First Pitch: One Year Draft Trends Mean Nothing

For the last three days, I’ve been answering the same question over and over: Do the Pirates no longer like high school players in the draft?

Let’s just say that “Small Sample Size” isn’t just a phrase that should be applied to stats in April. The Pirates have drafted prep players for years, and suggesting that they’ve suddenly changed their approach based on one draft is like suggesting a guy will hit 162 homers because he hit a homer on Opening Day.

If you read my article last night, you’d know why the Pirates didn’t draft many prep guys. In short, the new draft system makes it harder to draft prep players outside of the top rounds. If a team like the Pirates decides that they want to go with college guys early, then they’re pretty much locked out from going after many prep guys in that draft. The alternative is passing on the college guys they like, solely to take a prep player, and that’s something that Neal Huntington said tonight that they would never do.

Making predictions based on small sample sizes in the draft is nothing new though.

Back in 2009 it was said that the Pirates were scared of tough negotiations after what happened with Pedro Alvarez, which is why they went signability with Tony Sanchez. They were destined to go signability in the first round each year, all because of that one draft. And they were destined to go with nothing but college hitters in the first, because that’s all they liked, based on their two drafts.

Then they took Jameson Taillon in the first round in 2010, which ruined those theories.

In 2011, the narrative was that they were afraid of Scott Boras, which was why they would pass on Gerrit Cole. Also, there were theories that they didn’t like college pitchers, because they invested so much in prep pitchers. But then they drafted Gerrit Cole, killing that theory. And they also drafted Josh Bell and broke the draft by giving him $5 M. Both were Boras clients, so the idea that Alvarez scared them off was killed. Or maybe not, since I still hear that sometimes.

In 2013 they had taken a prep pitcher, a college pitcher, and college hitters, so they weren’t going to take prep hitters. Then they took Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. And after taking Cole Tucker in 2014 and Kevin Newman this year, the narrative is already starting up that they prefer hitters over pitchers in the first round. Now granted, they have taken hitters with the majority of their first round picks (6 of 9 if you count Mark Appel and both 2013 picks). But this doesn’t seem like an organization that sticks to one strategy, or rules out entire groups of players.

That’s the key thing to remember. The only trend that the Pirates have shown over the years is that there is no trend. They draft based on what is available in that particular draft. Last year’s draft was somewhat centered around three over-slot prep pitchers. They didn’t go that route this year because of the limitations I mentioned above. Maybe those limitations will prevent them from going big on prep guys next year. Or maybe they’ll like a prep guy more than a college guy next year. And maybe it will be a pitcher. All I do know is that this will only depend on what is available in that draft, and not some pre-conceived strategy by the Pirates to only take players from one group, and to completely disregard players from another group.

**Don’t Rule Out the Pirates Going Over-Slot on Guys From Day Three. My day three recap with quotes from Neal Huntington about whether they will go over-slot. I’m already hearing a few things about the Pirates creating some money for some of the guys drafted today. Nothing official yet, and I’ll let you know more when I know it. But right now I’d say it’s a guarantee they’ll have some over-slot guys from day three.

**Draft Signing Rumors: Kramer, Hughston, Helton, Hightower and More. Speaking of rumors, here is everything we do know, based on a lot of searching, research, and some information we gathered ourselves. At this rate, the Pirates might wrap up their signings by the weekend.

Here were the day three picks, with information on every player taken. You can also find info on each player by checking out their player pages, linked from the Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**Rounds 11-15: Pirates Drafting the Late Bloomers

**Rounds 16-20: The Pirates Finally Draft a High School Player

**Rounds 21-25: A Future Backup Catcher in the 24th Round?

**Rounds 26-30: Filling Out the Morgantown and Bristol Rosters

**Rounds 31-35: Pirates Loading Up on Some of the Best College Seniors

**Rounds 36-40: Pirates Wrap Up the 2015 Draft

And here is the regular news today.

**Yhonathan Barrios Promoted to Indianapolis. In the article I detail the interesting transformation that led from Barrios being a big bonus bust as a hitter to a Triple-A pitcher and a legit relief prospect.

**Prospect Watch: Josh Bell, Willy Garcia, and Elias Diaz All Homer. Nice to see continued power from these three.

John Dreker will take a look at some of the highlights from day three in his Morning Report. The regular features will also return, with Nate Barnes looking at what is going right for Mark Melancon. Meanwhile, I’ll be spending my day working on upgrades to the membership software. For any of you who have experienced random login issues, I’m hoping to have that fixed for good soon.

