First Pitch: Who Pirates Draft and Who Fans Want, Might Not Be The Same

Since taking over the draft coverage on the site this year, I have learned one thing that is pretty clear. Unless you’re picking at the top of the draft class, there is nothing close to a consensus. That is especially true with the Pittsburgh Pirates two first round picks this year. There wasn’t a consensus back in February and there certainly isn’t one now.

Having Josh Bell(pictured) and Gregory Polanco shouldn't factor into who the Pirates draft this year
Having Josh Bell(pictured) and Gregory Polanco shouldn’t factor into who the Pirates draft this year

Early in the season, we decided what players we should focus on based mostly on the pre-season rankings. I personally wanted the Pirates to get one of two guys early on, actually both would have been nice. They were Kris Bryant and Austin Wilson. A funny thing happened along the way, Wilson had a very minor injury that turned into 22 games missed. Bryant on the other hand, became too good for the Pirates. If I could make my pre-season pick again using hindsight, I’d keep it the same, because I’d gladly take Wilson, who might drop to the 20’s, if it means I could also get Bryant.

Some other things have happened since then too. Some have fans excited, while others have them dreading the pick.

Two High School outfielders from Georgia have dropped, getting some fans excited at the possibility of picking either Austin Meadows or Clint Frazier. Just imagine if it worked out that the Pirates could pick both, which doesn’t seem entirely far-fetched at this point. Would you actually take two high upside outfielders out of HS with your first two picks? Both of these players were mentioned at one point as possible first overall picks, so if they had the chance, despite the fact we have players named McCutchen and Marte in the majors and Bell and Polanco in the minors, I’d take both of the Georgia outfielders in a second.

Draft for talent, not for need, unless the players are so similar that you could go either way.

The thing that has the fans dreading the possible picks are college hitters named DJ Peterson, Hunter Renfroe, Aaron Judge, Eric Jagielo and Phillip Ervin. They are the best college hitters in this class not named Colin Moran or Kris Bryant. They are also players that almost no Pirates fan wants the team to pick.

The reason that people don’t want them is pretty simple. We already know what they can do, so their upside isn’t limitless like Frazier or Meadows, or even power hitting 1B Dominic Smith, or toolsy shortstop JP Crawford, or line drive hitting, defensive-minded catcher Reese McGuire, or Trey Ball, Ian Clarkin, Phil Bickford, Rob Kaminsky, or any other HS pitcher that throws 90+ MPH.

The draft begins on June 6th, which is fast approaching. Most people know who they want already, these last couple weeks won’t change anything. Heck, half the players near the top are already done playing this year, while others might have a handful of games, which doesn’t compare to how many times scouts have looked at them over the years.

If the draft experts are right, most fans aren’t going to be happy with at least one of the picks the Pirates make. That doesn’t necessarily make the picks wrong, just unpopular. I personally want them to go upside(HS), unless they have the chance to take Colin Moran or Braden Shipley.

None of the other college names mentioned around their pick excite me, not Ryne Stanek, who has been very inconsistent this year, or Sean Manaea, who has had three different injuries this year. That doesn’t mean any of those players won’t go on to have a great major league career, it just means I’d rather take a chance on the upside. It’s a weak year at the top for college players. That was a pretty well established fact at the beginning of the year and it didn’t get better as the year went on. Some players dropped, some moved up in their place, but the group didn’t get any better at the top.

One other thing I will point out with this draft class, there are going to be some good college arms available in the second round. You may not get a future ace, but I see no shortage of solid #3 pitchers that will be available when the Pirates pick 51st overall. With that kind of guarantee, it makes me feel a little bit better about taking two upside picks in the first round. The college ranks seem to be filled with solid, yet unspectacular starters this year and right now that is where my focus would be with that pick. That could obviously change depending on who drops(see: Stetson Allie and Josh Bell), but you’re going to have a chance to get someone who will move quick in the second round and that makes waiting(and hoping) for players to reach that upside a little easier.

So, if you’re going to tune into the MLB Network on June 6th, or preferably follow all the action here on Pirates Prospects that day, and you’re going in hoping for specific players, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I know I have my wishlist for the day, hoping Kohl Stewart falls because of perceived bonus demands, or Meadows falls, or down goes the Pirates at #9. I’ll be hoping for Moran, or Shipley to sink, or 6’6″ lefty Trey Ball, or McGuire, or Smith, or JP Crawford. I have a list of nine names I’d like to get, with three names guaranteed to go ahead of them(Bryant, Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray). Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but will it happen….only 11 more long days until we find out.

