First Pitch: The Pirates 2014 Draft is Making More Sense

When it comes to draft analysis, the first look at the draft is never final. The second look isn’t final either. Evaluating a draft is a constant process, changing for better or worse as new information comes along.

Earlier this month, I wrote that I didn’t like the draft the Pittsburgh Pirates had. That was rare, as I’ve liked a lot of the drafts they’ve had under Neal Huntington and company. I did write about how the draft analysis could change for the better. Mostly that involved signing a few mid-round over-slot guys, the prep pitchers in the second round working out, and Cole Tucker’s offense being what the Pirates saw in his senior year of high school. One thing I didn’t expect is that I’d be re-evaluating the draft less than a month after it happened.

There were two big things I didn’t like about the 2014 draft for the Pirates. The first thing was that the Pirates appeared to have reached for first round pick Cole Tucker. He wasn’t ranked anywhere near the first round by any of the public rankings. The Pirates said that they took him 24th because they didn’t think he would get to them at number 39, which made the pick somewhat understandable, but didn’t really justify it much at the time, since Tucker also wasn’t rated anywhere near 39th.

After the draft, we started hearing that the Pirates were right, and that Tucker would have gone off the board before the 39th overall pick. I talked to Tucker last week, and he named several teams who showed interest on draft day, including the Dodgers, who picked before the Pirates. So it didn’t look like the Pirates were alone in ranking him that high. It also didn’t look like as big of a reach to take Tucker with the 24th overall pick.

What has really changed my view on Tucker has been the information I’ve gotten from scouts and industry experts — unsolicited, I might add — on how good Tucker can be, and how high some teams had him ranked. This information is coming from people with zero affiliation with the Pirates, and who have nothing to gain by talking Tucker up. It seems that the floor for Tucker was the late first round, and some teams liked him enough to consider him higher than 24th. If that’s true, then the Pirates got a potentially great pick at number 24.

This also makes you wonder what caused such a big divide between the pre-draft rankings, and the post-draft information. I can’t recall such a big divide between scouting reports and the national reports. There might be one team that likes someone much more than everyone else, but it doesn’t usually result in this, where we learn that the industry also was higher on the player than the rankings. There have also been situations where one or two rankings were higher on a guy, so there wasn’t a consensus like there was with Tucker. In Tucker’s case, the rankings all had him much lower, and everything I’ve heard since the draft is the exact opposite of the rankings.

The other thing I didn’t like about the draft was the selection of Connor Joe. It wasn’t so much the selection as it was the plans the Pirates announced for Joe. They drafted him as an outfielder, and said he could also get time at first base. All of the reports on Joe say that he’s best as a catching prospect. He’s going to be a project there, but his bat plays better at the position. If he eventually has to move to a corner outfield spot, it won’t be a hard move to make. It didn’t make sense why the Pirates wouldn’t try Joe at catcher, giving him a shot where he has the most value first.

It appears they will be doing exactly that this off-season. Earlier this week it was reported that Joe will be getting time behind the plate this fall during instructs. The pick is still a bit of a reach, but it’s no longer a reach combined with lowering the player’s value by putting him at a less valuable position.

The 2014 draft doesn’t look as appealing as the 2013 group. Then again, it would be hard to match a group led by Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. Less than a month after the draft, the 2014 class is making a lot more sense. Cole Tucker isn’t looking like much of a reach at all, and might end up being a steal if some of the more optimistic evaluations are correct. Connor Joe is a bit of a reach, but the Pirates are now planning to use him where he has the most value. I don’t really put much stock into first impressions or small sample sizes, so I don’t have any evaluations on how the class is doing so far on the field. That said, the changes in value for both Tucker and Joe are enough to change my opinion on the draft. Those two picks were a big reason why I didn’t like this class originally. Now that those picks make more sense, the draft looks better.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Nick Kingham Continues Amazing Start in Triple-A

**DSL Pirates Report: Luis Escobar Shows Improvements, While Another Pitcher is Out For the Season

**Prospect Highlights: Defensive Gem From Alen Hanson, Garcia Continues to Pick Up Extra-Base Hits

**Prospect Report: Andy Oliver adjusts to closer role

**Minor League Schedule: Tyler Glasnow Looks to Continue Impressive Stretch

Tim Williams

Author: 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 AccuScore.com, 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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  • moose7195

    Sorry Tim, your logic is lost on me. Just because a few different organizations claimed that they liked Tucker in the late first round doesn’t mean he wasn’t a reach, and it doesn’t make it a good pick. How did these scouts describe him post draft? I don’t think anything they say will change his outlook. He’ll have to stay at SS and actually be able to hit to provide any value for the pick they used.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

      Tim’s logic made perfect sense to me. After talking to some scouts, he sees Tucker as more of a value. What’s so hard to understand there? That’s what Tim is trying to do with this site – speak with insiders and report the bits that he can.

    • lfhlaw

      Most SS don’t have a bat, at least a strong one. So if there’s a high side to a SS, I think you take that chance using your #1 pick. He could be the next Jeter, but he could also be the next Ronnie Cedeno. Picking lower in the draft also means you aren’t spending as much money on the #1 pick as say the overall #1 pick. like Cole. Pitching was also very strong this year, so if you skipped it in the 1st round you could come back to it in the second or compensatory pick. Not that we picked for need, but if you look at our minors and/or majors, How many strong hitting SS do you see?

