There is a significant misconception that all small market clubs build their rosters via the MLB draft, including the Pirates. Taking a quick glance on the Pirates Top 50 prospects/projects and the approximate breakdown is as follows:
27 acquired via mlb draft
17 international signings
6 acquired via trade
Regardless of what prospect/project list you use, most would be surprised that almost half the top 50 impact players in the Pirates' minor league system were not drafted by the Pirates.
By all accounts the 2009 MLB Draft was a massive failure for Pittsburgh, and the Phil Irwin release closes the door on it. While Tony Sanchez appears to be the only talent remaining in Pittsburgh, at least it appears they wanted to cut bait quickly to free up space on the 40-man for later successes. At least 5 drafted players from this class have been traded for various returns (Black, Pounders, Baker, Cain, Holt), which is an impressive amount in a vacuum for a small market team.
Whatever went wrong for Pittsburgh in the 2009 MLB Draft, NH definitely got lucky and/or smart evaluating talent (again, mostly pitching) in 2010. Draft included:
6 Hursh (drafted 1st round in 2013)
7 Kubitza (drafted 4th round in 2013)
8 Dime (drafted 3rd round in 2013)
19 Emanuel (drafted 3rd round in 2013)
41 Trepagnier (having a nice season)
The 2011 draft continued the trend of the tall rhp w/ projection (Holmes, Glasnow, etc). Early returns on a few recent picks like Borden and Sampson are encouraging.
While the Pirates made a few minor acquisitions in 2013 (Gomez, Mazzaro) influenced by peripherals, it is safe to say their new market efficiency is pitching reclamation projects at both the major and minor league levels with the emphasis on plus stuff. Last year we saw tremendous seasons from Liriano on the major league level and Pimentel in minors. This year it is Volquez, Worley, and Oliver showing progress.
About 1/3 of the Pirates' 40-man roster will be different on opening day 2015 than it was last month, and the last few spots are going to include high-upside guys that are basically lottery tickets. That is exactly what I would want my small market team to do. They have had 5 years to evaluate Phil Irwin and its safe to say his stuff is replacement level, which is no longer worthy of a roster spot. So the next time someone cries about picking up a Josh Wall, just ask him what he knows that Ray Searage doesn't.