In the past, day three for the Pittsburgh Pirates was all about taking tough to sign players. In 2008 they took Jarek Cunningham, Wes Freeman, and Quinton Miller, giving all three over-slot deals. In 2009 it was Jeff Inman. In 2010 there was Drew Maggi, Ryan Hafner, and Jared LaKind. 2012 didn’t see a lot of over-slot signings, with Candon Myles and Jordan Cooper being close to $100 K each.
Last year the Pirates took Mark Appel in the first round, and then selected a few backup options on day three. They ended up turning to those options, giving Max Moroff, Hayden Hurst, and John Kuchno the extra bonus money that Appel turned down. That’s not the case this year.
The first two picks for the Pirates don’t project to be difficult signings. Neither does second round pick Blake Taylor. None of the day two picks project to be difficult signings either. All of the picks taken so far should sign, although that doesn’t mean the Pirates will be getting discounts and gaining extra slot money to spend. The end result is that day three looks like it might be without a bunch of over-slot deals for the first time since the current management group took over.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be talent. It just means the job for the scouts will be difficult. That’s not to say the job will be impossible for the Pirates, as their scouts have found good values in the middle-to-late rounds in the previous draft. Let’s take a look at the types of players we will see tomorrow.
The Phil Irwin
Phil Irwin was a 21st round pick in 2009. He didn’t sign for any notable amount, and was seen as the third best pitcher in the Ole Miss rotation that year. Irwin was developed piece by piece, and eventually became a legit prospect with some strong numbers. He has a chance to be a back-end starter in the majors. We put so much emphasis on over-slot deals that we forget it’s possible to sign someone who could play a somewhat big role in the majors, all while doing it for $100,000 or less (which is the max you can spend per pick after the 10th round).
Other Example: Casey Sadler, 25th round, 2010 (Signed for $100,000)
The Jason Townsend
Townsend was taken in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, and came in with an upper 90s fastball and no control. He slowed it down, switched to a two-seam fastball, and added some control along with good movement. He’s now a sleeper relief prospect, with the chance to be a middle reliever in the majors one day. That’s not a huge upside, but if you can get a middle reliever from a mid-to-late round pick, you take it.
Other Example: Ryan Beckman, 18th round, 2009
The Adalberto Santos
This is similar to the Jason Townsend, only a smaller upside from a hitter. Santos was taken in the 22nd round of the 2010 draft. He had great hitting numbers in college, but was a college senior and was seen as organizational depth (which is the case with most college seniors who are drafted on day three). Santos had great hitting numbers, which made him look like a sleeper coming out of the draft. The problem is those numbers don’t usually translate over to the majors. It could be that he washes out at Double-A. If he doesn’t, his upside would be a utility player in the majors. Again, not huge, but not something you turn down from a 22nd round pick.
The Harrison Cooney
The reality is that a lot of players won’t sign. Some of those players will improve their stock and go much higher a few years later. Harrison Cooney was a 40th round pick by the Pirates in 2010. He ended up going to school, and it paid off as he improved his stock enough to be taken in the sixth round by the Angels.
Other Example: Kent Emanuel, 19th round, 2010
The Guy You’ve Never Heard Of
We heard a lot of examples like Cooney today, but a more common scenario is that the Pirates will draft someone, won’t sign him, and then you won’t hear from him again. There will be a lot of those on day three, although we don’t know which.
The Guy You Forgot You Once Heard Of
Another common story is that the Pirates add someone as organizational depth, then end up releasing them or they retire within 2-3 years.
You’ll probably hear this today, mixed in with a few “Mike Piazza was drafted in a round that doesn’t exist anymore” comments, but here it is again. Day three is the day for the scouts to shine. That’s not to say that the scouts don’t have an important role on days one and two. It’s just saying day three is when we start seeing people trying to unearth gems.
There will still be organizational guys drafted to fill out the lower levels. There may even be guys drafted who would require over-slot money that the Pirates may not have. But as we’ve seen above, you don’t need to spend to get a good player. Irwin, Sadler, and Santos are all good players, and none of them would have required money from the bonus pool. If the Pirates could find just one of those guys in rounds 11-40 today, they’d get some good value in the later rounds of the draft, without having to move money around to get that value.