Pirates Prospects Daily: Pirates Win the Number One Pick; Add Two Pitchers

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.

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.

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.

Looking at ZiPS Projections to See Where the Pirates Should Add 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.

Who Wants to Be the Second Baseman For the Pittsburgh Pirates?

 

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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.

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1979andCounting

Q off the board to Mets. At least not with the Cards. There ends the Cantina references.

1979andCounting

Love the Highlight of the Day! Someone needs to do investigative reporting on why Garcia was non-tendered. He knows how to pitch to both RH and LH hitters. Bring back Manny and we have a nice lefty duo in the pen.

PirateRican21

Because it was a highlight! 😃. But in all seriousness, he seems like a good pick up. Btw I liked Manny and will like to see him back as well.

tmcgowan

I like how we won the draft by actually being last (to be picked). Typical way for us to win something is to have everyone else picked first 😉

Catch_22

I hope Cherington takes the best available at 1-1 this time. Davis isn’t looking like a 1-1 and there’s a good chance he moves off catcher.

Signing a bunch of high school kids over slot is cool, but the attrition rate is so damn high. I thought one of Huntington’s early drafts he employed this strategy, and the pundits loved the draft, but it ended up busting. I know, I know, everyone likes to point out Correra and McClullers draft, but where are the other examples?

You can’t miss on 2 1-1s. Take the best player available.

leefieux

As I have mentioned more than once, a lg percentage of 1-1’s don’t look like 1-1’s. Just look at Torkelson for (so far) the latest example.

As for Davis, I want to see what he does when he is healthy for a full year.

Catch_22

Big risk when you’re taking a RH 1b only at 1-1.

leefieux

I thought that, too at the time.

MD78

I know that “trying to win” is important and in Pirate land spending $8 million on Velasquez, Garcia, Underwood, and Stephenson is significant. As was the $$ on Santana and Choi. But we really have been Nuttingized here.

The Phillies just added Trea Turner with a $300 million investment) The Cubs signed Bellinger on a one year $17.5 million and 4 years of Jamo for $68 million.

Those teams shop at elite stores while the Bucs scour Dollar General and make an annual trip to Walmart.

Then there already are the Dodgers, Braves, Mets and Padres (and the Cardinals never go away.)

Even with great player development (jury is out), it is asking to draw for an inside straight or hit on 17. The deck is really stacked against the Bucs.

All we can do is dream on the prospects and hope to get the next Clemente, Stargell, Parker, Bonds, or Cutch and have him emerge at the perfect time before we have to trade him.

That is why winning the lottery was fun.

mpg43952

Whoa, Dollar General? More like Goodwill for us!

leefieux

I am asking this (stupid?) question again. Is our 40 man roster full? If so, we can’t take a Rule V pick unless we make a trade of some kind?

And, if we sign a free agent, who do we cut? I’d prefer Velasquez, but since we just signed him, who else will go?

capirate

The Pirates have 2 open slots going into the Rule 5 Draft. Garcia and Velasquez have not officially signed yet.

leefieux

Thx!

MD78

That is a great question. My guess is (if we are smart) the two FA pitcher contracts aren’t signed (or don’t count until the physical is complete) and we still have two openings today.

leefieux

Jamo signed with the Cubs for 4/68. I am glad that he got his money, but did he have to sign in the NL Central? It is hard to root against Jamo.

TNBucs

I hate seeing him as a Cub; there is some consolation that Quintana didn’t sign with the Cardinals.

leefieux

I guess his $13 mil a year was too much for Nutbucks.

Wabbit_Season

“Got ‘im.”

TNBucs

I’m sure none of us want to be Gary Glitter.

Tim Williams

I always knew this as The “Hey” Song. I had no idea who Gary Glitter was until this weird video.

What a shit human being.

TNBucs

Yeah, I used to enjoy that song too until I saw reference to Glitter’s criminal offenses.

leefieux

Right up there with Rolf Harris, of ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ fame.

bianco599

Seriously. I just looked up his Wikipedia page.

bradlej31

First pick should only get full slot on the Harper/Strasburg years…. But it doesn’t work like that

clemo83

Unless someone like Dylan Crews becomes too good to turn down, can we find a future All-Star for $7M and play the game the way we did two years ago? That was brilliant

TNBucs

We all like the 2021 draft but just to offer a counterargument, I’m more excited about Johnson where we went with the best player available than I am about Davis. The comp in the ’21 draft might have been Mayer or Lawlar–would we be happier with one of them now and maybe only one of the three of Solometo, Chandler, and White? I don’t know, but just raising that question. To be fair, though, a large part of my tepid enthusiasm for Davis is due to how much time he has missed.

