First Pitch: Looking at the Grades From Huntington’s Drafts

Every year I always purchase a copy of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. I only cover the Pirates’ farm system, and while that does give me a chance to see prospects from other systems, my focus is usually on the players with the Pirates. I like the BA handbook because it shows what other teams have in their system, which gives you some perspective on how the individual Pirates players stack up to players on other teams. It also gives an outside look at some of the aspects of the Pirates system.

The Pirates write up is usually done by a Pittsburgh writer, but there are other sections in the book that are done by BA writers. One of those sections I check out each year is the draft analysis. Baseball America reviews the previous year’s draft, giving the usual individual awards for “Best Pure Hitter”, “Best Power Hitter” and so on. They also give grades to each of the previous drafts, which can change over time.

When I checked out the draft grades in this year’s book, I noticed some strong results. This year’s book includes all of the draft recaps under Neal Huntington (next year’s book will cut off the 2008 results). Jim Callis does the previous year’s recaps, and had three of the four drafts graded as a B+ or better. The 2008 and 2010 drafts received a B+ grade, while the 2011 draft received an A. The 2009 draft was on the other end of the spectrum with a D grade.

Each year you expect the draft results to fluctuate. Some players will wash out, and some players will see improvements. So I wanted to see how the drafts have progressed over the years. I turned to my previous copies of the BA Prospect Handbook to see the grades each year. The grades started two years after the draft, so we don’t have a grade for the 2012 draft, and we only have 1-2 years respectively for 2011 and 2010.

Pedro Alvarez was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft.

Pedro Alvarez was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft.

The 2008 Draft

2010: A

2011: A

2012: B+

2013: B+

The 2008 draft started out strong, and has seen a slight drop off, but the results are still there. The short write-up notes that the rest of the top five picks, plus Matt Hague (9th round) have made the majors. One of the players mentioned was second round pick Tanner Scheppers, even though he wasn’t signed. I’m not sure if he is considered when giving the draft a grade. Also, the “made the majors” requirement is a bit shallow, since most of the other players either haven’t gotten established, or don’t look like they will become established. For perspective, the goal of most drafts is to get three players to the majors. Right now the players with the best chances to stick are Pedro Alvarez, Justin Wilson, and Jordy Mercer.

The 2009 Draft

2011: C+

2012: C

2013: D

The 2009 draft didn’t start out very well, and slowly dropped off the last two years. When looking at the ratings from this year’s book, the 2009 grade clearly sticks out. Across the league the 2009 draft was the worst on average. It had the lowest average league-wide. The Pirates were among the worst of the worst with their D grade. The Dodgers, Marlins, and Rays all got D grades, while the Orioles and Mets received F grades.

The 2010 Draft

2012: B+

2013: B+

This one has stayed the same, even though Stetson Allie’s stock took a huge hit in 2012. Again, I’m not sure if un-signed players count to the total. Jason Hursh and Kent Emmanuel both received high ratings in Baseball America’s 2013 draft coverage, and both went un-signed this year. Jameson Taillon probably plays a big role in this rating, and Nick Kingham probably has a big impact as well.

The 2011 Draft

2013: A

We’ve only seen the 2011 guys for one season, but the results were strong. Aside from Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell fueling this ranking, the 2011 group also includes Clay Holmes, Tyler Glasnow, and Alex Dickerson. The Pirates were one of seven teams to get an A for the 2011 draft.

Total

After looking at the Pirates grades, I went through to get the averages for every other team from all four years. The Pirates finished in a three-way tie for 12th. The 2009 draft really sunk their rating. If that draft would have been graded a C instead of a D, they would have been tied for fifth. They finished above-average every year except the 2009 draft.

Overall the draft grades look pretty good. That 2009 draft is the exception, and doesn’t look like a draft that could produce an impact player. It’s probably still too early to give any hard grades to the 2010 and 2011 drafts, since most of the middle round guys are still in A-ball. At any rate, it was good to get an outside opinion on the drafts, and to see how the Pirates stacked up against other teams.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. The 2013 Annual is also available for pre-sales. Go to the products page of the site and order your 2013 books today!

