First Pitch: Pirates are Middle of the Pack When it Comes to Making Early Round Draft Picks

Over the last three days, we have looked at the draft results for the original 20 teams that were in existence when the Major League Baseball started the amateur draft in 1965. I looked at all of the draft picks who signed between 1965-2014 and came up with an average career WAR per team/round for each of the first three rounds. Today we look at the combined totals for those 20 teams for three rounds.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were second among all 20 teams in value from their first round picks. They dropped down to 15th when looking at second round picks, but they were right back up near the top the next day, finishing fourth among all third round picks. Since most of the value comes from the top three rounds every year, looking at the combined totals from those rounds will give you a great idea of how well the Pirates have drafted.

Here are the combined WAR numbers per qualified picks (signed 1965-2014 picks) for the original 20 teams over the first three rounds. This is the average per pick, then the rounds are added to see what they average per year from those picks. The top team is the Athletics, who have an average of 10.6 WAR for first rounders, 5.2 in the second round and 0.5 in the third, for a total of 16.3 WAR per year over the top three rounds. They are ranked below from best to worst:

  1. Athletics, 16.3
  2. Phillies, 14.4
  3. Angels, 14.0
  4. Orioles, 12.8
  5. Red Sox, 12.7
  6. Twins, 12.6
  7. Braves, 12.4
  8. Cubs, 11.9
  9. Pirates, 11.3
  10. Reds, 10.5
  11. Mets, 10.4
  12. Cardinals, 10.0
  13. Yankees, 9.8
  14. Indians, 9.2
  15. Tigers, 9.0
  16. White Sox, 8.4
  17. Astros, 8.1
  18. Dodgers, 7.7
  19. Rangers, 7.6
  20. Giants, 6.5

As you can see, the Pirates are basically average, despite being at the top of two rounds of results. If you average out these numbers, the 20 teams get 10.8 WAR per team, or 0.5 below the Pirates results.

What is interesting when you average out the first three rounds is that the Pirates fall behind the Cubs, who have been the worst team in this group when it comes to making first round picks.

I didn’t want to go through all 20 teams to see fourth and fifth round results, but we already had those numbers for the Pirates from our articles a few days ago. The drastic first round difference with the Cubs that was nullified over the next two rounds sparked interest in how these two clubs matched up over five rounds.

The Pirates have received 0.2 WAR per qualified pick in the fourth round and 0.8 WAR for fifth round picks. That would put them at 12.3 WAR for five rounds.

The Cubs have received 1.6 WAR from fourth round picks and 0.5 WAR from fifth round picks. That puts them at 14.0 WAR for five rounds.

What’s even more interesting than a comparison to one team that did poorly in the first round is the difference between the 7.1 WAR put up by the Pirates in the first round, compared to 5.2 over the next four rounds. Despite being one of the best teams in the third round, it shows just how much of their draft value comes from the first round compared to the rest of the rounds.

I hope you enjoyed the draft breakdowns over the last two weeks in First Pitch. It started with the look at seventh overall picks from each draft, then the other five spots the Pirates select in this year, followed by the round-by-round results for the Pirates over the years. The last four days have been comparisons to the rest of the league. If you search “first pitch” on the site, you will find every article in the 14-day series.

I’m going to have another draft article tomorrow, but this one is more of a fun one than one related to this year’s draft setup.




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


By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one major trade of note.

The Trade

On this date in 1953, the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled off one of the most significant trades in team history with the Chicago Cubs. In a deal that involved a total of ten players, six coming to Pittsburgh, along with $150,000 going to the Pirates, the team gave up All-Star outfielder Ralph Kiner. Pittsburgh also gave up catcher Joe Garagiola, outfielder George Metkovich and pitcher Howie Pollet. They got back outfielder Bob Addis, catcher Toby Atwell, third baseman George Freese, outfielder Gene Hermanski, pitcher Bob Schultz and first baseman Preston Ward.

Kiner by far was the best player in the deal, which not only brought a surplus of money to the Pirates, but also cut Kiner’s large salary from the payroll. The Pirates went 42-112 in 1952 and were on their way to another 100-loss season. The following is a brief summary of every player before and after the trade, with age (at the time of the deal) in parenthesis.

