The Pirates and Braves wrap their four-gamer at 1:00 this afternoon with Paul Maholm and Javier Vazquez on the mound while the draft wraps up the final 20 picks that will mostly be composed of guys none of us have ever heard of before. Meanwhile, I'm rockin' out in the Shenango Valley this afternoon, which means that I can't see the Pirates' game because it's on Sports South. Feel free to use this thread to post any info about the late draft picks, if you have it, or to talk about the game.
As I drove up the side of a mountain in Virginia, I managed to briefly catch Greg Brown's voice on some wayward AM radio station as Craig Monroe's heads up base running (whoa, there's a weird phrase) gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning. I assumed that Charlie Morton had made a good debut with the Pirates. It wasn't until later that I found out that Morton left after the first inning with a balky hamstring and that the man he deposed from the rotation, Jeff Karstens, then made what amounted to his best start of the year by holding the Braves to one run over 4 2/3 innings. Funny how the world works out sometimes. No word on Morton's hammy (other than "day to day" that is) or who makes this start next time through the rotation.
Since I didn't catch much of the game, I'll use the rest of this space here to wrap the second day of the draft. The Pirates made good on their promise to pull in some high upside guys, nabbing four interesting high school pitchers (Zackry Dodson, Zachary von Rosenburg, Trent Stephenson, and Billy Cain) with their first five picks today. All four have commitments to good baseball programs (Baylor, LSU, Arizona, and Texas, respectively, I believe) and all four will be difficult signs. In the 12th round they also grabbed John Inman of Stanford, initially expected to be one of the best pitchers in the country in 2009 before arm trouble zapped his year. Baseball America thinks he could go back to school to try and help his draft status, so he'll be a tough sign as well.
Elsewhere on the list, we got Aaron Baker from Oklahoma in the 11th, who Bryan Smith at BP thinks has great power for an 11th rounder, and Matthew den Dekker, Baseball America's 94th best prospect, in the 16th round. All told, it was a pretty huge day for the Pirates with one massive caveat; the Pirates have to sign a lot of these guys to make this a good draft. Specifically, the four high school pitchers (especially von Rosenburg) are important to sign. The Pirates had a lot of luck with guys like Robby Grossman, Quinton Miller, and Wes Freeman last year, but I'm not sure that that's necessarily a predictor for how things will go with these guys this year. Because the Pirates didn't get much value with their first round pick, they're really putting a lot of stock into these hard-to-sign guys.
In the end, there's not really going to be any way to value this draft class until August 17th (the 15th is a Saturday) and even after that, most of the value in this draft is tied up in pitchers (and high school pitchers at that), which means that it'll be years before we have any idea what comes out of this draft. Still, the Pirates did follow through on their promise to draft a slew of high upside guys today, with the plan to use the money not spent on a first round bonus to lure them away from college. We'll know soon enough whether it was a good strategy.
I'll wrap both this game and the draft later, but for now I gots to hit the road. Figures that I'll get to spend all of Charlie Morton's debut (one thing I was really looking forward to after the McLouth trade) in the car, away from any chance of seeing or hearing the game. I suppose I will survive. Anyways, Morton and Jair Jurrjens take the mound at 7:05 tonight.
Chance of Pittsburghers reacting to whatever happens in the first Morton vs. McLouth showdown? 100%
A few more thoughts on yesterday: Tim at BuccoFans makes the great point that the Pirates were hardly the only team picking in the top 10 that "reached' yesterday. And while it's been said before, I'll repeat it for emphasis; Sanchez is not a "Moskos pick," and that's for two reasons. One is that Moskos was a pitcher (always a bigger risk) that was a reliever (low upside) in college taken over someone almost universally agreed to be the best prospect in the draft. Sanchez is a catcher with a definite skill set (defense) and some potential with the bat taken over a bunch of guys that all had their own set of question marks. I'm still not a big fan of the pick, but I certainly don't want to come off like I think it's worse than it was. And if Huntington had taken someone more to my liking in the first round, I'd probably be fine with the next three picks. That's just how this sort of thing goes.
Anyways, Rounds 4-30 are being drafted today and this is where Huntington can make up ground. These are the rounds that the guys that could've been picked in yesterday's rounds will fall to and they're ultimately the picks that will define this draft. I don't know a lot about any of these guys and these picks are going to come fast and furious, so if anyone knows anything about the picks we make, please post it in the comments and I'll try to keep track of any interesting guys we grab today.
