Now for 2010-12.
These drafts are tougher to judge than the previous two. The primarily college draftees from 2008 have pretty much settled in to be what they're going to be, and the 2009 draftees have mostly flopped, so those two drafts don't have many mysteries remaining. In 2010-11, though, the Pirates continued their focus on high school pitchers. Other than Gerrit Cole, the jury is still out on many of the players in those drafts. The 2012 draft was the first under the screw-the-small-markets draft pool rules. It produced an odd situation for the Pirates, as we all know.
Under "Others," "*" indicates a player who's still in the system.
2010 -- Grade: B
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP: On the verge of reaching the majors in 2014, Taillon missed two years with Tommy John and hernia surgeries. The reports on his recovery are very positive. If they're accurate, he should reach the majors this year. He still has the ceiling of a front-of-the-rotation starter and, if healthy, probably has a very high floor.
2. Stetson Allie, RHP: Allie was basically a lottery pick and it didn't work out. He showed some promise as a hitter, but regressed in his second try at AA. He doesn't seem to have been truly dedicated to pitching and you have to wonder whether some teams figured that out, leading to him dropping to the second round.
3. Mel Rojas, Jr., OF: Rojas made slow progress through the organization, improving gradually as he moved up. He seems to have topped out in AA, though, or maybe as a backup in AAA.
4. Nick Kingham, RHP: Kingham seemed likely to reach the majors in 2015, but Tommy John intervened. Now, 2017 looks like the arrival date, if he has a typical recovery. If healthy, he probably has a mid-rotation ceiling and a high likelihood of making it at least as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
5. Ty Waldron, RHP: The Pirates seem to have a tradition of selecting college starters in round five. Waldron pitched just well enough to advance slowly, but also had some injury problems. He reached AAA with the Pirates, but the Cardinals took him in the minor league phase of the 2014 Rule 5 draft. He struggled in AAA as a reliever with them in 2015.
9. Brandon Cumpton, RHP: Cumpton became a solid starting depth option for the Pirates and performed well in the role in 2013-14. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery cost him the 2015 season and shoulder surgery will cost him the 2016 season. He'll be a free agent after that, but the Pirates may be able to sign him for 2017.
11. Dan Grovatt, OF: Grovatt drew a lot of walks at the low levels -- something you see a lot with college hitters -- but didn't hit much in high A and retired early in his fourth pro season.
15. Drew Maggi, SS: The Pirates paid above-slot money to sign Maggi, but they moved him surprisingly early into a utility role. Hard feelings developed when the team returned him to AA and he was released before the 2015 season. He quickly signed with the Angels, who were supposedly going to move him up, but he spent all of 2015 in AA and didn't do well.
16. Matt Curry, 1B: Curry went to low A in his first full year because Aaron Baker was in high A. Curry ended up destroying low A pitching and the Pirates promoted him all the way to AA. He never adjusted to that level, reaching AAA for only nine games, and was released after 2014. He didn't play pro ball in 2015. He's a case study in the need to view the low A numbers of college hitters with suspicion.
17. Ryan Hafner, RHP: An above-slot HS pitcher, Hafner showed some promise, with a 10.6 K/9 in low A in 2013. He struggled in high A, though, and the Pirates released him mid-way through 2015. Miami signed him and he struggled with them as well. He's now a free agent.
22. Adalberto Santos, 2B: Santos hit very well in AA, but didn't adjust to AAA in very brief action. The Pirates sold his contract to the Giants in 2014 and they released him before the 2015 season. He didn't play anywhere in the last year.
25. Casey Sadler, RHP: Like Cumpton, Sadler worked his way from dark horse status to a solid depth option, making six relief appearances for the Pirates in 2014 and one good start in 2015. He missed the last half of the 2015 season with arm problems and had Tommy John surgery after the season. The Pirates removed him from the roster and re-signed him to a minor league deal for 2016, which he'll spend rehabbing. They'll have to sign him again for 2017.
31. Jason Townsend, RHP: Townsend reached AA as a reliever in 2012 on the strength of a mid-90s fastball, but his velocity dropped and he struggled badly at that level. The Pirates released him in 2014.
Others: Vince Payne, RHP (12); Bryce Weidman, RHP (14); Justin Bencsko, OF (20); Jared Lakind*, 1B (23); Justin Howard, 1B (24); Kevin Kleis, RHP (27); Matt Skirving, C (30); Chase Lyles, IF (32); Justin Ennis, LHP (33); Kelson Brown*, SS (34); Cliff Archibald, RHP (36); Kevin Decker, RHP (39); Bryton Trepagnier, RHP (41); Logan Pevny, RHP (49).
