First Pitch: The Prep Pitchers Will Make or Break This Draft for the Pirates

Shortly after the draft ended today, the Pirates were on the phone with their new draft picks, talking prices and trying to get some deals done early.

“The process has started,” Pirates Amateur Scouting Director Joe DelliCarri said. “As we complete it, we’ll see where all of them go. We actually started the process last night a little bit, and start a lot more calls here tonight.”

We heard yesterday that a lot of the top ten round picks have already decided they are signing. That’s to be expected, as part of the new draft system means you need to be sure that a player will be signing, otherwise you lose the slot value for that pick, and may not get any compensation for losing the pick. So most players drafted will need to come with the assurance that they will be signing right away, and for a certain price range.

“We take guys that we like, that we believe we have a realistic chance to sign,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said. “There are times where the dollar figures will get away from where we feel are appropriate, and we may end up getting that same pick next year in the draft if it’s the first, second, or third round. If it’s a fourth, fifth, or sixth round pick, you obviously lose the pick. But those first three round picks, they’re protected picks. We’re working hard to make sure we gather information, so we’ve got a feel for what the expectations are.”

Most of the guys who have said they are going to sign are college guys. It makes sense that those guys would be the ones who are basically already a done deal, since that’s where you’ll save money for other picks. The big question mark is with the prep players, who come with commitments to major colleges and have a lot of leverage. It’s harder to get an exact figure before picking those guys. Some guys will immediately price themselves out of a team’s possible range, while others might be realistic.

“If we believe that we can meet those expectations, or we come up within striking distance of that dreaded common financial ground that I talk about so much, then we’ll take the player,” Huntington said on the decision to take a player who might be tough to sign. “If we can’t, then we’ll walk by the player if we think there’s no chance to sign him. It’s the nature of the beast. We used to be the ones in play on just about anybody, and now, given the small pool picking 29th … the system is what the system is, and we work to operate within that system.”

DelliCarri added a simple theory that some players are just going to sign because they’re ready to go pro.

“For me, it’s always been about if the young man is in a good spot, and this is what he really wants to do, you will see high school players sign for different amounts of money,” DelliCarri said. “I don’t think it hurts anyone when young men make decisions to sign. Everyone has their price at the start, but it’s more about they’re ready to go, and this is what they want to do. It’s always been that way from my perspective.”

The Pirates have a challenge with the four prep pitchers they took in the first 11 rounds. If they can sign all four of those guys, this draft class could be great, with several high upside arms, and a good chance that one or two of them break out to become top pitching prospects. They did the same thing in 2014, taking Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, and Gage Hinsz. Keller looks like the big breakout so far, and Hinsz isn’t far behind him.

In order to get all four arms, the Pirates might need to find a lot of bonus pool money with their other top ten round picks. That is especially true for 11th rounder Max Kranick, who will absolutely come in over-slot.

The interesting twist here is what we learned yesterday about Nick Lodolo, the competitive balance pick drafted 41st overall. He told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin that he was surprised by the pick, and that he hadn’t heard from the Pirates, and neither had his advisor. That’s strange when you think about how the Pirates would need to know his signability situation before taking him. The article noted that Lodolo told teams he was going to school, and was asking for a lot of money to break that commitment. The Pirates are hoping that they’ll not only have the money he wants, but will be able to sell him on the system.

“We’ve heard his name above us. We’ve heard his name behind us,” Huntington said on whether they thought Lodolo would fall to them. “We liked the player. We felt like, based on the information that we had, it was a good selection. We’ll go work to inform him and educate him about us, and how we do things, and the success that we’ve had. The opportunity that we’ll have, as a small market team that is going to have to grow its starting pitching, for the most part, internally. And the quality of coaches we have, the quality of non-baseball instruction and development that we give these players, as with every other player that we’re commencing negotiations with. Our goal and expectation is that we’ll get him into a Pirates uniform, and get him started on his way to the Major Leagues as quickly as possible.”

Lodolo is a tall lefty who has seen his velocity increase in some reports, touching the mid-90s at times. He’s followed by Travis MacGregor, Braeden Ogle, and Kranick, with all four tall, projectable pitchers already hitting mid-90s velocity, with the chance to grow into that as they add muscle and their frames mature.

