First Pitch: Looking at the Grades From Huntington’s Drafts

Every year I always purchase a copy of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. I only cover the Pirates’ farm system, and while that does give me a chance to see prospects from other systems, my focus is usually on the players with the Pirates. I like the BA handbook because it shows what other teams have in their system, which gives you some perspective on how the individual Pirates players stack up to players on other teams. It also gives an outside look at some of the aspects of the Pirates system.

The Pirates write up is usually done by a Pittsburgh writer, but there are other sections in the book that are done by BA writers. One of those sections I check out each year is the draft analysis. Baseball America reviews the previous year’s draft, giving the usual individual awards for “Best Pure Hitter”, “Best Power Hitter” and so on. They also give grades to each of the previous drafts, which can change over time.

When I checked out the draft grades in this year’s book, I noticed some strong results. This year’s book includes all of the draft recaps under Neal Huntington (next year’s book will cut off the 2008 results). Jim Callis does the previous year’s recaps, and had three of the four drafts graded as a B+ or better. The 2008 and 2010 drafts received a B+ grade, while the 2011 draft received an A. The 2009 draft was on the other end of the spectrum with a D grade.

Each year you expect the draft results to fluctuate. Some players will wash out, and some players will see improvements. So I wanted to see how the drafts have progressed over the years. I turned to my previous copies of the BA Prospect Handbook to see the grades each year. The grades started two years after the draft, so we don’t have a grade for the 2012 draft, and we only have 1-2 years respectively for 2011 and 2010.

Pedro Alvarez was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Pedro Alvarez was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft.

The 2008 Draft

2010: A

2011: A

2012: B+

2013: B+

The 2008 draft started out strong, and has seen a slight drop off, but the results are still there. The short write-up notes that the rest of the top five picks, plus Matt Hague (9th round) have made the majors. One of the players mentioned was second round pick Tanner Scheppers, even though he wasn’t signed. I’m not sure if he is considered when giving the draft a grade. Also, the “made the majors” requirement is a bit shallow, since most of the other players either haven’t gotten established, or don’t look like they will become established. For perspective, the goal of most drafts is to get three players to the majors. Right now the players with the best chances to stick are Pedro Alvarez, Justin Wilson, and Jordy Mercer.

The 2009 Draft

2011: C+

2012: C

2013: D

The 2009 draft didn’t start out very well, and slowly dropped off the last two years. When looking at the ratings from this year’s book, the 2009 grade clearly sticks out. Across the league the 2009 draft was the worst on average. It had the lowest average league-wide. The Pirates were among the worst of the worst with their D grade. The Dodgers, Marlins, and Rays all got D grades, while the Orioles and Mets received F grades.

The 2010 Draft

2012: B+

2013: B+

This one has stayed the same, even though Stetson Allie’s stock took a huge hit in 2012. Again, I’m not sure if un-signed players count to the total. Jason Hursh and Kent Emmanuel both received high ratings in Baseball America’s 2013 draft coverage, and both went un-signed this year. Jameson Taillon probably plays a big role in this rating, and Nick Kingham probably has a big impact as well.

The 2011 Draft

2013: A

We’ve only seen the 2011 guys for one season, but the results were strong. Aside from Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell fueling this ranking, the 2011 group also includes Clay Holmes, Tyler Glasnow, and Alex Dickerson. The Pirates were one of seven teams to get an A for the 2011 draft.


After looking at the Pirates grades, I went through to get the averages for every other team from all four years. The Pirates finished in a three-way tie for 12th. The 2009 draft really sunk their rating. If that draft would have been graded a C instead of a D, they would have been tied for fifth. They finished above-average every year except the 2009 draft.

Overall the draft grades look pretty good. That 2009 draft is the exception, and doesn’t look like a draft that could produce an impact player. It’s probably still too early to give any hard grades to the 2010 and 2011 drafts, since most of the middle round guys are still in A-ball. At any rate, it was good to get an outside opinion on the drafts, and to see how the Pirates stacked up against other teams.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. The 2013 Annual is also available for pre-sales. Go to the products page of the site and order your 2013 books today!

**The State College Spikes Are Auctioning off Game Worn Prospect Jerseys.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #1 – Gerrit Cole.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top 20 Prospects.

