Morning Report: Pirates Having Trouble Finding Late Round Draft Talent

The current front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates has been together for seven drafts now. That first draft in 2008 has produced seven players that have reached the majors, so it was quite successful in that regard. For this article though, we are going to take a look at how they did after the first ten rounds and what is left in the system from each year. The closer to 2014 we get, the more we will focus on the group, rather than the individuals that are left and those that looked like possible sleepers.


Back when they still did 50 rounds, the Pirates signed some players in rounds that don’t exist anymore, but none after the 20th round amounted to anything. The biggest names that signed from this late round group were Quinton Miller, Jarek Cunningham and Wes Freeman. All were six-figure bonuses out of HS and both Miller and Cunningham are still in the system, though possibly not for long. Both reached minor league free agency this year, so it’s possible that no one will be left among signed players by the time next season rolls around. Matt Curry was drafted in 2008, but he did not sign until he was redrafted in 2010 by the Pirates. There is a good chance that the Pirates won’t get anything from these late round picks.


This year is good and bad. The Pirates picked three players after the tenth round that made the majors already, only one was signed by them though, and he isn’t around anymore. They signed Phil Irwin, who pitched one game each of the last two seasons for the Pirates before they lost him on waivers to the Texas Rangers. He has since been released. They didn’t sign Matt Den Dekker and Jake Lamb. Den Dekker is an outfielder for the Mets, while Lamb made his debut in August for the Diamondbacks. Three players are still left in the system. Pitchers Jeff Inman and Ryan Beckman were relievers in Altoona this year, while Walker Gourley played everywhere for Bradenton, including four pitching appearances. The biggest signing was Inman for $425,000 and his career has been derailed by injuries.

So far, Casey Sadler is the best late round pick of the Pirates in the last seven years (Photo by: David Hague)
So far, Casey Sadler is the best late round pick of the Pirates in the last seven years (Photo by: David Hague)


Now we get into a time with more players around and our first current player on the Pirates. Casey Sadler is with the Pirates right now and he was one of four players to sign for six-figure contracts. As of right now, it looks like the Pirates missed on the other three players and all of them got at least $400,000 to sign. Ryan Hafner had trouble in the Bradenton bullpen this year, while Jared Lakind moved from first base to pitcher last year and is slowly making progress. He is in the West Virginia bullpen and far from a prospect at this point. Andrew Maggi had a solid season in Altoona, but he is 25 years old already and will probably top out at AAA, possibly getting a cup of coffee in the bigs due to his speed and versatility in the field. Hafner probably has the best shot at being something because he has a very good arm and excellent stuff when his command is on.

Also in the system still from this draft are Matt Curry, Justin Howard, Kelson Brown and Bryton Trepagnier. The first three are position players that spent most of their time at Altoona and each has had some success at the level, but none of the three project to make the majors. Curry was once a mid-level prospect, tearing up the South Atlantic League in 2011, before making the jump to AA. He’s appeared briefly at AAA twice and has played just 93 games over the last two seasons, not doing well either year. Trepagnier had a solid year in the bullpen for Bradenton, but he has command issues and his stuff is just average. It looks like Sadler will be the only real contributor from this group of eight players left.


Now would be a little too soon to really judge this class, especially the high school picks…if they actually signed anyone of note. That being said, the Pirates drafted Aaron Brown, Trea Turner, Zach Lemond and Eric Skoglund and didn’t sign any of them. All were taken within the first three round this year, so there was a chance to really add talent. Unfortunately, Turner was offered $500,000 and turned it down, which looked like a strong number back then and a bargain number now. As it was, they signed Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow, so they did okay for themselves in the first ten rounds.

Of the 14 guys that did sign after the tenth round, only two are left in the system and neither looks like a prospect. Candon Myles was sent down to Bristol this year and in four seasons at the lower levels, he has no homers and a .631 OPS. Jonathan Schwind is already 24 years old and has played just 192 games. He was hitting decent this year at Bradenton until he got injured, but he is far from a prospect. Myles signed for $125,000 to forego college and 23rd round pick Jordan Cooper signed for $100,000 out of Kentucky. It was the second time the Pirates drafted him and he didn’t last long in the system, despite having a solid arm that made him look interesting. He lasted just two seasons before being cut. There isn’t much chance for this group to even get one MLB appearance, but they also didn’t spend much on them.


