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Pirates' draft retrospective: 2012

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Draft rounds are in parentheses, positions are as announced at the draft.

This was the first draft under the new bonus pool rules.

What's Left

Barrett Barnes, OF (1S): The Pirates got this pick as compensation for the loss of Ryan Doumit.  Barnes has talent, profiling as perhaps similar to Marlon Byrd.  As everybody knows, though, he's seldom been on the field due to numerous injuries.  He's currently with Bradenton.

Wyatt Mathisen, C (2): This pick looked good at the time, but Mathisen has since moved to 3B.  The move put much more pressure on his bat and, so far, it hasn't responded.  As Max Moroff is perhaps showing this year, though, it's too soon to write off a prep hitter, and Mathisen did essentially miss the 2013 season due to injury.

Adrian Sampson, RHP (5): The Pirates have pushed Sampson, a junior college draftee, aggressively.  He represents a (tentative) success story for their development staff.  He was required to rely heavily on his changeup in high A in 2013, which resulted in bad numbers for the year.  The Pirates nevertheless moved him up to AA in 2014 and he had a strong year.  He's currently pitching well in AAA and could see the majors sometime between late this year and the middle of next year.

Eric Wood, 3B (6): Wood wasn't well known (a scout once asked me at a GCL game whether I knew anything about him), but has raw power that hasn't shown up in games yet.  He hit well enough in high A last year to get promoted to AA this year, but he's not hitting much and is losing playing time.

Thomas Harlan, LHP (13): Soft-tosser who had success at lower levels as reliever, then pitched decently when pressed into starting duty in AA last year.  The Pirates thought enough of him to send him to the Arizona Fall League, but he's back in AA pitching mainly in relief.

Max Moroff, SS (16): Signed for above-slot bonus.  The Pirates have pushed him fairly aggressively despite mediocre hitting numbers, but he may be breaking out in AA this year.  He moved to 2B in deference to Adam Frazier in 2014 and appears likely to stay there.

John Kuchno, RHP (18): Signed for a little over slot, Kuchno is nothing if not interesting.  His K and BB rates have gone from weak to terrible (currently 3.9 BB/9 and 2.2 K/9), but he's generally gotten outs, thanks in part to groundball tendencies that are extreme even for the Pirates.  He's currently in the AA bullpen.

Kyle Haynes, RHP (20): Pitched well in low A, then went to Yankees as PTBNL for Chris Stewart.  Currently pitching in relief in AA, having control problems.

Other Signees

Jon Sandfort, RHP (3): The only projectable prep pitcher taken by the Pirates in the top ten rounds of this draft, Sandfort struggled severely until the Pirates released him prior to this season.  That's very soon to give up on such an early pick, which shows just how badly Sandfort was struggling.

Jacob Stallings, C (7): Stallings is a strong defensive catcher who was drafted as a senior and signed for a bonus that was a small fraction of slot money.  He settled in quickly as a organizational catcher.

Kevin Ross, SS (8): A prep draftee, Ross had some power potential, but incurred a drug suspension and was released prior to this season.

D.J. Crumlich, SS (9): The Pirates also drafted Crumlich in the 38th round in 2011.  As a college senior, he signed for well below slot money.  He quickly became an organizational infielder and retired during the 2014 season.

Patrick Ludwig, RHP (10): Another college senior, Ludwig did well as a swing man until he got to AA in 2014.  He retired after failing to make the Altoona roster this spring.

Chris Diaz, SS (11): Has struggled to hit.  Moved quickly into organizational role.

Dalton Friend, LHP (12): Showed promise early, but missed all of 2013 due to injury and was released prior to 2014 season.

Hayden Hurst, RHP (17): An above-slot signee, he was done in by arm problems.  Recorded exactly one out as a pro, walking all five hitters he faced in his only outing.  (The one out was a CS.  He also threw two wild pitches.)  Hurst moved to 1B but made little progress there and retired recently.

Jordan Steranka, 3B (21): Settled in quickly as corner utility player.

Lance Breedlove, RHP (23): Released after 2013.