**The Latest Delay on Francisco Liriano.

**Baseball America Releases Their Pre-Season 2013 Draft Rankings.

**Starling Marte Boosted His Stock in Winter Ball.

First Pitch
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kevin Anstrom

Starting pitchers for the 2012 AL playoff teams – how acquired


Verlander – 1st round 2004
Scherzer – 1st round 2006
Porcello – 1st round 2007
Fister – 7th round 2006
Smyly – 2nd round 2010
Sanchez – FA 2001


Kuroda – FA 2007
Sabathia – 1st round 1998
Hughes – 1st round 2004
Nova – FA 2004
Garcia – FA 1993
Pettitte – 20th round 1990
Phelps – 14th round 2008
Warren – 4th round 2009


Milone – 10th round 2008
Parker – 1st round 2007
Colon – FA 1993
McCarthy – 17th round 2002
Blackley – FA 2006
Griffin – 13th round 2010
Ross – 2nd round 2008
Straily – 24th round 2009
Godfrey – 34th round 2006
Anderson – 2nd round 2006


Harrison – 3rd round 2003
Darvish – FA 2012
Holland – 25th round 2006
Feldman – 30th round 2003
Lewis – 1st round 1999
Dempster – 3rd round 1995
Oswalt – 23rd round 1996
Feliz – FA 2005
Perez – FA 2007
Grimm – 5th round 2010


Chen – FA 2012
Hunter – 1st round 2007
Hammel – 10th round 2002
Arrieta – 5th round 2007
Gonzalez – FA 2004
Tillman – 2nd round 2006
Matusz – 1st round 2008
Britton – 3rd round 2006
Saunders – 1st round 2002
Johnson – 13th round 2005
Eveland – 16th round 2002
Wolf – 2nd round 1997

Kevin Anstrom

The 5 best teams in the AL in 2012 (Tigers, Yankees, A’s, Rangers, Orioles)

A total of 25 drafts between those 5 teams over the 2008-2012 period

Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (1st round only)

Matusz – 1st round 2008

Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (after 1st round)

Ross – 2nd round 2008
Phelps – 14th round 2008
Warren – 4th round 2009
Straily – 24th round 2009
Smyly – 2nd round 2010
Grimm – 5th round 2010
Milone – 10th round 2008
Griffin – 13th round 2010

Starting pitchers drafted out of high school between 2008-2012


Free Agents
Chen 2012
Darvish 2012

George Hareras

I understand what youre getting at but the list appears to show that all of the guys were either a FA or drafted by the team they play for which isnt the case. For instance, Neftali Feliz wasnt a FA he was traded to the Rangers in the Texiera trade from the Braves. Also showing the Yankees with CC, it says first rd pick, so it gives the illusion that the Yankees drafted him in the first negating the fact that he was part of other clubs and other farm systems before coming to the Yankees.

Kevin Anstrom

Starting pitchers for the 2012 NL playoff teams – how acquired


Cueto – FA 2004
Latos – 11th round 2006
Bailey – 1st round 2004
Arroyo – 3rd round 1995
Leake – 1st round 2009


Medlin – 10th round 2006
Beachy – NDFA 2008
Sheets – 1st round 1999
Maholm – 1st round 2003
Hudson – 6th round 1997
Minor – 1st round 2007
Delgado – FA 2006
Hanson – 22nd round 2005
Jurrjens – FA 2003


Gonzalez – 1st round 2004
Zimmermann – 2nd round 2007
Strasberg – 1st round 2009
Detwiler – 1st round 2007
Jackson – 6th round 2001
Lannan – 11th round 2005
Wang – FA 2000


Cain – 1st round 2002
Vogelson – 5th round 1998
Bumgarner – 1st round 2007
Zito – 1st round 1999
Lincecum – 1st round 2006


Lohse – 29th round 1996
Kelly – 3rd round 2009
Lynn – 1st round 2008
Garcia – 22nd round 2005
Wainright – 1st round 2000
Westbrook – 1st round 1996
Carpenter – 1st round 1993

Kevin Anstrom

I never said it was how they were acquired by their 2012 team.

Kevin Anstrom

The 5 best teams in the NL in 2012 (Reds, Braves, Nats, Giants, Cards)

A total of 25 drafts between those 5 teams over the 2008-2012 period

Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (1st round only)

Lynn – 1st round 2008

Strasburg – 1st round 2009

Leake – 1st round 2009

Minor – 1st round 2009 (typo in the above post)

Starting pitchers obtained between 2008-2012 (after 1st round)

Joe Kelly – 3rd round 2009

Starting pitchers drafted out of high school between 2008-2012


*Brandon Beachy was a NDFA

**Nats drafted Tommy Milone (10th round 2008 – traded to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez)

Kevin Anstrom

The class of ’09 will turn out OK. Ryan Beckman and Phil Irwin should pitch in the majors for a long time. I think Irwin will win a 100 games in the majors.

