With the Pittsburgh Pirates focusing on the draft so much over the last three years, there is a big desire to grade how their players are progressing along. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it’s tough getting an analysis on the recent drafts this early in the process, especially when most of the top picks were prep players. This makes things especially difficult when you consider that there’s a need from day one to evaluate the picks.
While no conclusive evaluations can be drawn at this point, it never hurts to keep a constant eye on the progression of the players who were drafted by the Pirates. That’s something we specialize at for the players in the system, but what about the players who didn’t sign? Those players are just as important, if only because they demonstrate the Pirates’ ability to spot talent. Unless you have a crazy belief that the Pirates only miss out on the good players, and only sign the bad players, we can look at everyone the Pirates have drafted (signed and unsigned) to get an idea how they are performing in seeking out talent.
We have three years to go by, which is difficult for evaluating guys who ended up going back in the draft for a future year. The prep players from the 2008 draft class are eligible again this year, so we have the most on them, as they’ve started ranking in the upcoming draft class. The 2009 prep players will be eligible in the 2012 draft, so there’s not as much on them. The 2010 prep players are just getting their feet wet in the college ranks, although some are playing important roles with their teams. Overall, this is a look to see how the players who didn’t sign are progressing, just like we do with the players that did sign. This isn’t to say the Pirates should have signed every one of these players. The fact is that it’s very common, and unavoidable, for teams to fail to sign a player, only to see him drastically improve his draft status a few years later. Here is a look at some of the players who the Pirates didn’t sign, who are currently looking good as a current/future prospect.
The big name on this list is second round pick Tanner Scheppers, although he’s more of a different story than everyone else we’ll cover. Scheppers fell to the Pirates in the second round due to injury concerns. Those concerns were the reason the Pirates didn’t sign him. A few days prior to the draft signing deadline, Scheppers was only working in the mid-80s, in a workout in front of the Pirates and the Pittsburgh media. From there, Scheppers took some time off, threw 19 innings in Indy ball, and was drafted by the Rangers with the 44th overall pick in 2010.
Scheppers is more of a relief pitching prospect, and my main concern with him is that he’s never had surgery to fix his shoulder injury. He also hasn’t pitched many innings in the last few years, and the one time he saw an innings increase (2010, in AAA), his numbers suffered, with a 5.48 ERA in 69 innings (although that’s just a correlation, and might not be due to his shoulder). He’s currently on the disabled list with lower back soreness.
Scheppers was more of a no-brainer, as he was a first round talent who fell to the Pirates due to injury issues. Side note on Scheppers, I’ve never really been disappointed that the Pirates didn’t sign him. Most of that is due to the fact that I still think he will have issues with his shoulder, especially when his innings increase (if they ever do). Also, he’s ultimately a reliever, so his overall value is minimal. It would have been nice if the Pirates had signed him (and at that point, things didn’t look good for his future status, so that statement is in complete hindsight), but it’s not a massive loss, as the Pirates have had no problems finding talented relievers.
There are three later round picks who have gone on to become top draft prospects for the 2011 draft. Those players are Drew Gagnon (10th round), Zach Wilson (26th round), and Scott McGough (46th round).
Gagnon, a right handed pitcher, went to Long Beach State, where he currently sports a 2.36 ERA in 72.1 innings, along with a 72:27 K/BB ratio. Gagnon entered the 2011 season as the 49th best college prospect in the draft, although he has fallen a bit, as some see him as a relief prospect long term.
Scott McGough, another right handed pitcher, is a relief pitching prospect, and was rated as the 47th best college prospect in the draft this year. McGough had a rough start, but currently has a 3.67 ERA in 34.1 innings, all in relief, with a 41:19 K/BB ratio. The Pittsburgh native throws 91-94 MPH with his fastball, although as a college reliever, he has fallen in this draft class.
Finally, there’s Zach Wilson, a third baseman for Arizona State. Wilson currently has a .266/.332/.420 line in 169 at-bats this season, with five homers. This follows a year where he put up a .349/.423/.591 line in 186 at-bats, with eight homers.
None of these three will go in the first round, but all three are candidates to be selected in the top 200 picks, making them top 5 round talent.
It’s hard to get a read on the 2009 draft right now. College players who went back for the 2010 draft only have about half a year under their belts. Prep players won’t be eligible for the draft until next year, and there’s not much out there right now that ranks the 2012 class. Two players fit in to the former category, but have shown good results so far.
The first is Matt Den Dekker, who was drafted in the 16th round by the Pirates. The Pirates missed out on a few guys due to MLB dragging their feet on over-slot signings, and Den Dekker is rumored to be one of them. The Florida outfielder was drafted in the fifth round by the Mets in 2010, and currently has a .373/.404/.608 line in 102 at-bats in high-A.
Zachary Nuding was drafted by the Pirates in the 37th round, out of the JuCo ranks, but decided to go back to school. He was drafted in 2010 by the Yankees in the 30th round, and ended up signing. His numbers haven’t been overly impressive, although in five starts this year he has a 4.50 ERA in 24 innings, with a 9.0 K/9 and a 3.0 BB/9 ratio. Nuding throws in the mid-90s, and tops out at 97 MPH. The Yankees signed him for $265,000.
It’s way too early to grade the 2010 prep players, and at this point we’re just going off of half a season in the college ranks, and their roles for their new teams. Austin Kubitza, the right handed starter taken in the seventh round, is off to the best start. Kubitza has stepped up as the Friday night starter for Rice University, and currently has a 1.79 ERA in 65.1 innings, with a 67:18 K/BB ratio. Kubitza mostly works in the 88-91 MPH range, although he has a projectable frame that could allow him to add velocity.
Zach Weiss, the right handed pitcher drafted in the tenth round, is in a very talented UCLA rotation, but is holding his own, with a 1.99 ERA in 45.1 innings, along with a 40:15 K/BB ratio. Out of all the later round prep pitchers in 2010 (aka, guys after Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie), Weiss ranked the highest on Baseball America’s top prospect list.
One interesting name is Connor Sadzeck, who was drafted in the 45th round out of the prep ranks. Sadzeck went to Howard College, a JuCo school, and has been throwing 93-98 MPH. He currently has a 3.26 ERA in 49.2 innings, with a 41:27 K/BB ratio. Since he went the JuCo route, he will be eligible for the draft again this year.