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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Day Three Recap: Why the Pirates Went College Heavy in the 2016 Draft

The Pirates wrapped up the 2016 draft today by selecting 30 players. Out of those 30 players, only three were from high school. The remaining 27 were made up from the college ranks, with only one JuCo player.

The college-heavy approach wasn’t because the Pirates favor college players. It wasn’t because this was the strength of the draft. It was due to the new draft system making it extremely difficult to sign prep players after the first ten rounds.

“It’s a new system. Get used to it,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington joked about all of the college picks. “With the draft pools in place, if you like college players early in the draft, it’s going to be very challenging to get a high school player, unless you’re one of the higher pools in the game, and you have money you can save at the top of the draft, or reallocate elsewhere in the draft. Otherwise, it’s hard.”

The Pirates only took six high school players out of 41 picks in their entire draft this year. By comparison, in 2011 they drafted six high school players in their first nine picks. It only took them eight picks to do that in 2010. They needed ten rounds in 2009. And the 2008 draft was college heavy, but they still had six prep players in the top 18 rounds.

“It’s harder and harder to get high school players,” Huntington said. “As the industry shifts, you’re seeing high school players go earlier and earlier, even if they’re signable. You’ve got guys that are coming off the board maybe earlier than they would in some situations, because they are signable high school players, and you’ve got to go get them. Once you get beyond a certain point in the draft, you’re looking at probably 80% college and 20% high school from a selection pool, and at other points in the draft, it’s even heavier than that. It’s not a tragedy, it’s a reality of the new system.”

Most of the players signed today will fill out the Morgantown and Bristol rosters. The Pirates got a good assortment of position players, taking a few catchers early, along with shortstops, outfielders, and a few first basemen late. They also took a lot of college pitchers. Most of those will make up the lower level bullpens, but some could get a shot at starting, since a lot of young pitchers were skipped over the low levels this year for West Virginia.

“We had a nice combination of having opportunities to add some more arms that we like a lot,” Pirates Amateur Scouting Director Joe DelliCarri said. “In terms of the traits that they bring, frames, athleticism, obviously the stuff now, and even a little room [to improve], even on the college guys, some things that we can work with.”

John Dreker will be breaking down some of the notable day three picks in tomorrow’s morning report, but there were a few that stood out to me today that I wanted to go over.

One of them was 23rd round pick Garrett Brown. He spent two years in college playing football, and barely played baseball until this year. He put up some strong numbers, showing off plus-plus speed and a lot of athleticism. He’s raw, but that’s to be expected with his background. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to pro ball, if he signs. The Pirates have taken some all-speed options in the past in the middle rounds, and none of them made it above A-ball. But Brown’s numbers give some hope that he can do more than just run fast.

The early catchers were also interesting. The Pirates don’t have any standout catching prospects in the short-season leagues, so 12th rounder Arden Pabst and 14th rounder Hagen Owenby have a chance for a lot of playing time. Pabst is glove-first with a strong arm, throwing out 44% of base runners in his career. He doesn’t have much of a bat, but provides what the Pirates love — strong defense and good work with pitchers.

Owenby had strong numbers, with a lot of power at East Tennessee State University (a school that the Pirates raided for three picks on day three). He’s very athletic, playing football in high school as a quarterback, and running and passing for over 1,000 yards in his junior and senior years. There weren’t many reviews on his defense, and he only threw out about 22% of base stealers, so the defense is a question mark here (as in, not much information, rather than questionable skills).

Ideally, you’d like to combine these two guys and create a top catching prospect, but we don’t have the technology yet. So we’ll have to just wait and see how the playing time is divided in the lower levels, while also considering seventh round pick Brent Gibbs.

The Highlight of Day Three

The third day was college heavy, but the highlight of the day was 11th round pick Max Kranick. He’s a highly rated prep pitcher who finished in the top 100 rankings for Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law. He already has the ability to sit in the low 90s with his fastball, and touch 95, while showing promise with his changeup and his curveball.

“We had a chance to get to know Max well,” DelliCarri said. “We’ve liked Max for a long time. He brings a lot of things that we do like. Extreme athleticism. He’s got some good arm speed. Throws strikes, and is a terrific competitor. … He brings a lot of things of what he does now and what he can do in the future.”

