Morning Report: Could the Pirates Stray From Their Recent Draft Strategy?

Keith Law posted his first mock draft on Wednesday afternoon and had the Pirates picking Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss with the 22nd overall pick in the first round. He also mentioned that the Pirates are higher on Louisville reliever Zack Burdi than any team picking ahead of them, so that could be their choice. They are both talented players, who have both been either ranked 22nd overall by other draft experts, or they have gone to the Pirates in other mock drafts. So the positioning makes sense, but do either of these players make sense for the Pirates?

When I did the draft preview back in February, I looked for athletic players at premium positions, who can get on base. The reason I did that is because that is what the Pirates have focused on recently with top picks. They seem to be leaning towards those type of players now and if they need to move them to another position down the line, they are athletic enough to do that. It seems like they are right in the middle of this focus still, so I’m not sure they would stray so soon with their top draft pick.

We have heard from Kendall Rogers at D1 Baseball that the Pirates seem to be focusing heavy on high school bats, with shortstop Nolan Jones being a top focus. He fits the mold perfect of a player that they might select, though he might not be available when their turn comes up.

The Pirates have changed their focus throughout the years, going heavy for high school pitchers at one point, then taking college pitchers at the top two years in a row. With that in mind, it’s always possible they go elsewhere with their first pick and take someone like Thaiss or Burdi, but my money would be on them taking a premium position player with on base skills.

Thaiss should get on base enough to satisfy that part of the equation, but he isn’t really considered athletic. He’s a catcher now, corner outfielder or first baseman in the future. The problem is that his bat plays well for a catcher, but not for a high offense position. So if you’re switching up your strategy, you’re probably doing it for someone with a power bat for a corner position. Thaiss doesn’t really fit that mold, though we have heard that the Pirates really like prep 1B/OF Alex Kirilloff and he does have more power potential. Kirilloff also goes to Plum HS in Pittsburgh, so he would be an instant fan favorite. He won’t get picked just because of that reason, it would just be an added bonus.

Burdi would really be a change in direction. He’s a reliever, though someone who could probably move quickly through a system. He hits 99-100 MPH consistently and has a plus slider, as well as a very nice change-up. He does come with an asterisk, as some scouts believe his three-pitch mix would work well as a starter. The problem is that others don’t think he had the command to be anything more than a reliever. The only way I see the Pirates taking him this high is if they are in the camp that thinks he has starter potential.

Neither player would be a bad pick for the Pirates due to their talent level. They may not be the highest upside on the board, but they wouldn’t be a stretch either. The problem is that the Pirates would need to stray from their recent draft strategy and they haven’t given any indications that they are moving away from those types of players.


Bradenton is 6-4 in their last ten games. They are in third place in their division, trailing first place by 1.5 games. The first half of the FSL season ends on June 22nd.

West Virginia is 3-7 in their last ten games. They are in fourth place in their division, trailing first place by seven games. The first half of the SAL season ends on June 19th.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 3-1 to the Braves on Wednesday night. Jeff Locke will take the mound tonight for the eighth time this season. He gave up six runs over 5.1 innings against the Cubs last week. Prior to that, he allowed three runs in each of his two previous outings, throwing a total of 13 innings. He will take on Mike Foltynewicz, who threw eight shutout innings in his last start against the Royals. It was just his third start of the year.

In the minors, Jameson Taillon gets the morning start for Indianapolis. In his last game, he struck out a career-high 11 batters. Taillon is tied for seventh in the International League in ERA, and his 0.81 WHIP only trails Chad Kuhl for the league lead.

Tyler Eppler goes for Altoona. He leads the team in ERA, WHIP, innings pitched and strikeouts. Dario Agrazal goes for West Virginia, coming off an outing in which he allowed one run over seven innings. Alex McRae’s 2.79 ERA is tops among all Bradenton pitchers with enough innings to qualify for league leaders.

MLB: Pittsburgh (21-18) vs Braves (10-29) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (5.45 ERA, 21:25 BB/SO, 38.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (19-19) vs Columbus (24-15) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (2.08 ERA, 5:43 BB/SO, 43.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (22-17) @ Binghamton (16-21) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (2.70 ERA, 9:28 BB/SO, 43.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (20-19) @ Brevard County (14-26) 5:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (2.79 ERA, 14:18 BB/SO, 42.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (19-19) vs Hickory (26-13) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (3.09 ERA, 3:20 BB/SO, 32.0 IP)


Here is a two-run single from Reese McGuire, his second RBI hit of the game on Tuesday.


