Early 2011 Draft Preview

Rendon is the consensus top prospect for the 2011 draft.

The 2010 draft signing period just passed a week ago, and we’ve yet to see top picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie throw a single pitch, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look ahead to the 2011 version of the draft.  By early accounts, the 2011 draft is one of the most talented drafts in the last few years, especially at the top.  You’ve probably seen plenty of people tracking the reverse standings, with some celebration over the fact that the Pirates are currently “in the lead” as the worst team in baseball this year.  There’s good reason for that: Anthony Rendon.

Rendon is the consensus number one pick next year.  He’s coming off a sophomore year in which he hit for a .394/.539/.801 line in 226 at-bats, with 26 homers.  The accomplishment was enough to earn him the Baseball America Player of the Year honors, an award which Rendon is a favorite for heading in to the 2011 season.  Rendon plays third base, and his defense at the position would be enough to push Pedro Alvarez over to first base if he ended up with the Pirates.

Rendon has recently suffered an ankle injury, his second major ankle injury of his young career, although the recovery is going well and his ankle doesn’t look to impact his 2011 season, or his draft status.  If the Pirates were to finish with the number one pick, Rendon would be the obvious choice, just like Stephen Strasburg in 2009, and Bryce Harper in 2010.  I don’t think there’s any question over whether the Pirates would select Rendon.  They’ve spent the most on the draft over the last three years, and while Rendon will cost a lot, the Pirates haven’t been shy about selecting high priced talent (Pedro Alvarez, Jameson Taillon).

The big question about Rendon is how soon he will be in the majors.  There is a very good chance he could take the same path as Alvarez: sign at the deadline in 2011, make his debut in 2012, splitting the season between high-A and AA, spend the first half of the 2013 season in AAA, and arrive in the majors in June 2013.  The combination of Rendon and Alvarez in the middle of the lineup could be dynamic, much like what the Milwaukee Brewers have with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.  Combine that with Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen at the top of the order, and the Pirates could have a great offense in 2013, which would be together for two and a half seasons at the least.

At this point, the Pirates are pretty much in line for one of the top two picks, which means if they don’t finish last in the majors, they will finish with the second overall pick in the draft.  While Rendon is the consensus top pick, there is talent available at number two, mostly from the college pitching ranks. The top two options are Matt Purke, a left hander from TCU, and Gerrit Cole, a right hander from UCLA.

Purke and Cole are both former first round picks out of high school.  Cole was selected by the Yankees in 2008, while Purke was selected in 2009 by the Rangers.  Purke is sophomore eligible since he will be 21 in 2011.  In his first year with TCU, the 6′ 3″, 180 pound left hander put up a 3.02 ERA in 116.1 innings, with a 11.0 K/9, and a 2.6 BB/9 ratio.  Purke was as highly regarded as Tyler Matzek in the 2009 draft, with a 92-95 MPH fastball, and a hard slider that rated as one of the best in the 2009 prep class.

Cole is a right hander, at 6′ 4″, 215 pounds.  In his sophomore year with UCLA, Cole put up a 3.37 ERA in 123 innings, with an 11.2 K/9 and a 3.8 BB/9.  When he was drafted, Cole threw a 93-96 MPH fastball, topping out at 97-98 MPH.  He has a curveball that has a hard, late break.  There were concerns that Cole would eventually end up as a closer, due to his lack of command as a starter, especially in late innings.  Cole’s control hasn’t been the best in college, with a 4.0 BB/9 ratio in 2009, and a 3.8 BB/9 ratio in 2010.

At this point I would take Purke over Cole.  Purke will only have two seasons at the college level, so his arm will be fresh.  Cole’s control issues are a concern, and if I had the choice, I’d take the power left handed starter over a power right handed starter.  In an optimistic view, Purke could arrive in June 2013, which could possibly be the same time that Jameson Taillon arrives in the majors.  The combination of Purke and Taillon could be just as special for the pitching side of things as the combination of Rendon and Alvarez on the hitting side.

One interesting story line to watch over the off-season is what could happen with the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.  There has been a lot of talk that MLB could add a hard slotting system starting in 2012.  That would make the 2011 draft the last chance the Pirates have to load up on over-slot signings in the middle rounds.  The Pirates spent a combined $4.048 M on over-slot deals after the first round in 2010, with Stetson Allie getting half of that amount.  In 2009 they spent $3.7 M on over-slot deals after the first round, with most of that going to prep pitchers like Zach Von Rosenberg and Colton Cain.

It’s way too early to speculate who the Pirates could get in the middle rounds, although it’s safe to say that they will take that same approach in what could possibly be their final opportunity to load up on over-slot players.  What we do know is that if the Pirates finish with one of the top two picks, which seems very likely, they could see a big boost to the 2013 team.  Either they finish first, and get an exceptional hitter in Rendon, or they finish with the second pick and get a potential top of the rotation left handed starter in Purke.  Jameson Taillon could very well be arriving in 2013, and top prospects like Tony Sanchez and Starling Marte could also be in the majors.  Just going off of my top prospects, this is how the June 2013 roster could look like:

If the Pirates get Rendon…

C – Tony Sanchez
1B – Pedro Alvarez
2B – Neil Walker
SS – Chase d’Arnaud
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Jose Tabata
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Starling Marte

SP – Jameson Taillon
SP – Bryan Morris
SP – Rudy Owens
SP – Jeff Locke
SP – Ross Ohlendorf

If the Pirates get Purke…

C – Tony Sanchez
1B – Garrett Jones
2B – Neil Walker
SS – Chase d’Arnaud
3B – Pedro Alvarez
LF – Jose Tabata
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Starling Marte

SP – Jameson Taillon
SP – Matt Purke
SP – Bryan Morris
SP – Rudy Owens
SP – Jeff Locke

Either way, the future is looking bright for the Pirates.

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.

Share This Post On