Pirates Sign Nick Buckner and Billy Roth

The Pirates have signed 14th round pick Nick Buckner and 16th round pick Billy Roth per a team press release. The release also made the signing of 30th round pick Will Kendall official, which we wrote about the other day. Roth and Buckner are the biggest signings here, as both are very talented prep players.

Buckner was taken in the 14th round and had a commitment to Houston. He was one of the players I highlighted on day three of the draft as having the most upside in the group. My recap of Buckner from day three is below.

Buckner is very raw, but seems to have a lot of upside. He’s got a lot of power potential, with a lot of raw power and a quick bat. He’s got some concerns about his swing, which can get long and raise questions about his ability to make contact. He also might be a tough sign since the Pirates can only give him up to $100,000 in the 14th round, and he has a commitment to the University of Houston. He would be a good gamble to take, since he’s a young left-handed pull hitter and has that raw power. He’d also be a bigger gamble than a lot of the day two picks, but would have more upside than any of the other picks if he worked out.

Roth is a bit more surprising, to the point where we didn’t even include him in our day three recap, figuring there was little chance of signing him. In my recap of rounds 16-20 I noted that it would be difficult to sign him, and John Dreker had the following on his upside:

Roth was drafted as a pitcher, but he also shows some promise with the bat. His Junior season on the mound was much better across the board than his Senior year, in which he showed some command issues and got less work. He has had his fastball up to 92 MPH, sitting high 80′s most of the time. He has a low-effort delivery and plenty of room to add muscle, so there is a good chance for more velocity as he gets older. Roth throws a curveball that is solid already and he also has a changeup that needs work. On the offense side, he has above average raw power and his arm plays well in right field. His future though, is as a pitcher according to most scouts. He has a commitment to Arizona.

The Pirates have saved some slot money, and it is assumed they went over-slot for these two players. They can give up to $100,000 before anything counts against the bonus pools. No word on how much either player received, although I’d be surprised if they got these two for just $100,000 each. The fact that the Pirates landed these two guys, in addition to Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire and projectable top ten round picks like Trae Arbet and Neil Kozikowski makes this a potential high impact draft. If the Pirates go on and sign Adam Frazier and Buddy Borden, it would be the icing on the cake for this group.

UPDATE 11:49 PM: Roth signed for $190,000, according to Jim Callis.

Only $90,000 counts against the bonus pool, which means the Pirates still have $142,800 to spend on over-slot deals, no counting whatever they had to spend to sign Buckner. The Draft Pick Signing Tracker has been updated with the bonus information.

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We don’t know though if Buckner and Roth signed for slot (100K) or above slot or even below. I would surely hope that the first team’s performance plus the good reputation of our farm system has a positive effect when it comes to attracting and signing draft picks or international prospects.
There will still be players though, especially when drafted in the later rounds, who’d rather go to college first and try their luck in another draft a few years down the road, so they can get a bigger bonus.
Not all prospects ever make it to Triple A or the Major League, so you can’t blame them if they prefer to cash a decent bonus when starting their careers.


I’m curious if the current success of the big league team, and the system as a whole, is having any influence on some of these guys signing.


Is the success at the MLB level and the reputation of being the top farm system in baseball, actually paying off and making it easier to sign players which in the past never would have given the Pirates a second thought? Also are we getting these players on the cheap because of that reputation and not having to overpay for such talent as in the past? Either way, another positive sign the organization is heading in the right direction.

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