It’s difficult to predict what any team will do in the MLB draft these days.
Even when the Pirates had the first overall pick, we didn’t know the direction they would take until draft day. We didn’t see their 2021 plan fully play out until weeks later when they signed all of their over-slot prep picks.
The Pirates have the fourth pick on Sunday, and this year’s draft class is just as unpredictable. With that in mind, I asked our writers who they want in the first round, and what type of strategy they want to see.
For a preview of who is available, check out John Dreker’s breakdown from earlier this week.
If I was picking for the Pirates, my draft strategy going in could change depending on the first three picks. I’m going for Druw Jones or Jackson Holliday if either of them makes it to the fourth pick. If they don’t drop to the Pirates, then I prefer the pick of Cam Collier, who is not only a high upside pick, but he should allow for savings with the pick to be spread around to over-slot picks that dropped due to bonus demands.
From everything I’ve read, if he doesn’t go to the Pirates, then Collier is going in the 8-10 range, which is a drop of $1.6 M to $2.1 M in slot value. Part of my draft strategy would involve feeling out the bonus demands first, which is standard practice in the draft. I prefer Collier, but I’d be okay with Termarr Johnson if the demands are similar. I’d also be fine with local shortstop Cole Young if the price is significantly cheaper, which would give the Pirates an even bigger bonus pool to work with for late picks.
I think the Pirates attacked the draft perfectly last year. Even though I thought Henry Davis was still a nice pick, there were some savings involved because he probably would have went a few picks lower if the Pirates passed. That savings was spread around to three high upside high school picks, as well as two other high school picks getting bonuses that were above slot. If they can do that again, then there’s a chance for huge upside as a two-year group of picks.
While we won’t know for years if that strategy pays off for the 2021 class, I’d still be willing to double down on the approach, as long as I’m not passing up a player like Jones or Holliday to take that chance. I think if you have a chance for top tier talent, you have to take that player. If I get one of them, then I’d save with my 5th-10th round picks with college seniors so I could still add some strong over-slot picks with earlier picks. As my own studies have shown here, there is very little chance of a payoff in those rounds, but taking college seniors cheap doesn’t wipe away all chances either.
The Pirates have a great farm system right now, but they need more top tier talent to increase their odds of competing long-term. If they trust in their development team, then the correct strategy in my opinion is taking on risk in favor of potential huge upside.
There are a half dozen or so players the Pirates could legitimately take at 1-4. I don’t see how anybody can genuinely say this player for sure is better than that player, so unless they do something really odd, it’s going to be hard to criticize their pick. Of the top players, the two I’d prefer would be Druw Jones or Jackson Holliday. Neither seems likely to fall to the Pirates, so I’ll focus on the others.
It’s easiest as a process of elimination. One I’m pretty sure I don’t want is Brooks Lee. He already has an injury history and, especially bad, it includes back problems so, no. Kevin Parada looks like he might have the best combination of offensive upside and modest risk, and I wouldn’t pass on him just because he’s a catcher. I just think the prep guys probably have more overall upside. I was concerned about Termarr Johnson because he played against weak competition in high school, but Kiley McDaniel did a convincing job of talking him up recently. McDaniel also played down the swing-and-miss concerns about Elijah Green, who seems the consensus highest-upside player. Finally, there’s Cam Collier, who has done well at age 17 against JuCo players.
If he’s there, I probably couldn’t pass up Green. The Pirates need quality, not quantity. The notion that “they can’t afford to miss with a first-rounder” is misleading. A first-rounder who turns into an average major league regular is a successful pick, but it’s not what the Pirates need. They have lots of depth in the system; what they need is top-tier players, so going with a guy just because he’s less likely to flop doesn’t really make sense if the ceiling is lower. If Green isn’t there, I’d probably go with Collier or Johnson, in that order. At least one report has said the Pirates are likely to try to use the slot approach they did last year, and those two supposedly are the most likely of the better talents to sign under slot at 1-4. Of course, it’s impossible to know who’ll sign for what, and even harder to know what over-slot candidates might be available later. The Pirates will be talking with quite a few agents, no doubt, so they’ll have better information on what exactly they can do.
Entering the season, I had a few names in mind that I liked, but wasn’t sure about the value in taking them with the fourth overall pick — Chase DeLauter, Gavin Cross, and Cam Collier.
Now here we are with the draft in a couple of days and not only has Collier been rumored to the Pirates, but he’s turned himself into a legitimate option as the fourth overall pick.
