For the last few weeks I’ve been talking about how there are seven guys who I would take with the number eight pick in the draft. After those seven guys, no one really stands out from the rest of the pack.
Sure, Albert Almora looks like a center fielder with a lot of upside. Max Fried is a projectable left hander with a great curveball who also has a lot of upside. But I wouldn’t put them with the pack of Mark Appel, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, Kyle Zimmer, or Mike Zunino.
The truth is, one of those guys will fall to the Pirates. Someone will take a guy like Almora, Fried, or even Michael Wacha, in the top seven. We might even see two of those guys go in the top seven. Or we’ll see someone not mentioned here. And that will make one of those top seven players available to the Pirates.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any of those players in my top seven. But my preference would be Lucas Giolito. Coming in to the year he was the second best prospect in the draft. He was touching 100 MPH before going down with a sprained elbow. If he didn’t have that injury, he’d be a top two pick in the draft.
The draft is kind of funny. It’s a long term decision, but a lot of value is impacted by short term decisions. I don’t think Giolito’s elbow sprain is going to be a career altering injury. Worst case scenario it gets worse and he eventually has Tommy John surgery. That’s a surgery that now has a very high success rate of a pitcher returning to his old form. But it seems unlikely that this would happen with Giolito.
It would be a gift if the Pirates were able to add Giolito with the eighth pick. Yet, for some reason, it seems more likely every day. Jonathan Mayo has Giolito ranked as the eighth best prospect in the draft. Keith Law has him ninth in his latest rankings. That doesn’t mean teams will go according to the rankings. Some other team picking in the top seven could realize the same thing I’m pointing out, and take Giolito.
If Giolito does fall to the Pirates, it would be a steal. He’s a guy with number one upside. The Pirates have been spoiled with Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole the last two years, so Pirates fans might not appreciate how rare a future ace actually is. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball America recently wrote that there are five to 15 prospects with number one potential, and listed Taillon and Cole as two of the five notable pitchers in his article. I believe Giolito has the stuff to be another number one.
If you take the maximum of that prediction, and assume that there are 15 future number ones in the minors, then the Pirates are already ahead of the curve by having two. Adding a third guy to the mix would be a huge luxury, and would make it more probable that the Pirates would eventually end up with two number one starters in the majors one day.
If one of the other top seven prospects fell to the Pirates, it would also work out well. But my hope is that Giolito is the one that falls, and that the Pirates take the risk that his injury doesn’t impact his long term value, which projected pretty high coming in to the year.
The schedule for the top draft prospects this weekend:
6:00 PM EST – San Francisco (Kyle Zimmer) vs Santa Clara
7:00 PM EST – Florida (Mike Zunino) vs Mississippi State
7:00 PM EST – LSU (Kevin Gausman) vs Vanderbilt
8:35 PM EST – Texas A&M (Michael Wacha) vs San Diego State
9:00 PM EST - Stanford (Mark Appel) vs Washington State
9:00 PM EST – Arizona State (Deven Marrero) at Gonzaga
7:00 PM EST – Florida (Zunino) vs Mississippi State
9:00 PM EST - Arizona State (Marrero) at Gonzaga
1:00 PM EST - Florida (Zunino) vs Mississippi State
4:00 PM EST - Arizona State (Marrero) at Gonzaga