Links and Notes

** Tim returns to his usual duties tomorrow for First Pitch. Thanks to Tom Bragg for filling in Friday night and James Santelli taking over the Saturday night spot this week. I will be covering West Virginia live this upcoming weekend, Thursday through Sunday in Lakewood. You can follow along Twitter as I’ll take my first shot at live tweeting a game on one(or more) of those days, probably when Tyler Glasnow starts, or maybe if they decide to unveil some other highly rated prospect who is due to make his season debut sometime soon. Follow here @JohnDreker

**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5.

**The newest Pirates Prospects Podcast is up and available for download or streaming. P3 Episode 5: Polanco the Top Prospect? Can Pirates Keep Winning? Mark Melancon Interview

**Draft Watch: Latest Mock Draft Has A New Name For Pirates

**Prospect Watch: West Virginia Wins Seventh Straight, Four For Fortunato

**Draft Prospect Watch: Draft Notes and Former Pirates Picks

**Pirates Notebook: Pitchers Working On Historic Run of Run Prevention

**Minor League Schedule: McDonald and Morton Both Set For Rehab Start

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Good money under the new system is one of each. A high upside HS player early on (unless Moran drops). Then they can negotiate a sub-slot pay-out with a mid-20s college player for the second pick, to give them more money to sign the first. Wouldn’t be necessary if they hadn’t given away the compensation pick, but it is where we are now. Best case scenario would be Moran and Wilson. More likely would be Meadows or Crawford and Wilson or perhaps Jason Hursh. All good.

I wish there was a Kolten Wong/Michael Wacha type we could grab at #14 , but I’m not seeing one.

Chris Hale

No you shouldn’t draft for need but when there is no clear choice you take who fits your system the best., We are heavy in OF prospects. And the Giants Rays and Cardinals have demonstrated. The best way to win is to draft pitching with heavy upside. And Neal Huntington has shown year after year he believes in that approach. So there is no possible way the draft 2 OF’er or 2 IF or 1 of each. There will be plenty of high upside arms available so I guarantee they will take at least 1. And I’m glad. Pitching will keep us competitive for longer.


There is also the possibility that the Pirates will take a possible 20-30 player at 14 to save money to do some over slot signing.


The theory that Harper/Strasburg types not being there makes this draft inferior is just not true, after those guys the draft in those years was not any better than this one.
As Neal Huntington said in this draft we will get a couple of good players.
Personally I like Frazier and Ball, but the talent from 1-15 is a crap shoot right now.
I believe that if I am the Pirates I do what the other teams did last year and the Pirates did not and that is to contact each one of these draft picks and find out if I can sign them before I draft them.
I believe signability is the key to who is there when the Pirates draft and who the Pirates draft.
Stewart could easily be available to the Pirates, but can they sign him?
I do agree with John, BAA is the way to go.


Personally,I would take the two prospects I judged to be the best available players at that time,with a high ceiling meaning everything,position meaning nothing. You can never have enough talent up and down an orginization,and the Bucs still don’t have enough. If you don’t believe me,try watching the Altoona Curve on a nightly basis !

Kevin Anstrom

I’d be happy with DJ Peterson, Hunter Renfroe, or Eric Jagielo in the first round slots. I’d prefer HS pitching (Bickford especially) because of the way the Pirates develop young pitching.

Kevin Anstrom

If the NL switches to use the DH it would focus on the college hitters. The 3B/SS/2B from Virginia Tech (Pinder) might be a nice option in the second or third round.

Kerry Writtenhouse

Manaea is a case like Scheppers where his demands are not going to match up with where he’s picked. You sign with Boras when you want to maximize your bonus. I hope he goes before we pick so someone else slides but I doubt it.


I have some (maybe irrational) reservations regarding drafting certain prospects.

1) I’m not keen on players who also play football, especially if they have already a committment to play QB or RB at a big renowned college.
That would rule out Kohl Stewart. Look at what happened with Tyler Gaffney. The final word has not been spoken about where his career will take him. But we drafted him, he started developing nicely, then he opted to return to the Stanford football team for his senior year. Once bitten, twice shy here I reckon.

