Pirates target organizational depth, not needs, in Draft
Pittsburgh goes with high-upside high schoolers with pair of first-round picks
Outside of a very select few, the First-Year Player Draft doesn't produce big league ready players. It's not the NFL or NBA. Players go through a long development process, and by the time most prospects get to the Majors, the makeup of the team that drafted them is dramatically different.
So Pirates general manager Neal Huntington wasn't trying to plug any organizational holes in the past few days.
He was collecting talent from the collegiate, junior college, and high school levels in order to strengthen the organization, not finding a particular bias in any age group or position.
"We're not looking to fill organizational needs," Huntington said. "Organizational needs can disappear in a hurry and surpluses can disappear in a hurry. The Draft is about adding another class of quality players. The Draft is all about acquiring and accumulating as much talent as you can."
The Pirates drafted 25 college players, six from junior college and 10 high schoolers over the three-day Draft. They selected 16 right-handed pitchers, four lefties, six outfielders, 11 infielders and four catchers.
After Day 2, Huntington said he felt confident in the Draft that he and his staff had put together thus far. They went with three high school prospects on Day 1.
The Pirates selected Austin Meadows, an outfielder out of Grayson (Ga.) High School, with their first pick, No. 9 overall. He has five-tool potential with a strong arm, great speed, and plenty of bat. The Pirates had that pick because their first rounder last year, Mark Appel, who went No. 1 to Houston this year, didn't sign.
"It feels great. I've heard a lot of good things about the Pirates organization and they're really good in their development system," Meadows said Thursday.
Pittsburgh followed that pick with 14th-overall selection Reese McGuire, a left-handed hitting catcher -- always a valuable commodity -- from Kentwood (Wash.) Senior High School. The Bucs closed Day 1 with Dana Hills (Calif.) High School pitcher Blake Taylor -- a tall, projectable lefty with an easy delivery.
McGuire was the first catcher selected this year, and has been praised for his baseball knowledge and defense. He called games for his pitchers in high school, a skill many backstops don't learn until professional ball, because his father and uncle have allowed him to do so since age 10. They were both catchers growing up and coached his youth teams.
"Baseball is in our blood," McGuire said Thursday. "It's helped me become the player I am. I feel very comfortable behind the dish."
Signing high schoolers away from their college commitments is always a concern. Huntington said until the pen touches paper and the contracts are finalized, it remains a challenge. But both McGuire, committed to San Diego, and Meadows, a Clemson commit, seem ready to join the pro ranks this summer, especially with multi-million dollar signing bonuses -- $3.02 million slot value at No. 9, and $2.5 million at No. 14.
"I'm ready to go physically and mentally for the professionals," McGuire said. "That's what I've been dreaming of and that's what my goal is. San Diego is a great route as well, but I think in this situation, I think I'll be leaning a little bit toward the professionals."
On Day 2, the Pirates opted for more experience and arms, selecting LSU outfielder JaCoby Jones in the third round, then Sam Houston State lefty Cody Dickson in the fourth.
They followed that with a pair of shortstops -- athletic high schooler Trae Arbet and Mississippi State's Adam Frazier, who went 6-for-6 in the Bulldogs' NCAA Super Regional win Saturday against Virginia.
The Pirates closed out Day 2 with four right-handed pitchers --- UNLV's Buddy Borden, Neil Kozikowski of Avon Old Farms School (Conn.), Delaware ace Chad Kuhl, and Long Beach State's Shane Carle.
"Our philosophy on pitching probably isn't that different from many around baseball," Huntington said. "We like guys who can get swings and misses, we like guys that can get groundballs and we like guys that pound the zone. There's like three in the game that have all those traits, so from there, it's a sliding scale of how you evaluate players against each other."
On Day 3, the Pirates started with third basemen Erich Weiss of Texas and Beau Wallace of Hinds (Miss.) Community College. They then selected versatile hitter Danny Collins out of Troy (Ala.), North Shore (Texas) High School outfielder Nick Buckner and Arizona State catcher Max Rossiter, who they picked last year, but couldn't sign.
After Day 2, Huntington said he felt confident with the Draft and insisted he wasn't trying to balance out the amount of high school and college players selected.
Instead, he was focused on stockpiling talent for a farm system that Baseball America ranked No. 7 before the season.
"It was a situation where we looked at the players of similar values at our time of selection," Huntington said, "and picked the one we thought the best about in the room."
Huntington is excited to get many of the players the Pirates drafted into their system.
"While it was what they've done," he said, "the most important part of the Draft is what we believe they're going to do."
In the Pipeline
The club's No. 1 prospect, Gerrit Cole, will make his Major League debut Tuesday against the Giants.
"We feel pretty good about that [Draft]," Huntington said of 2011, when Cole went first overall. "But we feel pretty good about this one, as well."
Jameson Tallion, the Pirates No. 2 prospect and the second overall pick in the 2010 Draft, has a 3.64 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 12 starts for Double-A Altoona this year, and he still has some work to do before reaching the big leagues.
The Pirates' top three position players in the system are all still in Class A, with Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco in Class A Advanced Bradenton, while Josh Bell is in West Virginia. Two of the club's Top 20 prospects, lefty Justin Wilson and righty Bryan Morris, are currently in the Pirates' bullpen, one of baseball's best.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.