The baseball draft is coming up on June 9, so it's time again to look back at the Pirates' drafting. This first installment will just update the retrospectives from a year ago, which covered 2008-12. I'll focus on the players who are still around from those drafts. The earlier articles can be found here:
Later installments will cover the 2013-15 drafts.
There isn't a lot of mystery left with this draft. Excluding players who didn't sign (Tanner Scheppers, Drew Gagnon, Austin Wright), it produced Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer and Justin Wilson. Robbie Grossman and Chase d'Arnaud are still around as well, basically AAAA players now. The 2008 draft will always seem disappointing because Alvarez didn't develop into the lineup-altering power hitter people wanted to see, but it was still a solid draft. Alvarez did make contributions to three straight playoff teams, Mercer is the regular shortstop on a contending team, and Wilson is a very good reliever who begat a very good catcher.
I can't help wondering, though, whether that draft impacted the Pirates in more indirect ways. It's interesting that the first draft pick by Neal Huntington's regime was a swing-and-miss power guy. The pick wasn't universally lauded, as even back then a lot of analytical types had doubts about Alvarez due to his strikeout rate in college. (I recall a Pirate fan named Mike Emeigh arguing, presciently, that Alvarez' ceiling was something like Russell Branyan.) There may be no connection at all, but the Pirates ever since have generally avoided that type of player and now have developed a strong preference for gap-to-gap hitters. They do use the occasional second-day pick on a lottery ticket like Casey Hughston or Michael Suchy, but they seldom draft position players whose primary asset is power.
The books are largely closed on this disastrous draft. Tony Sanchez flopped and the prep pitchers all flopped. The only real value left in it is Brock Holt and, if he can get healthy, possibly Vic Black.
The impact of this draft has been deferred due to injuries to Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham. After a two-year absence, Taillon is creating excitement with his performance in AAA, especially with the Pirates' need for starters. Kingham is due back from Tommy John surgery in a couple months. There's nothing else left, unless Casey Sadler and Brandon Cumpton recover from injuries and return to their helpful depth roles. Mel Rojas, Jr., is gone now and Stetson Allie has stalled out in AA. The Pirates drafted a string of prep pitchers who failed to sign (Jason Hursh, Austin Kubitza, Dace Kime, Zack Weiss), but none looks promising right now.
This is obviously Huntington's signature draft. We're still waiting to see exactly what it's going to produce, though, beyond Gerrit Cole. Tyler Glasnow remains an ongoing story in AAA. Josh Bell is having just a pretty good year there, with his arrival date possibly extended quite a ways by John Jaso's success in Pittsburgh. Clay Holmes seems to be healthy, but he's not pitching well in AA. Some other prep pitchers from this draft remain in the system (Jason Creasy, Jake Burnette, Colten Brewer), but it's getting hard to see them as prospects. Dan Gamache isn't doing much in AAA, after looking last year like a dark horse as a utility guy. Alex Dickerson got a brief callup this year with San Diego and is currently destroying AAA pitching, so he could still have a major league career.
This draft is well on its way to being as complete a wipeout as 2009. Obviously, the Mark Appel non-signing makes it a different situation, but nobody else is stepping forward. Barrett Barnes is healthy and not producing in AA, and will soon be 25. Wyatt Mathisen has yet to emerge from extended spring training, where he's been stuck with shoulder problems. He hasn't done anything prospect-y with the bat yet in any event. Adrian Sampson, who brought the Pirates J.A. Happ, is pitching well in the hitting-happy Pacific Coast League, so he could get a shot with Seattle soon. Max Moroff looked like possibly the best prospect from this draft, but he's having massive contact issues in AAA. Eric Wood is struggling for a second season in AA.
At this stage, arguably the two prospects from this draft with the best chance of doing something in the majors might be Jacob Stallings and John Kuchno. Stallings has done nothing with the bat in AAA, but his catching skills could get him to the majors in an injury situation. He could even make it as a backup if the bat picks up just a bit. Kuchno is pitching in relief in AAA and doing sort-of OK. He doesn't miss any bats at all, but is an extreme groundball pitcher, which the Pirates like.