2) Players from Stanford. Maybe it’s because of what happened with Appel. Maybe it’s because of Gaffney and the fact that Stanford students by definition are so much smarter than other college athletes. Stanford seem to carry a certain degree of aloofness and arrogance and they obviously have tons of options what they can do in life.
Maybe harsh, but I think you want a certain leverage when drafting prospects, if I hear “Stanford athlete”, alarm bells start ringing.

3) Talking of alarm bells, I’m not exactly keen on players being “advised” by Scott Boras. Yes, he may be the best agent out there, but he’s a nightmare to deal with, as the Pirates had to experience both with Alvarez and, again, Appel. I know you maybe cannot afford NOT to deal with Boras, as his players would just join other clubs and take them forward.
But if possible and there are other equally good options, I’d try and avoid Boras when drafting prospects.

All probably very naive considering the way baseball and the draft work these days, but just my thoughts. Hopefully the players we draft this time around will look at the impressive season the Pirates are having and look at them with respect and a desire to do well for them.

So hopefully we’ll have them sign quickly, ready to jump on board and become part of an organization that is surely making all the right noises at this point. Let”s go Bucs!

Ron Zorn

Totally agree on Boras. If talent is clear cut, you have to take a Boras client. But if not, why go through the headache and guarantee to overpay and/or have player wait until the deadline to sign.

Lee Young

I agree with John…just take BAA and hope we got the right ones.

I don’t want Stewart, because, even if he drops to us, I doubt he signs a la Appel.

Wouldn’t it be great if Manaea dropped to us in the 2nd? Ya never know!



Yeah, one thing thats kind of interesting to look at is what player other teams are going after too. I read somewhere that the Red Sox (picking at #7 ) are pretty high on Stewart or Frazier, so if they’re both there or one of them gets there, it sounds like they’d pick him.
I’m not particularly high on Stewart. Some injuries and people have written that he’s more of a project for a prep pitcher than guys in recent years. Add that with the bonus demands and no thanks.


I agree, we are set up pretty well throughout the farm system and I’m also open to the idea of adding another LHP prospect. But I think we definitely need to get in a proper college or HS bat as well.
We need to start stockpiling hitting prospects now just like we did put an emphasis on stockpiling pitching in the last few years.
Good pitching can take you far obviously, but we’ve seen this season what can happen when you have a fantastic pitcher in AJ Burnett, who for one reason or another doesn’t get any run support.
I understand there are quite a few good hitting prospects available in the first round, even beyond Frazier and Meadows, so I hope we don’t end up drafting only more pitchers.

Lee Young

Don’t fooget that pitchers can get moved for a bat.



First, a happy Memorial Day to all of my fellow Veterans, and special remembrance for those who gave all for this country.

I am high on the Pirates of 2013 and see many, many strong prospects in our minor league system. We have enough RHSP’s for at least the next decade, a strong, young bullpen, a strong, young OF now, with guys like Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell coming in the next few years. Middle infielders strong now with Mercer/Walker with guys like Hanson, Moroff, and Herrera coming in the next few years. Catchers – Martin, McKenry, Sanchez, Mathison, Jhang, etc. Shortage – LHSP’s so I will stay with Trey Ball if available at #9 , and Ian Clarkin if available at #14 .

Lee Young



Kerry Writtenhouse

I think Manaea will be there for a while. Combine the injuries with Boras and he has return for senior year written all over him. If it were me, I’d simply take him off my draft board. Word is, Trey Ball has been invited to the draft. If they draft this kid, I’ll be happy. He’s a good kid and his dad has handled him well.

Josh J-dub Wilson

I personally want Sean Manaea or Trey Ball with the 9th overall pick. I think it’s hard to pass on a 6’5 lefty that can throw 96 mph. I don’t think Manaea will be there at 9 through, so I would take another lefty in Trey Ball. With the second pick I would take another lefty in Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga.



I really wonder if Manaea came back too soon from that hip injury and if that effected his shoulder. Easy to see that happen. Ball would be fantastic.


I would think they had doctor clearance for him to continue.
Often young pitchers have flaws in their delivery that cause this kind of problem down the road and teams like the Pirates pick that stuff up. I once heard a scout say that Strasburg was a prime candidate for Tommy John because of his delivery when the Nats drafted him and we know how that went.

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