What Should the Pirates Do at #2?

We’re just one week away from one of my favorite events of the year, the 2010 MLB amateur draft. By now we know that the sure fire #1 pick is the über-hyped catcher Bryce Harper. The big question now is what the Pittsburgh Pirates will do with the 2nd pick of the draft. They have plenty of good options to choose from. Most prospect rankings have shortstop Manny Machado, lefty college pitcher Drew Pomeranz and high school righty Jameson Tallion at the top of the board after Harper.

My colleague Bryan Smith recently discussed Machado in his post about the next first round shortstops. I won’t rehash the whole thing, but in a nutshell, Machado will be a big leaguer, and he will probably be a very good big leaguer for a long time. Scouts have drawn several comparisons between Machado and Alex Rodriguez, although some of that has to do with Machado being a super prep star of Dominican descent playing in the Miami area.

Tallion is a big, flame throwing prep pitcher from the great state of Texas. He throws in the mid-to-upper nineties with relative ease, and has a hammer of a curveball. We’ve seen this story before, and it’s called the Josh Beckett story, or at least that’s the comparison scouts are making with Tallion.

Pomeranz is a college lefty with a 90-94 MPH fastball and a big time curve-piece (to borrow a phrase from Cistulli’s vocab) that has helped him rack up massive strikeout totals at Ole Miss. It’s easy to foresee Pomeranz making a difference in a big league rotation in short order.

Neal Huntington’s rebuilding Buccos really cannot go wrong here, but if I were to pick, I’d go for Machado, and it’s not just because of the lofty comparisons he’s drawn. When we look at the history of the draft, first round picks that are position players do considerably better than pitchers, whether they come from high school or college.

The stats are from the historical WAR data now available on the site. I’m looking at the first rounders from ’90-’99. We’re paying attention to the WAR numbers per season while the player is under team control, or in other words their first six seasons in the majors. Here’s the averages per grouping:

College Hitters 0.9
College Pitchers 0.6
HS Hitters 0.8
HS Pitchers 0.4

Hitters have proven to be a much safer bet. Narrowing down the field to the top 2-6 picks, hitters outperformed pitchers 1.1 WAR per season, compared to .8 WAR for pitchers.

The Pirates definitely are in an enviable position with such talent to choose from, but because TINSTAAPP is the ruthless beast that it is, the smart thing to do for Neal Huntington and Co. is to bet on the hitter.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

13 Responses to “What Should the Pirates Do at #2?”

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  1. Pat says:

    I think they should draft Tallion because they have a bunch of 3-5 starters on the team and need to find an ace. I know some of the guys they draft in the later rounds over slot can end up very good, but I think it would also make too much sense to take the best pitcher in the draft.

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  2. Circlechange11 says:

    Finding a franchise SS seems to be more difficult than finding a top of the rotation guy.

    If the kid really deserves the ARod comps, take him.

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  3. Newcomer says:

    TINSTAAPP should have a second P, no?

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  4. AJP says:

    I’d agree with taking Machado, for a few reasons one the bat and his comparisons. But two, the bigger reason is that a hitter can go out there every day whereas a starter can only help every fifth day. And thats if these guys pan out to be starters, many cases of these guys just becoming relievers, adding more to that risk. Machado is probably the safest pick as well as a pick with a lot of upside. If things pan out, a lineup with McCutchen, Alvarez, and Machado will surely be formitable.

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  5. Impliedi says:

    Perhaps I completely misunderstand the WAR stat, but wouldn’t a position player’s WAR pretty much always be higher than a pitcher because a starting pitcher is only going to be in, at most, 1/5 of the games of a hitter, and a relief pitcher will be in, at most, 1/3 the number of games of a hitter. That’s at least 3-5 times more games to possibly cause a win over a pitcher.

    The WAR stat would make much more sense to compare hitters and pitchers if it was the percentage of games that the player appeared in that they caused a victory over a replacement, instead of total number of wins.

    I’m actually surprised that the WAR number difference between hitters & pitchers isn’t much more significant.

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    • EJ says:

      In the games that a pitcher DOES play, he impacts the game much more than a hitter though, correct? That’s why guys like Lincecum and Greinke last year put up WARs as high as the best hitters.

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    • EJ says:

      In other words it “evens out.”

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    • The Hit Dog says:


      Great post. Any chance you could find the median WARs for those categories, though?

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  6. Paul says:

    I also think they should take Tailon IF he is really the best HS pitcher in the draft in the past several years, which would mean better than Porcello. I think Pat is right that they have a bunch of 3-5 starters, and this includes the minors. There is no legit ace starter in that system. As EJ correctly noted, a starter impacts the game far greater than a hitter. It goes both ways, a bad start is almost a guaranteed loss, and a number 3 starter will generally even out bad and good starts over the course of a season. If a guy is a legit number 1 starter, he is more valuable than a good SS. Ubaldo Jimenez’s WAR this year is higher than Albert Pujols. A championship team MUST have a legit number 1 starter, superstar SS is a nice bonus.

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  7. John H. C. says:

    Seems to me that an ace with a WAR of 8 is equally as valuable as a SS with a WAR of 8. And that if you can get either of those, you are lucky. The question here is whether the SS or the SP is more likely to have that high a WAR in any season (or to consistently earn 3 WARs a season or what have you). Knowing nothing about any of the players except for their position, one would bet on the position player (based on historical data). Of course, historical data may have nothing to do with this particular SS or SP. Personally, I take Machado, because I know nothing else about them.

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  8. Adam M says:

    What are the variances? Are pitches both riskier and less valuable?

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  9. CircleChange11 says:

    Even *knowing* all of the current information, leaves a whole lot of “unknown” or “anything could happen” type stuff with prospects.

    Unlike the NFL, NBA, etc there is so much that can happen bgetween low-A and MLB.

    As I learned the hard way with my own baseball career, “Potential is just unproven ability.” Nothing more, nothing less.

    So many of the “The Next …” players never pan out. For some reason we have the expectation that they “will become great”, when reality suggests our expectation should be “They’re not going to”.

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  10. John Franco says:

    I think ruling out Taillon might be the smart thing to do. They are starting to open a window with McCutchen, Tabata, Alvarez, and maybe Lincoln/Walker/Tony Sanchez. That window won’t be open forever so they need someone who might fit into the 2013-2015 range.

    There are a lot of questions surrounding that approach. Will Machado (currently 17) fit into that range? Is the talent in that window going to be good enough to produce an 85+ win team or should they be looking at 2015-2017 already? How long will they be able to keep their current collection of #3 starters together at a reasonable price?

    Beyond that, they are desperately in need of both an ace and a shortstop. So any way they go would be fine. Just so long as it’s one of these 3 guys, ie someone with an actual star player ceiling. I think that ultimately, getting someone who will contribute is the biggest need, regardless of position. Trying to figure out if Machado can stick at SS, or if 3B would be open if he can’t… at this point it’s hard to guess these things.

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