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.
Jack Hartman has made four appearances out of the bullpen at this point, coming back from Tommy John. The stuff is there it'll just take some time. The first 3 pitches here are cutters, one at 94 mph. The rest fastballs that he gets insane spin on. #LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/hUdLWImTTY
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) June 11, 2022
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.
Ji Man Choi for life
— Addison (@Addison_Jacoby) October 24, 2020
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
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) November 10, 2022
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.
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.
Finally, get caught up on all of the live action, including big days in the AFL from Nick Gonzales and Jacob Gonzalez.
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.
Check back at noon on Friday for the newest weekly discussion. See what you missed from last week in the link below.