When it comes to draft analysis, the first look at the draft is never final. The second look isn’t final either. Evaluating a draft is a constant process, changing for better or worse as new information comes along.
Earlier this month, I wrote that I didn’t like the draft the Pittsburgh Pirates had. That was rare, as I’ve liked a lot of the drafts they’ve had under Neal Huntington and company. I did write about how the draft analysis could change for the better. Mostly that involved signing a few mid-round over-slot guys, the prep pitchers in the second round working out, and Cole Tucker’s offense being what the Pirates saw in his senior year of high school. One thing I didn’t expect is that I’d be re-evaluating the draft less than a month after it happened.
There were two big things I didn’t like about the 2014 draft for the Pirates. The first thing was that the Pirates appeared to have reached for first round pick Cole Tucker. He wasn’t ranked anywhere near the first round by any of the public rankings. The Pirates said that they took him 24th because they didn’t think he would get to them at number 39, which made the pick somewhat understandable, but didn’t really justify it much at the time, since Tucker also wasn’t rated anywhere near 39th.
After the draft, we started hearing that the Pirates were right, and that Tucker would have gone off the board before the 39th overall pick. I talked to Tucker last week, and he named several teams who showed interest on draft day, including the Dodgers, who picked before the Pirates. So it didn’t look like the Pirates were alone in ranking him that high. It also didn’t look like as big of a reach to take Tucker with the 24th overall pick.
What has really changed my view on Tucker has been the information I’ve gotten from scouts and industry experts — unsolicited, I might add — on how good Tucker can be, and how high some teams had him ranked. This information is coming from people with zero affiliation with the Pirates, and who have nothing to gain by talking Tucker up. It seems that the floor for Tucker was the late first round, and some teams liked him enough to consider him higher than 24th. If that’s true, then the Pirates got a potentially great pick at number 24.
This also makes you wonder what caused such a big divide between the pre-draft rankings, and the post-draft information. I can’t recall such a big divide between scouting reports and the national reports. There might be one team that likes someone much more than everyone else, but it doesn’t usually result in this, where we learn that the industry also was higher on the player than the rankings. There have also been situations where one or two rankings were higher on a guy, so there wasn’t a consensus like there was with Tucker. In Tucker’s case, the rankings all had him much lower, and everything I’ve heard since the draft is the exact opposite of the rankings.
The other thing I didn’t like about the draft was the selection of Connor Joe. It wasn’t so much the selection as it was the plans the Pirates announced for Joe. They drafted him as an outfielder, and said he could also get time at first base. All of the reports on Joe say that he’s best as a catching prospect. He’s going to be a project there, but his bat plays better at the position. If he eventually has to move to a corner outfield spot, it won’t be a hard move to make. It didn’t make sense why the Pirates wouldn’t try Joe at catcher, giving him a shot where he has the most value first.
It appears they will be doing exactly that this off-season. Earlier this week it was reported that Joe will be getting time behind the plate this fall during instructs. The pick is still a bit of a reach, but it’s no longer a reach combined with lowering the player’s value by putting him at a less valuable position.
The 2014 draft doesn’t look as appealing as the 2013 group. Then again, it would be hard to match a group led by Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. Less than a month after the draft, the 2014 class is making a lot more sense. Cole Tucker isn’t looking like much of a reach at all, and might end up being a steal if some of the more optimistic evaluations are correct. Connor Joe is a bit of a reach, but the Pirates are now planning to use him where he has the most value. I don’t really put much stock into first impressions or small sample sizes, so I don’t have any evaluations on how the class is doing so far on the field. That said, the changes in value for both Tucker and Joe are enough to change my opinion on the draft. Those two picks were a big reason why I didn’t like this class originally. Now that those picks make more sense, the draft looks better.
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