First Pitch: Who Pirates Draft and Who Fans Want, Might Not Be The Same

Since taking over the draft coverage on the site this year, I have learned one thing that is pretty clear. Unless you’re picking at the top of the draft class, there is nothing close to a consensus. That is especially true with the Pittsburgh Pirates two first round picks this year. There wasn’t a consensus back in February and there certainly isn’t one now.

Having Josh Bell(pictured) and Gregory Polanco shouldn't factor into who the Pirates draft this year

Having Josh Bell(pictured) and Gregory Polanco shouldn’t factor into who the Pirates draft this year

Early in the season, we decided what players we should focus on based mostly on the pre-season rankings. I personally wanted the Pirates to get one of two guys early on, actually both would have been nice. They were Kris Bryant and Austin Wilson. A funny thing happened along the way, Wilson had a very minor injury that turned into 22 games missed. Bryant on the other hand, became too good for the Pirates. If I could make my pre-season pick again using hindsight, I’d keep it the same, because I’d gladly take Wilson, who might drop to the 20’s, if it means I could also get Bryant.

Some other things have happened since then too. Some have fans excited, while others have them dreading the pick.

Two High School outfielders from Georgia have dropped, getting some fans excited at the possibility of picking either Austin Meadows or Clint Frazier. Just imagine if it worked out that the Pirates could pick both, which doesn’t seem entirely far-fetched at this point. Would you actually take two high upside outfielders out of HS with your first two picks? Both of these players were mentioned at one point as possible first overall picks, so if they had the chance, despite the fact we have players named McCutchen and Marte in the majors and Bell and Polanco in the minors, I’d take both of the Georgia outfielders in a second.

Draft for talent, not for need, unless the players are so similar that you could go either way.

The thing that has the fans dreading the possible picks are college hitters named DJ Peterson, Hunter Renfroe, Aaron Judge, Eric Jagielo and Phillip Ervin. They are the best college hitters in this class not named Colin Moran or Kris Bryant. They are also players that almost no Pirates fan wants the team to pick.

The reason that people don’t want them is pretty simple. We already know what they can do, so their upside isn’t limitless like Frazier or Meadows, or even power hitting 1B Dominic Smith, or toolsy shortstop JP Crawford, or line drive hitting, defensive-minded catcher Reese McGuire, or Trey Ball, Ian Clarkin, Phil Bickford, Rob Kaminsky, or any other HS pitcher that throws 90+ MPH.

The draft begins on June 6th, which is fast approaching. Most people know who they want already, these last couple weeks won’t change anything. Heck, half the players near the top are already done playing this year, while others might have a handful of games, which doesn’t compare to how many times scouts have looked at them over the years.

If the draft experts are right, most fans aren’t going to be happy with at least one of the picks the Pirates make. That doesn’t necessarily make the picks wrong, just unpopular. I personally want them to go upside(HS), unless they have the chance to take Colin Moran or Braden Shipley.

None of the other college names mentioned around their pick excite me, not Ryne Stanek, who has been very inconsistent this year, or Sean Manaea, who has had three different injuries this year. That doesn’t mean any of those players won’t go on to have a great major league career, it just means I’d rather take a chance on the upside. It’s a weak year at the top for college players. That was a pretty well established fact at the beginning of the year and it didn’t get better as the year went on. Some players dropped, some moved up in their place, but the group didn’t get any better at the top.

One other thing I will point out with this draft class, there are going to be some good college arms available in the second round. You may not get a future ace, but I see no shortage of solid #3 pitchers that will be available when the Pirates pick 51st overall. With that kind of guarantee, it makes me feel a little bit better about taking two upside picks in the first round. The college ranks seem to be filled with solid, yet unspectacular starters this year and right now that is where my focus would be with that pick. That could obviously change depending on who drops(see: Stetson Allie and Josh Bell), but you’re going to have a chance to get someone who will move quick in the second round and that makes waiting(and hoping) for players to reach that upside a little easier.

So, if you’re going to tune into the MLB Network on June 6th, or preferably follow all the action here on Pirates Prospects that day, and you’re going in hoping for specific players, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I know I have my wishlist for the day, hoping Kohl Stewart falls because of perceived bonus demands, or Meadows falls, or down goes the Pirates at #9. I’ll be hoping for Moran, or Shipley to sink, or 6’6″ lefty Trey Ball, or McGuire, or Smith, or JP Crawford. I have a list of nine names I’d like to get, with three names guaranteed to go ahead of them(Bryant, Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray). Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but will it happen….only 11 more long days until we find out.

Links and Notes

** Tim returns to his usual duties tomorrow for First Pitch. Thanks to Tom Bragg for filling in Friday night and James Santelli taking over the Saturday night spot this week. I will be covering West Virginia live this upcoming weekend, Thursday through Sunday in Lakewood. You can follow along Twitter as I’ll take my first shot at live tweeting a game on one(or more) of those days, probably when Tyler Glasnow starts, or maybe if they decide to unveil some other highly rated prospect who is due to make his season debut sometime soon. Follow here @JohnDreker

**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5.

**The newest Pirates Prospects Podcast is up and available for download or streaming. P3 Episode 5: Polanco the Top Prospect? Can Pirates Keep Winning? Mark Melancon Interview

**Draft Watch: Latest Mock Draft Has A New Name For Pirates

**Prospect Watch: West Virginia Wins Seventh Straight, Four For Fortunato

**Draft Prospect Watch: Draft Notes and Former Pirates Picks

**Pirates Notebook: Pitchers Working On Historic Run of Run Prevention

**Minor League Schedule: McDonald and Morton Both Set For Rehab Start

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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