I will freely admit it: I haven’t paid a whole ton of attention to the run up of the draft this year. This is partially a consequence of my general situation (moving, trying to graduate, etc.) and partially a consequence of the Pirates being a Real Baseball Team now and having Real Baseball Team worries, which are always more interesting to focus on for the purposes of the blog. Since the Pirates won 94 games and made the playoffs last year (won’t lie, I still love typing that), they don’t have an early pick in the draft and so it’s unlikely that a big name will fall to them. Picking that late also means that it’s a fools errand to try and figure out what will or won’t be available at #24, so it makes pre-draft analysis even harder.
Still, they have four picks in the draft, the Pirates are off today, and this Polanco situation is unlikely to resolve itself until this evening at the very earliest. I’ve been doing some reading up on the draft and so I figured that I can, at the very least, share some links to the reading I’ve been doing.
Baseball America’s latest/last mock draft has the Pirates picking high school pitcher Grant Holmes at #24, mentioning that they’ll take high school infielder Jacob Gatewood or Touki Touissant, another high school pitcher, if they fall to them at #24 — both of whom Baseball America has going after the 20th pick. All three of those players are pretty highly rated in general; Jonathan Mayo has Touissant going at 13, Holmes going at 14, and Gatewood going 20th, with the Pirates taking Wichita St. first baseman Casey Gillaspie. Jim Callis has the Pirates picking Holmes as well.
Pirates Prospects did a rundown of high school pitchers before the season began, and Holmes is described as being “highly rated” with a good fastball (tops out at 96) and a good curve. The main concern around him is apparently there just isn’t much room for him to grow and that he has command issues. You can find Touissant in there as well; the main concern with him coming into the season was inconsistent velocity. It seems unlikely that he’d fall all the way down to the Pirates, but as Callis notes in his mock draft, the high school pitching class is awfully deep this year and that’s going to result in some righties falling down the board and possibly into the Pirates’ lap. Gatewood, meanwhile, is currently listed as a shortstop with great power potential, but I’m not sure I’ve seen one report on him that thinks he can stick at short. Obviously that’s not a big deal if the bat develops the way it’s supposed to, but as a high school player that’s a big if.
Anyway, the Pirates are certainly in a nice position at #24 in a draft class heavy with high school arms, because their four first round picks gives them a relatively big draft pool (they’re at $7.06 million, which is 13th in the draft this year). That means that if there’s a situation were a Touissant or a Gatewood or a Holmes does start to fall below where they expect to go, the Pirates could pick them and offer a relatively big bonus where some of the teams in front of them might not be able to do so. I think that’s why the BA mock draft says the Pirates are the “floor” for Gatewood or Touissant; they have the ability to sign those sorts of players later in the first round, and they’re going to sit there at #24 and hope that a big talent makes their way down the board to them.
From a wider perspective, I’m really interested to see how the Pirates approach this draft without having a top ten pick to carry the draft class and the bonus pool. There were some concerns about top-heavy drafting during the earliest years of the Neal Huntington/Greg Smith era, but players like Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow and even Jordy Mercer have helped put those concerns to bed. The draft bonuses complicate life a lot, though, for a small-market team picking in the second half of the first round, and so the Bryan Morris trade and the Pirates’ general strategy this year will awfully informative for future years (with the hopes that the Pirates won’t have a top-10 pick any time soon).
Anyway, my big caveat on the draft every year is just that as much as I do my best to keep up on the prospects and who the Pirates are interested in and their picks and to post what I read and what I know, there are other people that are much better at this than I am. Pirates Prospects is obviously an invaluable resource during the draft, I’d recommend just reading Tim’s “How to Follow the Draft on Pirates Prospects” and going from there. Baseball America has a “Draft Day Essentials” post that’s certainly worth checking out as a jumping off point. Also, in the comments at Bucs Dugout, Vlad is posting scouting reports to players that the Pirates are known to have watched this year literally right now (uh, 11:45 AM), and so you should definitely check that out, as well. The first two rounds are tonight, starting at 7 PM, so all four of the Pirates’ picks in the top 70whatever will happen tonight, and we’ll have a pretty good idea what sort of shape their draft class will take by then.
The one other thing that I will mention is that it seems to me like it’s possible that one reason for the conflicting Polanco reports from last night is that the Pirates do, in fact, want to call Polanco up for tomorrow’s game, but that they would rather the focus be on the draft today. The Pirates do tend to do these sorts of things from time to time, so the Indianapolis starting lineup will be something to keep an eye on along with the draft at 7 PM tonight.