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2016 MLB Draft Day 1: Pirates pick slugger, high school pitchers

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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In the first day of the 2015 draft, the Pirates took Kevin Newman, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Kevin Kramer, making it seem like they were looking for a particular player type -- infielders with contact-hitting skills. This year, they took Will Craig, an infielder from Wake Forest who isn't at all in the Newman mold, and two high school pitchers. Unlike, last year, there's no obvious narrative to fit what they did here, so let's just take each pick separately.

The Craig selection, at No. 22 overall, is clearly the most important, and the one that will have the most immediate impact on the Pirates' farm system. Craig obliterated opposing pitching in a major college conference this season, so he looks likely to move quickly. The question will be what the Pirates end up with if he does get to the majors. He's currently a third baseman, and he said in a conference call after his selection that he sees himself remaining one, but he's already 235 pounds and isn't considered athletic, so he might wind up at first. (You can see in the video below that he doesn't look like an archetypal major league hitter, with a body type that's more Brett Wallace than Jason Heyward.) Since Craig will likely be on the wrong end of the defensive spectrum and since he reportedly doesn't run well, he'll probably have to hit, and hit a lot, to have much big-league value.

There is, fortunately, good news on that front. From a statistical perspective, Craig doesn't have any obvious weakness as a hitter (although he didn't hit much in the wood-bat Cape Cod League last year). He homered in almost 10 percent of his at-bats at Wake Forest last season, he batted .392, and he walked 47 times against 33 strikeouts.

Those walks totals are especially promising. As I noted in my initial post on Craig, some aspects of his game make him sound like a right-handed-hitting Pedro Alvarez, a comparison that will surely worry Pirates fans a bit. But Craig's plate discipline suggests he can become more of a Kyle Schwarber type who makes it to the big leagues and mashes, creating value despite not adding much defensively. I would think, also, that Craig should be able to get to the big leagues quickly -- he should get to at least Bradenton in short order, and move fast from there.

That's an optimistic view, of course, but perhaps that's Craig's upside. A commenter in the initial thread compared him to another Craig who was once a Pirate, Craig Wilson. (In addition to being a decent offhand comparison, that's just eerie -- Will Craig. Craig Will-son.) Even if Will Craig turned out to be Craig Wilson, becoming more of a limited, strikeout-prone slugger than he currently seems to be, that wouldn't be a terrible result for a pick at this point in the draft (as long as the Pirates handled Will Craig better than the Littlefield-era Bucs handled Wilson, which wouldn't be hard to do). That kind of player tends to have a short peak, but that won't be of much concern to the Pirates, since they'll get Craig for the beginning of his career.

The Pirates' other picks are a little more speculative, and there's little to do but hope they know what they're doing. Nick Lodolo, at No. 41, is the obvious upside play -- he's a very tall (6-foot-6), slender high school pitcher from California. Tyler Glasnow, too, was a tall, slender high school pitcher from California when the Pirates selected him, and Lodolo has the added allure of being left-handed.

As Pirates fans well know, tall, projectable high-school pitchers can be low-percentage gambles (think of 2012 third-rounder Jon Sandfort, or half the Bucs' 2009 draft class), and you sometimes have to draft a number of early-round flameouts to find a Glasnow. But the Pirates surely like that Lodolo has already hit 92-93 MPH and can throw strikes. Time will tell whether there's anything here, and even if Lodolo does become the next Glasnow (which, to be absolutely clear, is a real possibility but a slim one), it might be a couple years before we know.

If Lodolo is somewhat of a mysterious upside play, second-rounder Travis MacGregor is even more mysterious. MLB.com and Baseball America don't rate him as highly, and he doesn't have Lodolo's height (MacGregor is a mere 6-foot-3 -- not that there aren't plenty of good big-league pitchers that size or shorter, but taller pitchers tend to be more prized in the draft) or left-handedness going for him. BA notes, however, that his stock has improved recently, so this might be the kind of pick where scouts who've seen MacGregor recently like him better than the guys who write publicly-available scouting reports do. As with Lodolo, it will be awhile before it becomes clear what, if anything, the Pirates have here.