As if it weren't already perfectly clear, Neal Huntington could not care less what you think. Gtrain, in the first of yesterday's two massively informative draft comment threads, joked that Huntington "may have his own version of Moneyball one day called I-Do-What-I-@)#($*ing-Want-Ball." After managing to alienate even hardcore fans like me with a terrible first day of the draft, the Pirates did exactly what they said they would and picked a ridiculous number of high-upside players on the second day. They'll have trouble signing a lot of them, but wow--they went from having a poor draft to a pretty good one, and they did it by making all their best picks on a day that will get far less attention than the day they bombed.
This draft reminds me a little of the 2000 draft, a draft that also lacked upside at the top. After Adrian Gonzalez, who was the first overall pick, there was only one really good major leaguer who came out of the first 25 picks: Chase Utley, who went 15th. (Adam Wainwright, Dustin McGowan and Kelly Johnson went near the end of the round; the Pirates, with their pick, took Sean Burnett 19th.) The Bucs were able to get a lot from the draft, though, because they picked Chris Young, Jose Bautista, Nate McLouth and Ian Snell in the late rounds. Young and McLouth, specifically, were signed to large bonuses to lure them away from Princeton and the University of Michigan, respectively.
This year may turn out to be like the Pirates' 2000 draft. There might be an Utley or two who the Pirates passed on with the fourth overall pick, but there will be lots of busts too. So rather than sign a player in the first round and pay him $7 million, the Bucs drafted Tony Sanchez, who's likely to be far cheaper, and took a ton of potential McLouths and Youngs later.
Huntington explains his thought process:
The draft teaches us many lessons, and one lessons is how ecstatic 19 clubs were from 1998-2006 when they selected a high school pitcher in the first 10 selections in the draft. Of those 19 clubs, only four have seen those high hopes turn into a major league starting pitcher. One other lesson the draft teaches us is that major league players come from all portions of the draft and, often times, the best major leaguer was not taken in the first round. As a result, we went with the player in the first round we believed had the best combination of attributes, and that allowed us to execute a draft strategy to attempt to add the deepest and most talented draft class in Pirates history.
Last year, we committed over $6 million to one player. If Stephen Strasburg or Dustin Ackley had slipped, we would have likely altered our overall approach to the draft and committed greater resources to either of them. Ultimately, we did not believe there was the blue chip in which to invest a very large percentage of our significant resources and, instead, chose to diversify our portfolio in an effort to find the highest possible return.
This does make a lot of sense. If the Pirates ponied up a huge bonus to sign a high school pitcher like Matt Purke, then there's a chance he could turn into the next Josh Beckett. There's also a much better chance he could become the next Mike Stodolka or Matt Wheatland or Mark Phillips or Joe Torres, all high school pitchers who were selected in the first ten picks of the 2000 draft. By signing Sanchez for $2 million or so and spreading the rest of the $5 million or so they would've paid Purke to lots of players, the Pirates are hedging their bets and, in a draft like this that has few sure things, probably increasing the likelihood of getting a good return. They picked about a zillion high school pitchers, including many who will cost a fair amount to sign because they have commitments to college programs.
Anyway, look out for the following players from Day 2 of the Pirates' draft:
6. HS pitcher Zachary von Rosenberg, who goes to Zachary High School in Zachary, Louisiana (and no, I'm not making that up). Here's video. As I noted yesterday, Baseball America ranked Rosenberg the 41st-best draft prospect.
7. HS pitcher Trent Stevenson, one of the top prospects from Arizona. Here's some video.
But it's Cain's pitching talent that puts him in the elite category of prospects. Last fall, Baseball America rated him 44th among high school prospects and 81st overall.
"For an 18-year-old to have a good arm like that, who's big and strong, that's what everybody is looking for," said one American League scout. "Especially from a lefthander"...
The amount of money offered will determine the direction Cain chooses.
"It's got to be enough to pull me away from Texas," he said, "because I like Texas a lot."
12. Stanford pitcher Jeffrey Inman. Baseball America:
Inman had a late-season shoulder injury and a 2-6, 6.11 record this year that caused teams to have no idea what the real Inman is. He’s had success in the past, helping pitch the Cardinal to Omaha last season while going 7-2, 4.27. On balance, though, Inman has been more about potential than performance since his days as a high-rated prep pitcher in Bakersfield. Maybe this is a spot where the Pirates spend some of the money they saved by drafting Tony Sanchez at No. 4 overall.
16. Florida outfielder Matt den Dekker, seen here:
One AL East area scout said the 6-1, 205-pound centerfielder is a gamer and has good range and moves fluidly and possesses a plus arm. He also pitches for the Gators. He has good power to all fields and is a plus runner.
"He's just a little stiff at the plate," the scout said. "It's like he's almost thinking a little too much up there."
Nonetheless, a plus arm in centerfield should make den Dekker an easy second rounder, if not a late compensation round pick.
Baseball America ranked den Dekker their 94th best draft prospect overall.
29. HS pitcher Michael Heller. PG CrossChecker:
Michael is one of the best two way players in the nation and has signed with the University of Florida. Looking at the number of scouts that have been attending his outings so far this year on the mound, the thought of him ever stepping foot on the Gator campus, is getting smaller and smaller.
Through three starts on the hill this year, Heller has shown more 'pitchablility' then in the past. In his first start, a pre-season game against a strong Mariner High School (Cape Coral, FL) squad, Heller didn't disappoint the more then 40 scouts that were in attendance, as his first pitch was a fastball that registered at 94mph. Through out his three innings he continued to pitch at 93-94 while topping at 97mph. What was more interesting then in the past was that Heller was able to maintain his velocity on all his pitches, including a slider that showed better pace and greater depth.