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  1. Not that this invalidates the whole take-a-batter-dummy point, but didn’t Verlander have an even worse junior season?

    Comment by cpebbles — June 6, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  2. This is a very sensible argument. As a Mariners fan, I hope that the Pirates completely ignore your sensible argument and allow Anthony Rendon to drop into our laps.

    Comment by robbbbbb — June 6, 2011 @ 11:14 am

  3. As a pirate fan, this is a disappointing day. Rendon is going to be a all star at third base for years to come

    Comment by Pirateball — June 6, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  4. I agree with the essence of this article, and I’m afraid the talent difference between Cole and Rendon (assuming there is any) is not nearly enough to offset the increased risk the Pirates will be assuming. Let’s also hope that Cole’s price tag is not so prohibitive that it prevents the Pirates from going over slot on a number of players in later rounds, as they have done in recent years.

    Comment by Rodion — June 6, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  5. The problem is that some of those other guys have huge question marks. I don’t think Bauer threw fewer than 140 pitches in any of his starts this year (slight sarcasm). Rendon still has the best plate discipline in the NCAA, but his power had a huge decline and he has some injury questions. Starling and Hultzen have different questions, but they haven’t previously been seen as a similar level prospect.

    Also, those last two college pitchers to go #1 have looked pretty darned good. Just sayin’.

    Comment by Horned Owl — June 6, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  6. It seems like MLB draft experts should follow more of a fantasy baseball draft strategy. Take hitters early, they’re more reliable

    Comment by AdamM — June 6, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  7. The overall point is strong, and I would add that the examples of failure given (Alvarez, Gordon) are not all that bad. Alex Gordon has struggled, but this year, is probably either the best or second best hitter on the Royals. Alvarez still has a long way to go…

    Comment by BAS — June 6, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  8. Verlander had the same knock on him as Cole…great stuff, but nobody could figure out why he wasn’t dominating college hitters the way he should. And as a further knock, he played for Old Dominion, not exactly a school that sees lots of top tier talent like UCLA does.

    Comment by glp — June 6, 2011 @ 11:27 am

  9. Is signability a factor? Maybe pirates can’t make a signing bonus demand for other people.

    Rendon is performing a bit worse this year than he did last year.

    Comment by joe — June 6, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  10. But which guy has “the good face”? It all comes down to that, really.

    Comment by Jacob Jackson — June 6, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  11. Rendon, Ryan, Ackley, Smoak looks good to me too. Thank you Bucs and Go M’s!

    Comment by Ragoczy — June 6, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  12. The same thing was said about Pedro Alvarez.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — June 6, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  13. I don’t think signability is the issue. Cole is a Boras client and will cost plenty. This isn’t a Moskos/Wieters situation. I think the Pirates made what they believe to be the best decision, regardless of price.

    Comment by Bill — June 6, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  14. Cole looks better in jeans.

    Comment by Bill — June 6, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  15. It’s always possible that there have been a few phone calls from various agents asking the Pirates now to draft their clients. These sort of things happen when teams have a LOOONG tradition of loosing.

    Comment by Brandon — June 6, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  16. Sorry “NOT to draft their clients”… wish we could edit posts…

    Comment by Brandon — June 6, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  17. Cole may have the Grienke problem where he just never pitches to his true talent because he allows too many line drives and sports an inflated BABIP. Or he could be like Verlander and figure it out – what worries me is that while you can argue that ODU’s coaches couldn’t ‘fix’ Verlander, UCLA should have much better coaching. Possibly better than the Pirates ;)

    Still, if you can get 5-6 years of 2008-2010 type Grienke with this pick, it’s a win for the Pirates.

    Comment by John Franco — June 6, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  18. And that Rendon’s medical reports don’t scare Jack Z into taking someone else instead . . .

    (Not that I wouldn’t like Francisco Lindor, whom I hope would be their second choice, but I’d rather have a healthy Rendon.)

    Comment by The Ancient Mariner — June 6, 2011 @ 11:47 am

  19. agreed on alvarez. 1.1 WAR as a rookie in less than a full season’s worth of at bats is a bit early to be making judgements on a player’s career.

    Comment by johnnycuff — June 6, 2011 @ 11:47 am

  20. Just like our 2004 Lopez/Yuni ‘dreams’, projecting these young players best-case scenario is usually doomed to tears.