When looking at the draft one of the biggest mistakes you can make is drafting for need, especially with the fourth overall pick. It’s easy to overlook the 17-year-old’s potential to remain at third base, especially now with Ke’Bryan Hayes locked up long term, but Collier’s bat is enough to get excited for and one that will eventually play at any position he ends up.
I don’t dislike the Pirates previous two years’ worth of strategy when it comes to the draft, and if they want to continue that, I don’t mind taking a good look at Kevin Parada as well.
Collier is very much advanced for his age, will begin the 2022 season at 18-years-old, has the bat skills to justify a top-four pick and the raw skills that could give him some of the biggest upside in the draft.
He’s committed to Louisville but I’m not sure someone goes the G.E.D. to Junior College route if they are just going to end up on campus. With some of the injury problems we’ve seen on the pitching side, I wouldn’t mind another heavy focus on prep pitching to add to the depth, and if the Pirates can save some on Collier, all the better.
He would give them another impact bat in the lower levels and would fit in perfectly with that potential wave that features Bubba Chandler, Anthony Solometo and Braylon Bishop.
The Pirates have the fourth overall pick, and I would put prep outfielder Druw Jones, prep shortstop Jackson Holliday, and prep outfielder Elijah Green as my top three choices. There’s a good chance that Green is still available, at which point the Pirates will be faced with a similar situation as last year — go with a more expensive, higher upside guy who doesn’t stand out above the rest, or go with a cheaper college bat and spread the savings around in the middle rounds.
If the Pirates were to take a college bat, it would make sense to add for a current position of need. That is still easy to find in Pittsburgh, though any draft pick this year will face competition. They’ve been linked to Brooks Lee, who is a strong hitting shortstop who will likely move to second base. My thought is that Lee would cost more than the other college picks, but wouldn’t have a considerably higher upside.
Termarr Johnson, a prep shortstop from Georgia, could be an interesting option to save money and get a higher upside prep pick who could develop into more. Cam Collier might be a more interesting option out of the JuCo ranks. He’s 17-years-old and could have a chance to stick at third, with plus contact and above-average power.
If the Pirates are looking for immediate impact, Jacob Berry might be an interesting sleeper pick. He’s a corner infielder from Louisiana State, who would likely fit in at first base or DH long-term. He’s a switch-hitter with plus power and plus hitting grades, and he’s projected for a quicker path to the majors due to being a high makeup guy on and off the field. The Pirates don’t have a first base option long-term. This pick would be banking entirely on the bat, with the hope that the player can play a position of need. The upside is that Berry would come with a lot of savings to maximize who the Pirates could take in the middle rounds.
If they want a repeat of last year — a quick upper level boost of need and a big accumulation of talent in the lower levels — Berry would be the most interesting way to do that. I think they could also get savings with Collier and Johnson, though the savings would be less than a college bat. Personally, I’d go for the upside and assumed savings from Collier.
THIS WEEKEND ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 MLB Draft Primer
Prospect Roundtable: Who Should the Pirates Draft in the First Round?
Williams: Looking at How the Previous Pirates Draft Picks are Performing
Are We Allowed to Talk About Shane Baz on a Pirates Site?
Nick Garcia: Two-Seam Fastball Paves Way To Career Strikeout Game
Cristian Charle: Success Comes From Untraditional Usage Of Pitch
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
I love these discussions. And not sure if I love or hate the idea that like most, I have no idea who the Pirates will select first
IMO, nobody is jumping out there as #1 due to injuries (TJ’s) and/or the positions of the players at the top. Love Termarr and Cam Collier, but the possibility of either making it to MLB in 4 years is remote, and I doubt that Druw Jones will drop to #4 . If he did he would be tempting.
The Gold Standard in MLB is pitching and the Pirates have stockpiled plenty in the 18-21 age groups, but I would still draft HS RHP Dylan Lesko. He established himself as being very special before having TJ surgery in April, therefore it would be at least mid-2023 before he would be ready to go. He’s definitely worth the wait!
I understand why our draft strategy was what it was the last few years and looking for players that we could sign in later rounds after saving money in the first round. But now that we have a decent minor league system we need to swing for the fence with a top prospect. To me that is Elijah Green. He has the potential to be a superstar. There is a good chance he is still there at pick 4 and we need to pull that trigger. Even if that means not being able to get those high money guys later like we did with Chandler, White, and others.
