Pittsburgh Pirates: Draft Review

General Manager: Neal Huntington
Farm Director: Kyle Stark
Scouting Director: Greg Smith

2006-2009 Draft Results:
First three rounds included
x- over-draft signees ($200,000+)

2009 1st Round: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College
1S. Victor Black, RHP, Dallas Baptist
2. Brooks Pounders, RHP, California HS
3. Evan Chambers, OF, Florida CC
4x- Zach Dodson, LHP, Texas HS
6x- Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP, Louisiana HS
7x- Trent Stevenson, RHP, Arizona HS
8x- Colton Cain, LHP, Texas HS
10x- Joey Schoenfeld, C, California HS
12x- Jeff Inman, RHP, Stanford

No one can criticize the Pirates organization for going cheap in this draft, even with an (arguable) over-draft of Sanchez with the fourth-overall pick. The club spent big money on more than 10 players in the draft. Sanchez did everything he could to make his selection look smart. The solid-defensive catcher hit .308 in four rookie ball games before moving up to low-A, where he hit .316/.415/.561 in 155 at-bats. He then received a four-game trial in high-A ball and he should begin 2010 back at that level. Along the way in ’09, Sanchez showed better power than expected (.245 ISO) and a good eye at the plate with a walk rate of 11.9 BB% in low-A. His BABIP was unusually high for a catcher at .368, so he’s probably not going to be a .300+ hitter, but he has more than enough value elsewhere.

In limited innings, Black showed solid potential with a ground-ball rate right around 50%, as well as a solid fastball that allowed him to post a strikeout rate of 9.48 K/9. His walk rate was a little high at 4.31 BB/9 but you have to like the 2.63 FIP and that fact he allowed just 26 hits and kept the ball in the park. Second rounder Pounders had a solid debut in rookie ball and appears to be a big-bodied, workhorse type. Third rounder Chambers batted just .245 despite a .381 BABIP. His walk rate of 20% in short-season ball was nice to see and he actually had more walks (50) than hits (49). The 39% strikeout rate suggests he may have been too passive at the plate, although I don’t have numbers showing how many of those Ks were looking and how many were swinging. With an ISO of .135, he’s going to have to trim the strikeouts, even if it’s at the risk of losing some on-base average.

Dodson, Von Rosenberg, Cain, Schoenfeld, and Inman did not see enough playing time to comment on at this point, but all players have significant potential. The first four prospects are all raw high school players, while Inman was drafted out of Stanford and could move a little bit quicker. Stevenson appeared the most of the over-slot picks and he allowed 13 hits in 15.0 innings of work in rookie ball. The right-hander struck out eight and walked no one.

2008 1st Round: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
2. Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Fresno State (Did not sign)
3. Jordy Mercer, SS, Oklahoma State
4x- Chase D’Arnaud, SS, Pepperdine
6x- Robbie Grossman, OF, Texas HS
20x- Quinton Miller, RHP, New Jersey HS

The club failed to sign second rounder Scheppers, who was re-drafted this past season by Texas and has looked very good. The club did not skip a beat, though, and Alvarez looks like an impact bat despite a slow start to his pro career in ’09. Third rounder Mercer has been hurt by career-low BABIPs, including a .295 rate in ’09, which led to a .255/.314/.400 line. He did show some gap power this past season with 36 doubles and an ISO of .144.

D’Arnaud has passed Mercer on the middle infielder depth chart. The brother of Phillies catching prospect Travis D’Arnaud, Chase has gone from a potential future back-up to a possible big-league starter in two short years. With 35 steals and a walk rate of 14.5%, Grossman had an “interesting” first full season when you couple those stats with an alarming 36.4% strikeout rate. Miller had a modest first full year with a 4.69 FIP and 6.39 K-rate in low-A ball.

