-P- From a chat at BP:
Joel (Washington, DC): Your very own BP Latin America expert has the Pirates in on Miguel Sano at $4 million+ and therefore possibly going cheap at #4 in the draft. Your mock has them taking Kyle Gibson. Any thoughts on the likelihood or the wisdom of the Sano/below slot scenario?
Kevin Goldstein: I've heard the same rumor, so there's definitely some smoke there at least.
We'll have to see what "cheap" means; with the level of talent in this year's draft, it may not mean much. The Pirates will never admit to this strategy, and with the lack of top talent available, they can very plausibly claim they picked who they wanted most even if they actually picked for value.
One problem with this strategy, though, is that the Sano-signing season doesn't begin until several weeks after the draft, so the Pirates had better have a pretty good idea that they can sign Sano (whose name, as BP notes in another recent article, is pronounced like Robinson Cano) before they pull something like this.
If money is a concern (and frankly I don't see why the Pirates shouldn't pony up the money to sign Sano and the best available first round draft pick), I've actually got an even better idea. Why not pick someone who's perceived as a very tough sign--someone like Georgia high school outfielder Donavan Tate, who may choose football instead:
Tate's stock is falling. Some teams have him No. 2 or No. 3 on their board, but that number seems to be dwindling. Football scholarship + some questions on the bat + $6 million price tag has equaled a softer Donavan Tate market.
(Tate is just an example; it doesn't have to be him if the Bucs don't believe in him, just someone with a lot of upside who might not sign.)
Anyway, take Tate, and don't sign him until after the Latin American signing period starts. Then make a serious push to sign Sano. If it works and there's not much money left over, lowball Tate, let him go play football, and collect the fifth overall pick in what could be a much stronger draft next year. (Under the new draft rules, you get essentially the same pick the next year if you don't sign your first-rounder.) If Sano signs elsewhere, pay the extra money to sign Tate.
Q: Given the extreme dearth of pitching talent in the Pirates' minor league system, and the significantly higher impact pitchers contribute relative to position players, is there a reason the Pirates wouldn't simply take the shotgun approach and draft starting pitchers in every round of the draft?
Perhaps that is extreme, but at least it would seem there is value in taking a disproportionate number of pitchers. If even only one or two pan out, it would change the entire complexion of the team.
Joe Willis of Edgewood
KOVACEVIC: Crazy as that sounds, your idea might have some merit, Joe.
There all kinds of mitigating factors, obviously, not the least of which is that you are not going to find 50 pitchers worthwhile. But focusing on adding all kinds of arms ... hey, why not? The bonuses, once you get past the top third of the draft, almost invariably are four-figure signings, so the expenditure would be minimal.
I wrote during Dave Littlefield's tenure that it was difficult to explain how a terrible system would sign only 27-28 of its 50 picks, and I echoed that last year when the current management signed 32. Yes, that is slightly above the industry norm. But the Pirates' system is well shy of the industry norm.
I'm all for thinking outside the box, but there are a couple other reasons the Pirates can't draft 50 pitchers. First, their system needs hitters too. And second, while the point of minor league rosters is to develop prospects and not to win games, you still have to think about mundane stuff like filling rosters and making sure everyone who needs playing time can get it. The Pirates drafted two college shortstops (Jordy Mercer and Chase D'Arnaud) in the first four rounds of last year's draft, and even that caused minor problems. Mercer had to be sent to a level too high so that both of them could play shortstop every day, and now he's struggling to keep his head above water in Lynchburg while D'Arnaud plays shortstop at West Virginia. (This mess also contributed to the collapse of last year's State College team, which would have been better with Mercer on it.) If you sign 30 pitchers, good luck finding playing time for all of them at appropriate levels.
-P- Speaking of the draft, MLB.com projects the Pirates will take former Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow with the fourth overall pick, but points out that there's enough pitching depth in the draft that the Bucs could grab a hitter with their first overall pick and wait until their two second round picks to start taking pitching.
-P- Ryan Doumit just had a CT scan that came back fine, so he can start doing baseball-related rehab. He could be back in a couple of weeks. Which is great, because the Jason Jaramillo / Robinzon Diaz tandem has cooled off in the past couple of weeks, although they've filled in admirably overall.
-P- Carlos Zambrano has received a six-game suspension for his outburst on Wednesday.