With the MLB draft less than a month away, it’s time for the mock drafts to start surfacing and several are out. The Pirates are one of two teams (with the Astros) that have four picks among the first 75, in their case the 12th, 42nd, 50th and 72nd picks. The 12th pick is the earliest one they’ve had since they selected Austin Meadows ninth overall in 2013.
The current front office has had ten first-round picks, with two in 2013 after failing to sign Mark Appel the year before. Those ten picks included only three pitchers, and would have included only two had Appel, considered by many the top talent in the 2012 draft, not unexpectedly fallen to the Pirates with the eighth pick. The Pirates were reportedly set to pick outfielder David Dahl before Appel dropped so far.
Whether the tilt toward position players results from a conscious strategy or just the circumstances of those nine drafts is hard to say. The Pirates are generally very tight-lipped about their inner-workings; I last time I can specifically remember a mock draft pegging a Pirates’ pick correctly was with Gerrit Cole in 2011. When the Pirates selected Jameson Taillon second overall in 2010, though, GM Neal Huntington did say that it took some persuading for him to draft a prep pitcher that high. The Pirates instead seem to prefer looking for pitching, especially prep pitching, later in the draft. In fact, they went for prep pitchers with multiple early round picks, after the first round, in both 2014 and 2016, and so far appear to have gotten good results. That approach might mesh well with the current draft pool. According to various sources, this draft is light up the middle and lacking in depth at any particular position, but may offer some value with prep pitchers in later rounds.
Keith Law (sub. req’d), in fact, has the Pirates taking a prep pitcher in the first round. That would be left-hander Trevor Rogers of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Rogers is 6’6” and projectible, and old for a prep player at 19. He can get his fastball up to 95 mph, but according to Baseball America (sub. req’d) he threw more at 88-90 during an inconsistent spring. He throws a slider and change, both of which probably need work.
Jim Callis at MLB Pipeline projected the Pirates as taking a college pitcher, righty Alex Faedo of the University of Florida. Faedo came into the season as a candidate to go at or near the top of the draft, but he fell due to inconsistency and to minor off-season surgery on both knees. He’s been throwing his fastball at 88-92 mph this spring, but has sat in the 92-94 range in the past. He has a good slider.
In a joint mock draft a little earlier, Callis and his colleague at MLB Pipeline, Jonathan Mayo, both had the Pirates taking prep first baseman Nick Pratto of Huntington Beach, California. A left-handed hitter, Pratto has an advanced approach and pitch recognition, and moved up the rankings this year when he started showing more power. He’s a good defensive first baseman and might be able to play the outfield. He’s also a prospect as a left-handed pitcher, but is more highly thought of as a position player.
Of the three, Pratto strikes me as easily the most Pirate-like pick. They’ve gone heavily in the last few years for gap-to-gap hitters who control the strike zone. If there are any remaining questions about Pratto’s ability to hit for power, I’m not sure that would bother the Pirates. By contrast, they’ve selected pitchers in the first round only when they had an opportunity to get a top-of-the-rotation starter. Neither Faedo nor Rogers strikes me as having that level of talent and both seem fairly risky. The Pirates seem to prefer taking those types of risks with picks after round one. Of course, the odds are that they won’t take any of these players, but these mock drafts probably present a reasonable indication of the types of players who might be available when the Pirates pick.
UPDATE: Also, check out this FanPost for a more extensive listing of mock drafts.