First Pitch: The 2011 Draft is the Exact Opposite of the 2009 Draft

In 2009 the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of money on prep pitchers in the middle rounds. The hope was that one of those pitchers could one day emerge as a top of the rotation option, which is something the Pirates hadn’t seen in their system for a long time. So far none of those pitchers have emerged as anything close to top of the rotation guys. Here is a rundown of what the Pirates have from each pitcher.

2nd Round – Brooks Pounders: Traded for Yamaico Navarro, who was traded for Jhondaniel Medina.

4th Round – Zack Dodson: Struggled in low-A last year. Still has the potential and stuff to reach the majors, but he has 4th starter upside.

6th Round – Zack Von Rosenberg: The highest paid player at $1.2 M. He was supposed to have the best chance of breaking out. Has been hit hard the last two years due to an elevated fastball. Today he was throwing 80-83 MPH.

7th Round – Trent Stevenson: Retired last year.

8th Round – Colton Cain: Traded with two other players for Wandy Rodriguez.

That’s not an impressive result, especially when the draft was focused around those prep pitchers. So far the result is a third of the price it took to acquire Wandy Rodriguez, plus two guys who might make the majors but have been struggling in A-ball, and a small right-hander in rookie ball. If you’re making an argument against the Pirates drafting skills, the 2009 draft would be the center of that argument.

One thing I noticed today is that the 2011 draft is shaping up to be the exact opposite of the 2009 draft. The Pirates went crazy with their spending in 2011, adding Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell with their top two picks. But they also spent on the middle round prep pitchers, and the early results have been more encouraging than the 2009 class.

Colten Brewer hit 95 MPH today.

Colten Brewer hit 95 MPH today.

4th Round – Colten Brewer: Was hitting 95 MPH with his fastball today.

5th Round – Tyler Glasnow: Consistently hits 96 MPH with his fastball, and has touched 98.

7th Round – Jake Burnette: Had a minor elbow injury last year, but is healthy now. Was topping out at 90-93 before the injury, with a good curveball.

8th Round – Jason Creasy: Hasn’t shown the velocity of the other pitchers, and was hit around in State College.

9th Round – Clay Holmes: He throws 90-93 MPH with a slider that looks like a plus pitch at times.

Right now a lot of the 2011 guys are still more potential than results. None of them have pitched above short-season ball, which isn’t a negative since last year was their first full season. They’re graded on potential and stuff, and what we do know is that none of the guys in 2009 had the stuff that we’re seeing from the 2011 group. The 2009 group didn’t have one person hitting 95 or higher, let alone two. Colton Cain, Zack Dodson, and Brooks Pounders all worked in the 90-93 range, but never on a consistent basis. So far there’s only one player from the 2011 draft who hasn’t hit 93 or higher, and that’s Creasy.

The 2011 prep pitchers also have an advantage. They’re just a bonus. The key to that draft was Cole and Bell. If one or more of the prep pitchers makes it, that’s just icing on the cake. The 2009 prep pitchers were the key to the draft. The whole draft was focused on them. They also didn’t have Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia in the system. For a year, they were the only hope of having a top of the rotation starter one day, and they were pretty much the only pitching prospects the Pirates had. That’s not the case at all with the 2011 group.

The 2011 guys are still more stuff and potential than results. But so far that potential has definitely been encouraging, to the point that they’re off to a much better start than the 2009 class.

Daily Photos

Here are a few photos from Pirate City today.

Wei-Chung Wang throwing to Jin-De Jhang.

Wei-Chung Wang throwing to Jin-De Jhang.

Dan Gamache

Dan Gamache

2010 prep pitcher Ryan Hafner

2010 prep pitcher Ryan Hafner



2012 prep pitcher Hayden Hurst

2012 prep pitcher Hayden Hurst

2010 prep pitcher Bryton Trepagnier

2010 prep pitcher Bryton Trepagnier

Links and Notes

**Prospect Notebook: Seeing Two Pitchers For the First Time; Brewer Hits 95.

**Pirate City Notes: Curry, Rowland, Rivera, Von Rosenberg, Wang.

**Chase d’Arnaud Has Torn Thumb Ligament.

**Minor Moves: Alex Fuselier, Erik Turgeon.

**Keith Law Releases His Top 50 Draft Prospects.

**Draft Preview: Top Prep Players Square Off.

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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, 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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  • Steve Zielinski

    Upshot: The strategy works, but it may not work in any given year.

    I suspect von Rosenberg had better bona fides before his draft than any of the overslot 2011 pitchers. We should remind ourselves that every prospect, including Cole and Bundy, come with a bit of risk.

    I wonder what the 2010 class would have produced if Seligula and his crew had not undermined the Pirates by refusing to OK some contracts? The Pirates already have a deep system.

  • keithconto

    SO. over the past few years when some of us mentioned to you that the 09 class was going to be a bust you told us it was too early to tell. Now not even 2 years later your using the ’11 class to point out success. Intresting.

    • Tim Williams

      “SO. over the past few years when some of us mentioned to you that the 09 class was going to be a bust you told us it was too early to tell.”

      Correct. As with any prediction of high school talent, it’s too early to tell when making a prediction after seeing those players for 1-2 years. I’ve certainly been down on the 2009 prep pitchers, but I’m talking about their progress in the present, without making future predictions.

      “Now not even 2 years later your using the ’11 class to point out success. Intresting.”

      Incorrect. If you would have read the article, you’d notice that I wasn’t making any definitive future projections. I’m simply pointing out that the 2011 pitchers have been much better than the 2009 pitchers ever were. In fact, twice in this article I mentioned that the 2011 class is more potential than results.

      You’re trying to create something that isn’t there. My approach here is consistent. I’m not making definitive statements for either group. I’m just pointing out where they currently are in their development. I’ve pointed out that the 2009 prep class has been struggling for the past two years. But I’m not guaranteeing that they’ll never amount to anything, just like I’m not guaranteeing that the 2011 class will have success.

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