George Hareras

i like the optimism


1. IMO, how the GM does in the draft is usually an attempt to shed light on how a GM is doing by some. I just can’t bring myself to care how players arrived on the farm, I only care about what they have and how much talent they have.
2. None of these drafts are done yet, some of the fruits of these drafts is still on the tree.
3. The 2009 Draft is not the failure it is being made out to be, Sanchez will be a starting catcher for the Pirates. Victor Black should make the majors, Brock Holt did make the majors, Zac Fusser was a 34th pick and he still has a chance to make the majors, the Pirates still have 9 pitchers from that draft that could make the majors, realistically, 3 or 4 of that 9 probably will make it.
Most people fail to realize the Pirates acknowledged that they were taking a gamble with that draft by signing so many over slot prep pitchers.
4. I agree with Lee, after the 1st round it is a crap shoot.
4. First picks are not a sure thing, how many other teams first round picks have the Pirates brought in to try to resurrect their careers?
5. In 2 years Huntington could put an all Pirate farm system team on the field, not to mention 4 out of 5 starting pitchers on that team also.

Lee Young

I agree with everything about the part of Sanchez being a starting catcher. I think his ceiling is a good defensive backup. JMHO.

“Most people fail to realize the Pirates acknowledged that they were taking a gamble with that draft by signing so many over slot prep pitchers.”

Outside of ZVR, who was rated a low 1st rounder, all of the other pitchers they signed were rated as 2nd and 3rd rounders. All we did was increase our odds of one of them making it. Unfortunately…..

Lee Young

“I agree with everything EXCEPT the part “


Sanchez is already major league ready, he needs a little more time in the minors, but he will be here this year if there is an injury. He should hit somewhere around .230-.240 in the majors, that would be okay offensively and until Matheson or Jhang come along he will be the starting catcher if he can beat out the fort, I don’t think the Pirates are going to buy another catcher after Martin.

Lee Young

” For perspective, the goal of most drafts is to get three players to the majors.”

To clarify, most GMs say a good draft is ONE good regular and two usable players, eg, 4th OFer, reliever, etc.

Lee Young

Could we have drafted better? Obviously. Probably can say that about every team.

Should we have drafted better? That appears to be the polarizing question. Essentially, we have done well (so far) with our high #1 picks. We may have scored a bulls eye with our #2 pick of Josh Bell.

I think the main argument against our drafts is that we should’ve done better after the 1st round. I think the ONLY way to settle that argument is to see how we’ve done AFTER the 1st round when, arguably, it becomes a crap shoot.

Baseball Reference has an excellent draft tool. I am hoping someone will do the research.

Lee Young

I say “I am hoping someone will do the research.” because I have posted ad nauseum (in some folks eyes that), historically, after the first round NO MATTER WHERE YOU PICK, the odds are less than 20% in the 2nd round and get worse as you go on.
The Cards seem to do well after the first round, but lousy in the first round overall. Go figger.

If you love WAR, here’s a good draft article


Tim – are you at all unsatisfied with this?

I think the drafts look a little worse than expected. 12th overall (albeit while being dragged down by the 2009 draft), is not very good considering the Pirates have:
1. Picked 2nd, 4th, 2nd, 1st and 8th in Huntington’s five drafts
2. Spent, on bonuses, the most of any team in baseball by about $3 million (per BA) over the last five years (and that’s without signing their #1 pick in 2012). Looking at just the four years in this study (2008-2011), the Bucs have spent $15 million more than the Rays, $23 million more than the Rangers and $25.5 million more than the Cardinals.

For that kind of money and those spots in the draft, this club needs to be better than tied for 12th.


I appreciate the deeper look at the grades.

If I toss out the worst year for each org from 2004-2007, then everyone who spent in the top six finished no worse than tied for 3rd in grade except for KC who spent third most but finished tied for 11th in grade.

Lee Young

” But I’ve also noticed that people tend to over-estimate what teams should be getting from a draft.”



If there is one thing we have learned about MLB, how much money you spend does not always work out, just gives you a better chance. All of Huntingtons #1 picks will make the majors except Appel, and that can’t be blamed on Huntington. Every other team gets #1 picks also, they also spend money and they do fail, Huntington has yet to fail with a #1 Pick.