UPDATE (12:56)- Holy cow, these picks fly by. In rounds 4-8, the Pirates have taken high school pitchers with every pick and for the most part, they're all cut from the same mold; huge high school numbers with commitments to pretty good college programs. Big departure from yesterday, so far.
3:13- Names are still flying off the board, but they're getting pretty obscure at this point. I'll do a longer round-up of this round some time later today/tonight, but what I can tell you is this; I really like what Huntington is doing today and it makes his strategy from yesterday a bit clearer. Since the pick of Sanchez, we've taken 13(!) pitchers, including 10 high schoolers (through the 20th round). These guys aren't signed yet, but some of them are pretty highly touted recruits out of high school (von Rosenberg in the sixth and Cain in the eighth are two that immediately jump off the page). Any evaluation of this draft will have to be held until after the signing deadline, but the Pirates clearly thought it was more productive to try and pick up a bunch of high schoolers than one or two high-priced college or high school prospects. With that decision made, I'm guessing they took their favorite position player at #4. It doesn't necessarily make Sanchez a better pick or the right pick, but it is a pretty interesting strategy and I'm certainly not going to dismiss it right out of hand.
Editor's note: I'm keeping this pinned at the top of the page for now. Scroll for new content.
With the Penguins' win on Tuesday, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals is now the same night that WHYGAVS Night was originally scheduled for. I would guess that a large number of the potential WHYGAVS Night attendees (myself included) would much rather watch hockey that night, so I'm moving WHYGAVS Night to WHYGAVS Afternoon on Sunday the 14th. I have prior plans on Saturday, so this is how it's going to have to go. For anyone that's still interested, we can meet up somewhere on Federal Street before the game (say, 12:30 or 1:00) and I'm open to suggestions for where in the comments (which I'll post when we decide). Sorry for the short notice. This is one thing you can blame on Marc-Andre Fleury and I won't have a problem with you doing so.
After last year's draft, several people wrote that it was a refreshing change to be able to recap the Pirates' draft by writing things like, "Signability issues" instead of "reach" or "overdraft" again and again. And they were right, it was a big departure from how things were done in the past and it brought a much-needed infusion of talent into the Pirates' system. That being said, guess which words I'd use to describe three of the four Pirate picks on Day 1 of the 2009 draft?
A lot of this hinges on the pick of Tony Sanchez. The first round is the best opportunity to get talent in the Major League draft and with Aaron Crow, Bobby Borchering, Grant Green, and a bevy of talented high school arms on the board, the Pirates went for a kid who wants to be (and probably projects to be) Yadier Molina. There's nothing actually wrong with Yady, he's a good, solid starting catcher that plays great defense and hits a little bit. Given nothing but his defense, I suppose Sanchez will probably be a starter for the Pirates somewhere down the road. But that's not good enough for that pick.
What really, really worries me is the way that Huntington describes Sanchez. To call him the third best player on their board frankly seems dishonest to me. The top fifty or so prospects are heavily scouted and I think the highest I saw Sanchez ranked by anyone was twentieth (if I'm wrong, please correct me). There was no speculation about Sanchez going higher than the back end of the first round until the Pirates became interested about a week ago. There's a lot more room for disagreement in this draft than most other drafts, but to call Sanchez the third best player suggests that they see something in him that no other scouts anywhere see. This certainly isn't a Moskos/Wieters repeat, but it's not a very good pick by the Pirates and there were probably ten other guys (several of them "signable") that I would've rather seen taken there.
Beyond that, the next three picks weren't bad, but that's about the best I can say about them. As soon as you move outside of first-round talent, the discrepancies in scouting get a lot bigger and so it's more believable that the Pirates see something in a guy like Brooks Pounders that, say, Baseball America doesn't. In fact, some of the more positive reports I've seen about Pounders say that he's a big guy with four pitches (very good for a high schooler), that doesn't have a lot of velocity. With his size (6'5", 240 lbs.) he certainly might develop that velocity and if the Pirates' scouts see a reason to believe he can do that, he's a fine pick for #53. Similarly, Victor Black can hit 95 and has a good slider, so if the Pirates think they can fix his control problems, he's a good pick at #49. Evan Chambers at #83 is another weird body type (5'9", 220) for a ball player, but they showed some video of his swing on MLB.com when the Pirates picked him and it looks like a good, quick, powerful stroke. He was at a community college in Florida, but he was a UF recruit out of high school and again, I'm more willing to believe the Pirates saw something different in him that made him that particular pick.