Kiner (30) Five time all-star, 301 homers, seven straight home run titles, five straight (1947-51) seasons of 100 runs and 100 RBIs. After deal, he played three seasons, hitting 68 homers and driving in 214 runs. Retired early due to bad back.

Garagiola (27) In eighth season, hit .273 with 50 walks and 54 RBIs in 118 games in 1952. Batting .233 at time of deal. Afterwards he played 142 games between 1953-54. Hit .272 in 1953 and .280 in limited at-bats in 1954.

Metkovich (32) In his ninth season in the majors, hitting just .146 in 26 games at time of deal. In 1952, he hit .271 over 125 games with seven homers. Afterwards, hit .234 in 61 games for 1953 Cubs, then .276 in 68 games (142 plate appearances) for 1954 Braves

Pollet (31) Two time 20-game winner with Cardinals (1946 and 1949) went 13-26 for 1951-52 Pirates and had a 10.66 ERA a time of deal. Afterwards, went 17-19, 4.19 in three years with Cubs, before splitting 1956 with White Sox and Pirates.

Addis (28) Played 204 Major League games over four seasons. Hit .295 in 93 games for 1952 Cubs, was hitting .167 (2-for-12) for 1953 Cubs. Afterwards, he pinch-hit three times(0-for-3) and pinch-ran once for Pirates before finishing his career in the minors.

Atwell (29) All-Star catcher as a rookie in 1952, hitting .290 in 107 games. Batting .230 at the time of the deal. Afterwards, played 232 games for Pirates over four seasons, hitting .250 with 104 walks and 64 RBIs. Finished career in 1956 with Braves.

Freese (28) Minor leaguer at the time, had one Major Meague game with Detroit Tigers in April,1953. Played for Pirates in 1955, hitting .257 with 22 RBIs in 51 games. Only other big league experience was nine games for 1961 Cubs.

Hermanski (33) In ninth season, hit .282 in 506 games for Dodgers, then .258 in 192 games for Cubs. Hitting .150 in 18 games at time of deal. For Pirates, played 41 games, mostly off the bench, hitting .177 with four RBIs. Played in minors in 1954 before retiring.

Ward (25) Played in majors in 1948 and 1950, before spending two years in military. Was playing center field and hitting .230 in 33 games for 1953 Cubs. Played 305 games in Pittsburgh over four seasons, hitting .240 with 111 RBIs, mostly playing at first base. Played another 284 games after leaving Pirates.

Schultz (29) Was 9-11, 4.69 in 53 games for Cubs over three seasons. At time of trade, was 0-2, 5.40 in 11.2 innings. Went 0-2, 8.20 in 18.2 innings for Pirates. Spent 1954 in minors, sold to Detroit in December 1954, pitched one game for 1955 Tigers. Spent 1956 in minors before retiring.

In summary, three of the players the Pirates got back were done with the team before the 1954 season started. Freese played just 51 games, but not until 1955 and Ward and Atwell were role players for four seasons. Only because of the fact Kiner dropped off so much and was done by the end of the 1955 season, did this deal not hurt the Pirates. Cubs didn’t get much out of the other two players while Pollet was a decent pitcher for three seasons for them.

The Players

Tony Pena, catcher for the 1980-86 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican in 1975, shortly after his 18th birthday. Pena made the majors in 1980 as a September call-up and hit .429 in eight games. He platooned in 1981, batting .300 in 66 games during the strike-shortened season. In 1982, he was the full-time starter and batted .296 in 138 games, while making his first All-Star appearance. That was followed by a strong 1983 season that saw him bat .301 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 151 games. He won his first Gold Glove award and finished 12th in the MVP voting.

In 1984, Pena matched his career high with 15 homers and set a personal best with 78 RBIs. He won his second Gold Glove and made his second All-Star appearance. His numbers dropped off in 1985 (.645 OPS), but he picked up his third Gold Glove and third All-Star appearance. He rebounded on offense in 1986 and made his fourth All-Star game. Right before the 1987 season, the Pirates traded him to the St Louis Cardinals for Andy Van Slyke, Mike Lavalliere and Mike Dunne. Pena played until 1997, though he had just one All-Star appearance and one Gold Glove left over his final 11 seasons. He was a .260 hitter in 1,988 career games and he hit .286 with 63 homers and 340 RBIs in 801 games with the Pirates.