The Pirates got a good hitter in the first round, and the big question about Will Craig is whether he can carry his power and the full impact of his bat over to pro ball. But the biggest upside of this draft class probably comes from the collective group of prep pitchers. If the Pirates can get all of these guys in the system, then they’ll have a much better chance of one of them breaking out, which will make this draft look good, even if Craig doesn’t show the best power numbers in pro ball.

**Day Three Recap: Why the Pirates Went College Heavy in the 2016 Draft. Our day three recap, looking at why the Pirates went with so many college players this year.

Here are all of the picks from today, with reports on each player, and a summary of each group. You can find links to all of the player pages in those articles, or on our Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**Francisco Liriano Rebounds but Pirates Bats Go Silent in Loss to Cardinals. Ala Saunders has the live recap from PNC Park, where Francisco Liriano showed some improvements, but Carlos Martinez shut the Pirates down.

**Prospect Watch: Glasnow Deals With “Slightly Stiff Lower Back”, Meadows Homers Again. Brian Peloza with a live report from Indianapolis, talking to Tyler Glasnow who said he had a stiff lower back.

**Pirates Place Francisco Cervelli on the DL After Hamate Surgery, Acquire Erik Kratz. The Pirates lose Cervelli for 4-6 weeks, and acquire a familiar face to back up Chris Stewart.




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Bill Harvey

IMO, Perez was a 0 possibility pick for the Pirates. They value character equal to, if not more than talent.

The only thing I can guess on Jones was that his demands exceeded what the Pirates would be willing to spend. Figuring that they really wanted the HS pitchers, I would imagine anything above slot value was a no for them as well.

As for not talking to Lodolo beforehand, they did the same with Appel, I just hope this time works out better.


The kid is 18 years old…just because he failed one drug test, I am not ready to convict him as being a bad character guy. I assume the Cardinals value character too, and they snatched him up right away….we don’t know the kid or all the details of what took place that led to the failed drug test….hopefully, for his sake, its a wakeup call for him and he learns from it.


If a kid can’t refrain from doing very stupid things knowing he’s about to have a life changing day for he and all his family, I have no sympathy. Pass.


Can anyone remember the last time a player who profiles as a first baseman/DH went as high as the 22 pick?


To make this a good draft, the Pirates also need to sign the HS third baseman with the Florida commitment – and the JC catcher with the USC commitment…if they sign those 5 kids, they will have secured a handful of prospects with significant upside…


The Pirates HOPEFULLY got a good hitter in the first round,

I corrected that for you, Tim. 🙂 🙂 🙂


They got a John Jason in the 1st round with slightly more power potential who should be a fast riser but will be blocked all along the way by players with more upside, including at the major league level with Bell.

Luke S

Other than Josh Bell, name one guy who would clearly block Will Craig?

More than a few had him as the best college bat in the draft. Jose Osuna doesnt block that. So in 3 years, hopefully we have the “problem” of having 2 legit 1B options.


Craig hasn’t played professional baseball yet – I will reserve judgment on his bat when he actually plays for a month or two. Connor Joe was supposed to be a good hitter too….sounds like everyone has already assumed Craig can’t and won’t play third base, which is disappointing…another head scratcher of a high pick by the Pirates….

Luke S

Not as head scratching as the comparisons you make that have little to do with reality.


Another correction: Who ‘could’ be a fast riser.

#22 picks in the draft are rarely ‘slam dunks’.

And his poor performance in a wood bat league concerns me.


I’ve asked this before….Would including college tuition (after their careers are over) in their contract help us sign them?

J Nader

Maybe someone knows for sure, but I think in the most recent CBA, all high school signees get a provision in their contracts covering their schooling when they return. It was done to close a loophole where teams could “overvalue” the cost of schooling and potentially get around the signing bonus pool limits

John Dreker

I haven’t heard of a high school player who didn’t get the college option recently. In fact, last year when we reported Nathan Trevillian signed, the bonus figure we got was $250,000, which we didn’t know at the time included the college part if he decided to go. Bonuses aren’t reported like that though, so we originally had a higher number for him


That is great news considering the high failure rate of draftees.


If that headline is the case, let’s hope this isn’t a repeat of the 2009 draft.