The problem is that one of the team's big rationales for picking Sanchez was that it'd give them more money to spend on picks later in the draft. Black, Pounders, and Chambers shouldn't take much more than slot money to sign, especially because Pounders and Chambers could be slight reaches where the Pirates picked them. They're not necessarily bad picks, but when coupled with Sanchez, the whole day brings what seems like a pretty pedestrian haul. The Pirates did spend a lot of money in later rounds (Grossman in 6, Miller in 20) last year, but off the bat this draft doesn't even remotely resemble last year's. They have plenty of picks to redeem themselves, but right now this draft is off to an awfully disappointing start.
Ross Ohlendorf and Derek Lowe at 7:05, if you can find time to watch the game with the Pens and the draft on. Please keep your Tony Sanchez-related rage to the thread below.no comments
Draft kicks off in two hours in Seacaucus. We're chatting at FanHouse at 6 PM through the draft, so stop by there for live analysis that's free. I'll update here with any rumors I hear before the draft and our picks as we make them. I'll post a wrap-up of the picks tonight.
Right now (4 PM), both Jim Callis and Keith Law seem to think we're leaning towards Tony Sanchez, the catcher from Boston College. Callis seems pretty certain, Law seems less confident and says it could be any of Sanchez, Grant Green, Aaron Crow, Zack Wheeler, and Matt Hobgood.
Immediate Update: Keith Law's blog, which is Insider only (which annoys me to no freaking end), has a post currently titled, "Pirates to take Sanchez." So, there goes all your first round speculation.
UPDATE (4:30)- I'm not a huge fan of this pick, but I'd caution everyone against freaking out just yet. What's clear is that the Pirates really liked Sanchez and that he wasn't going to be available with the 49th or 53rd pick. There are some big upside arms that could free-fall that far with their contract demands and the Pirates' front office may see this as the best way to get both Sanchez and a big arm. I'm not saying we will, and I'm not saying we'll take them when we get there, but we should at least wait until the team makes their first three picks before hitting the panic button on this draft.
UPDATE (6:30)- Tony Sanchez it is.
6:41- Both Hobgood and Wheeler are off the board over guys like Matzek, Turner, Purke, etc. who had big bonus demands.
7:00- Crow, Matzek, Scheppers, and Purke all last through the top 10.
7:12- Crow goes to KC at #12.
7:19- Purke's gone to Texas at 14.
7:39- I guess it's fair to talk about Sanchez a bit since he's our pick. He's certainly a big reach at #4 and I don't like the pick at all, really, but it's not fair to say that he would've been available at #49 for the Pirates to take. He was generally projected to go to a team late in the first round and because of his willingness to sign easily and his great defensive reputation, I don't think he would've fallen further than that.
The issue, at least for me, comes in that there were better options for the Pirates here. There were quite a few interesting pitchers, as well as a couple position players like Borchering and Green that the Pirates could certainly use in their system. It's possible that Sanchez will keep developing the power that he flashed (14 homers) this year, but he absolutely has to do that for this pick to be worth the slot we made it in. Otherwise, well, we picked up two catchers with great defensive reputations and some mildly intriguing bat skills for what amounts to spare parts in the past year. It's clear that Huntington and Smith love that guy, but they're just about the only people on the planet that have him rated this high, which makes me incredibly nervous. He'll likely play for the Pirates if his defense is anywhere near as good as people say it is, but this just isn't a great pick for a team in the Pirates' situation.
Anyways, here's a link to his MLB.com scouting page with some video and scouting reports and the like.
7:56- Gibson falls to the Twins at #22. Just about all of the arms the Pirates might've been interested in with the fourth pick are gone, save Tanner Scheppers. I don't think the odds of them going that route again are very good.
8:05- Sanchez Q&A with David Laurila at BP is here. He compares himself to Yadier Molina. Really, it sounds to me like we drafted a Molina brother with the fourth pick in the draft.
9:16- Scheppers gone at #44 to Texas.
9:21- With their comp pick for Scheppers from last year (49 overall), the Pirates take Victor Black, RHP from Dallas Baptist University.
9:27- And with the 53rd pick (fourth in the second round), the Pirates take Brooks Pounders, a high school RHP from California. Give me a few minutes to dig up some stuff on Pounders and Black and I'll get it posted.