**The State College Spikes Are Auctioning off Game Worn Prospect Jerseys.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #1 – Gerrit Cole.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top 20 Prospects.

**The Latest Delay on Francisco Liriano.

**Baseball America Releases Their Pre-Season 2013 Draft Rankings.

**Starling Marte Boosted His Stock in Winter Ball.

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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  • blackmax

    What sorts of grades did other teams earn in 2009? Other than the Angels? Did the Bucs earn a D because they were drafting from a weak pool or because they were especially poor that year? Or both?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      buy the book.

      :)

  • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

    Tim – are you at all unsatisfied with this?

    I think the drafts look a little worse than expected. 12th overall (albeit while being dragged down by the 2009 draft), is not very good considering the Pirates have:
    1. Picked 2nd, 4th, 2nd, 1st and 8th in Huntington’s five drafts
    and
    2. Spent, on bonuses, the most of any team in baseball by about $3 million (per BA) over the last five years (and that’s without signing their #1 pick in 2012). Looking at just the four years in this study (2008-2011), the Bucs have spent $15 million more than the Rays, $23 million more than the Rangers and $25.5 million more than the Cardinals.

    For that kind of money and those spots in the draft, this club needs to be better than tied for 12th.

    • Kevin_Young

      Well anytime you take the average of a sample size of 4, you aren’t going to get the most precise results. What if I wanted to ignore that the year 2009 ever happened (which I do)? I’d bet the Pirates would average out in the top 3. It really all depends on what parts you’d rather dwell on.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      well, with those 5 #1 picks, the pirates selected Pedro, TSanchez, Taillon, Cole and Appel. Two of those picks are two of the top prospects in all of baseball and one could be a huge power hitting infielder for many years. Appel’s pick will turn into another #1 pick this season so that’s TBD. That aint nuffin to sneeze at.
      .
      Other than failing at guys like ZVR, Allie and a few other over slot guys, the draft has been very good for the Pirates. Every outlet has the pirates system as being one of the most improved, most top heavy or the deepest it has been in decades. Except, of course, in your opinion, which doesnt really follow any expert’s.

      • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

        I’m not disagreeing with the experts that the Pirates system is somewhere between #5 and #10 (with three of the top 5 in Tim’s list not coming from the draft). If you can show me where I’ve written that I don’t believe the Pirates have a top 10 system, please do. (I know that I haven’t. So, thanks for putting words into my mouth and nice job trying to twist the discussion away from my point.) I’m also not disagreeing with the Huntington’s success in picking near the top of the draft.

        What I’m suggesting is given that the Bucs have picked near the top of the draft and given that they have out spent everyone, being in 12th overall is disappointing.

        To my point, I repeated the same exercise Tim did, but from the 2009 BA Prospect Handbook (drafts from 2004 to 2007 were examined). The top two spenders were Arizona (picking 15th, 1st, 11th & 9th) and Tampa (picking 4th, 8th, 3rd and 1st) and they finished tied for first in overall draft grade.

        Is it unreasonable to suggest that over the course of a four year segment of the draft in which the Pirates have picked in the top five every year and have also outspent everyone that they finish better than 12th in baseball? Perhaps it is.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          Good research, but is Tampa’s rating skewed by their 6.724 comp picks they got?

          .

          • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

            Thanks for the compliment.
            Tampa didn’t have any compensation picks in the four drafts from 2004-2007. http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=franch_round&team_ID=TBD&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg&

            Their current rating certainly has to be skewed by all the comp picks they had in 2011. But more power to them for working the system.

            • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

              “. But more power to them for working the system.” Agree.

              Sure wish someone had signed D Lee last year!
              :)

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              Actually, Tampa finished last in this four year stretch. They had a C, D, C+, B in their four years.

              • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

                That’s interesting. I guess their system got a boost from the haul they got from KC.

