For the first time ever, Major League Baseball hosted a lottery to decide the draft order.
The 18 teams that didn’t make the playoffs all had a chance to jump into the top six, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics all having the highest odds of getting the first pick.
When it was all said and done, the Pirates ended up with the first overall pick for the second time in three drafts.
"We're excited about the direction we're going in Pittsburgh and a chance to get another great player next July."
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 7, 2022
In Ben Cherington’s previous three editions, we have seen him move and manipulate his allocated draft bonus pool money. It landed them some of the better prep players in the 2021 draft. This past July, a bigger bonus pool allowed them to sign Termarr Johnson to an overslot deal — along with intriguing left-handed pitcher Michael Kennedy.
The average slot value of the first overall pick over the last five drafts has been $8.37 million, reaching $8.85 in 2022. Compare that to the ninth pick, the furthest that the Pirates could have dropped in the lottery, and it’s a tad under $5 million ($4.962). That’s nearly a $4 million difference, which is $500,000 less than what Bubba Chandler and Lonnie White Jr. signed for.
According to Ethan Hullihen, the 2023 first overall pick is currently projected to carry a $9,301,600 value, based on the typical increase from year to year. That’s a big difference when looking to add talent to the system.
Here is where I have the Pirates picking right now: pic.twitter.com/kHePcUUuxE
— Ethan Hullihen (@EthanHullihen) December 7, 2022
Obviously now entering year four under Cherington, it looked like things were shifting towards the MLB stage of the build, after spending so much time adding talent to the lower levels of the system.
Being able to draft another highly ranked player that could potentially be a difference maker, as they shift towards competing, is going to be huge for the organization.
Pirates Sign a Pair of Pitchers
Speaking of shifting gears, the Pirates were plenty busy on Tuesday, not only with securing the first overall pick, but grabbing a couple of free agents in Vince Velasquez and Jarlín García.
The 30-year-old García was signed to a contract worth $2.5 million this year, and has a team option for the following season.
He posted some good numbers out of the bullpen, with a 3.74 ERA over 65 innings. Most importantly, García is left-handed, something they completely lack on the 40-man roster right now.
Velasquez had a rough 2021 season, and did not have a great start to 2022, before moving to the bullpen. The numbers improved a bit there, but still nothing jumping off the pages (3.71 FIP from June 19 through the rest of the season).
His fastball posted the best numbers, holding hitters to a .197 average, .271 wOBA, and had a Run Value of six on Baseball Savant — a top 75 ranking in baseball.
I wrote previously about how the Pirates might have a ‘type’ when it comes to their pitchers, with them having success with the sinker. While it is his lowest usage pitch (8%), and didn’t grade out well, it has had success in the past and could be something the Pirates try to work with.
While he did better out of the bullpen last year, the amount they offered could mean Velasquez gets at least a shot at the rotation (he signed for more than Tyler Anderson and Jose Quintana did).
Regardless, after shoring up first base, the Pirates have immediately shifted focus and addressed another weak spot, the bullpen.
It hasn’t come cheap either, as Velasquez and García will combine for $5.65 million. They join arbitration eligible relievers Duane Underwood Jr. and Robert Stephenson, who received an estimated $1 and $1.5 million, respectively.
Along with getting Yerry De Los Santos and Colin Holderman back healthy, the Pirates seem like they’ve made some improvements over the 2022 bullpen.
With first base and bullpen being addressed, attention now turns to the Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday. Since the García and Velasquez deals are just ‘in agreement’, the Pirates hang on to their two open roster spots, meaning they can still select someone on Wednesday.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
The inaugural MLB Draft Lottery was fun.
It’s easy to say that when the Pittsburgh Pirates win the first overall pick in the draft.
But the lottery itself was a nice, compact event that provided some suspense. Who else’s heart was racing, waiting for the second pick to be revealed? The whole process was well done.
The Pirates ended up with the first overall pick for the second time in three years. That will help boost a rebuild.
The last few drafts have led to the Pirates having a highly rated farm system that is deep — both with potential impact talent, and with future MLB depth. A lot of that talent is in the upper levels. The lower levels were boosted by the 2021 prep class — a byproduct of the strategy that came from the number one pick — as well as 2022 first rounder Termarr Johnson.
The draft is so far away that it doesn’t make sense to discuss strategy at this point. That said, if they do go with another draft similar to 2021, it would help to create an equally strong wave of prospects in the lower levels as the upper levels.
I believe that the Pirates will start to see a big push toward contending in the second half of the 2023 season, as that wave of upper level prospects arrives. From there, I would hope they push to contend in 2024.
Players from that lower level group of prospects would probably start to arrive in 2025, giving the Pirates a bonus as they’re hopefully starting to contend. This would also allow them to replace departing veterans.
If the Pirates did go with a 2021 strategy for the 2023 draft, they could add a college guy to join that 2025 wave, while getting started on the next wave to keep the pipeline going.
Regardless of what they do with the pick, it’s a positive for the rebuild. The number one pick, and the bonus money that comes with it, will only continue to raise the talent level in this organization.
**The Rule 5 Draft will wrap up the 2022 MLB Winter Meetings on Wednesday. The draft will be held at 5:00 PM. Matt Gorski and Malcom Nunez were highlighted as top eligible prospects. Blake Sabol and Connor Scott have also been mentioned by Baseball America as notable draft prospects.
We had a Roundtable a few weeks ago, looking at whether the Pirates would lose anyone in the Rule 5 Draft. Blake Sabol was the pick, although half of the respondents — myself included — predicted no one would be lost in the MLB portion.
As for whether they select someone, they have open roster spaces, and there are a lot of left-handed pitchers available. They just added García, but he’s the only lefty. They’ve got the option, and it wouldn’t be a bad approach to take a flier on a team need, of which there are plenty.
**Ethan Hullihen has previously looked at the list of Rule 5 eligible players (prior to Endy Rodriguez, Mike Burrows, Jared Triolo, and Colin Selby getting protected). Ethan also looked at who needs to be protected on the Triple-A Reserve list, and the history of Pirates Rule 5 picks over the last decade.
**The Pirates reached agreements with Vince Velasquez and Jarlín García. The Pirates keep adding to areas where they had no one in place. I think Velasquez ends up getting a shot at the rotation, similar to Anderson and Quintana in previous years. García, meanwhile, is the only lefty in the bullpen.
**Between the additions of García and Velasquez, we had our abbreviated article drop this week. I looked at ZiPS projections to see where the Pirates should add to their team in 2023, and the pitching staff was definitely an area of need. I also looked at the second base candidates who could compete for the starter job from within.
Missed yesterday? In my weekly First Pitch, I explored whether the Pirates are really changing their ways.
Song of the Day
Pirates fans after that draft lottery…
Pirates Prospects Weekly
I’m going to do my annual ZiPS analysis later in the offseason. For now, I looked at where the Pirates need to add to this roster in 2023.
I think Rodolfo Castro will open the season as the second baseman in Pittsburgh. I really like the adjustments that Nick Gonzales has been implementing, and could see him finishing the year at the position. I wrote about the second base options today.