The MLB Draft starts this Sunday, and takes place over three days. The Pirates have the fourth overall pick, looking to follow up on their highly regarded draft from last year.
The trade deadline is on August 2nd, less than a month away. The Pirates are far from a contender, and still in the mode of adding talent for a contending run that has no discernable beginning. It’s difficult to say whether they will do much at the deadline to aid their long-term build.
This week on First Pitch, we’re looking at those two opportunities this month to add talent to the Pirates’ system.
FUQUAY VINYL PLAYLIST
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TRADES WON’T BRING MUCH WITHOUT REYNOLDS
Bryan Reynolds is currently day-to-day after experiencing discomfort in his right side, which led to him being replaced in Sunday’s game.
Reynolds is the biggest potential trade piece for the Pirates at the deadline. An injury would make it unlikely that he is moved. But, what are the chances that Reynolds gets moved if he’s healthy?
My thought is that the Pirates face a difficult decision either way with Reynolds. They could trade him now, where he’s the best player on a bad team. The problem with a trade now is that Reynolds hasn’t been consistent throughout his career, and hasn’t been consistent this year. Pirates fans would see a 5+ WAR being traded, but it’s doubtful the Pirates would actually get 5+ WAR value in return. They could trade him in the offseason, though his value will be lowered with the 2022 playoff run off the table.
The other route is keeping Reynolds and trying to win with him. The Pirates would need an extension to get him for longer than two seasons — while also trying to build around him and contend immediately. That would require extending Reynolds into his early 30s, which comes with risks of decline.
The biggest potential boost to the system the Pirates can receive is a Reynolds trade.
They could deal All-Star reliever David Bednar. That might not be a bad move, since they definitely have used Bednar a great deal the last two years. It’s always difficult to establish what a reliever could get on the trade market. Bednar is an All-Star with high-leverage experience and four years of control remaining beyond 2022. He is the sleeper if the Pirates want to try and land a big return, though they probably would be boosting the system at the lowest levels with higher upside guys. For this to work, it would also make a lot of Pirates fans mad in the short-term.
The most likely to be moved is Jose Quintana. He will have a market, due to his performance this year. He won’t get much of a return, likely in the range of last year’s Tyler Anderson deal. This will add some depth, but in this system, it won’t be noticed.
The Pirates have some guys like Ben Gamel and Chris Stratton who could have value in a way similar to Quintana. Gamel is a free agent at the end of the year, and Stratton has one more year of arbitration remaining. It would make sense to move either, giving innings to younger players over the final two months. It would also make sense to keep both to provide veteran guidance for those players, since the system doesn’t really need the depth they’d bring back in a trade.
BIGGER POTENTIAL FROM THE DRAFT
The Pirates have the sixth worst record in baseball. The 2022 draft is not going to be the last time they are picking inside the top ten.
On Sunday, the Pirates will pick fourth overall, with the fourth biggest bonus pool valued at over $13 million. They had a higher bonus pool last year, picking first overall, and used that money to land a talented group of prep players. They could take a similar approach this year.
John Dreker is our draft expert, and had a breakdown yesterday of who the Pirates could expect in the first round.
What stuck out to me is that there are two or three players who would be difficult to pass on if they fall to the Pirates. The Pirates pick fourth, so the odds are that one of those players will fall.
Beyond Druw Jones, Jackson Holliday, and maybe Elijah Green, the alternate route looks to be similar to last year. The 2021 draft didn’t have a standout pick, and the Pirates used that to their advantage to stock up on talent.
The 2022 draft will likely put them with a choice of a standout pick or the comprehensive strategy they took last year. They could land a top ten talent in this draft at a lower price, and use the savings once again to land multiple first-round talents in the middle rounds.
There is no trading in the MLB draft, so teams need to get creative in order to maximize value and get multiple first round talents. As the odds of any one baseball player making it are slim, a blanket approach makes sense.
This will be the biggest chance for the Pirates to impact the top ten of their system this month, outside of a Reynolds trade.
**It seems unlikely that Matt Gorski is going to be back for any significant time this year. The outfielder went down with a quad injury at the end of June, and has been placed on the 60-day IL. Prior to the injury, he combined for a .294/.376/.664 line between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona. The Greensboro results elevated his power, but the overall results otherwise stayed consistent. Gorski had a .294 average at each level. He had a .377 OBP in Greensboro, down slightly to .374 in Altoona. The slugging was .754 in the hitter-friendly Greensboro, but a solid .560 in the more neutral Eastern League. Gorski’s time in Altoona was limited to 124 plate appearances, which isn’t enough to say that these numbers are legit, but is enough to say that they are promising. He will be in his age-25 season next year, and could factor into the future outfield or first base mix in Pittsburgh. I could see Gorski returning to Altoona at the start of 2023, but getting a shot in the majors by this time next year if his offense repeats what we saw this year.
**Henry Davis returned to the injured list in Altoona with a left wrist injury. Davis previously missed time with a non-displaced fracture in the same wrist. It’s apparently still bothering him. Davis has a .177/.320/.355 line in 75 plate appearances so far in Altoona. The injury has most likely impacted his bat, while also preventing the bat from developing at a higher level. More importantly, it is preventing Davis from getting in-game work with the pitching staff in Altoona. His defensive development is far more important if the Pirates want to keep him behind the plate long-term.
**The best hitters in the Pirates system since June 1st, ranked by OPS, minimum 100 PA:
- Rodolfo Nolasco, OF, Bradenton – 1.001 OPS, 123 PA
- Travis Swaggerty, OF, Indianapolis – .870 OPS, 102 PA
- Endy Rodriguez, C, Greensboro – .862 OPS, 130 PA
- Dariel Lopez, INF, Greensboro – .852 OPS, 135 PA
- Aaron Shackelford, 1B, Altoona – .810 OPS, 116 PA
**Bubba Chandler really shouldn’t be playing in the FCL anymore, based on the numbers. Chandler has thrown 15.1 shutout innings, allowing three hits, walking ten, and striking out 27. The walk rate is high, and probably would be an issue in Single-A. In his last outing, Chandler threw four no-hit innings, allowing one walk and striking out seven. At most, I could see him going one more outing, trying to get to five innings for the first time, and trying to maintain the lower walk rate again. His previous three starts saw an average of a walk per inning. Offensively, Chandler has a 1.098 OPS n 36 plate appearances, thanks to three home runs.
**The best pitchers in the Pirates system since June 1st, ranked by ERA, qualified by 0.5 IP per team game:
- Andres Silvera, RHP, DSL Gold – 0.87 ERA, 24:3 K/BB, 20.2 IP
- Tahnaj Thomas, RHP, Altoona – 1.93 ERA, 20:4 K/BB, 18.2 IP
- Bryse Wilson, RHP, Indianapolis – 2.49 ERA, 21:4 K/BB, 25.1 IP
- Cody Bolton, RHP, Indianapolis – 2.79 ERA, 16:12 K/BB, 19.1 IP
- Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, Altoona – 2.81 ERA, 29:9 K/BB, 25.2 IP
**Jason Mackey at the Post-Gazette has an article on how Jack Suwinski benefits from journaling.
**Alex Stumpf: Roansy Contreras shows growth before going into break
**Justice delos Santos: These are the Pirates’ biggest takeaways at halfway point
WEEKLY PIRATES QUIZ
This hasn’t needed an update since 2019. Do you think anyone joins the list this season?
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.