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      Totally agree. For that kind of money and draft position we should be better than average. We had above average draft position and spent a record amount of money to be 12th? That doesn’t cut it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        maybe, but NH wasnt “average” in every year. he was above average in every draft except 2009, which so far has been well below average.

        how does this not cut it? it takes an average of 6 years for a player to stick in the big leagues, mostly from the high school guys and the international signings. in the last 5 years NH and his crew has done wonders for the entire system. if we had signed Sano and Appel, you would be looking at the #1 system in the game.

        but you cant see this because of your obvious disdain for the NH regime.

        • TonyPenaforHOF

          It’s not personal with me and the NH regime. I root for the Pirates no matter who is running them. The point is he wasn’t successful at signing Sano or Appel. His draft position is very high and their spending broke the MLB record – and all we are is average?

          I have no problem with NH, FC, BN or any other combination of letters you want to put together. I have a problem with the performance. For all that we are just 12th – that is just weak.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68133272 George Hareras

            technically there are 30 teams in the MLB so average would be between 14-16 ranking. I would say slightly above average lol… jokes aside, its unreasonable to think that all of those overslot draftees would pan out. If even 3-4 of them every year become a MLB regular, bench player, traded for a contributing piece, or hopefully a star than its a success. I would say that the first round picks all have to hit if youre in the Pirates situation, but if you can get a few of the draftees from the higher rounds, than its an added bonus. Just looking at the draft to build the team isnt the whole story either, because the entire roster wont all be built from our drafted players. There will be trades and FAs brought in, and of course were not counting the international signings that will be a big impact to our big league club hopefully. I think the draft grades is a major part of building the team, but I would like to see a year by year grade that accounts for international signings paired with the draftees

    • leadoff

      If there is one thing we have learned about MLB, how much money you spend does not always work out, just gives you a better chance. All of Huntingtons #1 picks will make the majors except Appel, and that can’t be blamed on Huntington. Every other team gets #1 picks also, they also spend money and they do fail, Huntington has yet to fail with a #1 Pick.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        and when a 1/3 of top 5 picks fail, that is pretty good.

        However, I will caution that only ONE of our Top Picks have actually made the majors.

        So…………as much as I defend NH, he only has Pedro so far. But it IS looking good.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I think the 2009 draft plays a big part in this. The other three drafts average out between a B+ and A-. If you gave the Pirates a B in 2009, they’d be #2. Give them a C and they’d be tied for 5th. You could go the other way and lower one of their rankings and see them drop. So I think what that tells us is that one draft can really alter the overall grades.

      As it stands, they were above average for three years, and horrible for one. I was a bit surprised by the outcome, since I thought they’d be slightly lower in some years. But I’ve also noticed that people tend to over-estimate what teams should be getting from a draft. I can be guilty of that too. And when you add in the spending, the bar really gets raised. Without the spending, the expectations for a draft are already at an unattainable level. Add in the spending and the expectations jump higher.

      That’s why I like the BA rankings. The results aren’t great overall, mainly because of the 2009 draft. But it does give an objective, league-wide view of how the Pirates stack up. Just to give a year by year measure of where they landed:

      In 2008, three teams had an A, and they were one of seven teams with a B+.

      I posted the 2009 comparisons above. Not many teams below them.

      In 2010, three teams had an A, and they were one of eight teams with a B+.

      They were one of seven teams with an A in 2011.

      • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

        I appreciate the deeper look at the grades.

        If I toss out the worst year for each org from 2004-2007, then everyone who spent in the top six finished no worse than tied for 3rd in grade except for KC who spent third most but finished tied for 11th in grade.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I took the same approach. If you take out the worst rankings for each team from 2008-2011, then the Pirates finish in a three-way tie for second place. San Francisco and Arizona are the other two. Washington is still in first.

          • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

            ” But I’ve also noticed that people tend to over-estimate what teams should be getting from a draft.”

            Amen!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Could we have drafted better? Obviously. Probably can say that about every team.

    Should we have drafted better? That appears to be the polarizing question. Essentially, we have done well (so far) with our high #1 picks. We may have scored a bulls eye with our #2 pick of Josh Bell.