The Pirates again concentrated heavily on HS pitchers, but this time things didn't go as planned. They scored something of a coup when they signed Allie, but they failed to sign their sixth through eighth picks (Jason Hursh, Austin Kubitza and Dace Kime) and their tenth round pick (Zack Weiss), all HS right-handers. Ironically, the most productive picks so far turned out to be two college pitchers, Cumpton and Sadler.
Two factors seem to have played some role in the Pirates' failure to sign some of their over-slot targets. One was intentional sabotage by MLB, which around that time began delaying its approval of above-slot contracts, sometimes by as much as two months. Reports at the time indicated that the Pirates had signed at least two players to above-slot deals, only to have them back out in frustration with MLB's foot-dragging. Neal Huntington hinted at the second factor, stating after the signing period that some players had gotten unrealistic expectations from the bonuses the Pirates shelled out the year before. There's a reason teams don't just hand blank checks to draftees.
With the hoped-for group of HS pitchers not materializing and Allie looking like a flop, this draft boils down to Taillon and Kingham. That obviously leaves a volatile range of outcomes due to the delay in their arrivals. If they become, say, a #2 and #3 starter, which is a realistic outcome, this draft is an A- at worst. If neither pans out . . . ugh.
2011 -- Grade: A
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP: Now established as the Pirates' #1 starter.
2. Josh Bell, OF: Bell has raised concerns due to less-than-expected power and some difficulties adjusting to first, but the power seemed to be coming around after a promotion to AAA and the defense hopefully is a matter of time. He remains one of the game's better hitting prospects and should debut in 2016.
3. Alex Dickerson, 1B: The Pirates traded Dickerson to San Diego for Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas, which wasn't one of Huntington's better moves. Dickerson struggled through foot problems in 2014, but had a good (albeit PCL-assisted) season in AAA in 2015 and got a few ABs with the Padres.
4. Colten Brewer, RHP: The focus on above-slot HS pitchers continued with Brewer, but he missed most of 2013 with a leg injury and spent all of 2014 on the restricted list. He managed to put in a full season in low A in 2015, with a high ERA but decent peripherals.
5. Tyler Glasnow, RHP: One of the top pitching prospects in the minors, Glasnow still needs to work on his control and his change. He's expected to arrive in 2016 and may be needed to bail out the unimpressive rotation the Pirates appear ready to open the season with.
6. Dan Gamache, 3B: Although he went unselected in the 2015 Rule 5 draft, Gamache appears to have a realistic chance to reach the majors as an offense-oriented utility infielder, albeit one who doesn't play short.
7. Jake Burnette, RHP: Another above-slot HS pitcher, Burnette pitched very little from 2011-14 due to injury problems. He managed about half a season, mostly in relief, in low A in 2015. He fanned over ten batters per nine innings and didn't allow many hits, but he walked nearly eight per nine.
8. Jason Creasy, RHP: The third of four HS pitchers signed above slot in the first nine rounds, Creasy made it to AA in 2015. So far, he's shown good control, but he misses too few bats. He wasn't selected in the Rule 5 draft and isn't likely to go much further without developing an out pitch.
9. Clay Holmes, RHP: The most promising of the above-slot HS pitchers in this draft, Holmes lost 2014 to Tommy John surgery and pitched only sparingly in 2015. He pitched well when he was able, though, and should reach AA during 2016.
Others: Taylor Lewis, OF (10); Candon Myles, OF (12); Josh Poytress, LHP (18); Alex Fusilier, OF (21); Mike Jefferson, LHP (22); Jordan Cooper, RHP (23); Brian Sharp, SS (24); Ryan Hornback, C (27); Kirk Singer, SS (29); Matt Benedict*, RHP (30); Derek Trent, C (31); David Jagoditsh, RHP (32); Chris Lashmet, 3B (33); Rodarrick Jones, OF (37); Jonathan Schwind*, C (41).
Things could change, of course, but at this point the 2011 draft is clearly the best by the current front office. If Glasnow and Bell become anything close to the players we all hope, it'll be a massive success. For once, the talent return may match the financial investment, as the Pirates broke various records for draft spending. Those included the highest bonuses ever for three different rounds: Cole (Stephen Strasburg signed a bigger contract, but it was a major league deal, while Cole's was a straight bonus), Bell and Holmes.
This draft also marked the close of the Pirates' heavy focus on HS pitching, thanks to the bonus pool rules instituted for the 2012 draft. If you don't include Taillon and Allie, who were "traditional," best-player-available picks, the Pirates expended five of their top ten picks in each of the 2009-11 drafts on potential, above-slot HS pitchers. (They signed all five in 2009 and 2011, but only one in 2010.) At this stage, the team is left with Glasnow, Kingham and Holmes as significant prospects. (Creasy, Burnette and Brewer are still around, but are extreme long shots.) That seems like a good haul for picks that were mostly in the 4-10 range (the only one earlier than the fourth round was Brooks Pounders in the second round). In fact, Glasnow alone would make it all worthwhile if he turns out well. But none of these pitchers has reached the majors yet, much less been successful there, so the risks are still high. If Glasnow doesn't pan out, maybe it wasn't worth it.
