Before getting on to the review, I wanted to note an article at BA yesterday from John Manuel that gives an overview of this year’s draft. The short version is that scouts don’t like the draft pool much at all. There are a few guys getting a lot of attention who’ll be long gone when the Pirates pick at 1-12. Beyond that, there are a few college hitters, some of whom might be available, in a group that scouts consider very weak. And there are some high-risk prep outfielders with upside. Manuel thinks that high-risk prep pitchers and outfielders are likely to dominate the picks in the 20-75 range. Considering that the Pirates have pick numbers 42, 50, 72 and 88, this at least might play to their strengths, at least with the prep pitchers part.
Anyway . . . 2013 was the Appel make-up draft. The Pirates had the 14th overall pick based on their 2012 record, but also got the ninth pick as compensation for their failure to sign Mark Appel. They were rumored to be looking at Reese McGuire with their top pick, but Austin Meadows fell to them in a mild surprise. Then they got McGuire anyway. They signed their first 20 picks from this draft and did so without drafting any college seniors until after the 10th round.
Austin Meadows, 1st (9th overall), OF (HS): Meadows has missed some time due to injuries, but he’s now the team’s top prospect. He got off to a terrible start in April but has made some adjustments to his swing and is hitting well in May. There’s a high likelihood that he’ll be starting in the outfield for the Pirates a year from now and possibly late this season.
Adam Frazier, 6th (179th overall), SS (College): You’ve probably heard of this guy. One of the saving graces of the Pirates’ troublesome season, he’s had trouble finding a position but he looks like a long-term answer for the Pirates in the leadoff spot. They’re just going to have to figure out how to get him in there every day. May turn out to be the best draft pick of the Huntington Era, when round is accounted for.
Chad Kuhl, 9th (269th overall), RHP (College): A fairly obscure pick, Kuhl moved quickly through the farm system and joined the Pirates’ rotation in 2016. He’s had problems this year, some of which seem to be a matter of a sinkerball pitcher who overthrows at times.
Still With the Organization
Cody Dickson, 4th (119th overall), LHP (College): Dickson has good stuff for a lefty, but he’s always struggled with his command. He’s pitching in long relief for Indianapolis this year and it’s hard to see him going any further.
Trae Arbet, 5th (149th overall), SS (HS): Arbet struggled mightily his first two years, then had a big year offensively, albeit only at advanced rookie level and with awful plate discipline. He missed essentially all of 2016 with a wrist injury. Arbet is now hitting well for the West Virginia Power, with surprising power and improved, but still poor, plate discipline. He plays mostly second now and struggles there defensively. He’s nearly 23, which isn’t a good age for the level.
Buddy Borden, 7th (209th overall), RHP (College): Borden’s always shown good stuff, but has had sometimes severe issues with command. He got traded for Sean Rodriguez, fell apart with the Rays, re-signed with the Pirates and continued to have an awful time, then moved to the bullpen this year with Altoona. He has an 0.83 ERA, but his command remains very shaky.
Erich Weiss, 11th (329th overall), 3B (College): Weiss moved to second in his first full year. He’s played well defensively and has hit just enough to keep moving up. As a result, he didn’t reach AAA until this year, at age 25. He’s being used mainly in a utility role with Indianapolis, which probably says something about his prospects.
Brett McKinney, 19th round (569th overall), RHP (College): Like Weiss, McKinney has generally put up solid to good numbers without emerging as a prospect. He seemed to hit a wall in 2015-16 at Altoona, but he’s pitching possibly his best baseball in long relief this year for Indianapolis, so he may still have a shot.
Justin Maffei, 25th (749th overall), OF (College): Maffei put up solid all-around numbers at Bradenton in 2014-15, but he’s been employed since then just to fill in at the upper levels.
Reese McGuire, 1st (14th overall), C (HS): McGuire was a risky pick due to questions about his bat and he struggled to develop. Not on defense, though, where he’s been highly regarded all along. Since going to Toronto in a trade that was a wee bit controversial, he’s spent a lot of time hurt. The Jays revamped his swing and he’s shown more power than previously in his brief playing time this year, but he’s been out for nearly a month.
Blake Taylor, 2nd (51st overall), LHP (HS): A risky prep pitcher with a good ceiling, Taylor went to the Mets for Ike Davis early in the 2014 season. He spent much of 2014-16 injured and is currently struggling in low A.
JaCoby Jones, 3rd (87th overall), OF (College): Jones was a very toolsy player who didn’t do well in his college career. The Pirates took a chance not only drafting him early, but trying him as a shortstop. He handled the position reasonably well and showed good power, but moved primarily to center field after the Pirates traded him to Detroit for Joakim Soria. He’s missed time due to a suspension following a second violation of MLB’s drug policy. Jones spent time with the Tigers in both 2016 and 2017, but currently is in AAA.
Shane Carle, 10th (299th overall), RHP (College): Carle made good progress, at least through AA, both before and after the Pirates traded him to Colorado for Rob Scahill. He hasn’t had good numbers in AAA, although stats at Albuquerque are hard to judge. He appeared in one game for the Rockies this year and remains on their 40-man roster.
Regardless of what you think of McGuire, this was a good draft. Two players have won regular jobs with the Pirates, although Kuhl’s is looking shaky right now, and Meadows almost certainly will do so before long. Jones and Carle still have chances for meaningful major league careers as well.