First Pitch: First Round Draft Results for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Over the last four days, we have looked at the overall results since 1965 for the draft spots that the Pittsburgh Pirates have in the amateur draft this year. The Pirates pick seventh, 31st, 44th, 79th, 108th and 138th in this year’s draft, which will be held on June 10th and 11th. Those results showed all of the picks for the specific spots only, regardless of the team making those selections. Today I wanted to start looking at the history of the Pirates in each round of the draft. I haven’t decided yet how far I’ll go, but I think I’ll do at least the first five rounds, since that’s how many rounds MLB has decided to have in this year’s draft.

The first round picks as a group will be the best, though the Pirates (and every other team) don’t always receive their best results from first round picks in a particular year. We will do a comparison after each round, starting with the summary of tomorrow’s article.

The Pirates have made 67 first round picks since the draft started in 1965. I’ve decided not to include the players who didn’t sign. There have only been three and they are all fairly recent pitchers, Mark Appel, Nick Lodolo and Gunnar Hoglund. I’ve also eliminated the six players who are still in the minors, so our sample group below includes 58 draft picks.

Of those 58 picks, 21 never made the majors. The highest pick in that group was Mark Merchant, who was taken second overall in 1987. The only other top ten overall picks not to make the majors were Wayne Dickerson (1965) and Bobby Bradley (1999).

Of the 37 first round picks who have made the majors, nine of them have a negative career WAR. The worst from that group is -3.6 from Chad Hermansen. We also have 1969 first round pick John Morlan as the only player with 0.0 WAR.

That leaves 27 players out of 58 who had varying degrees of success in the majors. The lowest ten in that group have somewhere between 0.1 WAR and 2.2 WAR career. So while it’s positive value, it’s a very low value. Of the other 17 players, seven of them have a career WAR under 10.0, led by Jameson Taillon (8.2). So it works out well for a top ten list to have all of the players who surpassed 10.0 WAR in their career. Here’s that list:

  1. Barry Bonds, 162.8
  2. Andrew McCutchen 44.8
  3. Jason Kendall, 41.7
  4. Richie Hebner, 33.0
  5. Gerrit Cole, 23.9
  6. Neil Walker, 20.0
  7. Jeff King, 16.8
  8. Craig Reynolds, 13.1
  9. Kris Benson, 12.9
  10. Paul Maholm, 11.9

Having Bonds on this list obviously helps a lot for this next stat. The average career WAR for all 58 first round picks is 7.1. Without Bonds included, it is 4.4 WAR on average. We can use all of these stats for a comparison tomorrow with the second round picks.





By John Dreker

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a recap of the Major League debut for one of the Pirates greatest pitchers of all-time and also one of the greatest pitching performances of all-time.

Dann Bilardello, catcher for the 1989-90 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Dodgers as their first round draft pick in 1978, chosen seventh overall. Before making it to the majors with Los Angeles, he was taken in the 1982 Rule 5 draft by the Reds. He hit .238 with 38 RBIs during his rookie season in 1983, playing in 109 games that year. It would end up being the best season of his eight-year big league career. Bilardello spent two more years in Cincinnati, then one year in Montreal, before spending all of the 1987-88 seasons in the minors. The Pirates purchased his contract from Montreal on March 22, 1987. He would last four months with the team in Triple-A, before being sold to the Royals in July of 1987. Bilardello became a free agent after the 1988 season, choosing to sign with the Pirates in January of 1989. He began the year in Triple-A, getting called up by the Pirates for a month in early June, then again when the roster expanded in September. Bilardello started 25 games that year, hitting .225 with eight RBIs. In 1990, he had three short stints with the Pirates, getting into 19 games total, with an .054 batting average. He played 32 games for the Padres between the 1991-92 seasons, before finishing his career in the minors in 1994.

Chuck Hartenstein, pitcher for the 1969-70 Pirates. He was signed originally by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1964 and it didn’t take long for him to make his strange Major League debut. In 1965, he was a September call-up after going 12-7, 2.18 in Double-A ball. Hartenstein played just one game that year for the Cubs, coming on September 11, when he came in as a pinch-runner. It was the only time in his six-year Major League career that he wasn’t used as a pitcher. Hartenstein was a September call-up again in 1966, pitching well in five appearances. In 1967, he came up to the majors in June, pitching 45 games for the Cubs. He had a 3.08 ERA in 73 innings, winning nine games and saving another ten. His numbers weren’t as good in 1968, as he went 2-4, 4.54, getting just 28 appearances and 35.2 innings. The Pirates acquired him from Chicago on January 15,1969, along with infielder Ron Campbell in exchange for outfielder Manny Jimenez. Hartenstein’s first season in Pittsburgh would end up being the only full season that he spent in the majors. He went 5-4, 3.95 in 56 appearances with 95.2 innings pitched and ten saves. In 1970, he made 17 appearances, with a 4.56 ERA for the Pirates, before they put him on waivers in June, where he was picked up by the Cardinals. He finished that 1970 season with the Red Sox, then spent the next six years in the minors. In 1977, he made 13 appearances for the new expansion team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Hartenstein pitched 187 Major League games over his 14-year pro career, all as a reliever.

Jack Cronin, pitcher for the 1898 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1895 and was in the majors by the end of the year, pitching for the Brooklyn Grooms. He got hit hard in two relief appearances, allowing ten hits and eight runs in five innings. Cronin then spent the next three years in the minors, getting his second chance at the big leagues with the 1898 Pirates, late in the season. His first appearances came on September 20th and it was in Brooklyn against his former team. Cronin pitched shutout ball, as the Pirates won 15-0 that day. He allowed five singles, three walks and he struck out five batters. Part of the reason Cronin was able to start for the Pirates is because one of the regular starters, Billy Rhines, had been suspended for leaving the team. Cronin ended up going 2-2, 3.54 in four starts for the Pirates. In 1899, he went to Spring Training with the Pirates, but he opened the season in the minors after getting sold to the Detroit Tigers of the Western League on March 16th. The Reds gave him a late season trial before returning him to Detroit for the entire 1900 season. When the American League became a major league in 1901, a move that made Detroit a big league team, Cronin remained with the Tigers and won 13 games. He was in the big leagues until 1904, then finished his career in the minors in 1912. During the 1905 season, while playing for Providence of the Eastern League, he won 29 games.

May 26, 1898

Sam Leever began a successful 13-year career during an 11-7 Pittsburgh loss to the Washington Senators. He was the third pitcher of the day for the Pirates, coming in during the second inning with his team down 5-2. He finished off the game, allowing six more runs, four of them coming in the seventh inning with Pittsburgh down 7-6 at the time. The local newspaper at the time praised his speed and control, saying “if he listened to instructions he should become a winner”. Leever went on to win 194 big league games, all for the Pirates. In a post-game interview, he promised to become a better hitter. The loss was a tough one for the Pirates that day. Washington was a last place team, coming into the game with a 6-22 record. The Senators manager was Tom Brown, a player for the Pirates from 1885-1887. He lasted just nine more games at the helm before being replaced. The third baseman for Washington that day was Albert “Butts” Wagner, older brother of Honus Wagner.

May 26, 1959

On this date in 1959, Harvey Haddix pitched one of the most famous losses ever, going down 1-0 to the Milwaukee Braves in 13 innings. He retired the first 36 batters he faced that day, before the first batter in the 13th reached on an error. That was followed by an out, an intentional walk and an odd double. Joe Adcock homered, then passed Hank Aaron on the bases. Instead of a 3-0 loss, it was a 1-0 game and Haddix got credit for an extra out in his pitching line. Haddix struck out eight batters.

Here’s the boxscore

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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