After I finished up my first piece on the draft on Sunday night, suddenly a lot of the consensus (based on Goldstein’s work at BP and Keith Law’s Twitter feed, since I don’t pay for ESPN Insider), has suddenly seemed to shift towards Aaron Crow dropping in the draft, potentially out of the top ten. That would, of course, indicate that the Pirates would pass on Crow for someone else. With the caveat that no one really has any idea what’s going to happen beyond Strasburg and Ackely going first and second, what might the Pirates be thinking if they pass on Crow?
One thing to consider is that they have two second round picks, at #49 and #53. That #49 pick is compensation for not signing Scheppers last year, so they have to pick someone they know they can sign there, because that pick’s not coming back. What’s interesting to consider though, is that a bunch of pitchers are all falling down the draft boards at the moment because of signability issues. On top of Crow dropping, high schoolers Jacob Turner, Tyler Matzek, and Matt Purke are all rumored to want “Porcello money.” It’s a stretch to think that any of those guys will be available at 49, but since we’re handicapped a bit with that pick we’d have to wait until 53 to even consider it and it’s even more of a long shot that they’ll be around then.
A more interesting thing to consider? Kyle Gibson. It seemed like the Pirates had locked in on him before his elbow injury and it’s hard to say how that injury is really going to affect his draft status. Could he fall to the 49th pick? It seems unlikely, but I guess it’s possible. It’s not really out of the realm of possibility that someone that was seen as a middle-first round talent falls down that far with signability issues, but predicting this draft is not easy to do.
This is where we (and the Pirates) are left with a difficult question. Let’s say they like Aaron Crow, but they don’t love him. I’ve heard criticisms of Crow that seem pretty valid; there’s always an injury risk, he might not develop a third good pitch, and he might not have a ton of room to grow from where he is right now. It’s certainly fair and not really unreasonable if the Pirates evaluate Crow as worth less than the $4-$4.5 million he’s demanding right now. So what if the Pirates decide, as today’s Chuck Finder piece indicates, that they’ve decided that they like Sanchez as much as Crow and that they want to use the difference in bonus money to sign more draft picks?
The Pirates signed, users a manual count of WTM’s rundown of last year’s draft, 32 of 50 picks last year. That’s a pretty good haul, but they were pretty clearly bumping their heads against the ceiling by the end of things. When they signed Quinton Miller, they only signed him because they failed to sign Drew Gagnon and Tanner Scheppers. Presumably, with the money not spent on a first round pick, it would allow the Pirates to be both more aggressive in signing the guys they draft and more aggressive in drafting guys like Miller, Robby Grossman, Wesley Freeman, and the like.
This strategy (if it is indeed the one the Pirates embark on) makes me a little uneasy for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I’m not sure this is a great strategy. First and second round picks are generally fairly safe, in terms of the baseball draft. They’re not slam dunks like football and basketball, but a pretty high percentage of them (about half, in total) end up in the Major Leagues. Passing on a guy that’s an upper-first round talent to sign more guys that aren’t seems risky to me. The second question I have is why we can’t spend the money on both Crow and our late draft picks. I understand that there has to be some kind of budget on the draft and Latin American signings, but if they’re “not being limited” as John Perrotto reports today, what’s another $2 million on a draft pick? It’s one thing if they think that Sanchez and Crow are equal as prospects, but I don’t think they are and I don’t think many people do.
One thing that’s for sure is that the success of this draft shouldn’t be measured solely by their first round pick, as it has been the first two years. Crow or Grant Green, or probably even Sanchez would all make be nice additions to the organization, but the Pirates need to have a draft that’s at least as deep as last year’s where they signed eight of their top nine picks and were getting value from picks as late as the 20th round.