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Pirates draft recap: Day 2

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Shows what I know.

After day one, I thought sure the Pirates would follow last year's strategy.  Both years, they took hitters at the top of the draft.  Last year, they then followed with two prep pitchers who'd require above-slot money, which the Pirates somehow scraped together.  Surely this year, with prep pitching considered stronger than most other demographics, they'd do the same.

So instead they go with an all-college day two.  I suppose you could consider Jacob Taylor analogous to a prep pitcher, given that he's a second-year juco player who's only been a full-time pitcher for a year.  But that's as close as they got.  With their first day-two pick, they even went against their first-day trend of taking position players with strong hit tools and contact ability.  Instead, Casey Hughston has good power potential, but questionable contact ability.

A digression:  A few years ago, MLB seriously pushed an initiative that, among other things, would have eliminated individual teams' scouting staffs and had all teams using a combine run by MLB.  The proposal surprisingly got no attention except briefly from Baseball America.  It was a classic move by a penny-pinching used car salesman to remove one of the main potential advantages smaller market teams could gain over the Yankees and Red Sox.  The Pirates are a perfect example.  They can't afford "combine-style" drafting, where they'd effectively be limited to picking the appropriately ranked player from something like BA's top 500.  The Pirates have to find ways to draft better than other teams, all the more so now that they're picking in the latter half of the first round.

This is why it makes perfect sense that the Pirates would go against industry consensus in drafting Cole Tucker and Connor Joe in the first round, or drafting a bunch of college hitters early in a year in which college hitting was considered poor.  They can't succeed by following the pack.  The corollary, though, is that they actually have to be smarter than everybody else.  When it comes to selecting college hitters, the evidence is lacking, especially with last year's examples all struggling in Class A, which shouldn't be a big challenge for them.  Hopefully, Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer, Hughston and Mitchell Tolman will work out better.  Newman and Kramer, at least, won't have the pressure on their bats that Connor Joe, Jordan Luplow and Michael Suchy have because they're not corner players, at least not necessarily.

Then there are the college pitchers.  Today they took six, if you count Taylor.  The previous high for this administration in the first 10 rounds was four; many years it was just one or two.  Their track record with college pitchers is arguably better than with hitters (although it's very sparse prior to the last couple years).  It's much harder to get a Nick Kingham or Tyler Glasnow outside of the first round, but they may be able to find useful arms like Brandon Cumpton (or Chad Kuhl, who looks like he could be the next Cumpton).  J.T. Brubaker and Bret Helton are obviously projects, but pitching projects never scare the Pirates.  The most interesting pitcher they drafted may be Seth McGarry.  The Pirates are very reluctant to develop pitchers as relievers, but McGarry's medical history may leave them with no choice.  They're also not big on promoting draftees to the majors quickly, but if they've made a good choice with McGarry, he might provide bullpen help soon, which is something they could use.

It's possible the Pirates could still look for overslot prep pitching candidates on day three, but they may not be able to move as much money around as last year.  Their three day one picks don't look like tough signs, but only Kramer was arguably an overdraft, so saving pool money on them may not be easy.  They didn't select any college seniors yet (Kramer is a senior but he has a year of eligibility left, so his leverage is roughly what any junior's would be) as they have in some years since the bonus pool rules took effect.  Hughston, Taylor and McGarry, in particular, could be tough signs, because they all can be draft-eligible for the next two years.  Hughston and McGarry are draft-eligible sophomores and Taylor has committed to LSU, where he'd be a junior next year.