Day two of the draft is over, and all of the slot picks for the 2013 bonus pool have been selected. Just like last night we will give our reactions to the picks. You can check out the recap of the day here. Wilbur Miller and John Dreker were both following the draft today, with the three of us working to find information on the new Pirates prospects. You can find all of our thoughts below.
On the surface, day two of the draft doesn’t provide a big standout player. That’s something we’re not used to seeing with the Pirates. In 2009 we had the prep pitchers. In 2010 it was Stetson Allie. In 2011 it was Josh Bell. In 2012 they had Wyatt Mathisen fall to day two (although he would have been on day one this year). This year there’s no “safe” prospect. I use quotes there because Mathisen isn’t exactly “safe”. He’s more comfortable, since he has the skills, and also came with high prospect rankings from places like Baseball America.
When you dig deeper, you see that there’s a lot of sleeper potential here. You could make the argument that each pick taken today has something to work on, and has a future in the majors. Some of these guys might end up relievers, and some might end up utility players. Some are higher risk, needing an adjustment to a swing (JaCoby Jones) or fastball command and a changeup (Cody Dickson). With those guys the reward is also pretty high if they work out. The Pirates didn’t draft guys they’re hoping to rush to the majors. They drafted guys with upside who they can take their time with. And that’s a good approach to take, since the current state of the system allows them to be patient with their prospects. Even without the 2013 draft picks, the farm system is strong. They don’t need the 2013 guys to be the saviors. They just need them to add to the current strength that is building, with no immediate rush for the addition of those prospects.
Favorite Pick - Cody Dickson
I had the advantage of knowing the picks for John and Wilbur before I wrote my section. I didn’t read their reasoning for both picking Dickson, but I did consider picking a different player to add some variety. The only problem was I couldn’t find a different player to pick. Dickson is a lefty who can hit 95 MPH with his fastball, usually sitting in the low-90s. He flashes a plus curveball, and has a lot of potential with his changeup. There are some command issues, but the Pirates have done a good job fixing command issues with younger players coming into the system. Worst case he’s a Justin Wilson like lefty reliever. Best case he could be a starter with three above-average pitches, and a lefty in a favorable situation in PNC Park.
Sleeper Pick - JaCoby Jones
The Pirates haven’t had a lot of success in this area before, but Jones is a very toolsy outfielder with raw power, speed, and the ability to stick in center field. He reminds me somewhat of Evan Chambers and Mel Rojas, who both had a similar “athlete/raw power/speed/can play center” combo. Not that Jones is the same type of player as those guys, just that he shares the same qualities, with the big quality being that he’s raw. The Pirates have been successful with pitchers, but haven’t managed to have the same success with the raw hitters on the US side. They’ve done well with a few international guys who have been raw (Gregory Polanco as an example), but the track record isn’t strong. Still, Jones has the chance to be a pretty good sleeper if he fixes his swing and taps into his power.
I liked the Pirates’ approach on day two this year. Last year I wasn’t too big on the picks to save money and overall the draft ended up weak. This year, the draft already looked like it would be better than last year by the sixth round. There is a lot of potential with this group, though there are also no guarantees with them as well. JaCoby Jones has all the talent in the world, he just needs to put it together. The pitchers all seem to have good arms and it never hurts to get two more shortstops into the system.
The one thing I notice about the group is there isn’t much room to save money with these guys. There are no senior signs, so while they will be able to save money here and there, it will take some of the possible excitement out of the third day of the draft. I’m sure they will pick some huge potential players that seem tough to sign, but we will more than likely not see many signed, possibly just one big surprise as opposed to a handful of lesser guys. Like I said up top, that really isn’t a bad thing because it looks like they already have a solid group of 11 players that should all sign.
Favorite Pick - Cody Dickson
The scouting reports on him say two different things, which makes me believe that he just needs some refining to get to be a quality starter. You really don’t want to get a reliever that early in the draft, so hearing one report say he has a potential plus changeup and another saying he has a plus curveball as his second pitch, makes me think that he is starter material. Being a lefty always helps.
Sleeper Pick - Trae Arbet
He isn’t technically a sleeper since he was rated so high, but he was rated high due to his potential. Watching the highlight video of him, I really liked what I saw, especially with his bat speed. Looks like a very athletic player, that once you get him in the system, he will eventually take off. Being a raw player, I think he will need a year before he really starts to look like a prospect. I’d leave him at shortstop and give him every chance to stick there.
The Pirates’ draft so far has gone in three distinct phases. On day one and in the first two rounds of day two, they focused on projection. They took three highly projectable prep players on day one, then led off day two with a pair of college players who have more room to improve than the norm. JaCoby Jones is all about projection as, in the view of Keith Law, the team needs to rework his swing entirely. Fourth round pick Cody Dickson is the college version of second rounder Blake Taylor: a lefty with good size and a strong arm who has the potential to be an above-average starter, but a lot of work to do. Phase two came with middle infielders in the fifth and sixth rounds. The Pirates desperately need to develop themselves a shortstop and they’ll try again with Trae Arbet. Adam Frazier, on the other hand, probably projects more as a utility player. The Pirates no doubt will say they simply took the best player on their board in each round, but the two lefties and two shortstops do address organizational needs.
Phase three was the string of four right-handed pitchers in rounds 7-10. If you go by Baseball America rankings, all four of these pitchers are probably candidates to sign for below-slot amounts, although not necessarily far below. Even so, they do present some upside, especially Buddy Borden and Neil Kozikowski. Chad Kuhl and Shane Carle are both sinkerball pitchers — not my favorite type of pitcher — who won’t project as more than back-end pitching depth. Taking below-slot candidates with top ten round picks is becoming the norm around baseball due to the new draft rules. Teams need to sign all their top ten picks or they lose the money for the unsigned picks from their pool. If they can sign all their picks, however, teams can target modest above-slot candidates after round ten.
Favorite pick - Cody Dickson
I like this pick for the same reason I liked the Blake Taylor pick on day one: The system is short on lefties generally and especially on lefties with at least the potential to become power pitchers. Both Dickson and Taylor have the potential for above-average stuff if the Pirates can help them straighten out their mechanics.
Sleeper - Neil Kozikowski
Kozikowski is such a deep sleeper that Baseball America’s Jim Callis on the MLB.com webcast, when the Pirates made the pick, said he couldn’t find anything in his computer on the player. This will purely be a test of the area scout who recommended Kozikowski.
Links and Notes
**Save $8 On The Pirates Prospects Books With the MLB Draft Sale. The sale only runs for one more week, so act quickly!
**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 8: When Should Gerrit Cole Join the Pirates? The answer is Tuesday, as you’ll see in the links below. However, we also talk about what Cole could become, and there’s Arrested Development and Game of Thrones talk. So it’s not all “Look at the link and give your answer”.
**P3 Episode 7: Talking Pirates Draft With Jim Callis of Baseball America. From Tuesday. We talked about Meadows and McGuire, plus talked about how the Pirates might take a pitcher in the second round, although we were discussing college arms instead of prep pitchers.
**Gerrit Cole Could Make Major League Debut on Tuesday. Lost in the day two draft shuffle (or taking over the day two draft picks, depending on the importance you place on the draft) is the news that the top prospect in the system is on his way up. I’ve given thoughts on this earlier this week (articles and podcast), but I’ll talk about this more as it gets closer to the start.