Prada. Advanced right handed power bat who could be in Pittsburgh in a couple of years and alternate between catcher and first base with Davis. Simple.
I think we should have a round table related to payroll!
Give me Elijah Green in round 1, sign him for slightly under slot to save some money. Then with the comp pick take Rocker and get him for above slot, then a few picks later take Spencer Jones from Vandy in the 2nd round.
(Fangraphs ranks them 11, 60, and 28 respectively)
THAT would be a draft right there. Get the 2 guys with potential 80 power (and Spencer Jones may be a real asset if his arm recovers further like it was when he was 2 way guy), and I don’t care what I read, Rocker has stuff right now to contribute. Maybe his arm falls off in 3 years, but he can be nasty.
Green won’t sign for under slot
There is no way they’d be able to sign all three of those guys.
Assuming Jones and Holliday are gone I would go with either Green or Collier. I like their size and upside and they may sign below slot value. Johnson is on the small side. His hitting projects to what Nick Gonzales may give us. I think we have depth at middle infielders so Lee and Johnson are off my list.
I would love to get Rocker with the 36th pick but he most likely would be gone by then
I’ll get my vote in. I am assuming Jones and Holliday are gone. I am not as high on Green only because of my bad feeling about high school players who already don’t make contact. It only gets harder. In my brain I have narrowed it down to Collier, Johnson, or Parada. Parada seems like the only college player that is considered a top of draft talent so I don’t want to consider others (if I am saving money for later, i want a HS player here). I don’t care about drafting another catcher, we can deal with that as a very good problem if both succeed. I don’t have a strong opinion between Johnson or Collier so I would go with whoever will sign for less. So, if I haven’t lost you by now my vote goes in order: Collier, Johnson, and Parada. Stay tuned for more uninformed opinions if I change my mind.
I’m with Wilbur. Even if FG has him at 11 and his risk level is High (as it is for almost every HS player), you take Green. He may never hit 300, but if he fulfills much of his enormous potential, he’s a perennial AS in the OF who anchors the middle of the lineup.
I’d take him over anyone but Jones. I haven’t been as high on Holliday, and maybe that’s just because he was a late riser. FG’s blurb on him is glowing seeing him as a future AS SS. So, I could see taking him. And it sounds like Johnson’s peak potential could be Joe Morgan. I could live with that as well. But Green feels like the kind of guy the NYY lineup is littered with, and I like a couple of those for the Bucs.
Peak potential of Joe Morgan? The best 2B of the modern era? I mean, I’d take that over almost anything they Green would become.
I’d be ecstatic with either. Parada/Collier…ok, but let’s see what they do with the rest. I don’t want Berry, Lee or Neto or anyone like that. They seem like tweeners.
Well, if Termarr’s ceiling is Joe Morgan, hell yes.
I’d be fine with Parada but nobody seems to think the Pirates are really on him. He’s probably not a below-slot candidate.
Interestingly, fangraphs has Parada listed as a LF’er. If some think he cannot stick behind the plate, I’d steer clear of him at #4 .
Top two prep are unlikely to fall to four, if force to choose between the Prada / Berry, I chose Berry. Between Johnson and Green, I’m leaning Green…. So Berry at a discount!
I love this content, thanks so much everyone. Personally i like cam or temarr whoever gives better savings and go for HS pitching overslot afterwards
BA has Jackson Ferris, prep lhp, for Bucs’ 2nd pick. Looks like a high-ceiling guy with the usual command-needs-work proviso. Total guesswork at this stage, but a guy of that type would be a typical fit for them.
Fangraphs New: https://www.fangraphs.com/prospects/the-board/2022-mlb-draft/summary?sort=-1,1&type=0&pg=0&pageitems=10000000000000
Wow they have Zach Neto at #5
A more toolsy Tommy Edman?
Let’s hope he’s still on the board at #4
I was just looking at this too, theres a couple interesting ratings there. Lee is ranked really high (3rd rated in draft & would be about the 25th best prospect after the draft) & Green rated lower (11th overall) than most other places.
There’s also some college guys listed in there that i don’t agree with (especially Tyler Locklear 1B rated 23rd w a 45 FV when Melendez 1B is rated 84th & a 40 FV). Rocker rated as the 60th best prospect is a bit surprising too. Robert Moore (2B from ARK) rated 44 is a joke, he sucked ass this year hit .232 & is 5′ 9″. Also don’t love Parada listed as a LF (as he’s my favorite this year), but understand that they’re comping him to Schwarber.