2012 -- Grade: D
1S. Barrett Barnes, OF: After playing in only 101 games in his first three seasons, Barnes got into 95 in 2015 and reached AA. He didn't, however, impress anybody enough to get selected in the Rule 5 draft. He's still just potential at this point.
2. Wyatt Mathisen, C: Mathisen moved to 3B, which will put more pressure on his bat. In two full seasons in class A, though (he missed most of 2013 due to injury), he managed an OPS of just .704 and .684. He's shown solid plate discipline, but hasn't hit for much power.
3. Jon Sandfort, RHP: The only significant HS pitcher signed out of this draft, Sandfort struggled badly and was released before the 2015 season.
5. Adrian Sampson, RHP: Sampson, a junior college draftee, advanced quickly through the system, until the Pirates traded him for J.A. Happ. He hadn't been pitching quite as well in AAA as the Pirates probably hoped at the time of the trade and he struggled badly after it.
6. Eric Wood, 3B: Wood has power potential, but it hasn't shown up in games yet. He reached AA fairly quickly anyway, but struggled badly there.
7. Jacob Stallings, C: The Pirates drafted and signed several college seniors in the first ten rounds: Stallings, D.J. Crumlich (9) and Pat Ludwig (10). All three signed for a small fraction of the slot amounts, giving the Pirates more money for their ultimately futile effort to sign Mark Appel. Crumlich and Ludwig are out of the system, but Stallings could be in AAA in 2016. He's a very good defensive catcher who probably won't hit much if he reaches the majors.
13. Thomas Harlan, LHP: A soft-tossing lefty, Harlan has mostly pitched well as a swing man, including the last year and a half in AA. It's doubtful, though, he'll get a lot further.
16. Max Moroff, SS: Moroff had a big season in AA in 2015. He's now on the 40-man roster and could reach the majors in late 2016. He could become a good utility player, with a chance to become a starting second baseman.
18. John Kuchno, RHP: An extreme groundball pitcher, Kuchno misses very few bats. He moved from starting to relief in AA in 2015 and had a decent season.
20. Kyle Haynes, RHP: The Pirates sent Haynes to the Yankees for Chris Stewart. He reached AAA in 2015 but doesn't look like more than a very marginal prospect.
Others: Kevin Ross, SS (8); D.J. Crumlich, SS (9); Pat Ludwig, RHP (10); Chris Diaz*, SS (11); Dalton Friend, LHP (12); Hayden Hurst, RHP (17); Jordan Steranka, 3B (21); Lance Breedlove, RHP (23); Tyler Gaffney, OF (24); Josh Smith*, LHP (25); Jimmy Rider, 2B (26); Max Rossiter, C (32).
This draft, the first under the bonus pool rules, was dominated by the Pirates' selection of Mark Appel. It wasn't just their first round pick that was affected, either. They used three of their top ten picks on college seniors who signed for nominal bonuses -- just $20,000 total -- leaving the Pirates free to spend most of their allocation for those slots on Appel. It's possible that the need to save money for Appel was a factor in the Pirates' selection of Eric Wood, too, as he was not well known at all. (At a GCL game about six weeks after the draft, I spent some time talking to a scout who'd been following the GCL Pirates for about a week. He asked me whether I knew anything about Wood, as he knew very little.)
Of course, Appel didn't sign, and that worked out just as well, as he's has struggled throughout his time as a pro. In addition, the Pirates used the resulting compensation pick to acquire Austin Meadows. At this point, Meadows looks like a better prospect than David Dahl, whom the Pirates reportedly were prepared to select before Appel dropped to them. I haven't taken any of this into account in grading the drafts. I've tried to look only at the talent the Pirates got out of each draft, so I didn't upgrade the 2012 draft due to Appel not signing or downgrade the 2013 one due to the extra first round pick.
With so many of the Pirates' early picks being dictated by the need to save pool money, it's hard to draw many conclusions from this draft. Obviously, the days of loading up on over-slot HS pitchers came to an end. But there's no other pattern in the early selections. The early picks who appear to have been unaffected by the Appel situation haven't emerged as good prospects, though. Sandfort and eighth round pick Kevin Ross didn't last long. Barnes and Mathisen still have a chance of developing, but they need to take a step or two forward the way Moroff did in 2015. As it stands, Moroff looks like the best remaining prospect.