Lee Young

and when a 1/3 of top 5 picks fail, that is pretty good.

However, I will caution that only ONE of our Top Picks have actually made the majors.

So…………as much as I defend NH, he only has Pedro so far. But it IS looking good.


Totally agree. For that kind of money and draft position we should be better than average. We had above average draft position and spent a record amount of money to be 12th? That doesn’t cut it.


maybe, but NH wasnt “average” in every year. he was above average in every draft except 2009, which so far has been well below average.

how does this not cut it? it takes an average of 6 years for a player to stick in the big leagues, mostly from the high school guys and the international signings. in the last 5 years NH and his crew has done wonders for the entire system. if we had signed Sano and Appel, you would be looking at the #1 system in the game.

but you cant see this because of your obvious disdain for the NH regime.


It’s not personal with me and the NH regime. I root for the Pirates no matter who is running them. The point is he wasn’t successful at signing Sano or Appel. His draft position is very high and their spending broke the MLB record – and all we are is average?

I have no problem with NH, FC, BN or any other combination of letters you want to put together. I have a problem with the performance. For all that we are just 12th – that is just weak.

George Hareras

technically there are 30 teams in the MLB so average would be between 14-16 ranking. I would say slightly above average lol… jokes aside, its unreasonable to think that all of those overslot draftees would pan out. If even 3-4 of them every year become a MLB regular, bench player, traded for a contributing piece, or hopefully a star than its a success. I would say that the first round picks all have to hit if youre in the Pirates situation, but if you can get a few of the draftees from the higher rounds, than its an added bonus. Just looking at the draft to build the team isnt the whole story either, because the entire roster wont all be built from our drafted players. There will be trades and FAs brought in, and of course were not counting the international signings that will be a big impact to our big league club hopefully. I think the draft grades is a major part of building the team, but I would like to see a year by year grade that accounts for international signings paired with the draftees


well, with those 5 #1 picks, the pirates selected Pedro, TSanchez, Taillon, Cole and Appel. Two of those picks are two of the top prospects in all of baseball and one could be a huge power hitting infielder for many years. Appel’s pick will turn into another #1 pick this season so that’s TBD. That aint nuffin to sneeze at.
Other than failing at guys like ZVR, Allie and a few other over slot guys, the draft has been very good for the Pirates. Every outlet has the pirates system as being one of the most improved, most top heavy or the deepest it has been in decades. Except, of course, in your opinion, which doesnt really follow any expert’s.


I’m not disagreeing with the experts that the Pirates system is somewhere between #5 and #10 (with three of the top 5 in Tim’s list not coming from the draft). If you can show me where I’ve written that I don’t believe the Pirates have a top 10 system, please do. (I know that I haven’t. So, thanks for putting words into my mouth and nice job trying to twist the discussion away from my point.) I’m also not disagreeing with the Huntington’s success in picking near the top of the draft.

What I’m suggesting is given that the Bucs have picked near the top of the draft and given that they have out spent everyone, being in 12th overall is disappointing.

To my point, I repeated the same exercise Tim did, but from the 2009 BA Prospect Handbook (drafts from 2004 to 2007 were examined). The top two spenders were Arizona (picking 15th, 1st, 11th & 9th) and Tampa (picking 4th, 8th, 3rd and 1st) and they finished tied for first in overall draft grade.

Is it unreasonable to suggest that over the course of a four year segment of the draft in which the Pirates have picked in the top five every year and have also outspent everyone that they finish better than 12th in baseball? Perhaps it is.

Lee Young

Good research, but is Tampa’s rating skewed by their 6.724 comp picks they got?



Thanks for the compliment.
Tampa didn’t have any compensation picks in the four drafts from 2004-2007.

Their current rating certainly has to be skewed by all the comp picks they had in 2011. But more power to them for working the system.


That’s interesting. I guess their system got a boost from the haul they got from KC.

Lee Young

“. But more power to them for working the system.” Agree.

Sure wish someone had signed D Lee last year!


Well anytime you take the average of a sample size of 4, you aren’t going to get the most precise results. What if I wanted to ignore that the year 2009 ever happened (which I do)? I’d bet the Pirates would average out in the top 3. It really all depends on what parts you’d rather dwell on.


What sorts of grades did other teams earn in 2009? Other than the Angels? Did the Bucs earn a D because they were drafting from a weak pool or because they were especially poor that year? Or both?

Lee Young

buy the book.


Comments are closed.

Most Voted Comments