First Pitch: A Look Back at the Pittsburgh Pirates 2000-2009 Draft Results

We have an article scheduled for this afternoon that covers the draft classes from the Pittsburgh Pirates over the last decade. It’s one of many similar lists we have planned for the near future. In the article I note a few times how it is too soon to have a really good idea for some of those drafts, so we looked at current results and potential when ranking them. I decided to do an article similar to that this morning, but looking at the previous decade.

The 2000-09 drafts for the Pirates were filled with some bad selections, we all know that, but the people who made those picks (2008-09) recently left or have been long gone (2000-07) so they have no affect on how the current drafts will pan out. This won’t go into as much depth as the afternoon article, but I thought it would be a fun First Pitch idea for today.

These drafts are listed 1-10 based strictly on the WAR produced by the players selected. Doesn’t matter if they didn’t sign that year or the WAR came elsewhere, but I’ll note that in the brief recap for each one. I used Baseball-Reference for the WAR totals and all MLB players are listed.

  1. 2000 (74.1 WAR) Jose Bautista, Chris Young, Scott Baker (didn’t sign), Nate McLouth, Sean Burnett, Ian Snell. Obviously most of that WAR total came elsewhere.
  2. 2001 (63) Jeremy Guthrie and Stephen Drew didn’t sign, but produced most of the WAR. Without them, this group falls to third. Zach Duke, Rajai Davis, Chris Shelton, Chris Duffy, Jeff Keppinger, Jonathan Albaladejo, John Van Benschoten, Shane Youman. They drafted ten future big leaguers in one year!
  3. 2005 (52.4) Andrew McCutchen and Stephen Pearce produced 53.3 WAR, Brent Lillibridge and Ryan Lollis (didn’t sign) subtracted -0.9, but they made the majors.
  4. 2008 (24) Quite a drop-off in WAR between #3 and #4, though this group still includes some active players. Jordy Mercer, Justin Wilson, Pedro Alvarez, Robbie Grossman, Tanner Scheppers (didn’t sign), Matt Hague, Chase d’Arnaud, Scott McGough (DS) and Drew Gagnon (DS)
  5. 2004 (23.5) Neil Walker, Brian Bixler, Todd Redmond, as well as two no signs in Corey Luebke and Jeremy Horst. Walker is 21.2 of that total.
  6. 2003 (18.3) Large group with 17.2 WAR coming from Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny. Those who signed: Josh Sharpless, Dustin Molleken, Craig Stansberry, Steven Lerud. Those who didn’t sign: Jeremy Horst, Rhyne Hughes, Matt Downs.
  7. 2006 (17.4) Lonnie Chisenhall heads this group with more than half of the total WAR, though he didn’t sign. Jared Hughes is second, followed by Brad Lincoln, Alex Presley, Ryan Kelly and Michael Crotta. Preston Claiborne didn’t sign, but made the majors and added 0.3 WAR. This was the second worst when including just signed players.
  8. 2007 (15.5) Tony Watson is 11.9 of that WAR. Daniel Moskos, Kyle McPherson and Duke Welker all made the majors. Cameron Rupp (3.0) and Matt Clark (-0.1) didn’t sign)
  9. 2009 (13.9) Tony Sanchez draft, included 7.5 WAR from Brock Holt and 6.3 from Jake Lamb, who didn’t sign. They combined for 13.8 WAR. Vic Black, Phil Irwin and Brooks Pounders all signed and made the majors. Matt den Dekker and Matt Dermody didn’t sign. Along with Sanchez, those six produced 0.1 WAR. This is the worst when including just signed players.
  10. 2002 (10.9) The Bryan Bullington draft. This class got 13.1 WAR from Matt Capps and Nyjer Morgan, which means -2.2 came from Bullington, Dave Davidson, Brad Eldred and Chris Demaria. Signing six big leaguers from one draft isn’t bad, but their overall results were not good.



For you history buffs and card collectors


By John Dreker

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

Jeff Suppan, pitcher for the 2003 Pirates. He had a 17-year big league career, going 140-146, 4.70 while playing for seven different teams. Suppan signed a one year contract with the Pirates as a free agent on January 31, 2003 and remained with the team until the trading deadline later that year. He went 10-7, 3.57 in 21 starts for the Pirates, equaling his career high in wins, which he actually reached three straight seasons with the Royals (1999-2001). At the end of July, the Pirates traded Suppan to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that brought back Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez. He ended up having his best seasons after signing with the Cardinals in 2004, winning 16 games for two seasons in a row. Suppan also got a chance to start a World Series game during both the 2004 and 2006 seasons.