Bob Klinger, pitcher for the 1938-43 Pirates. He didn’t debut in the majors until weeks before his 30th birthday. Klinger burst onto the scene in 1938 with a 12-5, 2.99 record in 159.1 innings, making 21 starts and seven relief appearances. He had a 14-17, 4.36 record in 225 innings the next season. He led the NL in losses. That was followed by a down year in 1940, which he split between 22 starts and 17 relief outings. Klinger bounced back the next three seasons, improving his ERA each year. He dropped it to 3.93 in 1941, down to 3.24 in 1942, down to a career best 2.72 mark in 1943, when he pitched 195 innings. Klinger lost the next two years to the war, then was released shortly after the 1946 season started. He finished his career with two seasons for the Boston Red Sox. With the Pirates, he was 62-58, 3.74 in 990.2 innings. He won 120 minor league games.

Larry Demery, pitcher for the 1974-77 Pirates. He was drafted by the Royals in the 22nd round of the 1971 amateur draft, although he chose not to sign. The next year the Pirates took him 15 rounds earlier and they were able to get him signed. Demery made 24 starts in A-ball as a 19-year-old in 1972, compiling a 10-6, 3.91 record. Moving up to Salem of the Carolina League the next season, he improved his ERA to 2.82 in 182 innings, earning a late promotion to Triple-A. It took just six starts in Triple-A in 1974 before the Pirates decided he was ready for the big leagues. Demery made 15 starts and four relief appearances, as the Pirates went to the postseason that rookie year. He had a 6-6, 4.25 record in 95.1 innings during the regular season, but was hit hard in his two playoff appearances, allowing four runs in one inning of work. In 1975, he was used mostly out of the pen and pitched well, posting a 2.90 ERA in 45 games and 114.2 innings. He again had playoff troubles, this time allowing four runs in two innings.

Demery had his best season in 1976, going 10-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 145 innings. He started off poorly in 1977, then won three straight starts in May before a string of five bad outings. He finished in the bullpen, making his last start in mid-June. He was put on waivers in March of 1978, getting picked up by the Blue Jays, who immediately returned him when it was discovered he had a sore arm. Demery was put back on waivers with no takers, returning to the minors instead. He stuck around for three more seasons, but pitched a total of just nine games in the minors during that time, retiring in 1980.

Herb Kelly, pitcher for the 1914-15 Pirates. He played minor league ball in 1911, then spent three years attending Notre Dame , where he was the team captain, before returning to pro baseball with the 1914 Pirates. He joined the roster on June 18th, but didn’t make his Major League debut until September 25th, when he was on the losing end of a 3-2 score against Brooklyn. Kelly was asked to start four days earlier, but couldn’t loosen up his arm. It was said at the time that he was going to be a great pitcher someday, possessing the arsenal, strong nerves and talent to be a star in the league. Kelly pitched three times in relief over the next week, then started the last game of the season, a 4-1 loss to the Reds. He pitched for Atlanta of the Southern Association in 1915, returning to the Pirates late in the season. He made four relief appearances and lost his only start, a 7-1 victory by the Cardinals, although he did pick up his only Major League win in relief that year. Kelly returned to the minors for two more seasons before his pro career was over.

George Yeager, catcher for the 1901 Pirates. He began his pro career in the minors in 1894, playing in the New England League for his first three seasons. In September of 1896, George got a trial with the Boston Beaneaters (current day Atlanta Braves). He would play parts of four seasons in Boston before spending the end of 1899 and all of 1900 back in the minors. Yeager was in the American League in 1900, the last year the league was considered a minor league. When the AL gained Major League status in 1901, Yeager was a member of the Cleveland Blues (Indians), spending the first four months with the team, hitting .223 in 39 games. He was released in late July and picked up by Pittsburgh a week later. He played 26 games for the Pirates over the last two months, twenty of those games behind the plate, four at third base and one across the diamond. He hit .264 with ten RBIs and nine runs scored in 100 plate appearances. Yeager signed with the New York Giants for 1902, then after being released in July, finished his big league career with the Baltimore Orioles (current day Yankees) later that season. He returned to the minors in 1903, playing seven more seasons before retiring. He was a .238 career hitter in 218 big league games.

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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