The evaluation of a draft can change over time. You first evaluate a draft at its completion, or after all of the players have signed. That evaluation is based entirely off potential, since obviously you don’t have any results to go off of. As time passes, you start adding results. Potential still plays a role in the early years, but the further away from the draft you get, the less it becomes about potential and the more it becomes about results.
The 2008 draft is looking like a good one for the Pirates. That draft is pretty much all results, led by Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer, and Justin Wilson. Plus there’s Robbie Grossman, who was the biggest trade piece to get Wandy Rodriguez. Alvarez and Mercer are currently the left side of the infield, while Wilson is looking like a dominant reliever (and I believe he could still be a good starter if they stretch him out in the future).
If you look at the 2011 draft, you’ll see some results. Gerrit Cole is already in the majors, which is expected. Guys like Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell are putting up strong numbers in West Virginia. But a lot of that draft is still on potential. Glasnow has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. Bell has the potential to be an All-Star right fielder who can hit for average and power. Then there’s Colten Brewer, Jason Creasy, and Clay Holmes, who all have good stuff, but haven’t yet made the noise that Glasnow has.
Both of those drafts have been good, or maybe even great in the case of the 2011 draft. But does the 2013 group have the potential to be the best of the bunch?
Over the weekend the Pirates announced the signing of first round pick Austin Meadows. They also announced that they’ve signed Nick Buckner and Billy Roth, with Roth being an over-slot deal, and Buckner most likely being an over-slot signing. The Pirates have already signed their two first round picks. They’ve signed most of their top ten round picks. They’ve also signed a few interesting over-slot players in the process. Here is a recap of the guys they’ve signed, and the upside of those players.
Austin Meadows, CF, 1st Round - He’s a potential lefty power bat with great strike zone judgement and great pure hitting skills. Those are similar comments that were made about Josh Bell coming out of the draft, although Bell has struggled with strikeouts, and Meadows projects to be better in that department.
Reese McGuire, C, 1st Round - He’s a strong defensive catcher, with the defense needed to stick behind the plate for the long-haul. There are questions about his offense, although he has the tools to hit and become a regular starter and an All-Star catcher.
Blake Taylor, LHP, 2nd Round - He’s a 17-year-old lefty who throws 89-92 and has touched 94. He eventually projects to sit low-to-mid 90s with his fastball with a good curve. He needs to work on his command, and his changeup, which are two areas the Pirates have success teaching in the lower levels. He has the upside of a middle of the rotation starter.
JaCoby Jones, CF, 3rd Round - He’s a high upside guy, with a lot of raw power, speed, and the skills to play center field. He’s going to be more of a project at the plate, but if he works out his offensive upside would be a steal for a third round pick that can stick in center.
Cody Dickson, LHP, 4th Round - Basically everything that was said about Taylor, except Dickson is 21, and already throws his fastball in the low 90s, touching 95.
Trae Arbet, SS, 5th Round - I’ve been watching him the last week in the GCL. He’s got the skills needed to stick at shortstop in the long-term. His hitting is going to be the thing to work on, and will determine if he’s ever a legit shortstop prospect.
Neil Kozikowski, RHP, 8th Round - He’s 6′ 4″, 180 pounds and throws 86-88, touching as high as 92. He’s a tall, projectable pitcher, received an over-slot bonus, and looks like a lot of the other guys the Pirates have drafted in the past — most of whom have seen velocity increases.
Chad Kuhl/Shane Carle - Both are right-handed college pitchers taken in rounds nine and ten respectively. They’re both sinkerball pitchers, which is something the Pirates focus on, and an area where they’ve had some success.
Danny Collins, 1B, 13th Round - He’s gotten off to a great start, hitting for power in the pitcher friendly New York-Penn League. He hit for power in college, but the real test of his skills will come next year as he moved up to a higher level, and eventually when he moves on to Double-A.
Nick Buckner, CF, 14th Round - He’s very raw, but has a lot of upside with a lot of power potential. He’s a left-handed pull hitter with a quick bat, and probably profiles best in a corner outfield spot in the long-term.
Billy Roth, RHP, 16th Round - Roth is similar to Kozikowski in that he throws in the upper 80s, touches 92, and has a projectable frame with the chance to add velocity. He throws a good curveball, and has a changeup that needs some work.
The Pirates probably won’t have a hard time signing 6th round pick Adam Frazier, who profiles to be a utility player. The harder sign will be 7th round pick Buddy Borden, who is a right-hander who sits low-90s and reaches 96 MPH at times. He throws a curve and a changeup, although neither is a strong pitch. He did improve his command this year, and could have a future as a starter. His fastball is good enough that it should keep him as a reliever if he can’t improve his secondary stuff.
If you look through the list, you’ll notice a trend. There’s a lot of risk involved, but each pick is high reward. Meadows and McGuire are in a different category than everyone else, since they’re some of the best prospects in this draft. Outside of those two you have your normal projectable prep pitchers in Kozikowski and Roth. You’ve got two lefties with control problems but a great fastball/curveball combo in Dickson and Taylor. Jones and Buckner have a lot of raw power, and Collins has power with the chance that it could translate over to the pros. Trae Arbet would be a steal if he can hit enough to be a regular starter, since his defensive skills look smooth enough to stick at shortstop for the long term.
At this point there’s almost no results involved in the grading of this draft. Everything with this group is based on upside. That’s an area where the Pirates went heavy. I’m not sure that the Pirates have had a draft that has featured this much upside. They’ve had drafts where they’ve taken a lot of projectable pitchers. But the variety involved here is different. They’re taking a gamble in hopes of getting a regular shortstop, power hitting outfielders, middle of the rotation left-handers, and of course the projectable prep pitchers. Almost all of the picks are huge hit or miss strategies. Even if they only hit on 1-2 players, that would provide a huge return, especially if Meadows and McGuire work out as expected.
Links and Notes
**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 11: Second Half Sleepers and When Can Tony Sanchez Help?
**If you missed it earlier this week, be sure to check out Pirates Roundtable – Episode 1. This week we had Pat Lackey (WHYGAVS), Brian McElhinny (Raise the Jolly Roger), Jim Rosati (North Side Notch), Cory Weibel (Three Rivers Burgh Blog), plus our own James Santelli and Tom Bragg.