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Pirates draft recap: Day 1

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Lesson One:  The next time a bunch of writers think they have a line on the Pirates' first round pick, ignore them.  I was so sure they'd take a prep pitcher that I thought the announcement was a mistake.  I thought Rob Manfred had gotten drunk celebrating the Yankees' current first place standing.

I was never really happy with the idea of taking a pitcher, much less a prep pitcher, in round one.  They're so unpredictable that it always made sense to me -- unless a premium pitcher like Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon was available -- to wait until after the first round, which is where the Pirates found Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow.  I just think the difference in risk drops much faster with position players than it does with pitchers, although I don't know for sure that there's data to bear this out.

As for Kevin Newman, I think he fits some emerging organizational philosophies.  I've wondered for a while whether the Pirates are concluding that the antidote to the exploding trend in strikeouts is to get hitters who put the ball in play more.  This definitely shows in their farm system this year, where they have a lot of guys hitting for average but not much power.  Newman certainly fits this approach.  The fact that scouts aren't convinced he'll stay at short is consistent with the team's reliance on shifts, as well as their stated belief that they can teach defense more easily than hitting.  Newman isn't long on tools, but the Pirates' best post-Jack-Wilson defensive shortstop, Clint Barmes, wasn't either.

The fact that they seem heavy on shortstops, most notably JaCoby Jones and Cole Tucker, is irrelevant.  Along with catcher, shortstop is the hardest position to fill with veteran players, even for teams that can spend big in the free agent market.  You can't have too many shortstop prospects.

Lesson Two:  Well, OK, sometimes somebody has real information.  Ke'Bryan Hayes at least didn't come out of nowhere like Newman did.  He's similar to Newman in that he's more of a line drive hitter than a power hitter, although unlike Newman he has some chance of hitting for decent home run power.  But he certainly adds to the evidence that the Pirates are more interested in the hit tool than in raw power.  And he's similar to Cole Tucker in that he was a late riser on draft boards.

Hayes also adds a third base prospect, which should make some fans happy.  I've never seen it as a big deal whether they have prospects at specific positions, as long as they have prospects who can hit and play the up-the-middle positions.

Lesson Three:  If it feels good, do it.  I'm not sure I remember a draft where the Pirates' first three picks seemed to reflect such a consistent philosophy.  They even got two college shortstops named "Kevin."  Among other things, they're gambling that they can keep all three players at their intended positions.  Or move them there, as Kramer hasn't played short in a while.  None of the three will be nearly as valuable if they have to move.  I suspect, though, that part of the Pirates' reasoning is that a player with good hitting ability is going to be useful somehow.

One other common factor with these three players is that they are considered very signable.  Charlie already noted that Newman has expressed an eagerness to get started on his pro career.  Kramer is a fourth-year junior who already has his degree.  It's very likely that the Pirates will try to sign all three for a little below slot and then put the money toward some high-ceiling prep pitching, as they did last year.  Of course, now watch them draft a bunch of college relievers on day two.