I follow college baseball a little for the actual baseball, but mostly for the MLB draft. Like many of the rest of you, I've been completely immersed in draft coverage for the past month or so. I know the top 10 or so kids better than I know half of my co-workers and I've repeatedly seen blank stares when expressing the public knowledge of Lucas Giolito's ulnar collateral injury or how much I like the concept and progress of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School.
I can remember loving Carlos Correa from the first mocks I saw at mymlbdraft.com this past winter and hoping that the Pirates would end up with him. As we crept closer to draft day, I hated the Deven Marrero links (along with pretty much everybody else), read hundreds of mock drafts, and tried to understand the thought processes of the 30 MLB teams; especially those drafting in front of Pittsburgh; and how their front offices would attack the Rule IV draft. In the past week or so, I found myself putting potential Pirates draft picks into one of three reactions:
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I looked at these players as overdrafts; guys who weren't worth the high draft pick or the corresponding investment. They looked like Dave Littlefield picks to me: clearly not the best players available, but lower profile guys who would be easy to sign. I've seen enough of those and hope those days are behind me.
I didn't mind these guys, but wasn't in love with them. Not quite the excitement of getting a top guy, but not the horrible disappointment of the first group. These all seemed like quality players with reasonable upside (Fried obviously with the most upside, but also the most risk of this group). I would have been okay with any of these picks, though not exuberant.
These were basically the consensus top 7 (excluding Lucas Giolito, a wild card, whom I'll get to in a minute). I knew that something would have to happen or break just right for the Pirates to have the chance to draft one of these guys and would be pretty stoked to see one of them on the board at #8. Correa, Buxton, and Zunino were my favorites, but since this draft was so imprecise at the top, any of these talents would do. I didn't include Giolito in this group, even though I think he's probably the most talented pitcher, because of his elbow and his commitment to UCLA. Players are routinely bought out of their college commitments, but Giolito loses the potential of being the #1 pick in 3 years by signing now (following the same arc as fellow Bruin Gerrit Cole) and, with teams less able to easily pay overslot for players, millions of dollars. I could probably trust the front office to tell me that he's healthy or that he'll sign; but not both. I know that teams know infinitely more about these situations than outsiders do, but not having complete faith and trust in the PBC is a symptom of all the terrible moves, NH- or non NH-related, in the past 20 years.
Like many of my fellow Pittsburgh Pirates fans, I'm conditioned to prepare for the worst... though I'm trying to be optimistic (however cautiously). My first thought once they drafted Appel (after praying that Vlad was alright) was on the horrible failure of recent Stanford pitchers picked highly in the draft. Then I was worried about his signability. I wondered how quickly he could progress through the minor leagues and questioned what might happened if he stalled at a level. After some time to ponder (and a little sleep), I realized that I would have been pretty excited if I had known a week ago that Mark Appel was going to fall to #8 and that Pittsburgh was going to draft him. I actually predicted this a few weeks ago (semi-jokingly at first, then with the appreciation of irony that leads you to believe that some things are just crazy enough to be inevitible); but it was more guesswork than reasoned hypothesis.
Really, my main impetus for writing this was to say that I'm happy about it (I know everyone's been dying to know that!) I know there are signability questions; this isn't the place for them (unless you're totally convinced that Appel will go back to Stanford or play indy ball and think this was just a complete waste of a pick). I like the comp pick (Barrett Barnes), but that's not my point here, either. I'm just happy that something broke the Pirates way for once and hope this is the beginning of a new chapter of Pirates baseball (sorry if I seem poetic; following this team has made me a little existential). Thanks if you took a few minutes to read this, and thanks again for voting if you chose to!