We were going to have a three-part reaction article to the day one picks, similar to what we did for last year’s draft. However, I gave a lot of personal opinions in the day one recap, and anything I write here would be just a copy from that article. So if you want my reactions and thoughts on the day one moves, as well as what I think needs to happen for the Pirates to have success with those moves, check out the recap.
John Dreker and Wilbur Miller were working on the player pages today, and you can find the links below. They’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow, rotating to provide analysis on each pick. Their reactions on day one are below.
The Pirates made some very strange selections with their first two picks, making the first day look like a bust. We heard they would take the best player available, but that wasn’t the case. They took two players that didn’t receive any first round mention and let some talented players slip through to other teams before they made their two later picks. I assume that they made the picks with the hope they can spread the savings around to later picks, but by doing that, they went very soft with two high draft spots that looked to have strong potential. Overall, day one was very disappointing, but it’s possible that day two and three could look better now.
Cole Tucker would have been a nice pick at the end of the night, but selecting him 24th overall makes him look bad. He is someone who could stick at shortstop in the pros and still has room to fill out. He is projected to hit for average, but not power and his speed can be a plus tool. If he reaches his projections, you have a solid shortstop that will get on base and use his speed as an asset. It’s not the upside the Pirates usually go for, and they passed up a few better prep shortstops to get to him.
The Connor Joe pick was just as strange as Tucker. He’s a college player that projects to be an average hitter in right field or first base, or an above average hitter behind the plate with decent defensive skills. He was announced as an outfielder, which makes him an uninspiring pick with the 39th spot. They could have went with some power-hitting first baseman, or grabbed a high upside prep pitcher that fell. Joe would have been a solid third round pick.
Mitch Keller was the best pick on day one. A right-hander with big upside due to his current three-pitch mix and room to fill out. Keller reaches 95 MPH with an easy delivery, which leads you to believe he could add velocity once he fills out and he will have the stamina to start in the pros. He throws on a downhill plane, has strong control, and he already has a change-up that is at least average. Those are three things that the Pirates have pitchers work on, so that gives him a leg up when he enters the system. Overall, a very solid pick at the #64 spot, with a chance to be a steal if he reaches his ceiling.
Trey Supak was the final pick and there are things to like about him, specifically his 6’5″, 210 frame, with room to add muscle. He’s going to need that, because the reports are that he doesn’t hold his velocity well. He projects to have three average pitches, so if they can get some good weight on him and build up his stamina, you’ll have a solid middle of the rotation starter. He does have a lower ceiling than Keller because his fastball tends to be straight, which won’t work well in the pros if he is sitting high 80’s in his starts. He has good control and throws on a downward plane already. The Pirates seem to like drafting pitchers in the 6’4″ range and teaching them to throw downhill, with fastball command and a good change-up, so both of these pitchers fit their mold.
The first day of the Pirates’ draft breaks down very obviously into two parts. The first two picks were, to put it mildly, puzzling, with both players seemingly being severely overdrafted. The second two were about what I’d have expected.
Based on the scouting reports, Cole Tucker’s upside appears to be very limited for a first round pick. He projects to “stay at short,” but if anybody regards him as a potentially outstanding defender, they’re keeping quiet about it. His bat projects as average with little power. The one positive is that he’s very young for a high school draftee, so there’s more than the usual room for error in the reports. The Pirates naturally claim he was the best player available for their board – a caveat that seems to acknowledge that he wasn’t as highly regarded elsewhere. They made the same claim when they drafted Tony Sanchez, a pick that, while not a flop, hasn’t panned out as hoped. It’s very hard to avoid the conclusion that they drafted for need.
Taking Connor Joe with the 39th pick might actually have made sense if he was going to catch, but the Pirates announced him as an outfielder. As a catcher he has significant upside, because he projects to be an average or slightly above hitter and has the tools to catch, although he has only limited experience yet behind the plate. As an outfielder he doesn’t have the bat to project well, particularly due to the questionable power.
The Pirates seem to have gotten back on message with Mitch Keller and Trey Supak. They’ve always liked projectable prep pitchers, and this draft was considered very deep in prep pitchers, making them logical picks after round one. Both pitchers were drafted more or less at about the place where they were rated by the draft watchers, although Supak’s rankings differed significantly between sources. Despite his relative inexperience, given the fact that he comes from a northerly school, Keller seems to be reasonably advanced and already has good fastball velocity, so he’s not just projection. As a North Carolina recruit, Keller could be difficult to sign. In interviews, though, he’s referred to the experience his older brother, also a pitcher, had of falling in the draft due to arm troubles. The lesson that the younger brother says he learned is that it’s a good idea to sign when you can because stuff happens, so he may prefer to turn pro now.
It’s possible the Pirates picked Tucker and Joe with the idea of conserving pool money so they could go over slot on later picks. Neither player should require anything close to slot money to sign. It’s hard to see, though, how spending a first round and supplemental first round pick on players projected to go in round two or three can ever be a good idea. We still have to see what happens on day two, but so far I like this draft by far the least of any since a historically inept GM drafted a left-handed reliever with the fourth overall pick.
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.