5/16: Starling Marte placed on paternity list. Alen Hanson recalled.

5/16: Juan Diaz added to Indianapolis roster.

5/15: Pirates activate Cory Luebke from disabled list. A.J. Schugel optioned to Indianapolis.

5/13: Pirates release Daniel Bard.

5/13: Kyle Lobstein optioned to Indianapolis. Pittsburgh Pirates recall Cole Figueroa.

5/12: Cesilio Pimentel activated from West Virginia disabled list. Julio Vivas assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/9: Mel Rojas Jr. traded to the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations.

5/8: Cole Tucker added to West Virginia Power roster. Logan Ratledge assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/7: Billy Roth added to West Virginia Power roster.

5/6: Jung-ho Kang activated from disabled list.

5/6: Mel Rojas Jr. assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/5: Jason Rogers optioned to Indianapolis.


Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look at a very bad day for the city of Pittsburgh. The players born on this date include pitcher Ed Whitson and pitcher Bud Culloton. Both of them played for a Pirates team that won the World Series. Whitson played with the club from 1977 until he was traded away during the 1979 season, while Culloton played for the 1925 WS champs. You can read more about each of them in the link above.

On this date in 1890, the Pirates (then called the Alleghenys) lost 18-2, while the Pittsburgh Burghers lost 16-3 that same day. The Burghers were a member of the Player’s League, a Major League which existed for just the 1890 season. Many of the players from that team, were members of the Alleghenys team before and after 1890. The Alleghenys/Pirates were 8-10 before that game and went 15-103 the rest of the way. It was the worst season in franchise history.

Since 1924, the Pirates have a 1-13 record against the Braves whenever they play on May 19th. That one win was a one-hit shutout by Jim Bibby in 1981 and the only hit (and only base runner all game) was off the bat of the lead-off hitter Terry Harper. Bibby set down the next 27 hitters in a row.

  • I hope the Pirates select a power hitter with their first pick.

  • The option of Burdi worries me a bit if they want to convert him to a SP. I have nightmares of the prior relief pitcher we drafted #1, Daniel Moskos, who went nowhere fast with the Bucs organization back then. Hopefully, their scouting has improved to be a bit better now.

    Also, since I don’t have the resources. Are there some College RP that went on to become successful/semi-successful Starting Pitchers? That’s something I would like to know.

    • Michael Lorenzen and Nick Howard are both reasonably legit SP prospects for the Reds and were college relievers, plus Tyler Jay, last year’s 6th overall pick by the Twins. Can’t help you out with the historical success, though.

  • It would be great if they could use a Rd 1 pick on a LHed pitcher. It’s a rare weakness in a strong system.

  • I usually steer clear of draft talk, esp with where we’re picking (I wait for the excellent Tier articles), but I would be shocked and disappointed if we take a reliever on the first round.

    • Certainly worked OK for Kansas City with Finnegan…

    • Yeah, the draft is too far down for me to dig. I applaud the writers, but keeping on eye on 20-30 guys because one may be picked? Nah, I following this team too much as it is… 🙂

      That said, a reliever wouldn’t break my heart…I would assume anyone taking a BP arm that high is assuming they’ll be in the majors very, very soon. So, draft a guy who may contribute in ’17 or use the more traditional approach and get someone who may be up in ’20? Meh, I could see it…after all, it’s not as if 1st picks are locks anyway.

      If the Bucs go that route, I’d hope a reliever would come well below slot.

      • John Dreker
        May 19, 2016 10:45 am

        You have to give a little more credit than one player being picked. Last year we mentioned Newman and Hayes a lot, so once they were picked, the searches for those two on our site went way up. Also did well with McGuire and Meadows, they got a ton of attention and then we had all the info right there on them

        The 2014 picks, not so good. Connor Joe was mentioned, but more as a 2nd/3rd round pick because that’s where everyone had him. Tucker never came up because his name was never mentioned as a possible first round or comp round, and I wrote about a lot of players that year.

        I found out Tucker was going to be picked about 3-4 minutes before he was, and actually laughed about it because I thought it was a joke. I was talking about the highest ranked players left on the board at the time and thought the person who told me was just randomly picking a lower rated player. After the pick was made I had to go back and tell them that I didn’t think they were serious.