I think that this is the type of year where 6 of the top 8 picks are going to be good players, similar to 2005 when McCutchen was pick 11. I think that they should pick one of Jones, Holiday, Green, Collier, Johnson, or Parada in that order.
The pick is going to come down to who they have lined up with their second and third picks. I agree with Wilbur that it is time to go for quality over quantity. Buster Olney interviewed Green on his podcast this week and he mentioned that the Pirates were one of the main teams talking to him. We will see if it was a smoke screen or not.
So I went back and looked at the first five drafts in the hard slotting era (2012-2016). I stopped at 2017 because only now are most of those guys really reaching majors.
2012: 5 of first 8 were All Stars.
2013: 1 of 8.
2014: 3 of 8.
2015: 4 of 8.
2016: 0 of 8.
I’m not sure what this years talent level feels like. It certainly seems better than 2016. But I’m not sure you’re gonna see more than 5 guys make an all star team.
I get what you’re saying on Green. He seems like a potential meteor as a talent, but I also think Termarr looks really great at the plate. Honestly I want those two the most as there is zero chance Jones or Holliday get to them.
Jones, Holliday, and Green are the obvious top 3 – if any of them are available at #4 , the Pirates need to find the intestinal fortitude to make that pick. In the top 10, you should be looking for potential franchise impact type of star players, not supporting cast members. If the above three are all gone by the time the Pirates pick, I would prefer Johnson, Lesko, and Parada in that order.
If Jackson is available, take him, if not & Parada is there, take him. If both gone, then take Green or Termarr
I think the Pirates should focus on high school hitters only. They have a glut of hitting prospects in AA and AAA right now. I don’t like adding another one into an already crowded mix. If there was a top shelf college pitcher available, I could support that pick, but there is not. Therefore, the right play is to add a high school player to the “next wave” with Solometo, Chandler, Lonnie White, etc. I think the pick should be Termarr or Collier.
Any of the 4 prep kids I’d be happy with. Just hope GMBC doesn’t pass up a high quality player to save money
I don’t think he would pass on a player to save money (as in overall money) since they have a history of maxing out in the draft…The only way I see them looking to save money with the first pick is if they know they can pull off another draft like last year because of discussions they are having with agents/players etc…Really after the top 2 names in the draft, it is probably easier to look at that route as there is a drop off after the first two. If either of them were to fall though, then you take them. imho
The example often cited is Correa with the Astros. Because it worked.
Is there a good database that lists signing bonuses for players? MLB’s signing tracker only goes back to 2017, so a lot of this is still fluid.
Still, that was the year Minnesota signed Royce Lewis for a bit more than a million less than slot at 1 overall. He’s clearly had some ups and downs. They used most of that savings on prep pitcher Blayne Enlow, who is currently in AA and is meh. Per MLB’s board, Lewis was fifth behind Hunter Greene, Brendan McKay, Kyle Wright, and Mackenzie Gore. I think most of us would take all of them ahead of Lewis right now, with the exception of McKay, because his arm fell off.
Great Roundtable discussion. I went back last year and, even though Mayer was a soft consensus #1 overall on almost all the mock drafts, Mayo & Callis prior to the draft reported that Henry Davis & Watson were in the mix for the Pirates.
Interestingly, Mayo & Callis had a podcast worth listening to earlier this week with some Pirate predictions (bonus material: interview with Burrows and some serious love to John Dreker’s own Jersey relative from Monmouth U when talking about best tools in draft): https://www.mlb.com/news/pipeline-podcast-2022-futures-game-mlb-draft
In a nutshell, they think Jones falls no lower than #2 and Holliday no lower than #3 . And under that scenario, we pick either TJohnson (if he doesnt go 1 overall to Baltimore) or Collier. They cite the slot savings strategy. Mayo says at one point he was thinking college bat consistent with past couple drafts but the rumblings have us taking the slot savings approach like last year.
Personally I’m all in on what Wilbur says above. Go for the high risk, high yield game changer in Green if he’s there
Last point: GREAT draft coverage as usual fellas. 💪👊. Every year MLB Draft & trade deadline coverage are my favorite parts of this site. (It’s not like there are other things Pirate fans can look forward to 😆)
Monmouth U? I live seven minutes from there in Loch Arbour (smallest municipality in NJ)