Less than two weeks after the 2015 MLB Draft, the Bucs' class appears to be mostly set. The Pirates have signed 17th-round pick Austin Sodders, a junior college lefty, which means that they've now signed all their picks through Round 18 except fifth-rounder Brandon Waddell, who's still pitching for the University of Virginia.
The Pirates will almost certainly sign Waddell, and they might sign a few more late-round picks, but they won't have much more money with which to do so. Bonuses for their picks in the first 10 rounds generally hewed fairly closely to MLB's recommendations -- first-rounder Kevin Newman, second-rounder Kevin Kramer and a few of the Pirates' picks on Day 2 got a bit less than MLB's pool values, but third-rounder Casey Hughston and fourth-rounder Jacob Taylor each got a bit more. Via Pirates Prospects, here are the bonuses for the Bucs' picks in the first 10 rounds.
|Pick||Round||Pool value||Actual bonus|
|Brandon Waddell||5||$329,100||Not yet signed|
The Pirates probably knew they would have to free up a bit of extra money to sign Hughston and Taylor, but they didn't go the typical route and save a bunch of money by picking a college senior or two late on Day 2. Instead, they selected a series of college juniors and got them to sign for slightly less than the recommended amount.
The Bucs also signed their 22nd-round pick, high school righty Nathan Trevillian, for $250,000, of which $150,000 will count against the pool. That means they signed 12 players whose bonuses are relevant to the pool. Those players' bonuses totaled $7,080,000, of which $6,980,000 counts toward their pool figure. The Bucs' total pool is $7,392,200, but most of the remainder will go to Waddell, whose pick has a pool value of $329,100. That leaves them a little bit of room for a more expensive late-round signing or two (19th-rounder Ike Schlabach and 23rd-rounder Jake McCarthy, who are committed to Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Virginia, respectively, are the obvious candidates), but not a ton. (UPDATE: McCarthy says he's going to college.)
The first $100,000 in the bonus of any player signed after Round 10 doesn't count against the pool, and it's sometimes possible to get interesting players in the late rounds for $100,000 or less, sometimes much less. 13th-rounder Logan Ratledge, a senior infielder from N.C. State, looks like a Day 3 steal, and the Pirates signed him for $5,000 (see here if you're interested in how the Bucs were able to do that).
In general, though, the Pirates' draft is basically done. Things with the draft aren't always as they seem, but this doesn't seem like a very ambitious draft. The Pirates mostly picked players who represented decent, but not great, values for the picks in which they were chosen. This is, of course, pretty much what the current pool system is designed to get teams to do, and a team whose first pick is at No. 19 doesn't have the flexibility to be as aggressive as, for example, the Astros were in taking Daz Cameron with the No. 37 overall pick, or the Rangers were in taking Michael Matuella in the third round. Both those teams had top five overall picks, and the huge pool allotments for those picks allow teams not only to select top-caliber players in the first round, but to save money to spend on top players later. The Pirates didn't have that flexibility.
They still could have picked someone like Cameron at No. 32, of course, and offered him whatever they could. Cameron probably would have rejected their offer and headed to Florida State, and the Pirates would have gotten a similar pick in next year's draft. I think that would have been a cool strategy -- maybe Cameron would have changed his mind, and if not, next year's draft is supposed to be a lot better than this one was. I'm guessing MLB would have frowned upon that kind of gamesmanship, though, particularly after the Astros' mess with Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix last year.
So the Pirates got a bunch of decent position player prospects instead, to go with a few interesting arms like Taylor and Trevillian. Assessments of Newman are all over the place -- Keith Law ranked Newman the second-best prospect in the entire draft, but other outlets weren't nearly as high on him, and his lack of power raises questions about how well his bat will play in the high minors and the big leagues. Hayes, the Pirates' other top pick, looks like a solid all-around hitter, but he'll have to stay in shape to stick as third (although everyone seems to think he has the tools to do so). Second-rounder Kramer profiles fairly well offensively, but MLB.com, Baseball America and Law all had him ranked below where the Pirates took him.
Of course, I don't really know what I'm talking about with something as complicated and subjective as the draft, so I rely on Baseball America and MLB.com and Keith Law. Hopefully, MLB organizations have scouting networks extensive enough that they know more than Baseball America and MLB.com do. When an outsider says something like, "This doesn't seem like a very ambitious draft," what they really mean is, "This team didn't agree with Baseball America about who the best players were." Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. We should want the Pirates to be better at scouting than Baseball America is, and if a team is drafting based on outside rankings, it's a tacit admission that it doesn't know what it's doing. The Pirates should be thinking independently.
I said something similar last year as a way of explaining that draft, and this year's draft bears superficial similarities to that one -- the Bucs generally favored hitters, and from the outside, it looked like they got reasonable values from their picks, but not great ones. That draft has produced some modest successes so far (eighth-rounder Austin Coley, late-rounder Jerrick Suiter), and it's obviously way, way too early to reach a final judgment -- top pick Cole Tucker is ridiculously young, and we understandably still haven't seen much from Mitch Keller, Trey Supak or Gage Hinsz, all of them big-dollar high school pitchers. As I believe WTM has pointed out, though, the early returns on some of their top picks (like Connor Joe and Taylor Gushue) haven't been that promising. We'll see if this year's picks get off to better starts.