Bill Wagner, catcher for the 1914-17 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1914 and bounced between the minors and majors for the first three years getting into a total of just 27 games with the Pirates through the 1916 season. He finally spent the entire season in the majors in 1917, playing 53 games in which he hit .205 with nine RBIs in 151 at-bats. Right after the season ended the Pirates sold him to the Boston Braves where he finished his major league career in 1918. He played two more minor league seasons before retiring from pro ball. He was no relation to Honus Wagner, his teammate for all four seasons in Pittsburgh. Bill Wagner batted .205 in 80 total games with the Pirates.

Jesse Altenburg was a teammate of Wagner from 1916 until 1917. He played four seasons in the minors before getting his first chance at the majors after hitting .320 in 109 games for Wheeling of the Central League. The Pirates brought him to the majors in mid-September for the last two weeks and he hit .429 in eight games, going 6-for-14 with a double and triple. He started the 1917 season with the Pirates, but was let go after just a month due to a .176 average in 11 games. He never returned to the majors, finishing his playing career in the minors in 1924. He also managed for four seasons in the minors.

George Boehler, pitcher for the 1923 Pirates. Prior to his time in Pittsburgh he got limited playing time in the majors, pitching 37 games for the Tigers over five seasons, before spending the next three years in the minors. He returned to the majors with the Browns in 1920, but pitched just four games over two seasons. Boehler spent the entire 1922 season in the minors, though he did all he could do to earn another shot in the majors. Pitching for Tulsa of the Western League he pitched 62 games, throwing a total of 441 innings and he won 38 games. The Pirates signed him for the 1923 season and he started the second game of the year, giving up seven runs to the Cubs in a loss. After one more start he was moved to the bullpen where he was used sparingly, making just eight appearances between April 24 and July 16. He got one more brief trial with the Dodgers in 1926 before finishing his career in the minors in 1930. Boehler won 248 games over 17 seasons in the minors and he went 6-12, 4.71 in 61 major league games.

Jack Neagle, pitcher/outfielder for the 1883-84 Alleghenys. Neagle made his major league debut in 1879 with the Cincinnati Reds and went 0-1, 3.46 in two starts. He didn’t pitch in the majors again until four years later and had a crazy season. He started in Philadelphia and went 1-7, 6.90 in eight games, then moved to Baltimore, where he went 1-4, 4.89 in six games. Neagle then came to Pittsburgh, where he was 3-12, 5.84 in 16 starts. In three stops, he finished with a 5-23, 5.94 record and threw a total of 221.1 innings. In 1884, he had a much better ERA, but the record barely improved. Neagle went 11-26, 3.73 in 38 starts. He threw 37 complete games. Pittsburgh finished that season 30-78, so they were actually a little better with him on the mound. Neagle took some turns in the outfield, playing there 15 times in 1883 with Pittsburgh and another six times the next year. He wasn’t much of a hitter though, batting .165 in 70 games with the Alleghenys and .176 with no homers in 369 career at-bats.

Sam Crane, middle infielder for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Crane was a light hitter with an average glove who bounced around between 1880 and 1889, playing in the majors for six of those ten years with six different teams in three different leagues. He played in the minors with Scranton in 1888, then was out of pro ball in 1889. When the Player’s League was formed for the 1890 season it created eight more major league teams and the need to fill those rosters, so Crane returned to the majors with the New York Giants. After two games, he moved on to Pittsburgh, where he played 22 games, hitting .195 while playing 2B and SS. He finished his career back with the New York Giants, playing two more games for them in 1890. In his career he hit .203 with 183 runs scored and 45 RBIs in 373 games. Crane went on to become a famous sportswriter after his playing career ended.

Ed Wolfe, pitcher for the 1952 Pirates. Wolfe was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1949. He spent three seasons working his way up the minor league ladder before making the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1952. During the 1951 season, while playing for Charleston of the South Atlantic League, Wolfe went 11-10, 3.10 in 21 starts and 12 relief appearances. With the Pirates, he made all of his appearances within a seven-day stretch. In his debut against the Reds on April 19th, he gave up two runs on two hits and a hit batter in 2/3 of an inning. The next day, he gave up one run on four hits over two innings. Wolfe made his last appearance five days later, throwing a scoreless inning against the Cardinals, though he did allow a hit and two walks. He was returned to the minors shortly thereafter and he went on to win 15 games for New Orleans of the Southern Association that season. Wolfe played in the minors until 1955, spending his entire seven-year pro career in the Pirates system.