As we saw earlier this week, a number of teams have developed a reputation for using the annual amateur draft as a means of infusing their organizations with talent. With an eye to the future, these clubs see the cost benefit to developing future stars in-house, rather than seeking out established, and quite likely more expensive, talent through trades and/or free agency.
Over the past three seasons (2008-10), the Pittsburgh Pirates organization has spent more cash on the amateur draft than any other club in Major League Baseball. The small-market organization sees the benefit of spending to acquire and develop amateur talent, rather than competing with The Big Boys for high-end free agents. Whereas the Boston Red Sox organization spent a whack of dough on 10 players in the ’10 draft, the Pirates spent a lot in the upper level of the draft, in part because it chose second overall and had to secure the best prep arm in the draft (if not the Top 2); the club used its hefty bankroll for seven players.
14th – Drew Maggi, SS
The only big-money college pick by the club, Maggi was a draft-eligible sophomore so he had a little more leverage than a lot of college juniors. Scouts were mixed on the middle infielder with many seeing him topping out as a future utility player. Pittsburgh was clearly one organization that saw more. He’s shown a decent eye at the plate – 11.5 BB%, 13.4 K% – and he’s flashed some speed (27/42 in steals) – although his base running needs some improvement as he’s been caught too much – but Maggi has had a very inconsistent season in low-A ball. He got off to a terribly slow start in April (.454 OPS) but rebounded in May and June only to slump again in July.
Having watched Taillon pitch this season, I can attest to the fact that he should be absolute beast once he gains more experience and sharpens his secondary stuff. The teen currently has a 3.59 FIP in 71.2 innings of work. He’s showing excellent control for his age (1.76 BB/9) and he’s missing a lot of bats (9.17 K/9). Taillon is without a doubt one of the best arms left in the minor leagues. Allie was a top prep arm in 2010 too but it was also known that he was much more raw in comparison to Taillon. The second rounder can overpower hitters much like Taillon but to say his command of the ball is lacking is not really doing it justice. Allie has posted a walk rate of 8.86 BB/9 in short-season ball after beginning the year in extended spring training. When he can find the plate, though, he racks up the Ks (9.60 K/9). His FIP stands at 5.87. Already 20, he may have to repeat short-season ball again in 2012.
The son of former Expos and Cubs reliever Mel Rojas Sr., Junior is a speedy outfielder who has spent the season in low-A ball. It’s been a disappointing season for the prospect who has posted a .293 wOBA in 409 at-bats. The power was not supposed to be a big part of his game – and it hasn’t been (.083 ISO) – but he hasn’t had a ton of luck getting on base (6.7 BB%, .308 OBP) or stealing bases once he’s there (21/34 in steals). It’s been a rough adjustment to pro ball for Lakind, who’s just 19. Repeating Rookie Ball after receiving a small taste in 2010, the first baseman is hitting just .136/.269/.273 in 88 at-bats. The left-handed hitter has struck out 10 times in 19 at-bats versus southpaws.
A big, strong pitcher, Kingham has had a solid season in short-season ball. His strikeout rate has been low (6.80 K/9) and he’s gotten a lot of fly-ball outs, but he’s shown good control (2.00 BB/9) and has decent velocity (88-93 mph) on his heater. The right-hander should see his strikeout rate rise as he improves his breaking ball. Kingham’s teammate Hafner has had a respectable season in 2011. His strikeout rate is also low (5.48 K/9) but his control has been OK (3.16 BB/9) and he’s done a better job of keeping his pitches in the lower half of the strike zone. Hafner is not as far along as Kingham and has a chance to add more velocity as he adjusts to pro ball.
Because Pittsburgh spent the majority of its cash on prep picks, it will be a while before we know just how well flashing the cash worked for the organization in 2010.
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