Cocktailsfor2

I think a return to health will return the shine to Davis. Fingers crossed. Everything I’ve ever read on the kid extols his work ethic and willingness to learn, and that goes a long way in my book.

clemo83

Great points, TN. I love Termarr and Davis definitely lost a good amount of shine. Especially disappointed defensively, I kinda thought he would be adequate, and maybe eventually get boost from Robo umps. Maybe that is tied to injury as well, I don’t know. What was Davis’s bonus – like $5.5 M something like that? You should get a great player for that that much money regardless.

Just depends on how good the top guys are, and if you go for the discount, how good of a player you get. Cause you’re still paying him $7 M + like I said you better be getting a darn good player.

I argued for Termarr last draft, saying that we are at the point where we just need elite talent in the system. So I could be happy with that route as well. And Kiley McDaniel loved the rest of our draft picks last year, when we went for the best player route. I can get behind either strategy. Really a great problem to have either way.

Last edited 1 month ago by clemo83
VTBucFan

“Who else’s heart was racing, waiting for the second pick to be revealed?” You can add me to that list. I think I was equally anxious around 7-6-5 concerned what happened to the A’s would happen to our Buccos.

TNBucs

I agree–it was a fun diversion and they didn’t stretch it out too long.

skliesen

I’m really hoping Velasquez isn’t the only veteran SP the Pirates sign this winter. Really hoping they sign Manaea, but knowing how Pirates operate, I’m not expecting it. I suppose if they deal Reynolds, they could theoretically allocate those dollars to Manaea. Rob from Peter to pay Paul. Not ideal.

TNBucs

Yes, if Velasquez is the only rotation addition, it will be disappointing. The players that had been on my wish list who have signed already (Eflin, Heaney, Taillon, Walker,…) are signing for more than was projected, though Heaney’s deal should have been doable for us if we really wanted him. Still many interesting pitchers left and I’m still hopeful for a decent lefty SP.

Anthony

I have a feeling Manaea’s market is more “robust” than we think, prob somewhere between Clevinger and Walker on an AAV. That’s seems like a lot for a quasi-reclamation project unless you are really buying into that xFIP.

TNBucs

Seeing the contracts handed out to mid-rotation pitchers makes me think more than ever that Nutting won’t keep up to give us the talent we need to supplement the homegrown players.

For example, I suspect that what Manaea will get relative to what Liriano got will be a smaller percentage increase than what the Pirates are worth now compared to then. But I don’t trust Nutting to see it that way, or at least to care enough to be willing to pay today’s market rate.

skliesen

I see Manaea as this generation’s Liriano. Pirates would be wise to sign him. Incredibly wise.

Anthony

I don’t disagree, he would make the rotation better AND has upside.

Is SM looking to reestablish value or to max value in his next contract? He’s been pretty inconsistent and coming off a down year, so my guess would be the former. Maybe the Pirates can sell him on a one- or two-year deal given their recent successes with Andersen and Quintana, something like Heaney lite. I’m just not sure they have the risk tolerance or creativity to structure that type of deal.

skliesen

Agree completely on the risk tolerance and creativity portion of this comment.

emjayinTN

It all depends on which team he goes to – I think the Pirates could help him a lot. The Pirates need to watch the recent signings and realize that SP’s that you actually hope will be SP’s are a minimum of $15 mil/year. Taillon signed for $17 mil/yr.

Manaea 4/$64 backloaded $13/$16/$17/$18.

Anthony

Taillon has been more consistent and coming off a strong year. This would likely affect both term and AAV for Manaea.

I don’t see how he gets a four year deal unless it’s a blatant overpay. For the Pirates, it would need to be shorted AND front loaded to make him easier to move if he underperforms, i.e., think inverse Frankie. Maybe something like 3/$40M and front load $16/$13/$11. IMO, this still seems cost prohibitive, but I guess it really depends on the other pieces they plan to add.

emjayinTN

My thought on backloading was the Pirates will unload him anyway after year 2 – by then his salary will not seem as high. But, with Boras as his agent, he would probably insist on the front-end loading.

SufferinBuccotash

Unfortunately expecting the Pirates to pay market rates for anyone is a forlorn hope.

The Pirate business model is below market money and hope they outperform the contract so they can be traded at the deadline.

Anthony

Market value is more about how market and sale conditions affect price than actual price itself bc the overwhelming majority of contracts represent the highest price a buyer is willing to pay.

This concept in and of itself puts smaller revenue markets at a disadvantage in any open market bidding process.

SufferinBuccotash

I’m sure there are still plenty of 35+ veterans in the dumpster to sift through before ST hits…..

emjayinTN

Velasquez was a good add and could be going in the right direction; Jarlin and his -0.1 fWAR, and a few other key numbers going in the wrong direction make him a very questionable sign. Jose Lopez in the R5 has the possibility of being a bookend LH Closer to add to late innings.

skliesen

Sad, but true.

b mcferren

Valsquez goes to the pen?

roberto

I guess Rodin will not be joining the Bucs.

roberto

Pretty good day nonetheless.

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