  • Brian Finamore
    June 11, 2015 12:57 pm

    Draft position plays a major role in strategy as well, as Huntington seemed to indicate in Tim’s interview piece the other day. This is the first year in recent years that their first pick was outside the top 15. That makes a difference because the slot values really drop off fast in the first round and your bonus pool is therefore much smaller outside of the top 10-15. If there _is_ a trend that we may see in future years, it may be that they go college heavy when drafting in the back half, and take more prep guys early if they draft in the front half. Just a guess though.

    • Brian Finamore
      June 11, 2015 1:01 pm

      Which by the way, here’s hoping we are contending and drafting in the back half for years to come.

  • A couple of thoughts on this draft. The Pirates drafted 25 pitchers out of 41 selections. This seems like a lot for a system that already has numerous pitching prospects. In comparison, the Cardinals & Cubs drafted 18, the Reds 21, and the Brewers 26. Because they drafted so few high school players, it definitely seems like a quantity approach and hope that a few develop their tools. This is similar to their international signings approach.

    Secondly, both the draft last year and this year feature a lot of contact hitters and not very much power. I wonder if this is partly in response to changes in the game. Strikeouts are up and offense in general is down. If you have numerous contact hitters you might avoid some of the strikeouts and be able to manufacture runs. The Cardinals are a team that is good with this approach.

    • Couldn’t agree more with the second paragraph. When I was watching last night’s game I wasn’t hoping for a HR (which would’ve been great). I was just hoping for a gap shot or a double. Someone to square up on the ball. Make solid contact. Gap power. Insert cliché here. Basically everything Neal says about some of the recent draftees. It would seem that Casey Hughston is the only guy that didn’t fit that category from the draft. Don’t get me wrong – if you can find yourself a Joey Gallo that’s fantastic but I feel like the Pirates seem to lack that extra base hit when multiple runners are on.

  • Well put Tim. Seems like there was a lot of panic and anger surrounding this draft.

  • The way I see it right now, this system is crazy deep right now. All this talk about the middle infielders and not any real talk about Valerio who Tim and others rave about his defense. Plug the guys they sign into the system and see where the chips fall. I’m anticipating a big move at the deadline.

    • I actually am hoping for this as well. It doesn’t mean that this will happen, but when I look at our system and the recent draft I see a system that is, potentially, the deepest prospect system in baseball. We don’t, honestly, have as many high-end talents as some other teams, such as the Cubs, but from a depth perspective we are 25-30 deep in quality/upside and are adding to that with more quantity with some quality-upside from this draft. I would really like to see that depth help us at the major league level because we all know prospects do not always work out, the attrition rate is high.

  • If you look at the system, nobody advanced from the minors to the majors so far this year, and the 2014 Draft was arguably one of the best for prospects – Cole Tucker, Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, Tyler Eppler, Austin Coley, Gage Hinsz, Chase Simpson, John Sever, and Montana DuRapau. And, other pitching prospects were added in trades. Compressed?

    The one good thing about college player draftees is that they have a much shorter window to show they can stick. I think this draft brought a few sleepers, but nowhere near the talent we have seen from other recent drafts. That may be unfair because 2013 and 2014 were both excellent draft years for the Pirates.

    • The other way to look at it, em, is that the closer you are to that year’s draft, the more prospects there are. They tend to separate themselves after a year or two, thinning out the numbers.

    • I’m pretty sure that the majority of us were complaining about last years draft the day after it was done. Let’s give the prospects a chance in the system before we worry too much! I think there’s some very interesting names and stories. I don’t think anyone was excited about Sever or DuRapaunthis time last year.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        June 11, 2015 10:34 am

        I agree with that statement – no one had very high expectations for Sever especially, and he’s done pretty well.

        With that being said, I still do not think last year’s Pirates draft will yield many quality major leaguers, but time will tell.

  • Great work churning out the information! I have no idea who most of these guys are. I know I can come here and get a breakdown.

    • I agree – I try to do my homework before the draft, but I could not see where the Pirates were heading in this draft. We drafted some kids who would sign quickly and underslot, but who are the overslot picks? The phone calls or visits with a possible “11th Round” pick must have not gone well. Sometimes kids change their minds as the draft is progressing and they are seeing their friends names being called, but not so much this year. I wonder how many of these guys will end up at a JUCO or similar next year?

      • I think this is a quantity over quality thing. Getting guys that they like the athleticism and have some upside, but it seems like we may end up with more quantity of draftees signed at the end than in previous drafts. At least from the looks of the class it would appear that would be the case.

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