2007 1st Round: Daniel Moskos, LHP, Clemson
2. Duke Welker, RHP, Arkansas
3. Brian Friday, SS, Rice

You can thank the ’07 and ’06 drafts for helping to educate the organization on how not to draft and develop players. Moskos was a poor pick right from the get-go. He recovered a bit in ’09 with a 4.41 FIP but his strikeout rate has plummeted in the past few years from 9.24 to 6.36 to 4.65 K/9. Right-handed batters give him a fair amount of grief. Welker’s command and control both deserted him in ’09, while Friday looks like he’s going to top out as a utility player.

2006 1st Round: Brad Lincoln, RHP, Houston
2. Mike Felix, LHP, Troy
3. Shelby Ford, 2B, Oklahoma State
28x- Rudy Owens, LHP, Arizona HS

Lincoln was an OK pick at the time, but he’s been slowed by injuries. He could still end up as a solid player, but his low strikeout totals suggest he won’t be an impact pitcher. Injuries and significant control problems have ruined Felix’s potential, while Ford’s numbers plummeted in ’09, in part due to terrible BABIPs. Owens was a slick pick in the 28th round and is arguably the most talented southpaw in the system. Jim Negrych (6th round) could end up as a solid utility player or platoon infielder. Lonnie Chisenhall, who was later drafted in the first round by Cleveland, would have been a nice value in the 11th round.

Up Next: The Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

11 Responses to “Pittsburgh Pirates: Draft Review”

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  1. glassSheets says:

    Baseball America projects Brad Lincoln as the future No. 1 of the staff, but this analysis sugggests “he won’t be an impact pitcher” … difference of opinion or a statement about the type of arms the Pirates have in their system?

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    • Bill says:

      It’s a statement about the arms in the system. If you look at the guys they have listed as the 2-5 starters it makes more sense. The Pirates are likely banking on one of their high upside pitching prospects breaking through, but Baseball America didn’t have anyone with the track record to project there.

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    • Justin says:

      Probably has more to do with the arms in the Pirates system. Brad Lincoln probably tops out as a number 2 on potential, but a number 3/4 is much more likely. The Pirates have a bunch of 3/4/5 guys in the higher minors. And the higher upside guys are in the lower minors.

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  2. Marc Hulet says:

    Lincoln certainly has the arm to be a big-time pitcher, but his stats have not agreed with his stuff. That’s where my comment comes from; BA prefers to stress the tools side… and looks less at the numbers.

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  3. Mark says:

    I’m not very concerned about Linclon’s numbers catching up with his stuff. The kid is coming off of major surgery and still only has 240 innings under his belt since coming back. That’s barely more than one full MLB season’s work. I think with continued conditionning and getting the arm strength to 100%, he will begin to really trust himself fully. He’s never been outwardly short on confidence, but once he’s 100% mentally and physically, I think his results will show that he’s a solid #2 MLB pitcher.

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    • Dalas says:

      I think the pirates have drafted well and are heading in the right direction, i live in and a die hard pirates fan My favorite motto is “better to see a pirates loss than a penguin win anytime.” but beyond that i hate the fan here that moan because we “get rid” of our “good” players to save money bcause they don’t understand that in pittsburgh they start because littlefield skrew up the organization by signing players for one year fill in instead of building for the future like huntington is doing. You can see once teams have a good farm system they can trade for people they need, and keep winning for years.

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  4. Justin says:

    That 2007 draft is extremely bad. A possible lefty reliever, and utility infielder looks to be the max out of that draft.

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    • MarkInDallas says:

      The 2007 draft was probably the best draft of the Littlefield era, because it was the one one that hastened his departure.

      The new owner was “scared straight”, as it were.

      I guess it really is darkest before the dawn.

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      • WTM says:

        If the Pirates ever get turned around, we can have a debate on whether Dan Moskos or Matt Morris did more to save the franchise.

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      • Andy says:

        I think the real reason the Pirates drafted Moskos is pretty clear.

        Matt Wieters used telekinesis to fall further in the draft. Or maybe it was sheer intimidation. He could have just as easily used either.

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  5. Vlad says:

    For the 2008 draft, you may also want to keep tabs on Jarek Cunningham. He had a huge debut in 2008 and was highly touted at the time, but tore up his knee and missed all of 2009. The reports out of instructional league late in the year were good.

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