    • Lukas Sutton

      So basically, Tim asking other teams about Tucker and getting “we liked him and either almost took him or wanted him before he was taken” is less impressive than the random ESPN and MLB “experts” telling us what to think. If 3+ teams had him as a first round talent, he clearly wasnt as much of a reach as the “experts” thought. Internal evaluations vary from team to team,so if more than a few teams agree on a guy it isnt a coincidence.

      • moose7195

        We don’t know who he asked. He only said that they were unsolicited remarks from unbiased scouts. In fact, that is a better description of a random ESPN or MLB “expert” than the affiliated baseball scouts you are putting more stock into. You really don’t think the A’s or Dodgers don’t have an agenda? I guess ignorance is bliss. And if 10 percent of the leagues internal evaluations make it not a coincidence, then what does it mean that 90 percent of the league thought he wasn’t worth the pick?

        • John Lease

          I’ll field that. It means 90% saw it as a reach. But as long as anyone thinks it was OK, that keeps Neil H’s record as practically perfect in every way. Whew!

        • keithconto

          I was impressed by the kid when they interviewed him during a Pirate game. But that doesn’t mean I think it was a good pick. and you can find 3 people to say ANY pick is good. Guess the other 90% of the league doesn’t know anything.

  • realist001

    Good article Tim. That should lock up all your press credentials for next season.

    • John Lease

      I was wondering how long it would take for that nearly negative thought to be replaced by adoration. Almost made it to July…

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

        I was also wondering when you’d return with your daily accusations of me being an apologist, and complaining about the Pirates and Huntington. Funny that your last comment on here came at the start of the 2013 season, before the Pirates became winners again. I wonder which one of us has the agenda?

        • John Lease

          Well, I finally bothered to go thru the extra hoops to ‘register’ when this came out. I don’t lather praise on Neil Huntington at each and every opportunity. Still seem pretty thin skinned Tim, why is that? You do realize that as a journalist, all you have is your integrity? How’d that whole ‘Polanco is coming up NOW’ thing work out for you? Good thing Neil Walker had an appendectomy to quiet that all down.

  • Jsdspud

    I have read conflicting reports on Tucker at baseball prospectus. One scout was quoted that Tucker was the reach of the draft. A scouting director was quoted that they had Tucker rated higher than Nick Gordon. Numerous other scouts thought that Tucker was more of a 3rd round talent. The “head scout” at BP said that it will be interesting to watch how this plays out.

  • R Edwards

    Tucker has grown on me – and time will tell whether he was indeed a major reach or a shrewd pick by the Pirates at #24. So, I am somewhat fine with that pick.

    As for Joe, a move to catcher does make more sense for the team – and probably for him in terms of his chances to make the Pirates some day – but, I still do not like the pick at all. First, they paid a price to get the pick (Morris) and then they passed on a few highly touted prospects who played positions of great need in the system – third base, middle infield, or first base.

    Although the Pirates are not as deep at catcher as they are in the outfield throughout the system, they are still pretty deep there. Sanchez, Diaz, Paulino, McGuire, Gushue, Krause, etc. So, a move to catcher for Joe still doesn’t make him a very good choice at #39, at this stage of the process. A move to first base would have made more sense IMHO. Ultimately, how he hits will determine the outcome of this pick. If he hits well enough, they will find a place for his bat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

      Since they want to try Joe at first base, then it is a position of need pick – in a sense.

  • Spa City

    It may just be a matter of comparing the 2014 draft to previous drafts. Last year we had 2 of the top 14 picks. This year we didn’t have a pick until 24th. But the Bucs went with a 17 year old shortstop, so there is a huge range of possible outcomes from All Star (if his bat develops and his defense is as good as advertised) to total flop (if he gets too big for short and his bat never develops). Connor Joe is a head scratcher. I am not sure where Pirate scouts saw value in him at that point in the draft, so I am trusting that the see something most people are missing.

  • Sfogg115

    Hey tim do you still have similar feelings for the rest of the draft. Luplow and gushnue are laying well. Any pitchers that stick out thus far?

  • Lee Young

    I think they took Connor Joe just to get extra money to sign overslots?

  • ElGaupo77

    I think they were hoping to get an extra $200k out of Tucker’s pick and Joe’s. I don’t think they have enough for Hinsz, although it’s tough to turn down $500k when you’re 18 AND a pitcher.

  • freddylang

    Definitely nothing wrong with his hitting so far. Tucker is on pace for 200 errors over a full season. It’s early but the eye at the plate so far is a good sign.

    • Lee Young

      lots and lots of errors so far, that’s for sure.

      • freddylang

        Any word on when Joe makes his debut?

  • W Zimmerman

    Tim – What do you think the chances are for more signings?… Hinsz or possibly Welmon?

  • EWS34

    I liked the Tucker pick. Drafting 17 and 18 year old high ceiling prospects is the best way to obtain high impact major league players later in the draft

  • st1300b

    Got to like the stick Krause brings as well. Agree the C depth may be the best in MLB, but with Joe’s athleticism and arm I’d love to see him at 3b.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrishale525 Chris Hale

    Sounds like your talking yourself into liking this draft. I don’t mind the Cole pick because they saw something in him and they got him signed under slot. The Joe pick was baffling. There were potential stars still on the board and they picked a average prospect with little upside at a position we really deep at in the minors Liked the Keller and Supak picks though