First Pitch: The Pirates, Two World Series Teams, and the 2015 Draft

Earlier today, we wrapped up our four-part draft preview with college pitchers. It’s a deep draft for college arms, with more than 20 names looking like a possible first round pick at this point. Some of them will obviously fall down draft boards, while others could work their way into the upper class, but for now, our draft coverage will seem like it favors college pitchers.

We will begin the day-by-day coverage this weekend. When you wake up Saturday morning, there should be a post up covering Friday night’s action, concentrating on the college pitchers because Friday night is normally the night each team throws out their best arms. Sunday mornings post will cover the best college hitters and Monday morning is a wrap up of the weekend. On the average, we post 4-5 articles a week for player updates and whenever a mock draft comes out from a major source (Baseball America, MLB.com, etc) that will get its own individual article.

One thing that is very interesting this year with the Pittsburgh Pirates picking 19th and 32nd overall, is the teams that pick around them, two in particular. I’m sure most people know that the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals met in the World Series back in October. The Royals won 89 games during the regular season, the Giants 88 and the Pirates had 88 wins. Since the draft order is based on regular season standings from the previous season, then obviously the three teams pick near each other. It goes deeper than that though.

The Royals gave a qualifying offer to James Shields, who just signed with the San Diego Padres. The Giants gave a qualifying offer to Pedro Sandoval, who signed with the Boston Red Sox. Finally, the Pirates gave an offer to Russell Martin, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, which means all three teams got a compensation pick. So while our coverage is geared towards the two picks for the Pirates, we are basically covering the draft for Royals and Giants fans as well.

The Giants pick 18th and 31st, so it’s possible they will have an impact on who the Pirates pick and at the same time, shatter your hopes for a certain player right before the pick comes up. The Royals select 21st and 33rd, giving them two picks right after the NL Wildcard teams pick (Oakland A’s have the 20th pick).

Who Drafts and How They Do It

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had the same front office in place since 2008 and during that time, their selections in the early rounds are all over the place. They have taken high school and college players, pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders. Joe Dellicarri is the team’s Director of Amateur Scouting and he’s been in charge of the last three drafts.

During Dellicarri’s time, the Pirates have drafted college pitcher Mark Appel and college hitter Barrett Barnes in the first round in 2012. They took two high school hitters, Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire in 2013. They took another prep hitter with Cole Tucker in 2014, then picked up college hitter Connor Joe with their other first round pick. The Pirates haven’t drafted a high school pitcher in the first round since he took over, but they did take Blake Taylor in the second round in 2013 and both Mitch Keller and Trey Supak in the second round last year, plus they spent big to sign 11th round pick Gage Hinsz. What that basically means is they don’t favor any particular group over another.

The Giants have had the same group in place for a while, led by GM Brian Sabean, who has brought home three World Series titles. John Barr is in charge of their scouting and Pirates fans might remember the name Ed Creech, who is their senior scouting advisor. Creech was the Director of Scouting for the Pirates from 2001 until the new front office was put into place. The Giants focus heavy on college players early in the draft, especially under this group. There are a few examples of younger players like Zack Wheeler and Tommy Joseph in 2009, but for the most part, they go the safer college route with their picks.

The Royals are led by Dayton Moore, who was hired in 2006 and Lonnie Goldberg has run their drafts since 2011. Over the last four drafts, they have been unpredictable like the Pirates. They took Brandon Finnegan last year out of TCU and he pitched in the World Series. They followed that with two high school picks, a pitcher and a catcher. The year before, they shocked most people, taking college hitter D.J. Dozier about 30 picks before anyone expected him to be taken, then took college pitcher Sean Manaea with the 34th overall pick after he fell due to injury concerns. It was considered a great move by some, who saw the savings with Dozier passed on to sign Manaea and others (myself included) figured they could have picked both of them in the 8/34 spots anyway, with Manaea going first and if he didn’t sign, your compensation pick would have been the 9th overall in 2014 and not 35th.

Before 2013, they took two college pitchers early in the 2012 draft and went crazy picking high school players in the 2011 draft. Their first six picks that year were all 18 years old and they took three pitchers (one LHP) and three position players. I wouldn’t expect a team to go that same route again, but the Pirates have been known to go on a run of 6′ 4″ right-handed pitchers that seems never-ending when you’re covering the draft, so who is to say what the Royals will do.

What to Expect This Year

As I said before, our coverage is focused on what happens with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The draft is heavy with college pitchers, so you could say that we are also providing draft coverage geared towards the Giants, because there is a good chance they will take one or two college players with their top two picks. We don’t just cover college players though, it just seems like they get more attention because they are mentioned more often. The facts are that high school players play half the amount of games, not all stats are readily available for them and their actual stats mean less, because the competition has a wide range, unlike college teams that are usually playing other strong college teams.

The picks of Cole Tucker and Connor Joe last year, will have an effect on how we cover the draft this year. If 2013, the first year I took over the draft coverage, we mentioned Reese McGuire and Austin Meadows numerous times because they were ranked near the Pirates picks all draft season. Connor Joe was mentioned a couple of times here because he was getting some notice, but ultimately, most people had him ranked as a 2nd/3rd round pick. Tucker was never mentioned because he was someone who stayed ranked in the 75-100 range, so he was never considered a first round option. Since no one talked about him, then there wasn’t a reason to spend time on him.

This year however, I plan to expand the coverage to include players that look like possible second round picks and that will be included in the (almost) daily recaps. As the draft nears, we will feature a player with a quick write-up and if possible, a video. That way, if the Pirates do go against industry opinion with their pick, there will be something on the site for that player ahead of time. Best case scenario, someone they get with a later pick is someone you’re already familiar with.

For now, here are the four links from the draft previews in one spot so you can get familiar with a possible future pick of the Pirates, Giants, Royals or any other team that picks in the 11-40 range:

Prep Hitters

Prep Pitchers

College Hitters

College Pitchers

**Josh Harrison Named Third Best Third Baseman

**Pirates Sign 17-Year-Old Pitcher From South Africa

**We’ve mentioned that the 2015 Prospect Guide has profiles and scouting grades on our top 50 prospects, plus every other prospect in the system. Did you also know that the book includes reviews and recaps on the last five drafts the Pittsburgh Pirates had, along with the top bonuses in Pirates draft history? Since day one on this site, the draft is one of the biggest things we cover, and we don’t stop looking at a draft year when the draft is over. Buy the Prospect Guide to read all of our updated reviews, looking back at the five most recent drafts.

  • Come on, even John’s recap of Winter League action featuring prospects who won’t likely play a game for the big club get a couple comments. 😉

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