First Pitch: Pirates Have Found Some of the Best Late Round Draft Gems

Baseball America posted an article on Tuesday afternoon taking a look at some of the best late round gems over the years. The various people in charge of the draft for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the years found some of the best late round gems.

BA takes a look at the picks made in round 21 through round 40 and then chose a top player for each spot, as well as three other notable picks made in that round. This was done in response to MLB cutting the draft down this year, possibly as low as five rounds, while there has been talk of limiting the draft to 20 rounds in the future.

The current draft setup used through 2019 limited teams to 40 rounds of picks. In earlier drafts there were there 50 rounds of picks, and even earlier days included teams making picks until they were done. Most notably in that last category would be Mike Piazza getting selected in the 62nd round.

So with 80 players mentioned in this article, the average team would have 2-3 picks. Of course the Pirates and 19 other teams have a slight advantage over the other ten clubs because there were only 20 MLB teams during the first draft. That being said, a team that’s been around since 1965 should still have three players listed here on average. The Pittsburgh Pirates have seven players.

The bad part of these results is that the Pirates got almost zero production from these players. Here are the seven, along with a brief note on why they were good picks, but didn’t really help the Pirates.

21st round: Dave Dravecky – He never played for the Pirates, getting traded three years after being drafted. He then played eight years in the majors and was an All-Star in 1983.

26th round: Rick Reed – He played four seasons for the Pirates, but only 124.2 innings over that time. His best days were with the Mets years later when he made two All-Star teams. He was released by the Pirates, though he was still far from being a star at that time.

33rd round: Nyjer Morgan – He played parts of 2 1/2 seasons in Pittsburgh, batting .286 in 157 games. His best season was 2011 with the Milwaukee Brewers (3.0 WAR), though he at least brought value back in the Joel Hanrahan trade.

37th round: Chris Peters – Out of all of the players here, he saw the most time with the Pirates. He was around for five seasons, though just one was a full year in the majors. He was 17-21, 4.57 in 348.2 innings. The Pirates let him go after the 2000 season and he pitched just one more year in the majors.

38th: Rajai Davis – He played 44 games in two seasons in Pittsburgh, then was part of the horrific Matt Morris deal, where the Pirates gave up something to a team trying desperately to unload a player. Davis has played 1,448 big league games, which is impressive for any round. That being said, he’s only put up 11.9 WAR in his career.

39th: Vance Law – The Pirates drafted the son of team great Vern Law in the 39th round. That feels like a favor to one of their star players. He only played 55 games over two seasons for the Pirates, plus they made a bad trade getting rid of him, but it was still a great selection for the 39th round. He played 11 years in the majors and made the All-Star team once.

40th: Daniel Zamora – We start and end with good picks that didn’t play for the Pirates. Zamora (pictured above) was traded for Josh Smoker, who didn’t contribute much to the Pirates. Meanwhile, Zamora has pitched 33 games in relief for the New York Mets over the last two seasons.

Going by WAR, Peters is the most valuable player as far as on field production with the Pirates. He had a 3.1 mark, slightly ahead of Morgan. Reed, Law and Davis each had negative WAR values with the Pirates, and Zamora and Dravecky debuted with other teams. Morgan would be the most valuable overall here because of the Hanrahan deal.




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By John Dreker

One trade of note, one game of note and one player born on this date.

On this date in 1930, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away Hall of Fame pitcher Burleigh Grimes to the Boston Braves in exchange for veteran pitcher Percy Jones and cash. It was the second time that they had traded away Grimes. The Pirates reacquired Grimes in February of 1928 and it worked out well. In 1928, he led the NL in wins (25) innings pitched (330.2) complete games (28) and shutouts with four. He went 17-7, 3.13 in 232.2 innings in 1929. Grimes was 36 years old at the time of the trade, while Jones was 30 years old. Jones had pitched eight season in the majors prior to 1930. In 1929 he went 7-15, 4.64 for the last place Braves. The year before, he had a 10-6, 4.03 record for the Cubs.

This trade didn’t work out well for the Pirates except for the cash part of the deal I’d guess. Grimes wasn’t a star pitcher anymore, but Jones lasted just two months in Pittsburgh and never pitched in the majors again. In nine games, two as a starter, he went 0-1, 6.63 in 19 innings. Grimes lasted another five years, although he had just two good seasons left in him. He won 16 games in 1930, then 17 the next year, but was 12-23 the last three season combined. The last eight games of his career were spent with the Pirates in 1934. The Braves only got three wins from Grimes before they shipped him to the Cardinals for two pitchers in June of 1930.

Claude Passeau, pitcher for the Pirates on September 29, 1935, is the only former Pirates player born on this date. He pitched four seasons in the minors before making his Major League debut for the Pirates on the last day of the 1935 season. Passeau pitched for Des Moines of the Western League that year, going 20-11 in 244 innings. The Pittsburgh paper at the time referred to him in the game recap and boxscore as Passo, saying he also goes by the name Passeau. The 6″3 righty lasted just three innings before he was chased from the game. He took the loss, allowing seven hits, four runs, two walks and he struck out one batter. Shortly after the season ended, the Pirates traded him, along with catcher Earl Grace, to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Al Todd. The deal would not work out well for the Pirates. Passeau had 162 wins in his career, including ten straight seasons with double digit win totals. He ranks sixth among pitchers in most wins after leaving the Pirates. The leader in that category is the aforementioned Burleigh Grimes.

On this date in 2001, the Pirates opened up PNC Park against the Cincinnati Reds. They had spent the last thirty-one seasons playing their home games at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates opened the 2001 season by going 3-3 on the road before coming home for their season opener in Pittsburgh. On that Monday afternoon, 36,954 fans showed up to see the Pirates lose to the Cincinnati Reds by an 8-2 score. Chris Reitsma and three relievers shutdown the Pirates that day. Pittsburgh would win their first game at the new stadium two nights later, coming back from 3-0 and 5-3 deficits to win 6-5. The mood wasn’t all festive before the opening game. Earlier that day Willie Stargell passed away at age 61.

The Pirates lineup that day was:

Adrian Brown CF

Derek Bell RF

Jason Kendall C

Brian Giles LF

Aramis Ramirez 3B

Kevin Young 1B

Pat Meares 2B

Jack Wilson SS

Todd Ritchie P

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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