9:34- Black is a tall, hard-throwing righty with control problems. John Manuel thinks he might end up in the bullpen, but he seems pretty appropriately slotted at #49. Remember, we have to sign that pick or we don't get it back since it's compensatory. Pounders, besides having an awesome name, is committed to USC as both a power-hitting first baseman and a pitcher, though the Pirates announced him as a pitcher. USC's coach has this to say about him (link via Bucs Dugout):
"Brooks is another one of our commits who has accelerated his play in the past year. He has shown the ability to hit top-level pitching and become a force on the mound himself. He pitches with a loose arm and has great command of all his pitches while maintaining a low to mid 90's fastball. He will make an immediate impact for us in the lineup and our pitching rotation."
Like Black, he seems like a pretty appropriate pick for the spot but with the commitment to USC, he'll probably be a little harder to sign.
9:48- John Manuel calls Pounders "another reach" and notes that he doesn't really throw very hard (87-90) for such a big guy (did I mention he's a big guy, or did you just assume it from the name?). I'm guessing the Pirates hope his fastball grows into his frame.
10:15 PM- Third round pick is Evan Chambers, an outfielder from a community college in Florida.
After I finished up my first piece on the draft on Sunday night, suddenly a lot of the consensus (based on Goldstein's work at BP and Keith Law's Twitter feed, since I don't pay for ESPN Insider), has suddenly seemed to shift towards Aaron Crow dropping in the draft, potentially out of the top ten. That would, of course, indicate that the Pirates would pass on Crow for someone else. With the caveat that no one really has any idea what's going to happen beyond Strasburg and Ackely going first and second, what might the Pirates be thinking if they pass on Crow?
One thing to consider is that they have two second round picks, at #49 and #53. That #49 pick is compensation for not signing Scheppers last year, so they have to pick someone they know they can sign there, because that pick's not coming back. What's interesting to consider though, is that a bunch of pitchers are all falling down the draft boards at the moment because of signability issues. On top of Crow dropping, high schoolers Jacob Turner, Tyler Matzek, and Matt Purke are all rumored to want "Porcello money." It's a stretch to think that any of those guys will be available at 49, but since we're handicapped a bit with that pick we'd have to wait until 53 to even consider it and it's even more of a long shot that they'll be around then.
A more interesting thing to consider? Kyle Gibson. It seemed like the Pirates had locked in on him before his elbow injury and it's hard to say how that injury is really going to affect his draft status. Could he fall to the 49th pick? It seems unlikely, but I guess it's possible. It's not really out of the realm of possibility that someone that was seen as a middle-first round talent falls down that far with signability issues, but predicting this draft is not easy to do.
This is where we (and the Pirates) are left with a difficult question. Let's say they like Aaron Crow, but they don't love him. I've heard criticisms of Crow that seem pretty valid; there's always an injury risk, he might not develop a third good pitch, and he might not have a ton of room to grow from where he is right now. It's certainly fair and not really unreasonable if the Pirates evaluate Crow as worth less than the $4-$4.5 million he's demanding right now. So what if the Pirates decide, as today's Chuck Finder piece indicates, that they've decided that they like Sanchez as much as Crow and that they want to use the difference in bonus money to sign more draft picks?
The Pirates signed, users a manual count of WTM's rundown of last year's draft, 32 of 50 picks last year. That's a pretty good haul, but they were pretty clearly bumping their heads against the ceiling by the end of things. When they signed Quinton Miller, they only signed him because they failed to sign Drew Gagnon and Tanner Scheppers. Presumably, with the money not spent on a first round pick, it would allow the Pirates to be both more aggressive in signing the guys they draft and more aggressive in drafting guys like Miller, Robby Grossman, Wesley Freeman, and the like.
This strategy (if it is indeed the one the Pirates embark on) makes me a little uneasy for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I'm not sure this is a great strategy. First and second round picks are generally fairly safe, in terms of the baseball draft. They're not slam dunks like football and basketball, but a pretty high percentage of them (about half, in total) end up in the Major Leagues. Passing on a guy that's an upper-first round talent to sign more guys that aren't seems risky to me. The second question I have is why we can't spend the money on both Crow and our late draft picks. I understand that there has to be some kind of budget on the draft and Latin American signings, but if they're "not being limited" as John Perrotto reports today, what's another $2 million on a draft pick? It's one thing if they think that Sanchez and Crow are equal as prospects, but I don't think they are and I don't think many people do.
One thing that's for sure is that the success of this draft shouldn't be measured solely by their first round pick, as it has been the first two years. Crow or Grant Green, or probably even Sanchez would all make be nice additions to the organization, but the Pirates need to have a draft that's at least as deep as last year's where they signed eight of their top nine picks and were getting value from picks as late as the 20th round.