Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Draft Preview

The 2012 Major League Baseball draft takes place over the next three days. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the eighth pick in the first round, which is the first time they’ve picked outside of the top four since 2005. They also have a first round compensation pick, which will take place on day one.

The draft will start at 7 PM, with MLB doing a pre-draft show at 6 PM. I will be holding a chat starting at 6 PM, and lasting through the end of the draft on day one. Day two will feature rounds 2-15, and day three will conclude the draft with rounds 16-40. Both days begin at noon. Pirates Prospects will have coverage of every pick from round one through 40, including player pages that will be uploaded shortly after the players are selected.

This year’s draft features a lot of changes. The Pirates are picking lower than they have in the past, which means we can’t just talk about which one of the top players would be the best pick. There are seven guys who stand out at the top of the rankings, with the Pirates picking eighth. There are two guys who started the year as top five prospects, and will almost certainly be available when the Pirates pick. There’s also new draft spending rules, which feature harsh penalties if a team goes over their total bonus pool.

Below I will take you through every detail of the draft. For further coverage, check out the links below. Be sure to join us tomorrow for the live chat, and check back throughout the entire draft for our complete coverage.

As a special draft promotion, since the Pirates have the eighth pick you can use the code “DRAFT” to get the Pirates Prospects 2012 Prospect Guide for only $8! This promotion lasts for one week only! Use the code on the products page of the site.


The Top Seven

Almost every mock draft that has come out has the same seven players going ahead of the Pirates. The order changes, but usually Albert Almora, Mark Appel, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer, and Mike Zunino are gone when the Pirates are picking in the mock draft.

Mark Appel is already being talked about as the number one overall pick. Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Kevin Guasman, and Kyle Zimmer all seem like locks to go in the top seven. That leaves two candidates who could fall to the Pirates.

The most likely to fall seems to be Albert Almora. Almora is the best high school defensive center fielder in the draft, thanks to his great arm and great range. He’s an above average hitter who hits to all fields and has a simple swing. He doesn’t have much power right now, but has the potential to add power in the future.

Mike Zunino has also been mentioned as a guy who could fall to the Pirates with the eighth pick. That seems a bit unlikely, as Zunino has been ranked as high as number two overall in the draft. He’s a two-way catcher who had a strong season at the plate, hitting for a .321/.394/.661 line with 16 homers. That was a bit down from his 2011 numbers, when he put up a .371/.442/.674 line and 19 homers. Defensive he handles a pitching staff well, and calls his own games. He’s got  strong and accurate arm, good hands, and good agility, giving him good blocking skills.

Either player would be a great pick for the Pirates if they fell. Zunino would be the better of the two, as he would give the Pirates another two-way catching prospect. That’s especially important with the other two-way prospect, Tony Sanchez, struggling this year. Almora would give the Pirates another strong outfield prospect, and another guy with plus defense in center field, which is always a valuable asset to have in a farm system.


Lucas Giolito’s Health

Lucas Giolito entered the year as the number two prospect in the draft, and probably would have gone first overall if he had stayed healthy. Giolito went down with an elbow injury early in the season. The injury was minor — an elbow sprain — but it did end his season in early March.

Giolito has since returned to throwing, long tossing from 220 feet. He has a unique warm up routine, which has drawn some comparisons to Trevor Bauer’s pre-game routine.

In the past, the Pirates have been said to restrict individual throwing programs, limiting pitchers to 120 feet. That was always incorrect, although the rumor was enough for Dylan Bundy to tell the Pirates not to draft him last year. As we’ve seen with Tim Alderson this year, the Pirates allow individual throwing programs. So that wouldn’t be a concern with Giolito.

The main concern would be Giolito’s health. Teams have the medical reports, and can get a better look at his elbow now. My take on this is that the worst case scenario would be Tommy John surgery. There’s a near 100% success rate with that injury these days, which means that in the worst case scenario, Giolito would miss a year, and would be back to having an ace upside, with his ETA pushed back from 2015 to 2016.

There’s also the issue of Giolito’s signing bonus. The Pirates can only offer $2.9 M with their first pick, and a $5 M number has been floating around. The Pirates could move money around to sign him and stay under their bonus pool, although it might be difficult to structure a draft around one player with questions on that player’s health.


The Next Tier

If the top seven go in order, and if there are questions about Giolito’s health, the next tier is a bit clouded. As I pointed out in my draft rankings, the talent from prospects eight through 19 are roughly the same, and the difference really comes down to preference. My preference from that group would either be Max Fried or Deven Marrero.

Fried is a left-handed prep pitcher who has a plus curveball, and throws in the low-90s, touching 93-94. He throws on a downward plane, and has a projectable body with an easy delivery, giving him the chance to add velocity going forward. He also throws a changeup with good deception and late sink, throwing all three pitches for strikes.

There’s a lot of upside with Fried, especially if he can add velocity. He could be a number two starter eventually, and even if he doesn’t add velocity he still has a shot at being a starter in the majors. He’s not as much of a project as someone like Zack Von Rosenberg or Colton Cain, but he’s not as polished as Jameson Taillon was.