        • By one player being picked…I meant, simply, the first round pick. If 20-30 guys are profiled and there’s just a first round pick…that just too much information for me to have to deal with…even if you guys nail the pick.

          I’ll check in on the articles, but, mostly, I don’t get too invested in learning about the player until the pick is made.

          …then I bitch because the Pirates picked that guy instead of someone else I know nothing about 🙂

          • John Dreker
            May 19, 2016 11:34 am

            Yeah the articles are mostly for die-hard draft followers, but once the picks are made, and hopefully we have information on them, then they are articles you can look back on for those players. Plus it helps us know the players better just from putting in the work. It’s also not only Pirates fans following the draft on here, though the outsider number went down when we went to subscription. Some of the most popular draft articles post-draft are ones for players picked by other teams

    • Given that the Pirates pick up relievers off the junk heap routinely, it would seem highly out of character to draft a kid who they project as a reliever. Danny Moskos anyone?

  • For those on the Prospect Report who mentioned the discussion between John and I.

    I have ZERO problems with John.

    For my part, I was probably too harsh on Misters Hanson and McGuire, so I will back off of the criticism. I figure that, if it had reached the point where John thought I ‘hated’ Hanson, then I must’ve been too hard on the kid.

    Go Bucs!

    • leefoo This is to inform you that certain members of the Dots Miller fan club have been watching your every move. Please have your wife start your car in the morning and also go to the safe house in Amish country. The one Harrison Ford used. Please note that Kelly Mcgillis switched sides so do not get any thoughts. I will send you a protocol package when you get to Amish Country. You may need to change identity. Please note that Frank Kuchno is already being used.

    • PS – Wonder what the hidden message was about with the Reese McGuire video post?.

      • John Dreker
        May 19, 2016 9:32 am

        If you mean using McGuire for the highlight above, my choices last night when I set it up were between that video and Jason Rogers hitting a triple. I went with the prospect. The triple was just a single someone shouldn’t have dove for in RF.

        Altoona doesn’t post video everyday, Bradenton never does and WV rarely does, only road games they televise, and then the opposing team will cut one highlight for them. So the choices are limited to begin with and I try to stay away from non-prospects

        • Mr. D I’m on your side. I like Hanson and McGuire. I like your assessments. I’ve been playing with Foo about Hanson for a longtime. You could post any video on any player– I like seeing what these players can do and how they react to situations in a game. I like seeing how and what kind of effort the other players are doing during these segments.

          • John Dreker
            May 19, 2016 9:47 am

            If I didn’t set up the video part well before doing the topic, I may have thought to put videos of Burdi and Thaiss in there instead. Didn’t think about it until a few minutes ago to be honest

            • Very difficult for me to have a thoughtful opinion about who would be the best pick at where we now find ourselves, thankfully, now year after year in the draft… Truth be told, difficult for me to have a thoughtful opinion about anything, so there is that, hard stop… But it won’t stop me from asking borderline (being kind to myself with borderline) intellectually challenged questions… Would I be correct in assuming that ‘high’ end reliever prospects in the draft have a quicker rise to the MLB team, just curious? Finally, thank goodness for those reading, did I once read here/somewhere that the pirates had subtly switched to drafting more SS type players where they could move elsewhere if it didn’t work out when it wasn’t clear cut choice…. maybe I dreamed that….

              • John Dreker
                May 19, 2016 10:52 am

                Shortstop, catcher, center field and even 2b/3b would be the premium positions, with the latter two being options if the player is athletic. They have said that it’s easier to teach defense to an athletic player who can hit, than it is to turn a glove-only player into a hitting prospect.

                Not all high-end relievers move quickly, and/or are successful. If they already have two plus pitches and some control, you’re not going to get much more out of them. They don’t have to learn how to pitch as a starter, they go out and throw two pitches, hopefully get outs, and probably won’t face the same batter twice in a series most times. So there isn’t much to teach them when they are just airing it out for 15-20 pitches every 2-3 days or so.

                • Yeah, so logical, that if the thought process is to keep them as reliever, of course they would rise quicker, so not a great question (if they want to make them a starter, here comes the grey area)…. Anyways, thanks for your articles and taking the time to ‘hang’ with us and revert back, as you folks do…

      • Bill…you’re such a troublemaker.

  • I would like the Burdi pick if they thought he was someone who comes up this year even…though that is unlikely. I like Sheffield from Vandy…imagine that. Haha