Last year was the first year the Pirates really had a lower draft pick. They dropped down to the middle of the first round in 2013, but their compensation pick for Mark Appel from the 2012 draft still had them picking in the top ten in 2013. This time around, they picked 24th overall, followed by 39th overall in a pick they got via trade for Bryan Morris.
The results were questionable at the time. They drafted Cole Tucker in the first round and Connor Joe in the second round, with each pick looking like a reach based on the available rankings. After the draft, it became clear that the industry rated Tucker much higher than the public rankings. But the selection of Joe was still a bit of a mystery, and one that didn’t really get solved, since a back injury prevented him from playing any games.
Today I wrote about the Pirates’ strategy with the new draft rules, which involves drafting athletic players with good hitting skills and moving them to prime defensive positions. Joe is one of those guys, moving from the outfield to third base this year. That strategy clears up a lot about the selections of guys like JaCoby Jones, Jordan Luplow, and Joe. All three were drafted as outfielders with high picks, and the Pirates don’t exactly have a strong need for outfielders. All three are now infielders, playing on the left side, where the Pirates have a bigger need.
I would expect more of this strategy in the future. This approach is similar to the approach the Pirates took when they loaded up on projectable prep pitchers. Individually, there’s a lot of risk and a chance for a reward. But if you add enough of those guys, eventually one or two will break out and make the process all worthwhile. You’re not looking for every prospect to work out. You’re just hoping for one Tyler Glasnow and one Nick Kingham to emerge in order to justify the whole process.
As a result, I’d expect the Pirates to have more unconventional drafts in the future, as they will be seeing potential value where others don’t. This process isn’t guaranteed to work. It’s going to really test the scouting and development skills in the system, primarily on the position player side. But the risk would be worthwhile, especially if it develops just one top prospect at shortstop and third base. It’s an unconventional way to do things, but the Pirates need to be looking at unconventional approaches, especially since their ability to spend whatever they want on the draft is now gone, and their spending limits are decreased by their new role as a contender.
**We are down to our final case of the 2015 Prospect Guide from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current stock is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**Pirates Prospects Is Looking For Paid Writers In Altoona And West Virginia. We’re looking for new writers to cover the home games in Altoona and West Virginia, and to provide prospect reports.