The challenge for Kranick will be getting him signed. Based on the comments from DelliCarri that they’ve got a good relationship with Max, they probably have a good idea of his asking price, and selected him with the idea that they could get him under contract. They were able to do the same thing two years ago when they drafted Gage Hinsz in the 11th round and signed him for $580,000.

But the challenge might not be with getting Kranick to agree to signing. It might be in finding money in the top ten rounds to sign the three prep pitchers taken in the first four rounds, while still having money left over for the 11th rounder. I’ll have more on that tonight in First Pitch.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


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joe s

Let me say the draft coverage was the best I have ever seen. There was a write up on every player taken that was concise about their ability, that is why I would like to say that it is a bit discouraging reading that X player is good defensively but can’t hit a lick or the pitcher can get the ball up to 95mph but has walked to many players to count. For me I think it is easier to dream on just a name without the information, the detailed write ups after the 20th round makes it seem like the player would need a miracle to become a major league player. However, I think it was a great job in covering the draft for the Pirates.
Slotting has proven to be a boom to colleges, since most HS players with good but not great talent are left to go to college and try again in three years to get drafted. There has to be a better way to distribute talent then squeezing teams by giving them less money to spend. This same approach happens in the draft and in the international signings. Put all the players in a world wide draft and increase what the teams can spend, so that more talent can be signed.


do prep players have a tendency to make it to the majors 1) faster or 2) at a higher rate than college players?


No to both…especially not faster. The big draw of prep players is that if you can identify the really good ones you get them before they get to college and develop into 1st rounders and you control their development completely. Control workloads, routines, get them into pro ball life and schedule early…there are definitely huge advantages but the whole thing is such a crap shoot that there is likely only minor increases in success.


Are they huge advantages or huuuuuuuuuugggge advantages? 😉 Thx.


Except the 11th rounder sounds like a much better prospect than the earlier round prep pitchers


And, yet, they passed on a solid, highly rated HS SS named Nolan Jones?

Not once, but twice? Why?

IC Bob

Everybody passed on Jones at least once. maybe you should ask yourself why? Its a crap shoot when you are dealing with 18 year old kids. Willknow if this draft is decent in about 5 years.


And seemingly reached for every one of their early picks. Craig wasn’t a 22nd rated player. They pass on Jones again and reach even further for a player ranked even lower for their 41st pick. Incredibly enough, the 11th round pick looks like their highest rated and best player outside of Craig who seems like a reach at 22. Craig is a head scratcher as well because he’s really only likely to play 1B or DH and should be a fast riser bc of his advanced college bat…but we already have that position filled for years to come with Josh Bell. You don’t draft for need, I get it, but still a little off to reach for a player who will all but certainly be blocked as it is by a much superior player

Chris C

Is there any talk of trying to change the current system when the next CBA comes up for negotiation? I really dislike what they did with the draft.

Bobby L

Hope so. Cuban players get mega bucks and ML contracts. It’s mostly the big money teams who spend on the Cubans, but the powers who be limit the Rule 4 draft amounts. Don’t get it.

michael t

Exactly. Change the CBA so drafted prep players do not have to sign major league contracts for two years(or three). The clubs retain control and you can choose not to sign as a player and go back in the draft after those years. This is the NHL system and it simplifies everything. The agents of course would hate it and probably litigate. If an 18 wants his money he signs. If he doesn’t like his draft position he doesn’t sign at 18 and goes to college. He then signs within the period the club retains his rights or becomes an amateur free agent subject to a new cap for these types of prospects.
Something has to change with the CBA.


Sounds like the draft and follow rule that MLB used to have but got rid of.

J Nader

I like the basketball system. High School players either have to declare, or go to college. If they declare for the draft, that’s it, they are in the draft. Or they can go to college. Maybe some kind of provision for kids drafted after the 20th round or so where they can go back


If this is the real reason, why hasn’t it stopped other teams from drafting and signing high school players?


They passed on Nolan Jones twice. Head scratching move?


Is to me. Clearly has higher upside than some of their other selections.

Bobby L

Unless his asking price was too high. Like him much better than the Tulane guy.

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