This is the year the new draft rules started and it made it a lot harder to find possible high school talent that slipped due to bonus demands. The Pirates signed 12 players this year, three for over-slot bonuses. Max Moroff, John Kuchno and Hayden Hurst signed for $825,000 combined, $525,000 of it was over-slot money. Hurst switched from pitching to hitting this year and had a tough time as a DH in the GCL, so unless he turns into Stetson Allie, they probably won’t see anything from him. Kuchno had a decent season, with some strong outings and he’s a ground ball machine. He also has some control issues and a poor strikeout rate, so he might have a tough time being an impact player down the road. Moroff played second base for Bradenton this year and had trouble at the plate, but he is young, so he has time.

Of the other nine players, five aren’t around anymore, though Tyler Gaffney is still technically Pirates property on the restricted list while he plays football. Thomas Harlan has an outside chance at the majors because he is a lefty and he looked good at Altoona in a few of his outings. Chris Diaz, Jordan Steranka and Josh Smith are still around. Walker Buehler was the one that got away, though they had no chance at him with a Vanderbilt commitment and reported $1,000,000 price tag. He will be drafted very high in 2015 unless something goes drastically wrong. Kuchno, Moroff and possibly Harlan all have a chance to make the majors. None look like potential impact players.


It’s definitely too early to judge this class. They signed three players over-slot, Erich Weiss, Nick Buckner and Billy Roth. Weiss did okay in Low-A ball this year, but he turned 23 last week, so it’s hard to see him being anything more than a role player if all goes well. Buckner showed improvements over last year, while Roth really struggled. Both played at Bristol and were young for the league. Of the 14 other players signed, three are gone already, Beau Wallace, Cameron Griffin and Max Rossiter. No one really stands out among the rest.


Obviously it’s way too early to judge this class, but there were some strong debuts. John Sever is a big lefty that made the Appalachian League postseason all-star team. He was a college player in the APPY Lg, which is a tough level to get a read on, since most of the competition is younger. He really looked great with a very impressive strikeout rate. Luis Paula has a great arm and he looked good in his debut. Montana DuRapau had a strong debut in the Jamestown rotation, while Sam Street was called a potential middle innings reliever prior to the draft.

The only over-slot player might be the best late round pick that they have signed in the last seven years. There was word that Gage Hinsz turned down an offer to be picked in the second round, before going in the 11th round and signing for a $580,000 bonus. That was the highest total the Pirates could give him without paying a huge penalty. As it was, they still had to pay a tax on him. Hinsz has excellent stuff and a big frame with room to fill out. He went to a school that didn’t have a high school team, so he is considered raw despite how well he looks already. Basically, he has a huge upside and a chance to be the best pick from the Pirates entire 2014 signing class, not just the late round players.

So What’s the Conclusion?

Looking over the last seven years and even prior to that for the Pirates, we see that it was already tough to find late round gems. With the new rules put in place in 2012, it now makes it even harder. It’s very possible that from the 2008-2011 drafts, the Pirates will get a total of two games from Phil Irwin and whatever Casey Sadler amounts to and that’s it. Sadler has a chance to be a fifth starter, but more likely he will be a middle innings reliever, serving as the long man out of the pen and as an emergency starter.

From 2012 on, you still have 41 players in the system and one of them(Hinsz) has huge upside, but there are also a lot of players considered to be roster fillers at this point. With a very limited budget after the tenth round now, it’s going to be hard to find a talented player willing to sign. Some high school players used to get picked late, with hopes that their demands would drop, or the team could sign them if other players failed to sign. Now some of those same type of players are going undrafted because teams know they won’t have cap room to sign them. As an organization, you keep plugging away and hope your scouts dig up that one hidden gem that makes it all worth it.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 3.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead. They are four games ahead of  Atlanta and 1.5 ahead of Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. The Pirates are three games behind San Francisco for the first Wild Card spot.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes:  The Pirates beat the Cubs by a 7-3 score on Sunday. They take off today before playing the last 13 days in a row to finish out the season. On Tuesday night against the Red Sox, Charlie Morton will return from the disabled list to make his first start since August 15th. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.