    Comment by EnglishMariner — June 6, 2011 @ 11:48 am

  21. This really isn’t a good year to have the top pick, and I feel like if there was a sure fire college hitter available with the first pick, Pittsburgh would take them. However, Rendon has serious injury concerns and I just think there is no way he can be taken with the first pick. Hultzen and Bauer have performed better than Cole, but Cole is the most projectable, so hopefully the organization will coach him up and he’ll dominate the system and become a fixture in the rotation for many years. I would be ecstatic to have a Justin Verlander type pitcher on my team.

    Comment by Pat — June 6, 2011 @ 11:48 am

  22. Other than Vandy and UNC college coaching staffs aren’t that great, and certainly pale in comparison to any minor/major league developmental program.

    Comment by Justin — June 6, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  23. And Alvarez is far from being a bust. Less than a third of a season’s worth of bad at-bats does not necessarily portend a mediocre career.

    Comment by Kirsh — June 6, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  24. I’m disappointed that the Pirates aren’t taking Rendon. He’s the best mix of safety and upside in the draft, and he’s going to have an Adrian Beltre-like career. Cole could be Verlander or Johnson, but he could also bust. Rendon won’t bust.

    Dave, where would you rank Cole and Rendon on your top 100 prospects?

    Comment by Kirsh — June 6, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  25. Cole probably has some sort of mechanic problem or tips off his pitches. Since his control is fine (few walks) and only command is a problem, the Pirates probably figure they can help him correct his issues rather easily. You don’t find his velocity, 3 pitch combo, and control very often. I think its a good pick.

    Comment by seabisquick — June 6, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  26. i would agree, but you aren’t allowing any leeway for what the medicals are saying…

    Comment by john sparrow — June 6, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  27. Wasn’t that the knock against Taillon last year? He was getting hit hard by high-schoolers, even though they shouldn’t be able to touch his stuff. Well, he is pitching pretty well this year in full season ball.

    I would think that a mechanical adjustment and/or a better plan on the mound would be enough to fix at least some of Cole’s problems with allowing too much contact.

    Comment by Justin — June 6, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

  28. I think if they can fix Morton, they shouldn’t have much trouble with Cole.

    Comment by Pat — June 6, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

  29. Yeah, seems a little premature (or downright misleading in the cause of propping up the argument) to be touting those guys as the risk of taking a hitter rather than a pitcher.

    Personally, it just seems like common sense to go for the players who aren’t virtually guaranteed to have reconstructive surgery at some point. Hitters can flame out just as bad pitchers, but it seems less likely to be because they can’t adjust to post TJ arm strength or labrum rehab gone wrong.

    Comment by Big Jgke — June 6, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

  30. I agree. Cole hasn’t suffered any drop in velocity, and adding some deception to his delivery shouldn’t be a problem for a ML organization.

    The concern with Cole, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that his career turns for the worst the second he grabs for his right elbow. Rendon may have a checkered injury past, but Cole has a cloudier future.

    Comment by Kirsh — June 6, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

  31. “But those success stories pale in comparison to what you see when you look at what college hitters taken in the same range have produced. Even if you just limit yourself to college third baseman (to find a comparable pool of players for Anthony Rendon), you see Matt Williams, Mark Teixeira, Troy Glaus, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ryan Braun.”

    While true, it seems to be a logical fallacy to me to assume that since those college hitters worked out, that hitters should be weighted more heavily than pitchers. Maybe it should change the balances slightly, but it would seem to be quite easy to take this too far and end up taking hitters who don’t have the same ceiling or have greater risk because ‘hitters are better bets than pitchers’

    Comment by GhettoBear04 — June 6, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  32. Wait a minute… when did anyone say Alvarez would be an all-star 3B? I remember the collective talk being about a 35HR-bat with serious defensive limitations… did I miss the one guy that said he’d be even competent at the hot corner?

    Comment by MEDAFAO — June 6, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  33. For what it’s worth, I think Rendon should be the pick ***UNLESS*** his medicals reveal a chronic or degenerative condition. That said, though, it’s hard to argue against an SP with the best two pitches in the draft (++FB and + to ++ changeup), right?

    Comment by MEDAFAP — June 6, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  34. Everything is about balancing risk and reward. No one is suggesting that the Pirates should take a low ceiling cornet outfielder, and there are situations where taking a pitcher is probably the right call; a truly phenomenal pitcher is available, a weak crop of college bats, etc… However, this doesn’t really look like one of those situations. There’s a good college bat on the board, and the Pirates are passing on him for a good-but-not-crazy-awesome pitcher. That’s probably a bad idea.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — June 6, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

  35. Look at the number one picks you have listed, only straburg, price, hochevar and Burlington have been taken in the last 10 years…
    Burlington busted and hochevar may never be more than a 3/4 starter, but straburg and price sure may be studs

    I think its reasonable to view that the scouting and handling of pitcher is a galaxy away now from where it was 10 years ago.

