We all know that the Pirates made a mistake when they passed over Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft, but for the people who follow the draft closely, the rest of the draft looked even worse with a bunch of overdrafts and roster fillers. Now it should be noted that just four years later only six of the players signed are still in the system, but it’s starting to look like the 2007 draft is actually paying off for the Pirates, something most people thought wouldn’t happen at all.
When the draft happened I was extremely disappointed in how bad it looked. I liked three of the guys where they were picked and two of them obviously didn’t pan out. I liked the pick of Andrew Walker. His draft video looked good and the scouting reports sounded good, plus most people were saying he was 5th round material, which is right where he was taken. Walker had trouble staying healthy the whole time he was with the Pirates, and when he was playing he struggled, likely due to the injuries and time missed.
I also liked Bobby Spain a lot for a 19th round pick. A big lefty hitter at 3B and he started hitting well his first full season until a hand injury cut short his 2008 season and basically derailed him career. Prior to getting injured in 2008 he was hitting .312 and on a hot streak with plenty of people calling for his promotion to high-A ball.
Then there was our 9th round draft pick, Tony Watson who seemed to be the only player who slipped in the draft to the Pirates. Basically it was a pick that didn’t fit in with the rest of the draft. Watson now is obviously showing that he was a great pick for a 9th rounder as he is quickly becoming a key member out of the bullpen. His fastball in the relief role has improved over the high 80’s numbers most people, including myself, saw as he made his way through the minors. Even prior to adding velocity he had a strong strikeout rate as a starter in AA last year and he gets swing and misses from both lefties and righties facing him.
Daniel Moskos has impressed some people with his pitching in big games since being called up. Overall he has been okay, but this is just his first time through the majors and he was promoted sooner than he would’ve been due to injuries in the major league pen. It’s likely the initial plan for him was a midseason promotion, possibly with a trade of Joe Beimel creating the need for his promotion. He showed good control in the minors issuing just one walk this season, and in 27 games between AAA and majors he has not allowed a single home run. It’s possible he could play a more important role in the pen next year and the big game experience in the majors he is getting this year should help him in the future.
So what else is left from the draft you ask? Well there are no sure things from this group but they are having varying degrees of success. Brian Friday, the 3rd round pick, is a utility fielder in AAA playing all over the infield. He has been hitting well recently as he is finally getting regular playing time. He is likely no more than a backup infield option at this point but there is still a chance for him to appear in a Pirates uniform.
Duke Welker, the 2nd round pick is even further away but it’s hard to overlook a guy who can throw it 97-98 mph. He is having his best season right now posting a 2.70 ERA out of the Bradenton pen and showing decent control recently after a wild start. At 6′ 7″ with a fastball that sits 95mph and a bit of wildness, he is an imposing figure on the mound who may be figuring things out. If he does, he has the stuff to be an effective reliever. Last year when I saw him pitch, his fastball was so good batters were gearing up for it and it left them swinging weakly at his breaking pitches which he was throwing for strikes.
Then we have our 4th round pick who many people are split on. Quincy Latimore obviously has his flaws, his plate patience and pitch recognition being the biggest problems. He is also just 22 years old in AA and has a ton of power from his small frame. He can play solid defense out in LF and has good speed which he still hasn’t put to good use yet. He has slumped this season almost the entire year and his patience hasn’t got any better, but there is no reason to give up on a player at his young age with the tools he has. When I saw him three weeks ago I was impressed with his opposite field power, and he looked much improved overall over the player I saw two years ago in low-A ball when he looked very raw.
They also have Kyle McPherson from the draft, the lowest pick from that year that is still around. He was taken in the 14th round, and to the surprise of many, myself included, he was added to the 40-man roster this past December. He surprised even more people by dominating in high-A ball with impeccable control which resulted in a 6/60 BB/K ratio in 71.2 innings. He has struggled with the longball in his three AA starts but he has still posted a strong WHIP, strikeout rate and ERA in his limited time.
If you asked me just two years ago I would’ve said we would be lucky to get a poor man’s John Grabow out of Daniel Moskos and possibly another 1-2 guys who would get a cup of coffee with the Pirates but nothing of significance. It’s possible now that Moskos will surpass that guess and at worst be the LOOGY some people expected out of him. Again, I’m not saying that is good from a high 1st round pick but it’s more than I and most people expected. Watson looks like he could be a solid reliever you can use in any situation and one that should be around for awhile as a cheap and effective option.
McPherson has the potential to be the best of the bunch since he is solid in a starting role although he likely won’t start to pay off until late next season if he stays in that role. Then out of the other three you might get those 1-2 cups of coffee you usually get from most drafts. If you told me when the draft happened that we would get this much from the players signed I likely wouldn’t believe it, but maybe the 2007 draft won’t be the overall disaster many people projected it to be.