MLB: Pittsburgh (79-70)  vs Red Sox (66-84) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (3.84 ERA, 120:55 K/BB, 152.1 IP) 9/16

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)


With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look back at some recent video from the GCL, which we will continue to do over the next few days. All videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. Below is a video of relief pitcher Yunior Montero, who had a 4.68 ERA in 25 innings, with 18 strikeouts and a .253 BAA. Montero has an interesting background story, which was covered here. The basics are that he was forced to sign three times due to the MLB age verification process and this year was the first time he pitched since 2011. In his only appearance back then, he threw five shutout innings. Shortly thereafter, his first contract was voided. The rest of the details are in the link.

Recent Transactions

9/8: Pirates release Ernesto Frieri.

9/7: Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness clear waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

This Date in Pirates History

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including two pitchers from the 1993 team, a reliever that made one appearances for the Pirates and the cousin of a United States President. Rich Robertson and Dennis Moeller were both lefty relievers for the 1993 Pirates, born one year apart. Robertson was a draft pick of the Pirates, while Moeller came over from the Royals in the Jose Lind deal. Dave Pagan pitched for the Pirates on September 27, 1977, throwing three scoreless innings. He struck out the first four batters he faced. Third baseman Elmer Cleveland played for the 1888 Alleghenys, coming over from the Giants in exchange for holdout third baseman Art Whitney. He was the cousin of Grover Cleveland, who was serving his first term as US President at the time.

You can find info on these four players here, as well as pitcher Fritz Ostermueller, who pitched with the team from 1944 until 1948. Also included in the link is a game recap from the 1978 season, with a big hit from Phil Garner.

On this date in 1914(exactly 100 years ago), the Pirates traveled home for one game against Cincinnati and won 9-0. They played two games in Chicago prior to that game and they stopped home for the Reds game on the way to Philadelphia. The Pirates lost both games to the Cubs, then after the drubbing of the Reds, they lost their next 12 games. Pittsburgh played a total of 16 road games in a row and 25 road games during the month of September that year.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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This late in the season good stories are kinda hard to come by. So a big pat on the back to John for making a rather bland, boring subject at least readable and interesting. Good job John.


I love the success that the FO had in their drafts and building the farm system. This article is extremely relevant IMO, however, because the Pirates wont have top of the draft selections anytime soon (hopefully). They do need to evaluate lower end talent better or have better fortune with it. Either way, that will be paramount to keeping this train rolling. Great article.


Very good synopsis, hard to draw too many concrete conclusion, other than the Pirates haven’t produce any late round talent.

I think the numbers is 8% of picks outside the first 10 rounds will eventually reach the majors, unless teams have found some player type that beats that number, there really isn’t much incentive to invest a large amount of time and effort into later round selections.


Interesting conclusion, Andrew.

From a probability standpoint, you certainly seem to be correct that the time and effort may not be worth it.

However, from a budgeting and value standpoint, how many area scouts making $30-40k would one Matt Adams-like find pay for? It’s obviously not that simple; you’d then need more cross checkers and analysts all the way up the line. And I suppose you eventually run into limitations of finding enough competent scouts to fill the positions such that you’re not wasting time. But it seems like clubs ask their scouts to cover a ton of ground considering the meager cost of operation.


Also the time limitation. If I have additional resources I’d pour them into the scouting top talent, the percentages are just better. For the Matt Adams like picks, the Cardinals should get credit for drafting him, but should also be asked why didn’t you take him higher.

Lee Young

Since the percentage for all of major league baseball is about 5-10% historically (not counting the ‘cup of coffee’ guys) after the first 10 rounds, I ain’t sweating this. 10% is for the first round and then it starts to drop dramatically after that.


Only the top five rounds, more or less, of the draft really matter. The rest are simply there to obtain teammates for the prospects to play with. For that matter one could make the case that only your first round, and your top international prospects, are consistently important.