    Comment by jesse — June 6, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  36. as a Pirates fan…I want Bauer…he’s goofy, quirky…just unique enough that it might payoff…yeah, he runs his mouth…so what? might be nice to have some lip on this pirates staff…we’ve got some decent prospects in Allie, Tallion, Lincoln, etc. so maybe a gamble is in order? I like Cole, but he’s got mechanic flaws all over the place…Bauer’s never been unsure of himself. I don’t want a fireballer that loses his mechanics every 5 months…Bauer is a hard worker and a innings hog…take the nut job!

    Comment by Ryan Waltman — June 6, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  37. Yeah, I guess I’m just saying that, while informative in the sense that perhaps the balance should tilt from where it is now, I think it’s hard to draw strong conclusions say based on often conflicting scouting information going into the draft, the general wash out rate for pitching (and hitting) prospects and the small sample size used here.

    In other words, how can you (or any fan/non-scout) be confident enough in the projected abilities/performance of Rendon and Cole to say that taking Cole is mistake? You note the lack of advanced stat work in the college world; so much of this is really going to depend on what the scouts say that it’s hard for me to criticize the Pirates too much.

    (Then you get into the differences in team situation that affect these decisions; risk-tolerance, economics, time table for competing…)

    Comment by GhettoBear04 — June 6, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  38. UNC has more pro scouts at their games than any other team I’ve seen (mostly Southern Cal universities). The’re also the only team I’ve seen with a pitchfx guy (this is something that may have changed over the past five years or so). They scout their own guys pretty thoroughly.

    Comment by londonjoe — June 6, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  39. Basically, here’s what I’m saying.

    1. History is clear – there is a massive gap in risk associated with spending a high draft pick on a pitcher versus a hitter.

    2. In order to justify higher risk selection, need to counter-balance it with added reward (or lower cost, but that’s not a factor here).

    3. Given what we know about Cole and Rendon, it is hard to make a case that there is a substantial gap in potential reward.

    No one knows how these players are going to turn out. It’s possible that Rendon sucks and Cole is an ace. But, given what we do know, the Pirates either need to be really convinced that Rendon’s shoulder is a huge problem or else they’re assuming a large amount of risk without the necessary benefit to offset it.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — June 6, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

  40. So we played against Smoak when he was at State. My friend who pitched against him thinks he’s one of the primary reasons they changed the bats. While he had holes in his swing, if you missed it, you were looking at the hardest hit ball you probably had ever seen in your life. He hit what looked like a 500 footer against that poor guy one year.

    Comment by londonjoe — June 6, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  41. Actually, I know anecdotally that pitcher risk > hitter risk. Can we see some statistics? Did we go back and research the issue and compare profiles and success rates/failure rates (with definitions of both) over time? I would certainly like to see the actual numbers, with some basis of comparison (for example, comparing Cole to Strasburg would be unfair, regardless if taken #1).

    Comment by Toz — June 6, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  42. I had been very pro Rendon leading up to this draft for several months now. Having been burned several times through the years by highly drafted pitchers, not to mention missing out on some big bats in the process, it was an easy arguement to make. Rendon had been projected as an Longoria type; excellent contact, avg-above avg power and speed and decent enough in the field. But honestly, this shoulder is scaring the bejebus out of me. Fluke or not, it doesn’t seem to be healing properly, not even enough to field his position. And the decision not to release medical data makes NO sense. If it were clean he would certainly go first overall, but now it just seems like they are hiding something.

    Comment by Ryan S — June 6, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  43. Bullington was a stupid signability pick so don’t count him as a #1 bust. Wasn’t Hochevar a similar situation?

    Comment by Joncarlos — June 6, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

  44. Anybody’s who’s ever work with UCLA pitching guru John Savage knows that guy is one of the best in the nation, hands down.

    Comment by mo — June 6, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  45. MEDAFAO, you’re correct. Most scouts thought Pedro would eventually have to move to 1B, but it was also widely believed his bat would play there. Given Alvarez’s performance last year, I see no reason to start classifying him as a bust simply due to a poor start to this year.

    Comment by Sean O'Neill — June 6, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  46. One possible point here — part of the reasons pitchers are so risky is that they’re very likely to get hurt. But Rendon is already hurt, so Rendon may not be more risky than a pitcher. Given that the next two position players on the board are a multisport tools guy and a not-completely-overwhelming high school shortstop, I’m OK with going for a pitcher; don’t want a Tim Beckham or a Donovan Tate either.

