For several weeks, every mock draft had the Pirates taking Manny Machado or Jameson Taillon, but there existed the possibility that the Pirates would go a different direction, taking someone like Drew Pomeranz with their first round pick, in order to save money for the later rounds. Lately, it seems that the field has been narrowed down to two: Machado and Taillon.
Jim Callis of Baseball America recently said it was a two horse race between Machado and Taillon. In his latest mock draft, he has Machado being selected by the Pirates, although he has said that Machado is not a sure thing.
Pretty much every mock draft in the last two weeks has the Pirates taking Machado. The drafts that have Taillon going to the Pirates support the pick by saying it’s between Taillon and Machado, with Taillon still in the mix. That kind of seems like a “I don’t want to present it as if the Pirates have locked in on Machado” approach by the people releasing these mock drafts. Because of this, I’ve thought that Machado could be the pick come Monday, that is until Keith Law’s latest mock draft came out.
On Friday, Law released his third mock draft. The first two had the Pirates taking Manny Machado, with Drew Pomeranz mentioned as an alternative. Law even stated that the odds of the Pirates taking Taillon were slim in his second mock draft. Then all of a sudden Law has Taillon going to the Pirates in his latest mock draft, citing information on the Pirates’ plans as the reason for the switch.
I’d have to give this rumor a lot of credit. Last year around this time everyone was speculating the Pirates would take someone like Aaron Crow, and only Keith Law was suggesting the Pirates would go the signability route, even mentioning Tony Sanchez. Law broke the news that the Pirates had reached a pre-draft deal with Sanchez. It’s safe to say that his sources on the Pirates’ plans are pretty reliable.
There’s also the factor of prep pitching. The Pirates selected Sanchez over top prep pitching prospects like Tyler Matzek last year, opting to go with several prep arms in the later rounds, rather than spending their money on one prep arm in the first round. That seems to be the basis of Law’s previous mock drafts that had Machado going to the Pirates, so for Law to mention Taillon as an option, he must really be convinced that the Pirates could take a prep pitcher in the first round this year.
One thing to consider is the claims that the Pirates considered Tony Sanchez the best player on their board last year. A lot of people wrote that off as something the Pirates said just to avoid the signability claims. However, let’s assume they really did have Sanchez at the top of their board, and not entirely for signability purposes. That would mean they’re not against prep pitchers in the first round, but that they didn’t think the prep pitchers last year were better than Sanchez. That would also leave open the possibility that they would think someone like Taillon is worth a first round pick.
One downside for the Pirates with Taillon, as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus points out, is his price tag. That seems more of an “internal value” situation than anything else, as the price tag could lead the Pirates to selecting Scott Boras client Manny Machado, who will likely command $5-6 M. I’ve seen the feeling that the Pirates will want to avoid Boras, but drafting Taillon, a Hendricks Brothers client, is no walk in the park.
The Hendricks Brothers represented Aaron Crow two years ago in the 2008 draft. Crow was selected by the Washington Nationals with the ninth overall pick. Washington ended up offering Crow $3.5 M, which was well over the $2.15 M slot price. Hendricks and Crow held out for a major league contract and ended up not signing, with a difference of $500 K between the Nationals’ final offer, and Crow’s demands. For an excellent blow by blow recap of those negotiations (from the perspective of Jim Bowden, so it’s definitely one sided), check out this Q&A from the Washington Post. Crow ended up signing a year later with the Kansas City Royals as the 12th overall pick, getting a major league contract, and $4.5 M overall.
I don’t think the Pirates will have any problems with Machado or Taillon. Both are prep players with commitments to colleges, which means that they wouldn’t be eligible for the draft until 2013 if they don’t sign this year. It’s unlikely that they’d get much more in 2013 than what the Pirates would be offering this year, plus there’s the big risk of injuries, or a lack of production at the college level. The Crow situation details how negotiations with the Hendricks Brothers is no different than the negotiations with Scott Boras, but Crow also had the luxury of returning in the next draft.
The only way Taillon or Machado could return next year is if they went to JuCo. In the case of Taillon, he would be passing up a scholarship to Rice. In both cases, they would be digging themselves a hole. By going to JuCo, both players would be in a must-sign situation next year, as it’s doubtful they’d want to return to JuCo for the 2012 season if they didn’t sign in 2011. It’s also extremely unlikely that either player would be taken with the second or third overall pick in 2011, as the 2011 draft is very talented at the top, which could cause Machado or Taillon to slide if they’re perceived as tough signs.
I’d expect Taillon to get something like Tyler Matzek ($3.9 M) or Jacob Turner ($4.7 M) got last year. Taillon has been compared to Josh Beckett, which means he could see a little more than Matzek or Turner, possibly topping $5 M. Machado will likely see something in the $5-6 M range, possibly getting what Donavan Tate received last year, which was $6.25 M. Either way the Pirates are spending money and going in to a tough negotiation with a tough agent. Personally I’d rather they go for Taillon. He’s a potential ace who can throw 98 MPH, and who works in the 93-95 MPH range late in the game. To me, that’s harder to find than a bat like Machado.