First Pitch: Fourth Round Draft Results for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Over the last three days in First Pitch, we have looked at the draft results for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first three rounds of the amateur draft. After seeing that third round picks have actually had more success than second round picks, we move down to the fourth round. At the end of the article, we will have a comparison with the previous results.

The Pirates have made 55 fourth round picks since 1965. Five of those players are still in the minors, so we won’t count them here. They failed to sign five of the remaining picks, so our group to focus on here consists of 45 draft picks.

Of those 45 draft picks, 12 have made it to the majors.

Of those 12 players, five have posted a negative career WAR.

I’ve been including the top ten here for the first three articles, but since the list is only 12 players long, here’s the top 12, along with their career WAR:

  1. Jared Hughes, 8.4
  2. Stew Cliburn, 3.1
  3. Wes Chamberlain, 1.2
  4. Jeff Keppinger, 1.1
  5. Colten Brewer, 0.5
  6. Timothy Jones, 0.5
  7. Chris Green, 0.0
  8. Jim McKee, -0.4
  9. Chase d’Arnaud, -0.6
  10. Brent Lillibridge, -0.9
  11. Alex Hernandez, -1.0
  12. Nick Kingham, -1.4

The results show that the Pirates haven’t hit big on a fourth round draft pick yet, though Hughes was obviously a solid player during most of his time in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, a good chunk of his carer value comes from the 2018 season when he had a 3.2 WAR for the Cincinnati Reds.

That WAR total is 10.5 for 45 players, or an average of just over 0.2 WAR per fourth round pick. That’s a big drop from third round picks, who have averaged 2.7 WAR. It’s not bad when you compare to second round picks, who have 1.4 WAR on average, but those second round results are pretty bad overall. First round picks average 7.1 WAR.

For the Pirates, first round picks have a 64% success rate of reaching the majors. That drops down to 46% for second round picks, and 34% for third round picks. Fourth round picks have a 27% success rate of making the majors.

Fifth round coming up tomorrow.





By John Dreker

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus three transactions.

The Transactions

On this date in 1987, the Pirates sent veteran infielder Bill Almon to the New York Mets in exchange for minor league outfielder Scott Little and shortstop Al Pedrique. Almon was the first overall pick in the 1974 draft, who had previously played for the Mets during the 1980 season. He was in his 14th season in the majors at the time of the trade, barely playing with the Pirates, getting 21 plate appearances in 19 games. Pedrique was 27 years old and had played his first five games in the majors with the Mets that season. He had been in their organization since 1978, spending the last seven seasons split between Double-A and Triple-A. Little was 24 years old, in his fourth season in the Mets system, struggling at Double-A. He was a seventh round draft pick in 1984, and had reached Double-A in 1986.

After the trade, Little reported to single-A ball and worked his way though the minors, reaching Pittsburgh for three games in the middle of the 1989 season. He remained in the Pirates system as a player through 1991, then began managing for the organization in the minors until 1999. Pedrique played 88 games for the Pirates in 1987, hitting .301 with 27 RBIs. His success at the majors was short-lived. He was back in the minors in 1988 after hitting .198 through the beginning of June. He returned in August, but his average fell to .180 by the end of the season and he was released. Almon was used almost exclusively off the bench for the defending champs. He started just four games, batting 62 times in 49 games with a .241 average. He re-signed with the Mets as a free agent after the season, but was traded to the Phillies during Spring Training.

On this date in 1931, the Pirates traded catcher Rollie Hemsley to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Earl Grace and cash. The Pirates were able to deal Hemsley due to the emergence of catcher Eddie Phillips. The day after Phillips drove in seven runs, this deal was consummated. Grace was a 24-year-old backup for the Cubs, in his second season in the majors. He played the entire 1930 season in the minors. Hemsley was also 24 years old, a platoon catcher for the Pirates with a decent bat and a strong arm. He was hitting just .171 at the time of the trade and seeing limited action. After the deal, Hemsley hit .309 in 66 games for the Cubs. His average dropped well off the next year and Chicago dealt him to the Reds, who in turn traded him to the St Louis Browns. It was there that Hemsley became an All-Star, making the mid-season classic five times over a ten-year span. He ended up catching 1,482 career games, 1,230 after leaving Pittsburgh. Grace hit well for the Pirates, then took over the catching starting spot in 1932, playing 115 games. He was the primary catcher the next two years before giving way to Tom Padden in 1935. The Pirates traded Grace, along with pitcher Claude Passeau, to the Phillies in exchange for Al Todd on November 21, 1935. With Pittsburgh, Grace hit .275 in 427 games. In 1932, he had a .998 fielding percentage, making just one error the entire year.

On this date in 1925, the Pirates signed 34-year-old veteran free agent first baseman Stuffy McInnis. He was a star player for the Philadelphia A’s in the early 1910’s, beginning his major league career as an 18-year-old in 1909. Stuffy had hit .291 in 1924 with the Boston Braves. He had batted over .300 ten times in his career including all three seasons prior to 1924. He started off as a bench player for the Pirates, getting just three starts in the first four weeks, but in late June he began to see more time at first base. McInnis saw his average drop to .263 near the end of July, then from July 29th on, he went on a tear. He batted .468 the rest of the season, helping Pittsburgh to their third World Series appearance. He hit .286 with an RBI in the series. The next year Stuffy was the starting first baseman through the end of May, but took a very limited bench role after that point, finishing with a .299 average in 47 games. He played just one more Major League game in 1927 with the Phillies.

The Players

Charlie Hayes, third baseman for the 1996 Pirates. He was a fourth round pick of the Giants in the 1983 draft. Hayes made his Major League debut in September of 1988. The next June, he was dealt to the Phillies, where he spent three seasons trying to replace the recently retired Mike Schmidt. Hayes then played for the 1992 Yankees, two year (1993-94) for the expansion Rockies, before returning to the Phillies in 1995. That year he hit .276 with 85 RBIs in 141 games, finishing 16th in the NL MVP voting. He also led all NL third basemen in putouts, while finishing second in assists and fourth in fielding. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates just after Christmas. For Pittsburgh in 1996, Hayes hit .248 with 62 RBIs in 128 games. Just before the rosters were set for the postseason, the Pirates traded him to the Yankees for minor league pitcher Chris Corn. Hayes played in the majors until 2001, finishing with a .262 average, 144 homers, 740 RBIs and 580 runs scored in 1,547 games. His son Ke’Bryan is also a third baseman and the second best prospect in the Pirates system.

Jim Stroner, third baseman for the 1929 Pirates. Early in his 13-year pro career, he got his one and only shot at the Majors Leagues, making the 1929 Pirates as a bench player. He had hit .380 with 19 homers in 1927, playing for Rock Island of the Mississippi Valley League. In 1928 he moved up to Wichita of the Western League, where he hit .367 with 42 doubles and 42 homers. Despite the fact he played just six games for the Pirates in 1929, the team had big plans for him, including one that had Pie Traynor moving to shortstop, while Stroner started at third base. Unfortunately for Stroner, he had his appendix removed in January and was limited in his activities, so he was behind when the season started. Traynor stayed at third base while 21-year-old Dick Bartell took over at shortstop and played well. Stroner was with the team until June 7th, starting just one of the team’s 42 games. Pittsburgh sent him to Indianapolis, then eventually traded him to Baltimore of the International League, along with another player and cash, for catcher Al Bool. Jim spent five years with Baltimore, then another six years bouncing around the minors before retiring.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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