and Deck McGuire.  Washington was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009, didn’t sign, and is now going to Chipola Community College in order to re-enter the 2010 draft.  McGuire is one of the top college pitching prospects behind Ranaudo, pitching for Georgia Tech.  If the Pirates repeat their 2009 approach (let’s assume a scenario where Harper goes first, and Ranaudo/Colon become the 2010 version of White/Green), then Washington could be a good “reach”, although he probably wouldn’t be as big of a reach as Sanchez was considered to be.  Pomeranz and McGuire could make excellent starting pitching choices if Ranaudo struggles, or if the Pirates aren’t sold on him, although my personal preference is Ranaudo at this point.

The wild card in all of this is James Taillon, the top high school pitcher in the draft.  We assume that the Pirates won’t take a high school arm in the first round since they passed on Matzek, Turner, and company in 2009.  The question we have to ask is: do the Pirates not like taking high school arms in the first round, or did they just not like those particular high school arms in the 2009 first round?  One draft is a small sample size to make an opinion out of, so while I don’t think it’s likely that the Pirates consider Taillon, I’m certainly not ruling him out.  There is the chance that the Pirates feel he is worthy of a first round pick, despite being a prep pitcher, and take him, which could totally surprise everyone come June 7th.

So what will the Pirates do?  Will they take a Pedro Alvarez/2008 approach and draft the best available between Harper, Ranaudo, and Colon?  Will they take a Tony Sanchez/2009 approach, going with a guy like Pomeranz, McGuire, or Washington and loading up on over-slot guys in the later rounds?  Or will it be some totally different approach that we can’t even imagine right now; an approach that may have us up in arms on June 7th, but making sense on June 8th, day two of the 2010 draft?  The answer?  Anything can happen.  After all, this time last year Alex White was the best pitcher available, Grant Green was the best hitter available, and Dustin Ackley was a big question mark coming off a major injury.  It’s hard to predict the Pirates’ 2010 draft approach at a time when we have no clue who the best players on the board will be once the draft rolls around.  The only thing we can do is sit back and watch the draft prospects perform, and see who is on top when the dust settles.

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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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