First Pitch: The Last Hope For Value From the 2009 Pirates Draft

There has been a common draft trend for the Pittsburgh Pirates under Neal Huntington, with a big focus and a lot of money spent on projectable prep pitchers. The results have been positive, with big breakouts like Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham coming from this approach. However, the worst results from this approach may have come from the draft that really started it all.

The Pirates took Quinton Miller in 2008 and gave him $900,000 as a 20th round pick. But they really dove in to the prep pitching pool in 2009, spending big on prep pitchers after the first round. This was controversial, since they passed over several highly rated first round prep pitchers to draft Tony Sanchez, and used the savings to get the middle round guys.

That 2009 draft has largely failed. Sanchez didn’t end up the starting catcher of the future for the Pirates, and has now been passed up by Elias Diaz, while continuing to experience throwing issues that will likely prevent him from ever being a starter in Pittsburgh. And the middle round prep pitchers, aka the main reason the Pirates drafted Sanchez, haven’t worked out.

Sure, they did get something from Colton Cain (8th round, $1.15 M bonus), trading him as one of three players for Wandy Rodriguez. But there were two other players in that deal who were either rated as better prospects than Cain, or on the same level. Trent Stevenson, taken in the 7th round with a $350,000 bonus, retired after a few years in pro ball, never really seeing his velocity go out of the mid-80s. Second round pick Brooks Pounders, who received $670,000, was traded for Yamaico Navarro, who was later traded for Jhondaniel Medina. And the highest profile guy of all, Zack Von Rosenberg, was released this spring after seeing his velocity decline over the last few years, and failing to make it out of A-ball.

Other parts of the 2009 draft have worked out. Aaron Baker, taken in the 11th round, was traded for Derrek Lee in 2012. Brock Holt, who went in the 9th round, was part of the trade that brought Mark Melancon to Pittsburgh, although Joel Hanrahan was the key guy there. Compensation pick Vic Black was one of two players traded for Marlon Byrd in 2013, with Dilson Herrera being the main piece in that trade.

That kind of shows how bad the 2009 draft has been. The best pieces have been the minor parts of trades (Cain, Black, Holt), or a player dealt for two months of a strong performing first baseman in a year where the team collapsed in those two months. That’s not what you’re shooting for in any draft.

The only hope for the draft at this point is that Zack Dodson, who I wrote about today, can make the majors, or that Tony Sanchez becomes a starter. In each case, it’s unlikely that this happens in Pittsburgh. As noted above, Sanchez is behind Diaz on the depth charts. Dodson’s upside would be Jeff Locke, but the quality of pitchers ahead of him will make it difficult for him to be more than a Triple-A depth option or a reliever for Pittsburgh.

The Pirates have had some good drafts in the following years, but with the book about to be completely closed on the 2009 draft, it’s safe to say that their approach last year was a major disappointment.

**Prospect Watch: Hanson Looks to Be Emerging From His Normal April Funk

**The Last Member of the 2009 Prep Pitchers Gets a Jeff Locke Comp

**Gerrit Cole and Gregory Polanco Among Top Young Talent in Baseball

**Updated Top 100 Draft Prospects List From MLB Pipeline

**Morning Report: Josh Bell’s Missing Power

  • Really like the new site roll-out. Tim. Great job.

    For me, the 2009 Draft and relatively poor return on tear-down trades are both perfect examples of why it’s dangerous to bring in such an inexperienced Front Office, and also why it’s wrong to judge such a group on their early-year performance. These guys have clearly, unquestionably learned, refined their approach, and just plain gotten better at what they do.

    • I concur. The new layout is great. It’s way better than other sites that have changed their layouts. I’m looking at you ESPN and SI. ESPN’s new layout is terrible. The only reason I go there anymore is because it’s the best place for stats, standings, and schedules. Although I find myself using fangraphs for stats more and more.

  • Did I miss something – did Sanchez start having throwing problems at Indy?
    I have gone on record saying that the decision to keep Stewart and demote Tony was stupid – silly and other harsher terms.

    Sanchez had a great spring and should be in Pittsburgh. Hopefully the Pirates will trade him or release him so he can land a starting job on a team that appreciates young talent and does not over value older players.

    • Bruce….it was in the weekly roundup. And yes, Tony is throwing the ball all over the place again.

      Personally, I thought it was a wise move to keep Stewart. Having a great spring is hardly a reason to hand someone a job.

      Also, Tony is good catching depth and a valuable asset. It would be unwise to move him. Have you forgotten the immortal Wyatt Toregas and Dusty Brown when we ran out of catchers?

      Your last sentence is ludicrous. The Pirates have (I think) the second youngest team in the NL or maybe even the majors.

      If the Pirates over value something, it is GOOD and VALUABLE players.

      • The Pirates main starting lineup of J-Hay, El Coffee, Cutch, Walker, Marte, Pedro, Cervelli, and Mercer is one of the only lineups in MLB with all 8 players under the age of 30. Once Walker and Pedro are gone, Hanson and Bell will make that lineup even younger. If Diaz replaces Cervelli next year, Cutch will be the oldest player in the lineup which is crazy.

        • I am not sold on Bell and Hanson – too little power for a corner from Bell and past history of poor judgement by Hanson make me think they are being over rated. I stand by my assertion that the Bucs are not inclined to give younger players a fair shot. Harrison only got his current chance because they had been reduced to starting Gaby Sanchez in right field – he had hit consistently in the high minors – but never got a chance until last year. Mercer got his shot because an older Hurdle fave – Barmes – proved to be an embarrassment. They go out and trade for Sean Rodriquez – a player Tampa DFAd – 30 years old and not likely to get better instead of developing a super utility guy internally – his 21 PAs should have gone to Kang IMHO…

          • JoseGuillensArm
            April 29, 2015 11:05 am

            So Bell and Hanson you’re not sold on and shouldn’t be counted on for the future in your opinion, but you assert that the Bucs don’t give young players a fair shot. Am I missing something here because those two are young minor league players in several top 100 prospect lists. If you’d like the Pirates to give young players chances then those are two you should want in the lineups regardless of early issues which have delayed their arrivals.

    • List of Major League teams who would currently consider Tony Sanchez a Major Leaguer: