Morning Report: The Strategy of Going All In with High Upside Picks

The morning of the first day of the draft, I gave some final thoughts as a wrap up of our coverage. I tried to figure out what the Pirates would do in the draft, or at least the route that I thought made the most sense. Here is what I wrote:

“This draft doesn’t have a lot of top end talent, but it does have a lot of projectable high school players. With a $10,135,900 bonus pool, the Pirates could convince a lot of upside to go the pro route. So that’s my feeling for this draft. One safe college bat that has been ranked highly all year, then projectable upside, and lots of it.”

What I conveniently just left out there is that I figured they would go for the college bat first, then go upside. If you look at what the Pirates did with those first five picks though, it was almost exactly what I guessed. The college bat just ended up being on the back-end with Steve Busby, who had a big sophomore season, then looked great in the Cape Cod league with wooden bats, before hitting .315/.401/.596 for Florida State this year. He’s still playing in the College World Series, so he won’t be signing anytime soon. On a side note, please don’t ask for updates about him within the first few days after the FSU season ends. Most guys take at least a week to sign after their last game.

So the Pirates took the big college bat and then four high upside high school players with those five picks in the top 88 spots. I didn’t just randomly guess that would happen though, it was based on the strength of the draft class. There weren’t a lot of college bats at the top, so they would likely go off the board early and we saw a few of them going a little earlier than expected. After that, there were a lot of prep players with tons of projection, but not quite polished enough to be considered in the top half of the first round.

Some draft experts expected a run on those type of players because it wasn’t an endless supply. If teams wanted high upside prep players, they needed to get them by the third round, otherwise you’re dealing more with projects than high upside projection. Or to put it another way, players less likely to reach their modest ceiling. The exceptions to that thought were the high school players asking for big bonuses due to strong college commitments, so there were still some talented prep players available going into yesterday.

Now, I’ll point out that when asked about the four prep players taken on day one, the Pirates said that their board just happened to play out that way. It wasn’t their strategy going into day one. That could be true, but their board likely had a lot of prep players on it early to make that more likely to happen. It’s going to be years before we know if it was a good strategy early, or if this was even a strong draft class (the entire class, not just for the Pirates). What we do know is that the Pirates went big for projectable, high upside potential and we have a nice group of interesting players to follow.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Bradenton trails in their division by 2.5 games with four games remaining in the first half. They do not play first place Palm Beach again during the first half.

West Virginia has been eliminated from the first half playoffs.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 5-1 to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night. The Pirates have off today, before playing a three-game series at home against the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh will send Trevor Williams to the mound for his eighth start. He allowed five runs over four innings in his last game. Prior to that, he had given up two runs over 13 innings in his previous two starts combined. The Cubs will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Eddie Butler, who has a 4.03 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 29 innings.

In the minors, Indianapolis was rained out yesterday, so they will play a doubleheader today. As of right now, the scheduled starters are Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham. This will be Glasnow’s first start since being demoted from the Pirates. Kingham has had two tough outings in a row, both lasting just 4.1 innings. Before that, he was slowly progressing with his innings, going from five in his opener up to 6.1 in his fourth start, so these last two games have been a setback in that regard. Luis Escobar goes for West Virginia. He is tied for third in the South Atlantic League with 77 strikeouts. Bradenton doesn’t have a starter listed for today, but I assume they will use one. This is their final game before taking the next three days off for the Florida State League All-Star game.

MLB: Pittsburgh (30-36) vs Cubs (32-33) 7:05 PM 6/16
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (5.13 ERA, 13:31 BB/SO, 47.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (34-29) @ Norfolk (27-37) 12:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (NR) and Nick Kingham (4.73 ERA, 11:24 BB/SO, 26.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (34-29) vs Portland (29-31) 12:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (3.88 ERA, 15:38 BB/SO, 67.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (36-27) vs Tampa (35-31) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (28-34) @ Charleston (32-34) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (4.03 ERA, 24:77 BB/SO, 58.0 IP)

DSL: Pirates (5-5) vs Astros/Orange (4-6) 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is Austin Meadows’ fourth home run of the season from Tuesday night.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

6/14: Matt Frawley sent to New York Yankees as part of earlier trade.

6/14: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. A.J.Schugel optioned to Indianapolis.

6/13: Adrian Valerio and Victor Fernandez activated from disabled list. Sandy Santos and Andrew Walker assigned to Morgantown

6/13: Barrett Barnes placed on disabled list. Justin Maffei and Eury Perez assigned to Indianapolis.

6/13: Anderson Feliz assigned to Altoona.

6/12: Jameson Taillon activated from disabled list. Phil Gosselin optioned to Indianapolis.

6/11: Kevin Kramer placed on disabled list.

6/10: Chris Diaz traded to Miami Marlins.

6/10: Dovydas Neverauskas and Tyler Glasnow optioned to Indianapolis. A.J. Schugel and Edgar Santana promoted to Pittsburgh.

6/10: Pat Light designated for assignment.

6/10: Jason Stoffel assigned to Indianapolis. Placed on disabled list.

6/8: Brandon Waddell placed on disabled list.

6/8: Brandon Cumpton assigned to Bradenton.

6/8: Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas. Johnny Barbato optioned to Indianapolis.

6/7: Francisco Cervelli placed on disabled list. Jacob Stallings added to Pirates.

6/7: Tomas Morales assigned to Indianapolis. Zane Chavez activated from Altoona disabled list.

6/5: Casey Sadler promoted to Indianapolis. Dan Runzler placed on disabled list.

6/4: Cole  Tucker placed on disabled list. Daniel Arribas added to Bradenton roster.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. At this time last year it was five former players, because Erik Kratz was back with the team for a second stint as the fifth or sixth catcher, whatever crazy number they were up to at the time. The other five former players are pitcher Bruce Dal Canton (1967-70), infielder Gene Baker (1957-58, 1960-61), outfielder Bud Stewart (1941-42), first baseman Babe Dahlgren (1944-45) and 1890 first baseman Peek-A-Boo Veach, who has my second favorite Pirates nickname ever behind Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson.

The Pirates have made nine trades of note on this date. You can read details on all nine trades here.

1982: Bill Robinson dealt to the Phillies for Wayne Nordhagen.

1977: Ed Kirkpatrick sent to the Rangers for Jim Fregosi.

1966: Don Schwall sent to Braves for Billy O’Dell.

1961: Gino Cimoli traded to Braves for Johnny Logan

1958: Gene Freese and Johnny O’Brien dealt to Cardinals for Dick Schofield.

1951: Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake sent to Cardinals for Joe Garagiola, Dick Cole, Ted Wilks, Howie Pollett and Bill Howerton. Chambers threw a no-hitter one month earlier.

1949: Ed Sauer sent to Braves for Phil Masi.

1943: Dutch Dietz sent to Phillies for Johnny Podgajny.

1939: Bill Schuster sent to Braves/Bees for Elbie Fletcher.

  • John, IIRC Gene Freese (no relation to David AFAIK) and Johnny O’Brien were half of two brother sets the Pirates had back in the Rickey-dink years. George Freese was Gene’s older brother, and Eddie O’Brien was Johnny’s twin. Also, I think you’ll find Bruce Dal Canton’s name was spelled as just noted. Just to let you know we’re reading carefully.

  • Watching Polanco hit into a double play with first and third and no out tonight I couldn’t help but think:

    Ok,

    it is June 14th and Gregory Polanco has 14 RBI!!!!!! I repeat: FOURTEEN
    RBI, which puts him tenth on the team, behind Frazier, Friese, Jaso and
    Osuna, and …..His 3 homers puts him behind power hitters such as Cervelli and Mercer as well……In the outfield he looks like you handed a glove to Manute Bol.

    While not a “bust” it’s time to call him “incredibly disappointing” as he enters his fourth big league season.

    Forget trading Cutch, can we get someone to take Polanco off our hands?

    • I have to say the Manute Bol comp had me laughing for a good 30 seconds.
      He made a nice catch last night but has been comically brutal all year.
      I’d like to know….is he hurt, having adjustment problems, not motivated, miss Marte?
      Something is amiss….

      • John Dreker
        June 15, 2017 9:48 am

        I think what you’re seeing on defense is someone who filled out a lot the last couple years and doesn’t move as well as he used to in the minors. He used to weigh in at 170 during his first couple seasons in the low levels, now he is up to 235

        He also had the knee injuries in 2015 and at the end of last year. A shoulder injury last year and during spring, the hamstring injury and the foot injury. He’s been through a lot

        • Last night during the Root broadcast they played a clip of a homerun the Polanco hit 3 years ago. It was very noticeable how much thicker he is now than 3 years ago. He might be well advised to lay off the grub a little bit. He is not overweight but his ideal playing weight may be a few pounds lighter. Of course I am a fine one to criticize as I sit here typing at 6’5″ and 240 lol.

          • Michael Sankovich
            June 15, 2017 3:54 pm

            even more than the Marte suspension/Kang DUIs, the biggest disappointments by far of the first 2 1/2 months of season is performance of Polonco & Glasnow. Both former cover boys of PP books, #1 prospects in the system. It just lowers expectations for all prospects when your supposed top guys don’t pan out.

        • Smart take.

          Not a good sign moving forward considering nobody who’s watched Polanco for a day would claim he’s an intuitive or efficient route runner.

          • He used to be able to make up for mistakes with his speed, but it’s just not there anymore. The knee injuries/hamstring might explain some, but I think the added weight explains more, although the weight might explain the injuries too. Polanco in West Virginia in 2012 was a lot better on defense than he is now and that shouldn’t be the case. Maybe they need to let him play winter ball again. He never had problems before he stopped.

  • Mike Gretler – 39th round (from the SBN Oregon State blog)

    “Gretler arrived at OSU in 2015 to high expectations, after batting .500 with a 1.597 OPS (!) as a senior in Bonney Lake, WA. Although Gretler started 31 games as a freshman, it took him some time to adjust to college pitching. Although he gained confidence as the season went on, his final line was only .171/.267/.181. As a sophomore, Gretler filled a reserve/utility role for the Beavers and flashed a vastly improved bat (albeit in fewer PAs), slashing .339/.391/.448.

    Expectations were again high going into Gretler’s junior campaign, and he has not disappointed. His hitting remained solid and he locked down the starting third base job for the Beavers. He cracked 4 triples to go along with 4 home runs, while hitting .300/.358/.448 and playing sparkling defense.

    Although he hasn’t received as much press as teammates K.J. Harrison and Nick Madrigal, Gretler has been one of the number-one ranked Beavers’ most important, most consistent, bats this spring. If he decides to sign with the Pirates, and the hit tool continues to develop, Gretler may end up being one of Pittsburgh’s more pleasant surprises out of the 2017 draft.”

    So going for upside didn’t end after the first few rounds of Day 3.

    • John Dreker
      June 15, 2017 9:32 am

      I would say that is more of a puff piece than actual scouting. He had an average season, as his team hit .296/.388/.412, which is basically the same average and OPS he put up. He turned 21 back on January 1st, so it’s not like he was young for the draft class, that’s about average. Hard to see upside there and his tools didn’t get him considered for BA’s top 500 even though he has a track record of being drafted out of HS. He’d probably be a solid player for the lower level teams though and it’s always good to have people who can play the game right.

  • John … I think I ask you this every year but what’s your initial thought on the top two or three guys you hope the Pirates sign from day three?

    • John Dreker
      June 15, 2017 9:35 am

      Not a lot of upside in the group, one of the players who would have been nice has said he’s not signing already. More on that later

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