First Pitch: A Look at the Pirates Draft Results Since 1965 in the Late Rounds

Yesterday we wrapped up 14 days of draft results for the Pittsburgh Pirates, looking at them three different ways. You can find the articles by searching “First Pitch” on the site and looking at the last two weeks of results. I mentioned yesterday that today would be draft related, but more of a fun article. It’s something I wanted to know after doing all of that research.

We already figured out the numbers for the Pirates when they draft in the first ten rounds. I went to ten rounds because it was originally a possibility for this year’s draft, so I wanted to see what the Pirates could possibly be missing by not having rounds six through ten this year. Today’s article is looking at rounds 11 on up since the draft started in 1965. The draft has been set at different lengths throughout the year, with the Pirates once making as many as 66 rounds of picks (1988).

Below you will see how many players made the majors from each round, the total WAR for those picks and the best pick in each round. I’ve only included players who signed with the Pirates. It’s a lot of work, but I was very curious to see the results. You will see some results where the best player has a better WAR than the total for the group. The WAR numbers are courtesy of Baseball-Reference. After the 40th round, I only included rounds that had a player make it to the majors.

11th round

Players: 6

Total WAR: 14.4

Best: Milt May, 16.5 WAR

12th

Players: 3

Total WAR: 23.6

Best: John Smiley, 20.0

13th

Players: 2

Total WAR: 4.9

Best: Brian Shouse, 5.2

14th

Players: 6

Total WAR: 55.1

Best: Dave Parker, 40.1

15th

Players: 3

Total WAR: 2.3

Best: Rick White, 2.3

16th

Players: 2

Total WAR: 0.9

Best: Ron Wotus, 1.0

17th

Players: 5

Total WAR: 22.7

Best: Rick Honeycutt, 21.6

18th

Players: 5

Total WAR: 22.4

Best: Bob Moose, 7.6

19th

Players: 4

Total WAR: 2.5

Best: Jeff Bennett, 1.3

20th

Players: 6

Total WAR: 65.1

Best: Jose Bautista, 36.7

21st

Players: 2

Total WAR: 13.5

Best: Dave Dravecky, 13.8

22nd

Players: 1

Total WAR: 24.1

Best: Freddie Patek, 24.1

23rd

Players: 1

Total WAR: 5.9

Best: Ed Ott, 5.9

24th

Players: 4

Total WAR: -0.7

Best: Josh Sharpless, 0.2

25th

Players: 4

Total WAR: 6.7

Best: Nate McLouth, 6.5

26th

Players: 3

Total WAR: 23.6

Best: Rick Reed, 21.0

27th

Players: 2

Total WAR: -0.5

Best: Jeff Zaske, 0.2

28th

Players: 3

Total WAR: -0.3

Best: Steve Sparks, 0.0

29th

Players: 1

Total WAR: -0.8

Best: Geoff Hartlieb, -0.8

30th

Players: 3

Total WAR: 8.2

Best: Mike Gonzalez, 7.7

31st

Players: 3

Total WAR: 1.3

Best: Jim Nelson, 1.7

32nd

Players: 1

Total WAR: -0.8

Best: Montana DuRapau, -0.8

33rd

Players: 2

Total WAR: 10.7

Best: Nyjer Morgan, 6.8

34th: None

35th: None

36th

Players: 1

Total WAR: -0.4

Best: James Marvel, -0.4

37th

Players: 3

Total WAR: 3.0

Best: Chris Peters, 3.1

38th

Players: 1

Total WAR: 11.9

Best: Rajai Davis, 11.9

39th

Players: 2

Total WAR: 11.3

Best: Vance Law, 10.7

40th

Players: 1

Total WAR: 0.3

Best: Daniel Zamora, 0.3

43rd

Players: 1

Total WAR: 0.6

Best: Shane Youman, 0.6

47th

Players: 1

Total WAR: 3.3

Best: Marc Wilkins, 3.3

48th

Players: 1

Total WAR: -0.4

Best: Adrian Brown, -0.4

53rd

Players: 2

Total WAR: 5.8

Best: Rob Mackowiak, 5.6

The records show that the Pirates have drafted and signed 85 Major League players after the tenth round, with some success stories in the group, but mostly a lot of bench/bullpen players who didn’t last long in the majors.

The fact that no 34th or 35th round picks ever made it is a little surprising. Those picks were sometimes draft and follow guys back when the signing deadline was much longer than it is now. What makes it a little easier to believe is that the Pirates have only signed 16 picks from the 34th round and 21 from the 35th round, so combined the group is smaller than many of the earlier rounds. I’ll note that Deion Walker was drafted in the 35th round in 2019 and he is definitely a prospect to watch, so maybe he could change the luck of that round.