    I think the main argument against our drafts is that we should’ve done better after the 1st round. I think the ONLY way to settle that argument is to see how we’ve done AFTER the 1st round when, arguably, it becomes a crap shoot.

    Baseball Reference has an excellent draft tool. I am hoping someone will do the research.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      I say “I am hoping someone will do the research.” because I have posted ad nauseum (in some folks eyes that), historically, after the first round NO MATTER WHERE YOU PICK, the odds are less than 20% in the 2nd round and get worse as you go on.
      The Cards seem to do well after the first round, but lousy in the first round overall. Go figger.

      If you love WAR, here’s a good draft article
      http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2009/06/draft_picks_and.php

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    ” For perspective, the goal of most drafts is to get three players to the majors.”

    To clarify, most GMs say a good draft is ONE good regular and two usable players, eg, 4th OFer, reliever, etc.

  • leadoff

    1. IMO, how the GM does in the draft is usually an attempt to shed light on how a GM is doing by some. I just can’t bring myself to care how players arrived on the farm, I only care about what they have and how much talent they have.
    2. None of these drafts are done yet, some of the fruits of these drafts is still on the tree.
    3. The 2009 Draft is not the failure it is being made out to be, Sanchez will be a starting catcher for the Pirates. Victor Black should make the majors, Brock Holt did make the majors, Zac Fusser was a 34th pick and he still has a chance to make the majors, the Pirates still have 9 pitchers from that draft that could make the majors, realistically, 3 or 4 of that 9 probably will make it.
    Most people fail to realize the Pirates acknowledged that they were taking a gamble with that draft by signing so many over slot prep pitchers.
    4. I agree with Lee, after the 1st round it is a crap shoot.
    4. First picks are not a sure thing, how many other teams first round picks have the Pirates brought in to try to resurrect their careers?
    5. In 2 years Huntington could put an all Pirate farm system team on the field, not to mention 4 out of 5 starting pitchers on that team also.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      I agree with everything about the part of Sanchez being a starting catcher. I think his ceiling is a good defensive backup. JMHO.

      “Most people fail to realize the Pirates acknowledged that they were taking a gamble with that draft by signing so many over slot prep pitchers.”

      Outside of ZVR, who was rated a low 1st rounder, all of the other pitchers they signed were rated as 2nd and 3rd rounders. All we did was increase our odds of one of them making it. Unfortunately…..
      :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        “I agree with everything EXCEPT the part “

        • leadoff

          Sanchez is already major league ready, he needs a little more time in the minors, but he will be here this year if there is an injury. He should hit somewhere around .230-.240 in the majors, that would be okay offensively and until Matheson or Jhang come along he will be the starting catcher if he can beat out the fort, I don’t think the Pirates are going to buy another catcher after Martin.

  • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

    The class of ’09 will turn out OK. Ryan Beckman and Phil Irwin should pitch in the majors for a long time. I think Irwin will win a 100 games in the majors.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68133272 George Hareras

      i like the optimism

  • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

    Starting pitchers for the 2012 NL playoff teams – how acquired

    REDS

    Cueto – FA 2004
    Latos – 11th round 2006
    Bailey – 1st round 2004
    Arroyo – 3rd round 1995
    Leake – 1st round 2009

    BRAVES

    Medlin – 10th round 2006
    Beachy – NDFA 2008
    Sheets – 1st round 1999
    Maholm – 1st round 2003
    Hudson – 6th round 1997
    Minor – 1st round 2007
    Delgado – FA 2006
    Hanson – 22nd round 2005
    Jurrjens – FA 2003

    NATIONALS

    Gonzalez – 1st round 2004
    Zimmermann – 2nd round 2007
    Strasberg – 1st round 2009
    Detwiler – 1st round 2007
    Jackson – 6th round 2001
    Lannan – 11th round 2005
    Wang – FA 2000

    GIANTS

    Cain – 1st round 2002
    Vogelson – 5th round 1998
    Bumgarner – 1st round 2007
    Zito – 1st round 1999
    Lincecum – 1st round 2006