I think one of the places we should be able save a little money is with Will Craig. I know he is a junior but he doesn’t seem to be worth $2.2. I would low ball him at around $1.7 million and if he doesn’t accept, I wouldn’t really lose sleep over getting the 23 pick in 2017.


I’d be in favor of that….Craig may have been had with the 41 pick – how many first base/DH types go in the first round? Who was the last one that went as high as 22?


I actually agree with this. We would lose the draft pool money which would hurt but the way this season is going we could be looking at a much much higher pick next year and the extra 23rd pick would be quite fine bc Craig isn’t all that exciting


My biggest concern is with Craig. He seems like a John Kruk kind of player and that is such a narrow window. Perez was a top 10 talent passed right to the Cardinals, hate that.


Can’t say that I like the Craig pick much at all…not a good value at all. Ranked way lower than 22 and there was a ton of really good talent on the board there

Luke S

If we just blindly trust rankings from the usual guys who whiff as much as anyone, sure.

Every single year fans go “why did we take him, there was X, Y, and Z ranked higher still there”.



When was the last time a first base/DH type went as high as 22?

Luke S

Schwarber went 4th.

And no amount of him sitting in the OF makes him a good OFer, he’s absolutely awful in the OF and would be at 1B if not for Rizzo.


Perez AND Nolan Jones.

It is going to be interesting to follow those two (esp since Perez went to the Cards) and see who ends up with the better career.

Craig is just so one dimensional. If his wooden bat experience in the Cape Cod league is a portent of what he is going to do, this could be a wasted pick?

Bobby L

Passing on Jones and taking what I consider to be a lesser SS is a trait of this regime I don’t agree with. A glove first type vs what appears to be an all around player. Must be the money.

Perez will be a super star since the Cards signed him.

Craig is a bit puzzling. Hope he’s succesful, but will he be Pedro light?

J Nader

The draft is never about the money. Jones was projected about tehere and would have signed for slot or close to it I am sure. Each team has a pool of money, and the Pirates will spend every dollar they can on the draft.

Bobby L

The draft is about money. Think the Pirates would have had a better draft if they had the Reds or Padres amounts?

J Nader

Yes, I do, I think they would have drafted players that corresponded to their pool amount. What in their history leads you to believe that they would no spend on the draft? If anything, that is the one area where their willingness to spend can’t be questioned

Bobby L

I have not suggested they won’t spend. However, they do have internal checks on what they will spend. In Jones case (admittedly I don’t know what his demands are/were unlike you), I do wonder if they backed off because he wanted way more than they were willing to pay.

Luke S

With the new draft rules, there is a difference between “more than you want to pay”

and an amount that causes you to lose future picks. If they felt Jones was anywhere near that amount, its a bad pick. You’d have to go big time easy signs the rest of the draft and try to save a ton for 1 pick.


Tim: I agree that the value of this draft will be in whether they can sign Nick Lodolo, Braeden Ogle, and Max Kranick. An interesting draft, which becomes even more interesting knowing that the Pirates never made any contact with Nick Lodolo or his Advisor before picking him at # 41 with the First Round Supplemental Pick. BA had him listed as #80 in their Top 200.

Since none of these “rumors” from players about what it will take for them to abandon their commitments to a college are big secrets, maybe NH knew it would take slot dollars of a First Round Supplemental Pick to get this kid.

In the 2015 Draft, HS pitchers drafted around that number were #39 Jake Woodford signed for $1.8 mil, Tristan McKenzie #42 signed for $2.3 mil, Peter Lambert #44 signed for $1.5 mil. HS Pitchers around #80 were signed for $1.1 mil.

J Nader

Yeah, despite how much a guy wants to go to college, if you approach him with a $1 mil+ signing bonus, and he’s not a top prospect who is looking at top half of the first round in a few years, then it’s almost always the right choice to go pro, unless you don’t NEED the money and want the college experience.


“The opportunity that we’ll have, as a small market team that is going to have to grow its starting pitching, for the most part, internally. And the quality of coaches we have, the quality of non-baseball instruction and development that we give these players, as with every other player that we’re commencing negotiations with.” It seems like this has been a huge selling point lately and the reason they took more prep arms this year and will possibly get them all to sign. It’s not always just about the short term money, kids have to look at what’s best in the long term as well.

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