With the draft looming on Monday, it’s probably time to start some previews for next week’s action. I’m going to do it in two parts this year, first looking at the first round (tonight), then a more abstract look at overall strategy and the later rounds tomorrow.
From all of the reading I’ve done up to this point, it seems like the Pirates’ selection at number two is going to come down to one of three players, high school shortstop Manny Machado, high school RHP Jameson Taillon, and Ole Miss LHP Drew Pomeranz. Machado’s the name getting connected to the Pirates the most recently as Pomeranz faded a bit down the stretch at Mississippi and Huntington declined to draft and pay guys like Tyler Matzek and Jacob Turner last year which would seemingly make him a bit hesitant to do so for Taillon.
So who is Manny Machado? As a Latino shortstop from Miami with power potential, he’s going to inevitably be compared to A-Rod. From the reading I’ve done I’m not certain he’s got that kind of power potential, though it’s more or less universally agreed that he’s one of the top prep prospects in baseball. I’m not a scout, but I think you can watch the scouting video posted at MLB.com and look at his swing and see why it’s so projectable. There are questions about him sticking at shortstop, but there are always questions about high schoolers sticking at shortstop. If you think the guy is going to hit, you draft him figure out where he can play later. Machado is a Scott Boras client, so he won’t be easy to sign, but we know from the Pedro Alvarez fiasco that Huntington will work with Boras and that’s all that really matters.
Taillon, though, is a 6’7″ beast that’s the elite pitching talent the Pirates’ system currently lacks. He throws smoke with a good curve and slider and already has a changeup. In his scouting video, he looks like a man among boys. The fact that the Pirates would even consider him with the second pick should speak pretty highly to his ability, given the way Huntington shied away from high school arms in last year’s first round.
The final candidate is Pomeranz, who really boosted his stock with a huge senior year at Ole Miss. It’s been pretty common for Pirate fans to compare him to Zach Duke or Paul Maholm since he’s a lefty that doesn’t have overwhelming velocity, but he throws harder than either of those two guys currently on the Pirates’ staff. As the second overall pick, I think that Brad Lincoln is a decent comparison, in terms of talent and ceiling. Lincoln had an incredible senior year at Houston and everyone agreed that he was one of the better college pitchers in the draft and not at all a reach when the Pirates took him fourth, but he was never going to grow into an ace. I kind of view Pomeranz in the same light; he’s probably going to have a good career, but he’s also probably not going to have a great one.
I don’t mean that as a slight to Pomeranz, but I really hope the Pirates stick with one of the two high schoolers when they pick in the first round. Frankly, they don’t have a whole lot of talent like either Machado or Taillon in the system right now and with the second pick in the draft, they have to get real, blue chip, the sky’s the limit sort of potential. Part of me wants to say that makes Taillon the choice, but it seems like the Pirates are leaning towards Machado and I can’t see anything wrong with that, either.