    Comment by matt w — June 6, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

  47. I’m not sure I agree with this argument at all. Scouting a pitcher is always a questionable science, but if you have a kid with this ‘stuff’ you almost throw away results. That might sound ridiculous, but do you want to be the GM who said ‘this kid who throws 100MPH wasn’t putting up the right stats in college, so I went another way’. If there was another talent that blew you away, I could see it, but I have not heard one convincing argument not to shoot for the moon and go with a potential ACE pitcher.

    Has he lost speed on his fastball? Command of his slider? Is he trying to throw the change too often and it’s not working? This is scouting and if the Pirates see the necessary corrections can be made, this dude could be sick. The Pirates ‘scouting’doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but still…

    The Pirates fans should be salivating at a potential Taillon/Cole 1-2 punch at the front of that staff!

    Comment by SKob — June 6, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  48. This is really easy, TRADE DOWN. Get the 2, 3 or 4 pick and a couple of 2s and or 3s for your #1. This is all a risk and you can get more bang for your buc(k).

    Comment by Dave — June 6, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  49. Why not a different approach: This is really easy, TRADE DOWN. Get the 2, 3 or 4 pick and a couple of 2s and or 3s for your #1. This is all a risk and you can get more bang for your buc(k).

    Comment by Dave — June 6, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  50. @Dave
    You can’t trade picks in the draft.

    Comment by Scott M — June 6, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

  51. I’d include anything in the top 3-5 range depending on the year. Usually the talent is close enough that a case can be made for several guys, much like this year. I guess the point that most fans and professioanl draft guys are making is between best hitter vs best pitcher. I think what really steers me towards a guy like Cole is the worry over Rendon’s shoulder and for that matter any future injury, as he’s suffered a major one two straight years. The non release of medical history is enough of a redflag for me to pass if there is someone close enough in projectable talent.

    Comment by Ryan S — June 6, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

  52. I don’t classify Alvarez as a bust, only illustrating that the expectations for all high 1st round picks is astronomical.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — June 6, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  53. Other than that, it’s a great idea.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — June 6, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  54. Trading picks is not allowed.

    Comment by longgandhi — June 6, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  55. Prior and Jered Weaver are two recent consensus #1 guys out of college who did fairly well in terms of ROI.

    Comment by James — June 6, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  56. For the sake of baseball in Pittsburgh becoming profitable again, let’s hope the Pirates get lucky.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — June 6, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  57. Baseball draft, not football.

    Comment by Chris — June 6, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  58. “But those success stories pale in comparison to what you see when you look at what college hitters taken in the same range have produced. Even if you just limit yourself to college third baseman (to find a comparable pool of players for Anthony Rendon), you see Matt Williams, Mark Teixeira, Troy Glaus, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ryan Braun.”

    Dave I love your work but this statement is utterly meaningless. Verlander went #2 in 2004 because of signability. In that draft, prep SS Matt Bush went #1 to San Diego because he was cheap and a local product. Same thing in 2006. Kershaw, Greg Reynolds, Andrew Miller, Timmy and Scherzer were all much bigger prospects than Hochevar, but the cash strapped Royals took the guy they could afford. In 2002, Pittsburgh drafted Bryan Bullingon for the same reason. In fact, it weas widely acknowledged that Bullington wasn’t even a consensus top 15 prospect much less worthy of being the #1 overall pick.

    Signability. It’s why Rick Porcello dropped to pick #27. Same for Joba at #41 in 2006. Or Kazmir going #15 in 2002. That’s why assigning risk levels based on where guys went in prior drafts is pointless. The offensive players drafted in the top 5 draft positions have been better than the pitchers drafted in same spot because many of those pitchers would never have gone that high if not for the money concerns. If Boston or the Yankees had the #1 pick in 2002, 2004, or 2006, I can say with 10000% certainty that guys like Bullington, Hochevar and Bush would not have gone #1.

    Cole, as a Boras client figures to demand a big contract and I think Pittsburgh fans should be jacked up at the prospects of their team actually being prepared to pony up that kind of cash for a top of the rotation arm. Sure, there is a greater chance that Cole will suffer a major arm injury that might K.O his carrer than Rendon suffering an equally catastrophic injury. But the Bucs in taking Cole aren’t taking the “2004 Hochevar” of the 2011 draft”, they are taking the “2004 Lincecum” of the 2011 draft (If that makes any sense lol).