Tyler Gaffney, OF (24): Had a very interesting debut, hitting 297/483/441 thanks in large part to 20 HBPs in just 38 games.  That's one of the most outlandish stats I've ever seen.  Unfortunately, he couldn't resist the lure of football and went back to Stanford.  He's now employed by the Russian mob al Qaeda the New England Patriots.

Josh Smith, LHP (25):  Appeared to be an organizational reliever, but had a strong 2014 season.  Sent to AA, at one point he'd allowed nearly all the runs allowed by the Curve.  As I write this, he's still responsible for 19% of the team's earned runs despite pitching only 4% of their innings.

Jimmy Rider, 2B (26): Utilized as organizational player from the start.  Went to Boston for cash and is now in low A.

Max Rossiter, C (32): Quit after playing one pro game.

Did Not Sign

Mark Appel, RHP (1): Appel was widely expected to go first overall, but the Astros took a portfolio approach in allocating their bonus pool.  The Pirates took a chance drafting him, as they regarded much more highly than any other available player, but had little sense of whether they could sign him given the limitations of the bonus pool system.  As it turned out, they never came close.  Houston then ended up with Appel at #1 overall in 2013.  He had a much-publicized meltdown in high A last year before pitching better in AA.  Baseball America ranks him #31 overall among all prospects, which is only ten spots higher than they rank Austin Meadows, the player the Pirates took with the compensation pick for not signing Appel.

Brandon Thomas, OF (4): Thomas reportedly changed his mind after telling the Pirates before the draft that he'd sign for slot money.  The Yankees selected him in the 8th round in 2013 and signed him.  He's hit very little as a pro and is currently repeating low A, which isn't good for a college draftee.

Walker Buehler, RHP (14): Went to Vanderbilt and is considered a likely 1st round pick, possibly a top ten overall pick, in the 2015 draft.

Jake Johansen, RHP (27): Hard thrower whose uneven performance and high asking price dropped him in the draft.  Selected by the Nationals in the 2nd round in 2013, he signed and is now pitching in relief in high A.  BA rated him as Washington's 17th best prospect after 2014.

Summary

This draft obviously was dominated by the Pirates' failure to sign Appel.  His drop through the first seven selections was completely unexpected.  Teams spend a lot of time not just scouting the possibilities for their early picks on the field, but learning as much as they can about the player so they can make a judgment about whether he'll sign.  They can't do this with every player in the draft.  The unexpected availability of Stetson Allie, for instance, was probably one reason he dropped completely through the 1st round.  Because they were picking second on day two of the draft that year, the Pirates had the better part of a day to make calls about Allie.  In Josh Bell's case, they knew he was likely to fall in the draft due to the letter he sent out telling teams not to draft him.  With Appel, they probably had to make a decision in a few minutes with very little information.  (The criticism made by some, that they should simply have called Scott Boras and asked him whether Appel would sign, is too stupid for words.)  Since they apparently regarded Appel as having talent close to Gerrit Cole's talent, it wasn't a bad gamble due to the fact that they'd get a compensation pick.  They were likely, and in fact did, get a player with talent at least close to David Dahl's, with whom they reportedly had a pre-draft bonus agreement before Appel fell to them.

The Appel pick did, however, have other consequences.  Probably in preparation for spending as much pool money as possible on Appel, the Pirates in rounds 7, 9 and 10 took college seniors who figured from the start to be organizational players.  Two of the three are already out of baseball.  Unrelated to Appel, their 4th round pick didn't sign (just as well, it appears), their 3rd rounder flopped badly, and their 2nd rounder hasn't established himself as a prospect.  Their 8th rounder is also already gone.  Whiffing on your first four picks and eight of your top eleven is a tough way to succeed in the draft.  And then there's Barnes and his injury problems.

The Pirates do seem to have gotten some over-slot value out of the later rounds.  Hurst didn't work out, but Moroff appears now to have a good shot at reaching the majors, at least as a utility guy.  And the one pick in the first ten rounds who's working out unequivocally so far, Sampson, has a very good chance to get a shot in the rotation at some point.