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Minor League Ball Previews Pirates' Draft

This is a pretty cool review of Pirates scouting director Greg Smith's history with the Bucs and Tigers. 

Smith is exceptionally good at picking players that were valued more highly coming into the draft, but fell for whatever reason.  He has continuously gotten players in places they should already be gone, and that is only done with quality planning and execution.  That's what comes with experience.  Comparing his Tiger years to his draft with the Pirates is difficult to do, because he was using different scouts, working with a different budget, and with different bosses.  Add to that the fact that 2008 was his first draft in four years, a layoff that is quite important to point out.  However, thanks to a huge budget, Smith got good value picks in the first few rounds, followed by getting good players with obscene bonuses later on.  In general, Smith seems to heavily favor college players, with a good amount of focus on tall, projectable college pitchers.

The report guesses that the Pirates might select North Carolina pitcher Alex White or former Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow with the fourth overall pick. Most Pirates fans, including myself, are wary of taking pitchers that early, not only because they often get injured, but because of their track record:

The history of baseball's draft since it began in 1965 is unmistakable. You can project exceptional hitters with about a 50 percent success rate. You can't project No. 1 overall pitchers at all.

Nobody -- n-o-b-o-d-y -- has used a No. 1 overall pick on a pitcher and been glad they did it. Thirteen teams have tried it since the draft began in 1965. Nine have gotten egg on their faces. The lucky four got Andy Benes (155-139), Tim Belcher (146-140), Mike Moore (161-176) and Floyd Bannister (134-143). No Hall of Famers. Just a bunch of guys who could throw a ball through a wall when they were young but never became great.

...Since '65, 102 pitchers have been taken within the first five picks. Not one is going to the Hall of Fame. None is close. Only one won more than 200 games (Kevin Brown). Rounding out the top five -- Dwight Gooden (194 wins), Bill Gullickson, Moore and Benes...

More than 75 percent of those 102 were wasted picks. Yet absolutely every one was hailed as a future star.

You can't screw up top-five draft picks, especially if you're a team in the Pirates' situation. Someone like Stephen Strasburg might just be an exception to any sort of rule you'd like to make up about not drafting pitchers that early, and maybe David Price was too. But I don't think Crow or Green are, even though the crop of position players in this year's draft aren't that great. Pitchers are far more risky than position players, and so often the best strategy is to take a hitter in the first round and grab a bunch of live arms later.