Some of you are probably wondering who the other 53rd round player is that joined Mackowiak in the majors. That would be Paul Miller, pitcher for the 1991-93 Pirates.

My favorite late round draft success story is when they pulled off magic in 1998 by getting all four of their picks in the 17-20 rounds to the majors. Those are rounds that have produced 20 total players over the years, approximately one every three years. They got four of those players in one year with pitchers Dave Williams, Joe Beimel, Jeff Bennett and Mike Johnston.

UPDATE: Steve Cooke was a 35th round pick in 1989 and he signed in May of 1990, I believe as a draft-and-follow. That would make him eligible for the list above, but Baseball-Reference has him listed as not signing as a draft pick. I’m not sure why.

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Another look at out of the way towns, this time in Louisiana

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

Just two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, although one of them went on to the Hall of Fame. It has been a big date for draft picks in team history as noted below.

The Players

Ray Rohwer, outfielder for the 1921-22 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of the University of California on March 2, 1921. Rohwer was the school’s captain in 1920, hitting .351 with 17 stolen bases and 22 extra-base hits during the abbreviated college season. He had attended the school prior to WWI, but returned (after graduating already) in 1920 to play baseball. Despite being just months shy of his 25th birthday, Rohwer had never played pro ball before, but he made the 1921 Pirates squad. He played 30 games that rookie season, getting just three starts and only 40 at-bats. He hit .250 with six RBIs and six runs scored. He had a bigger role in the 1922 season, playing 53 games, 28 as a starter. He hit .295 with three homers and 22 RBIs. In December of 1922, Rohwer was traded to Seattle of the Pacific Coast League, along with pitcher Sheriff Blake, in exchange for infielder Spencer Adams. He would end up playing nine seasons in the PCL before he retired, without ever returning to the majors. He played over 1,300 minor league games, hitting nearly 200 homers with a .299 batting average.

Jack Chesbro, pitcher for the Pirates from 1899 until 1902. He played five seasons in the minors leagues prior to having his contract purchased by the Pirates. In July of 1899, Pittsburgh bought him from the Richmond Bluebirds of the Atlantic League, where he had a 17-4 record. Chesbro during that rookie season was a far cry from the Hall of Fame pitcher he eventually became. He went 6-9, 4.11 in 149 innings, recording just 28 strikeouts. In the off-season he was traded to the Louisville Colonels in the 16-player Honus Wagner trade, although the move was temporary. When the Louisville franchise folded, he was assigned back to the Pirates. The Pirates were a much stronger team in 1900 and Chesbro showed improvements, but he was still the fifth best starter on the team, and not even the only future Hall of Famer. Pittsburgh also had Rube Waddell, an eccentric 23-year-old, who led the NL in ERA that season. Chesbro went 15-13 with a 3.67 ERA in 215.2 innings for a Pirates team that went 79-60, finishing in 2nd place.

Chesbro established himself as a star pitcher in 1901, helping the Pirates to their first NL title. He went 21-10, 2.38 in 287.2 innings, throwing a league leading six shutouts along the way. In 1902 he was even better, as were the Pirates, who had their highest winning percentage ever that season. Chesbro went 28-6, leading the league in wins, winning percentage, and his league leading eight shutouts set a franchise record (post-1887). His 28 wins that season are still the highest total in team history since 1900. That 1902 Pirates pitching staff was loaded with talent, having Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe, four pitchers who would be top starters on many clubs and a fifth starter named Ed Doheny, who went 16-4 with a 2.53 ERA. The Pirates lost both Chesbro and Tannehill to the American League after the 1902 season, as both jumped to the new league. He went on to have an incredible season for the New York Highlanders in 1904 when he went 41-12, 1.82 in 454.2 innings. He would win 42 games over the next two seasons with New York before his star faded, going 24-35 over his last three years.

The Draft Picks

With the 2020 draft just days away, we take note of the players the Pirates have selected on this date throughout the years.

2014: Mitch Keller, Cole Tucker

2012: Adrian Sampson, Jacob Stallings

2008: Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer, Chase d’Arnaud, Matt Hague

2001: John Van Benschoten, Chris Duffy, Zach Duke, Rajai Davis. Pirates also took Mark Guthrie and Steven Drew, although neither signed.

2000: Sean Burnett, Chris Young, Jose Bautista, Nate McLouth, Ian Snell

1989: Willie Greene, first round pick

1979: Mike Bielecki, 8th overall pick. Jose DeLeon, 3rd round

1974: Rod Scurry, 11th overall pick. Ed Whitson, 6th round

1973: Steve Nicosia, 24th overall pick

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