Normally for my day three preview, I write about how it is still possible to find talent on day three of the draft. I mention that Casey Sadler was a 25th round pick, or point out guys like Phil Irwin, or sleeper prospects like Ryan Hafner. I’ll point out missed opportunities like Trea Turner (21st round pick in 2011, 13th overall this year). The focus will be that the Pirates got a lot of talent in rounds 1-10, but that it’s still possible to find a player or two in the remaining rounds.
This year, it’s almost imperative that the Pirates find some talent on day three. It’s not a situation where any additional talent would be a nice bonus. It’s a situation where the first two days leave the Pirates at risk to have a very disappointing draft.
The first round pick, Cole Tucker, was a reach. He doesn’t look like a bad player. He’s got the potential to stick at shortstop, and the Pirates loved the improvements he made offensively. If they’re right about his improving offense, then the pick could turn out looking good. Right now it looks like they didn’t get first round talent in the first round. The Pirates said they took him here because they didn’t think he’d be there at number 39.
The Competitive Balance A pick went to Connor Joe. He’s a college bat who hits a lot of doubles, but doesn’t project to be a huge bat in the majors. Once again, the Pirates are higher on him than everyone else. If his offense fits their projections, then this isn’t a bad pick. If he fits the projections that everyone else has, which seems to be a strong fourth outfielder or possibly an average starter, then once again they didn’t get the appropriate talent level with this pick.
I liked the next two picks. Mitch Keller and Trey Supak are your typical Pirates picks. They’re right-handed prep pitchers with good fastballs, and the projectability to add velocity. The Pirates could have saved some money with their first two picks in order to help pay for these guys. I actually like Keller and Supak almost as much as I like the first two picks. I think I’d have Tucker the highest, with the two pitchers close behind him. That’s not to say that these pitchers don’t come with their own risks, like the first two picks. They were appropriate value for these picks, and I’m more comfortable with the Pirates track record with drafted pitchers over their track record with drafted hitters.
The theme for day two was college players. Seven of the eight drafted players came from the college ranks, which is an approach that doesn’t bring a lot of upside. That’s not to say there weren’t some nice picks, but it doesn’t look like there are any JaCoby Jones or Buddy Borden picks in this group. A quick summary of each player:
**Jordan Luplow seems like he could be a good hitter when healthy. He hasn’t been healthy much until this year, but the Pirates are fine with his medicals. He was appropriate value for his pick, and it just comes down to whether the Pirates are right about his future health.
**Taylor Gushue is an interesting catching prospect, and a year younger than other college players. Just like with Cole Tucker, the Pirates are gambling here that the younger age means Gushue isn’t done developing.
**Michael Suchy doesn’t have a typical baseball body, being built more like a football player. He is very athletic, despite the build, but has some issues with strikeouts, which is always a red flag for any prospect. He gets power from his strength, and not bat speed, which is an approach that leads to a three true outcomes guy at best, but in most cases, a guy who tops out at Double-A.
**Nelson Jorge is a shortstop from Puerto Rico, and this is a case where you’ve got a guy with a lot of projection, capable of sticking at short, and maybe providing value with his speed and bat. It’s not an exciting pick, but he has more room to grow since he’s the only prep guy from day two.
**Kevin Krause was drafted as a catcher, but hasn’t played the position full-time. He might be able to play catcher, despite the lack of experience. His bat doesn’t sound great, with below average hitting and the chance for some power.
**The three pitchers — Tyler Eppler, Austin Coley, and Alex McRae — are your typical Pirates picks. Good fastballs, room to grow, need improvements on the secondary stuff, and the potential to be a starter if all works out. Coley and McRae were off the radar, so you’re having to trust the Pirates scouting more than everyone else who has ranked prospects publicly. As I said before, I trust the Pirates more when it comes to pitching in the draft.
Overall, there are a lot of question marks, and that’s not an uncommon thing in any draft. The issue is that the Pirates reached with their first two picks, and didn’t appear to get good value with those high picks. The higher picks are the easiest ones to get value from, and usually provide the most value in the draft. The bigger issue is that the Pirates don’t have a good track record with hitters in the draft. It’s a different situation with guys like Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire, who everyone loved. But in most cases, they haven’t had success finding sleepers on the hitting side, at least not to the same extent as their success with pitching.
So that brings us to day three. The combination of reaching for the first two picks, plus a lot of easy to sign college guys, means the Pirates might have some pool money remaining for over-slot deals today. Last year they went over-slot with Erich Weiss, Nick Buckner, and Billy Roth. Weiss is looking like the best hitter in West Virginia right now. Roth was regarded as the steal of the draft, and will get started in a few weeks in short season ball, after throwing a bit in the GCL.
They’re going to need some picks like that on day three. Right now the top ten rounds look like they carry more risk than the typical draft would, and not the appropriate upside that you normally would get along with this risk. Making it worse is the fact that most of this risk comes on the hitting side, and not the pitching side. That goes against where the Pirates have had success in previous drafts, especially when you’re talking about guys who the Pirates had much higher than everyone else.