    Comment by jpg — June 6, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

  59. Verlander also had insane wildness at OD. I don’t know about Cole, but Verlander had 20 wild pitches and 16 HBP in 106 innings during his last season at OD, on top of a 3.7 BB/9 (not terrible, but also doesn’t include the 16 hit batsmen).

    Comment by Larry Smith Jr. — June 6, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  60. Since when has Pittsburgh instructional coach anyone up? Batista leaves and goes off. The Pirates AA and AAA stars of the future are ALL going the wrong way.

    Seems to me the coaching has a regression factor involved and not the other way around

    Comment by jake — June 6, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

  61. Putting the pitcher vs. position player debate at #1 aside (which is a really good one brought up here), I think they’re targeting the wrong UCLA pitcher. Bauer’s numbers are better than Weaver, Prior, Leake, Strasburg, and Price — and look how good those guys have been.

    Comment by Larry Brown — June 6, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  62. I don’t like taking pitchers early, and I like power pitchers even less. A power pitcher is good because of a god given ability to throw hard. An injury, a mental problem, etc diminishes that and he’s normal. I’d rather take a kid with “good” stuff who is coachable and smart. Teach him another pitch and he’ll be more effective for more years.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — June 6, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

  63. Rendon is damaged goods. Enjoy!

    Comment by a Bucco Fan — June 7, 2011 @ 8:39 am

  64. Cole has mechanical flaws??? have you ever even SEEN bauer pitch??? holy jeebus, batman!

    Comment by whiteAngus — June 7, 2011 @ 9:39 am

  65. Pirates are now in the black, thankyouverymuch. they will, again, be one of the biggest spenders in this draft, for the 4th year in a row.

    Comment by whiteAngus — June 7, 2011 @ 9:41 am

  66. i know youre saying not to pick a power arm early in the draft. thats fine. but the power arms that are currently in the MLB were all drafted or signed at one point or another.

    other than the signing bonus, whats the difference in being a 1st pick than a 14th pick if the results are still the same?

    Comment by whiteAngus — June 7, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  67. Antonio, that is what Jack Z has done for Seattle and I think it is a wiser approach

    Comment by chris d — June 7, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  68. Taillon’s stuff hasn’t translated into missing a lot of bats in full season ball so far either. The only really great aspect of his performance so far is the low walk rate. Other than that, his numbers are pretty modest, though he’s still young and has time to improve.

    Comment by AlanSP — June 7, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  69. It’s a stretch to say Bauer’s numbers are better than Strasburg’s. Bauer’s ERA is very slightly lower this year than Strasburg’s junior season (1.25 vs. 1.32), but Strasburg had an otherworldly strikeout rate, and a better walk rate as well. Strasburg also maintained that performance over 2 seasons.

    Bauer has been impressive as far as carrying a heavy workload, though, averaging an incredible 8.54 innings per start this year.

    Comment by AlanSP — June 7, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  70. :facepalm:

    If you had paid attention at all the last 3 years, you’d know that the Pirates have spent more than any other team on the draft since Neal Huntington became the GM (2008-2010 drafts), including a lot of over-slot bonuses to late round draftees.

    In addition, from the player’s standpoint, why wouldn’t you sign if you were drafted first overall? Even without impending CBA changes, why would anyone risk an injury by waiting another year? You can’t improve on being the first overall draft pick.

    Comment by gonfalon — June 7, 2011 @ 11:47 am

  71. This is true, but the success/failure rate of power arms to smart arms seems to be pretty big. Every year “o this kid throw 97″ what happens when his 97 turns into 94 and he can’t just blow it past a guys on 3-1?

    Power arms rarely have real poise (by that I mean they get out of situations based on natural ability, not skill), or know how to pitch.

    I just think that scouts and everyone loses their load watching a 19 year old throw 100 MPH and doesn’t even think that he’s not going to do that forever and when that ability ceases to exist he’s pretty much worthless.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — June 7, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  72. Not only that, but successful power arms in the majors know how to pitch. They don’t just blow it by guys. Josh Johnson isn’t good because he throws hard, he’s good because he’s smart, he locates, AND he has good stuff. So, yea, if a guy throws hard AND knows how to pitch, then take him. Those guys are rare, why learn how to pitch when you can strikeout 13 batters a game in high school (7 inning games) on straight gas?

    I completely understand your point, but in the majors, pure power arms don’t last. Even in the minors they don’t last. Pitchers who know how to pitch stay around forever.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — June 7, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

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