First Pitch: The Pirates Rate Well All-Time Among Teams Drafting in the Third Round

On Monday, we looked at how the Pittsburgh Pirates stack up against other teams with their first round picks since the MLB Draft started in 1965. The Pirates have the second best results over the years. Yesterday we looked at the second round results, where the Pirates have struggled to make strong picks.

Today I wanted to look at the third round, where the Pirates have done better over the years compared to the second round, getting nearly twice as much value. I wanted to see how many other teams had those type of results, while also seeing how the Pirates compare to other teams with third round picks.

Before I start, a quick review of the rules here from the last two days. To get a level field, I’m only looking at the 20 teams that have made picks every year since 1965. I’m also using only qualified picks to get a WAR per pick average. Qualified picks means we only look at the players who signed, and we don’t look at picks from the last five years. Most of them are still working their way through the minors anyway. It’s my way of leveling the playing field for better results.

As our article on the third round figured out last week, the Pirates are getting 2.7 WAR per qualified pick in the third round. Their second round picks ranked 15th out of 20 teams with 1.4 WAR. The list below is the rank of WAR per qualified picks from the third round for all 20 teams, along with the difference between their second round WAR totals from yesterday. As an example, if they had a 4.0 WAR yesterday and a 2.0 WAR today, it will be listed as (-2.0). The Pirates are listed as (+1.3) due to their improved results in the third round.

Twins, 4.5 (+1.8)

Angels, 3.6 (-0.1)

Yankees, 3.0 (+1.5)

Pirates, 2.7 (+1.3)

Orioles, 2.3 (-1.1)

Cubs, 2.1 (-2.9)

Indians, 2.1 (+0.1)

Rangers, 2.1 (+2.0)

Braves, 1.9 (-2.7)

White Sox, 1.6 (+0.7)

Mets, 1.5 (-0.9)

Cardinals, 1.4 (-0.9)

Astros, 1.3 (+0.4)

Tigers, 1.1 (-1.5)

Dodgers, 1.0 (-0.1)

Red Sox, 1.0 (-4.0)

Reds, 1.0 (-3.4)

Phillies, 0.6 (-6.9)

A’s, 0.5 (-4.7)

Giants, 0.1 (-1.3)

The Giants have received a total of 2.4 WAR from all of their signed third round picks, including the last five years. That’s awful, and it’s after ranking 16th among the 20 teams yesterday for second round picks.

The A’s and Phillies were the two best teams yesterday and two of the worst today. The Rangers were easily the worst team yesterday and they had the biggest improvement today. A total of seven teams improved, so while it’s not the expected result, the Pirates are far from being alone in making better third round picks.

The Twins easily win here and that’s with them missing out on signing Steve Garvey in 1966. They got Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven in 1969 and he provided nearly half of their value.

The Yankees ranked third despite missing out on 50.2 WAR from Fred Lynn.




Another look at out of the way towns, this time in New Mexico.


By John Dreker

Two Pittsburgh Pirates trades made on this date, plus one former player was born on June 3rd.

The Trades

On this date in 2009, the Pirates traded All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. McLouth was coming off an All-Star season in 2008, one in which he hit .276 with 113 runs scored, 26 homers, 23 stolen bases, a league leading 46 doubles and 94 RBIs. He also won the Gold Glove in center field. When the Pirates wanted to call up Andrew McCutchen, McLouth balked at the position move from center field, which in part caused the trade. He was hitting .256 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 45 games when the deal was made. All three players received were highly rated prospects at some time, though only Morton had Major League experience at the time. Locke was a second round pick in 2006, who was struggling in High-A ball. Hernandez was 21 years old, hitting .316 in Double-A. Prior to the season, he was the 62nd ranked prospect in baseball by Baseball America. Morton was 25 years old, at Triple-A, coming off a season in which he went 4-8, 6.15 in 74.2 innings for the Braves.

After the deal, Morton went 41-62, 4.39 in 142 starts and 801 innings with the Pirates. Hernandez played 25 games with the Pirates in 2012, then was traded to the Miami Marlins for Gaby Sanchez. He returned to the Pirates as a free agent in 2015 and played another eight big league games. Locke went 35-38, 4.41 in 644 innings with the Pirates, making 110 starts and 13 relief appearances. He was an All-Star in 2013. McLouth hit .229 with 21 homers in 250 games for Atlanta. He eventually ended up back in Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2012, but he was released after batting .140 in 34 games.

On this date in 1906, the Pirates traded pitcher Ed Karger to the St Louis Cardinals for pitcher Chappie McFarland. This move is the exact opposite of the one above, Pittsburgh dealt a young prospect in exchange for a veteran pitcher. Karger, at age 23, had made his Major League debut exactly seven weeks earlier. He was pitching well for the Pirates, but they wanted a veteran to help for their playoff run. As it turned out, they had no chance that season with the Cubs setting a major league record with a 116-36 record. Karger had a 2-3, 1.93 record at the time of the deal, making two starts and four relief appearances. McFarland had pitched well for some very poor St Louis Cardinals teams. At age 31, he was coming off three straight seasons of throwing at least 229 innings. With St Louis, he had a 33-57 record with a 3.33 ERA.

After the trade McFarland didn’t last long in Pittsburgh. He went 1-3, 2.55 in six games, five as a starter. The Pirates put him on waivers, where he was picked up by Brooklyn on August 1st. He made just one start for them before returning to the minors for the last three years of his pro career. Karger pitched in the majors until 1911, and while his career record was just 48-67, he retired with a 2.79 ERA. For St Louis he had a 2.72 ERA in 191.2 innings in 1906, then pitched 314 innings in 1907, posting a 2.04 ERA to go along with 29 complete games. His record was just 15-19, but the rest of the Cardinals pitching staff went 37-82.

The Player

Nelson Liriano, second baseman for the 1995-96 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur in 1982 and he made his Major League debut five years later in Toronto. Liriano had his best year in 1989, hitting .263 with 26 doubles, 53 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 132 games. He hit .429 that postseason with three stolen bases in the Blue Jays’ ALCS loss to the Oakland A’s. The next season Liriano started off slow, then was dealt to the Twins in July for John Candelaria. After finishing the year in Minnesota, he spent most of 1991 in the minors, getting in just ten games with the Royals in May, although he did manage to hit .409 in 22 at-bats. He signed with the Indians for 1992, spending the entire year in the minors, then signed with the expansion Colorado Rockies for the 1993 season. Liriano hit .305 in limited time, playing in the thin Colorado air. He hit .330 at home that year.

After batting .255 in 87 games during the 1994 season, the Pirates picked Liriano up off waivers in October. In 1995, he platooned at second base with Carlos Garcia. Liriano also got plenty of pinch hitting at-bats, finishing the season with a .286 average and 38 RBIs in 107 games. The following year, he saw less starting time and more time in the pinch-hitting role, getting 234 plate appearances over 112 games played. He hit .267 with 14 doubles and 30 RBIs. He was put on waivers after the season ended, where he was picked up by the Dodgers. Liriano had a limited bench role with Los Angeles in 1997, before finishing his career back in Colorado in 1998. After his playing days, he managed the Royals rookie league affiliate in Burlington for three seasons (2009-11).

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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