Deven Marrero entered the year as a consensus top five prospect. Due to struggles at the plate this year, his stock has fallen, to the point where most Pirates fans would be upset with the pick. The Pirates have been linked to Marrero in most mock drafts, with a lot of people in the industry expecting the Pirates to take Marrero to fill their long-term shortstop hole. He has plus defense, and is about the strongest bet to stick at the position as you can get out of the draft. The issue has been his offense.

Marrero did pick up the pace in the second half. He hit for a .268/.324/.381 line in 97 at-bats in the first two months of the season this year. He finished much stronger, with a .298/.356/.479 line in 121 at-bats in April and May, including a .500/.536/.731 line in 26 at-bats over the final two weeks of the season. He has a low strikeout rate and a decent walk rate, showing a good approach at the plate. Marrero’s main value comes from his plus defense at the hardest position to defend. If he can hit enough to one day put up a .700 OPS in the majors, he would be a valuable major league shortstop. But his struggles this year put that future success in question.

Overall, the Pirates don’t have any strong picks available after the top seven. There are either questions of health (Giolito), questions of projectability (Fried), or questions of performance (Marrero). The hope should be that someone in the top seven takes Fried, or is confident with Giolito’s health, pushing one of the top seven guys down to the Pirates.


The Compensation Pick

The Pirates will have a compensation pick, getting the 45th overall pick after Ryan Doumit signed with the Minnesota Twins over the off-season. I highlighted some of the players who could be attractive options for that pick in my draft rankings.

The big option would be Victor Roache, who entered the year as a candidate for the number eight pick. Roache suffered an early season wrist injury, and fell off the radar. If he falls to the Pirates with the compensation pick, he would give them a lot of potential value. He was originally rated so high due to his bat and his power potential. There is some risk with his injury, as we don’t know the long-term effects of his wrist injury. That’s a concern because he has no defensive value. However, his power potential and hitting skills would make him a good gamble if he did fall to 45th overall.

If the Pirates don’t take Marrero in the first, Nolan Fontana could be an option if he’s still there in the compensation round. Fontana has good defensive skills at shortstop, ranking as the second best college middle infielder behind Marrero. He might not stick at short, and could eventually move to second or become a utility player. He doesn’t stand out in any area, but is viewed as a safe bet across the board. He kind of reminds me of a Jordy Mercer/Chase d’Arnaud type shortstop. He looks like he could be someone who could start, but his upside might be an average starter.

The Pirates have been linked to Joe DeCarlo, who profiles as a third baseman with a solid frame and good power. DeCarlo is a prep player, ranked 287th overall by Baseball America. He could also be an option for the Pirates in the second round, if they decide to take him.


The Middle Rounds and the New CBA

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement will certainly change the way the Pirates approach the middle rounds. In previous years they’ve gone over-slot with a lot of signings, taking projectable prep players and buying out their college commitments. This year there are harsh penalties if a team goes over their draft bonus pool:

**If a team outspends their pool by 0-5%, they will face a 75% tax on the overage.

**If a team outspends their pool by 5-10%, they will face a 75% tax on the overage, and lose their first round pick in the next draft.

**If a team outspends their pool by 10-15%, they will face a 100% tax on the overage, and lose their first and second round picks in the next draft.

**If a team outspends their pool by 15% or more, they will face a 100% tax on the overage, and lose their next two first round picks.

In addition, any team that goes over their bonus pool wouldn’t qualify for additional picks in future drafts, awarded through a new lottery system. So even if a team goes over by less than five percent, they’re still forfeiting potential draft picks.

I spoke with Neal Huntington last month on the subject, and he said the Pirates don’t anticipate going over-slot due to the harsh penalties. So it will be interesting to see their approach this year. My guess will be something similar to the 2008 draft, when they took Jordy Mercer, Chase d’Arnaud, Justin Wilson, Benji Gonzalez, Jeremy Farrell, and Matt Hague in the first ten rounds, giving all of them slot money. And if there’s a Robbie Grossman in this draft, I think he’ll go in the compensation round or the second round, rather than falling to the sixth round and getting a $1 M over-slot bonus.


The Draft Bonus Pool

The Pirates will have $6,563,500 to spend on their picks this year. That number includes all of the bonus money in the top ten rounds, plus the difference of any bonus over $100 K after the tenth round. The breakdown of each individual pick can be found on the Draft Pick Signing Tracker, which will be updated throughout the draft with all of the players that are selected. After the draft, the tracker will be updated throughout the signing process with all of the signings the Pirates make.

Keep that page bookmarked. In the last few years, Pirates Prospects has broken more draft signings than any other outlet, which means you’re likely to find out about a signing on the Draft Pick Signing Tracker first.


Draft Links

Use the following links for more draft coverage from Pirates Prospects.

**2012 Draft Archives

**Draft Prospect Trackers

**Draft Pick Signing Tracker

**Top 100 Tiered Rankings

**Pirates Prospects Player Pages – As players are added to the system, their player pages will be added to the site.




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Murray Passarieu

I like Fontana; I’m not sure he couldn’t stick at short, but his bat might be a problem in the majors. Still, great experience in the SEC and great patience at the plate. He even has a little pop if he gets the right pitch. Hopefully he’ll be there during the comp round

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