P2Daily: Pirates Finding Other Ways To Net Positive Value Out Of Draft Picks

Of all the drafts in professional sports, baseball’s is probably the biggest crapshoot. Sometimes even getting consistent contributions from the higher round picks isn’t guaranteed. As teams try to find the best way to get value out of the money they pour into the draft, trades become an alternate way to do so.

The Pirates’ trade for Ji-Man Choi — sending away Jack Hartman — was a reminder of this avenue.

Hartman was drafted in the fourth round back in 2020 out of Appalachian State. Due to COVID, there were only five rounds that year. Hartman signed as a college senior for just $60,000 (the slot value was $538,200), before missing the entire 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He returned to the mound in 2022, showing a lot of velocity on the fastball, and some good spin on his breaking pitches, but was hit around (22 hits, two home runs) and struggled with his control (17.2 BB%) in 18.2 innings pitched.

There is a chance that Hartman turns into a decent reliever if he comes back better in year two, post-TJ. While there’s also a chance he flames out in A-Ball, meaning the Pirates don’t get any more value out of that pick than what they got in saving draft pool money to sign Jared Jones. 

So even if Ji-Man Choi offers marginally more than replacement level value, at this stage it’s likely more than they would have gotten from Hartman.

The easy way of looking at things would be how a drafted player directly helps out the team that selected them, but that isn’t the only way.

As the Pirates get closer to potentially playing more competitive games, this kind of trade may become more common, especially if they continue to pad the system through the draft.


What Does Choi Bring To The Pirates?

This move is significant, more so for the Pirates, seeing as statistically no team got worse production out of the first base position.

The first base position was the worst in baseball in almost every category, including wRC+ (59), WAR (-3) and OPS (.569).

Their OPS is an interesting number, as Choi’s career mark – against lefties – is .589. Obviously he’s still a platoon player.

Is it an upgrade? Yes. The Pirates tried to platoon Michael Chavis last year and he still hit below league average against lefties (95 tOPS+ vs LH). Pittsburgh is better than they were before at first base, if only because it would of been more of an effort to repeat what they did in 2021 than actually improving.

Even with being a platoon hitter, and finishing with an OPS of .600 or under in three of the last five years against lefties, Choi has remained above league average in each season of his career (115 OPS+).  His OPS against righties last year was 80 points lower than his career average, meaning he could be in line for a little bit of a bounce back season (has three seasons with at least a .843 OPS vs RH in the last five years).

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

The big news on Thursday was obviously that the Pirates acquired Ji-Man Choi. If you were looking for a big hitting first baseman, Choi isn’t the guy. He has the look of a platoon option who might be able to provide some positive defensive value. His defense has been inconsistent, though he’s coming off a strong year. The offense might play up in PNC Park, though he’ll likely need a platoon partner.

Choi is only under control for one season, so he appears to be another stopgap option. The Pirates have Mason Martin, Malcom Nunez, Aaron Shackelford, Matt Gorski, and other first base options in the upper levels. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end the 2023 season with one of those options from the minors in Pittsburgh. Choi gives them a guy who could help a contender, though he’s not a guy who will push them into contending status. They’ll need several other additions to get there.

The Pirates also made some moves to get their 40-man roster down to 40. Read about today’s moves below.

**Pirates Acquire Ji-Man Choi from Rays for Jack Hartman

**Pirates Remove Six Players from 40-Man Roster

The Pirates continued their awards week by announcing their minor league Player and Pitcher of the Year winners. No surprises there. Tsung-Che Cheng also took home a Single-A honor, continuing his big week.

**Pirates Announce Their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year Winners

**Tsung-Che Cheng Named to Florida State League All-Star Team

Finally, get caught up on all of the live action, including big days in the AFL from Nick Gonzales and Jacob Gonzalez.

**AFL Recap: What a Day for Gonzales/Gonzalez in Saguaros Victory

**Winter Leagues: Six Pirates See Action on Wednesday Night

Song of the Day

I’ve been watching the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania trailer too much.

Pirates Prospects Weekly

This week on Roundtable we looked at our sleepers from the system in 2022.

Prospect Roundtable: Sleepers in the Pirates Minor League System

Pirates Discussion

Check back at noon on Friday for the newest weekly discussion. See what you missed from last week in the link below.

Weekly Pirates Discussion: In Retrospect

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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.

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pietraynee

MLBtraderumors released their top 50 free agent list with predictions and Steve Adams picked the Pirates signing Benintendi (15th ranked). That would be interesting.

b mcferren

another left handed outfielder is low on our list

PirateRican21

I saw that, doesn’t make sense to me, we have a few Benintendi currently on the roster.

ArkyWags

Are you insinuating that Jack/Cal and crew are lefty hitting outfielders and this, Benintendi isn’t needed? Neither are as good as Benintendi. And even if one of them were, why not get another good OF? Then they’d have three.

PirateRican21

I think the money if they are willing to spend said money would be better used else where.

AdministrativeSky236

Agreed. Beni money could be much better used for SP or RP, cant guarantee that any of our young guys will claim starting jobs, but i think a better incremental gain in pitching than a benintendi signing

MB21

From the article headline, I thought maybe they were using draft picks as accountants or PR people or maybe even burning them for fuel in the backyard or something. Does this mean that management has discovered this use of draft picks that other teams have known about for years?

b mcferren

yinz see that Jon Jay went to first base coach immediately after retirement

any hope for Cutch to do the same for us sometime around the bend?

b mcferren

once they fire Shelton and friends, here´s my hope for the coaching staff

manager Kendall
pitching coach Drabeck
hitting coach Bonds
first base / outfield coach Cutch
infield coach / third base Jack WIlson
bench coach Kelly

that would be so much fun

leefieux

AM….Gonzo got a hit on a ‘bender’! Infield single, but baby steps!

leefieux

I still remember buying YBR in a cellar record store in State College, Pa.

Cobra

Absent other moves, I guess you can plug in Andujar @ 1B against lefties and see if either Gorski or Nunez (both righties) emerge as an platoon option by Super Two. Maybe Gorski since Nunez is only 21 years old

roberto

They need to roster two players who can hit LHP. Suwinski mirrors Choi.

PirateRican21

My thoughts align with yours. Maybe we have the answers in house, maybe Castillo, who by all accounts is an average fielder will be the platoon partner at 1b, or if Bae does take over 2b, then Castro could slide over.

Anthony

Castillo is atrocious; I wouldn’t even roster him. Castro plays first against LHP. Problem solved.

PirateRican21

I do it too, but we sometimes forget these guys were rookies.

PirateRican21

This makes lots of sense, but the fact that he didn’t get a single rep there with us last season makes me think that is not an option, hopefully he was instructed to work on his 1b defense during the offseason.

b mcferren

has Choi actually been introduced officially yet as a first baseman?

maybe DH is a platoon with Choi and Andujar and we go get another first baseman?

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