    CARDS

    Lohse – 29th round 1996
    Kelly – 3rd round 2009
    Lynn – 1st round 2008
    Garcia – 22nd round 2005
    Wainright – 1st round 2000
    Westbrook – 1st round 1996
    Carpenter – 1st round 1993

    • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

      The 5 best teams in the NL in 2012 (Reds, Braves, Nats, Giants, Cards)

      A total of 25 drafts between those 5 teams over the 2008-2012 period

      Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (1st round only)

      Lynn – 1st round 2008

      Strasburg – 1st round 2009

      Leake – 1st round 2009

      Minor – 1st round 2009 (typo in the above post)

      Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (after 1st round)

      Joe Kelly – 3rd round 2009

      Starting pitchers drafted out of high school between 2008-2012

      NONE

      *Brandon Beachy was a NDFA

      **Nats drafted Tommy Milone (10th round 2008 – traded to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez)

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      There’s a lot of stuff that isn’t correct in this list. What you’re listing is how they came into the league, not how they were acquired by their 2012 teams.

      • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

        I never said it was how they were acquired by their 2012 team.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          It didn’t come across that way in the original posts. But I saw the point you were getting at in the replies when you broke down the lists.

  • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

    Starting pitchers for the 2012 AL playoff teams – how acquired

    TIGERS

    Verlander – 1st round 2004
    Scherzer – 1st round 2006
    Porcello – 1st round 2007
    Fister – 7th round 2006
    Smyly – 2nd round 2010
    Sanchez – FA 2001

    YANKEES

    Kuroda – FA 2007
    Sabathia – 1st round 1998
    Hughes – 1st round 2004
    Nova – FA 2004
    Garcia – FA 1993
    Pettitte – 20th round 1990
    Phelps – 14th round 2008
    Warren – 4th round 2009

    ATHLETICS

    Milone – 10th round 2008
    Parker – 1st round 2007
    Colon – FA 1993
    McCarthy – 17th round 2002
    Blackley – FA 2006
    Griffin – 13th round 2010
    Ross – 2nd round 2008
    Straily – 24th round 2009
    Godfrey – 34th round 2006
    Anderson – 2nd round 2006

    RANGERS

    Harrison – 3rd round 2003
    Darvish – FA 2012
    Holland – 25th round 2006
    Feldman – 30th round 2003
    Lewis – 1st round 1999
    Dempster – 3rd round 1995
    Oswalt – 23rd round 1996
    Feliz – FA 2005
    Perez – FA 2007
    Grimm – 5th round 2010

    ORIOLES

    Chen – FA 2012
    Hunter – 1st round 2007
    Hammel – 10th round 2002
    Arrieta – 5th round 2007
    Gonzalez – FA 2004
    Tillman – 2nd round 2006
    Matusz – 1st round 2008
    Britton – 3rd round 2006
    Saunders – 1st round 2002
    Johnson – 13th round 2005
    Eveland – 16th round 2002
    Wolf – 2nd round 1997

    • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

      The 5 best teams in the AL in 2012 (Tigers, Yankees, A’s, Rangers, Orioles)

      A total of 25 drafts between those 5 teams over the 2008-2012 period

      Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (1st round only)

      Matusz – 1st round 2008

      Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (after 1st round)

      Ross – 2nd round 2008
      Phelps – 14th round 2008
      Warren – 4th round 2009
      Straily – 24th round 2009
      Smyly – 2nd round 2010
      Grimm – 5th round 2010
      Milone – 10th round 2008
      Griffin – 13th round 2010

      Starting pitchers drafted out of high school between 2008-2012

      NONE

      Free Agents
      Chen 2012
      Darvish 2012

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68133272 George Hareras

        I understand what youre getting at but the list appears to show that all of the guys were either a FA or drafted by the team they play for which isnt the case. For instance, Neftali Feliz wasnt a FA he was traded to the Rangers in the Texiera trade from the Braves. Also showing the Yankees with CC, it says first rd pick, so it gives the illusion that the Yankees drafted him in the first negating the fact that he was part of other clubs and other farm systems before coming to the Yankees.