2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Prospects Preview

Before we get down to the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Prospects Preview, let’s take a look back at the 2010 preview, to retrieve the following message that was intended for us:

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…

If we can take one thing from this message, it’s that the 2011 Prospect Guide, the change to “Pirates Prospects”, and the increased coverage over the last year all totally makes up for the fact that I completely ignored the Wiki section of the site.  It’s still on the back burner.  Hopefully it will be done by next year.

I would like to take this moment to write a note to all of you future readers clicking over from the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Prospects Preview for a recap of the 2011 draft prospects: At the time of this writing, I really did intend to revive the Wiki section of the site.  However, as you know, it was far on the back burner, as I spent more time getting together better features, such as an App for the site.  Sidenote: I really hope you’re reading this on the Pirates Prospects App, and that I actually created it and didn’t leave you hanging for a whole year.  I also hope that you are currently anticipating Anthony Rendon making his professional debut in the Pirates system, and reading about him in the Pirates Prospects 2012 Prospect Guide.  But overall, I’m hoping that I can get the Wiki section ready by the 2013 draft preview.  And as an early note to those 2013 readers, sorry I never got it completed.

If we can take a second thing from last year’s message, it’s that a lot can happen between now and the draft.  Hopefully that doesn’t mean that Anthony Rendon goes from being the consensus top draft prospect to a guy we don’t even consider taking, but it does mean that nothing is written in stone yet.

We’ve now seen three years of drafting by the Pirates, and three different scenarios.  In 2008 there was a lot of talent, and the Pirates took the best overall talent, selecting Pedro Alvarez with the second overall pick.  In 2009 there was a shortage of talent, with most of the top options being prep pitchers.  The Pirates passed, selected Tony Sanchez as a “signability” pick, and used the savings to invest in several prep pitchers in the later rounds, like Zack Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, and Zack Dodson.  In 2010 the talent level was low, although the Pirates had the second pick, with their choice of Jameson Taillon or Manny Machado.  They took Taillon, the prep pitcher, which was a surprise considering the previous year’s results.  In fact, here was the write-up of Taillon in last year’s preview:

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.

After three years of drafting, I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything that will surprise us this year.  The 2011 draft is similar to the 2008 draft.  There’s a lot of talent, especially at the top, which means the Pirates should be expected to take the top overall pick.  That will most likely be Rendon, if healthy.  I really can’t see the Pirates passing up on him, especially since the next best prospects are Matthew Purke and Gerrit Cole, two college pitchers.  After seeing what has happened to the top college pitchers the last two years (Alex White in 2009, Anthony Ranaudo in 2010), I’d rather go with the college hitter, which is the best bet to take in the draft.  A quick rundown of the top three guys, with links to their trackers (which will be updated with stats throughout the year):

ANTHONY RENDON

Rendon is the consensus top draft prospect in the 2011 draft.

Rendon, like Pedro Alvarez, is a third baseman who can move quickly through the system, potentially arriving as early as June 2013, although there are some who say it could be earlier. He’s also a potential star, drawing comparisons to Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. He is coming off a sophomore season where he hit for a .394/.539/.801 line and 26 homers in 226 at-bats for Rice. That was enough to earn him the Baseball America Player of the Year award, an award which he is the favorite to win again in 2011.

Despite his strong hitting skills and his favorable comparisons, there is one big question about Rendon. He suffered a major ankle injury in 2010, which is the second such injury in his young career. His recovery has gone well, and he is fully cleared for baseball action for the 2011 season. If he remains healthy, Rendon would be the easy choice for the Pirates.

The selection of Rendon would be a big addition for the Pirates. The farm system is thin on power hitting prospects, and the addition of Rendon could eventually provide a strong middle of the batting order when paired with Pedro Alvarez. Rendon could also move Alvarez over to first base, assuming Alvarez is still at third base when Rendon arrives.

GERRIT COLE

Cole was a former first round pick, selected by the New York Yankees in the first round of the 2008 draft. Cole has a big frame, at 6’ 4”, 215 pounds, and uses that frame to throw a 93-96 MPH fastball, which tops out at 97-98 MPH. Cole also throws a curveball with a hard, late break. In 2010 he had a 3.37 ERA in 123 innings as a sophomore, with an 11.2 K/9 and a 3.8 BB/9 ratio. There have been concerns in the past that Cole could end up as a closer, due to his lack of command as a starter, especially in the late innings. His control hasn’t been the best in college, with a 4.0 BB/9 in 2009, and a 3.8 BB/9 in 2010.

MATT PURKE

Purke was selected by the Texas Rangers in the first round of the 2009 draft, but decided to go to college and re-enter the draft in 2011 as a draft eligible sophomore. The 6’ 3”, 180 pound left hander put up a 3.02 ERA in 116.1 innings during his first year in college ball in 2010, with an 11.0 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9 ratio. He throws a 92-95 MPH fastball, and a hard slider which was rated as one of the best in the 2009 prep class.

THE FIRST OVERALL PICK

All signs currently point to Anthony Rendon being the pick, but that assumes he lives up to the hype this year.  If Rendon isn’t an option for the Pirates, and it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be if he’s anywhere close to healthy, then Purke or Cole could serve as a strong backup plan, giving the Pirates another potential top of the rotation starter to add to the system.  There are a few other interesting prospects on the board, such as outfielder George Springer, who has the potential to be a 30-30 player in the majors.  If Rendon struggles throughout the year, I will start following additional players, such as Springer.  Hopefully that won’t happen, and this time next year Rendon will be in the system, as the future Pirates’ version of Evan Longoria/Ryan Zimmerman.

Tim Williams

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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