Great topic, John. Can’t be easy coming up with fresh topics daily.

I think your analysis and conclusion questions strategy as much as scouting and development. This may be more philosophical than practical, but are the Pirates really targeting late round talent with their overslot strategy?

I’d argue no. They’re targeting early round talent that has dropped due to signing demands.

In order to find true late round talent, I believe the strategy must change. This is only anecdotal, but it seems like the late round finds are often polished college senior signs that lack big tools. Even the two Pirate “successes” listed above fit that bill. If the Pirates are to improve their performance on late round picks, better analysis and scouting of the college ranks would be a good place to start.


This is the classic strawman argument. The Pirates haven’t produced a MLBer in the late rounds, thus they have to change what they are doing. When in reality no team produces MLB talent consistently in the late rounds. It’s a lot like the Smizik folks saying that the Pirates have weak hitting at 1B, thus the offense is bad. It ignores context and the fact that the Pirates have the best offense in the NL. Everyone has weak spots.


Classic strawman argument? Coming from the guy who said this:

“The strategy is working, #1 farm system in MLB to start 2014.”?

I’m not going to gain anything having a conversation with someone who only wants to excuse the team they root for.

Have a nice day.


IMO, until I see the success rate from the rest of the teams in MLB, I don’t know if the failure of the Pirates to get late round gems is as bad as it looks. IMO, the international signings are just as important as the draft and I believe that they should be considered as draft picks much like the normal draft.


Bingo, this type of analysis is worthless without including a comparison to what other teams are doing. Under the old rules, almost every team drafted late round prep guys that could not be signed. With the new rules, its obviously much harder since you can’t get big ticket prep guys almost at all.


It most certainly is not “worthless”.

The goal of the draft isn’t to beat other teams, it is to stock your own farm system. If a strategy isn’t working, it isn’t working. Period.


Sure, it is not worthless, but it certainly lacks context and you can’t really judge performance unless you have a sense of what the expected outcome is. I mean, it isn’t particularly enlightening for me to say you are a bad lottery player just because you didn’t win the powerball.


The strategy is working, #1 farm system in MLB to start 2014.

It is worthless, because we have no idea if ANY team is having late round success or if this is the norm. My suspicion is that late round gems are far and few between and much more of a random event than any strategy on draft day.


If you look at B-R’s draft page and go thorugh some later rounds of drafts at random, you’ll see that once you get to the double-digit rounds, there are, among the guys who didn’t sign as higher picks later, not a lot of solid-to-very-good MLB players; your suspicion is correct.


You’re clearly not looking for discussion, only to hear someone agree with you. Have a good day.


Umm, you are the one avoiding my factual argument based upon logic. You cannot make any conclusions from John’s article as it stands. There is no context to his summary. You are assuming something is wrong with our team’s approach without any evidence that other teams are more successful.


I don’t think NMR understands what we are saying. what we are saying is that if we don’t know what success other teams are having with late round picks we can’t really grade ourselves. We are not trying to beat other teams, we are trying to establish a norm.



I’m not looking to “grade” anything, and neither was John.

dr dng

Question or two: I was a little surprised with the release of Phil Irwin. Is he still a free agent?
Would the Pirates have any interest in signing him?


Texas claimed him and he pitched in MLB for them this season, but he has since been released and is a free agent. His marvelous curveball hasn’t been enough.

Lee Young

actually, after his surgery his ‘stuff’ went downhill. I believe P2 had an article about it.

R Edwards

I noticed yesterday that two guys from other teams – Todd Frazier and Travis d’Arnaud – were never even drafted!

Lee Young

R……where in heaven’s name did you see that? Did you check this out on Baseball Reference before writing that? Probably not?

R Edwards

No, actually it was via Yahoo Sports. Go to Yahoo Sports and click on either player – and it shows undrafted for each. It would appear that, because they were supplemental round picks, that Yahoo Sports has a bug in their web site or data base that ignores supplemental round picks? Anyway, I didn’t make it up – but I also didn’t check them against a nother source.

Lee Young

Use Baseball Ref….I stay away from Yahoo Sports.


Both were drafted in the first round in 2007.

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