This is the start of a series leading up to this year’s draft. I’m going to recap the Pirates’ last five drafts, starting with 2013. Later on, I’m hoping to do a system overview.
Numbers are draft round.
1-9. Austin Meadows, OF. As we all know, Meadows has been plagued by hamstring injuries. He also hasn’t put up good numbers in AAA, with an OPS close to .700 in about 140 games. This year he’s stayed healthy so far, putting up a solid average and an ISO around .100, which marks him more as a fourth outfielder than anything else.
1-14. Reese McGuire, C. McGuire was included in the controversial Francisco Liriano trade. Oddly enough, considering that the point of the trade was to get rid of Liriano, it’s looking more and more like Liriano will be the best player involved in the trade. McGuire missed much of 2017 with injuries and currently is struggling very badly in AAA. It’s a very small sample size, though.
2. Blake Taylor, LHP. The Pirates sent Taylor to the Mets in the Ike Davis trade. He spent the next three years trying to stay on the mound. He had a rough 2017 season in low A, with poor control. He’s had a poor ERA in high A this year, but his walk and K rates are pretty decent.
3. JaCoby Jones, SS. Jones went to Detroit for Joakim Soria in 2015. The Pirates tried him at short, but he appears to be an outfielder now. He has some power but will probably always have plate discipline issues. He’s stayed in the majors so far this year, with numbers that are sort-of passable for a fourth outfielder.
4. Cody Dickson, LHP. Dickson had pretty good stuff for a lefty, but never overcame command problems. The Pirates released him prior to this season.
5. Trae Arbet, SS. Arbet is in high A now as a second baseman. He’s shown a little power, but has struggled badly with the strike zone and on defense. He’s not likely to get much farther.
Others of Note
6. Adam Frazier, SS. Frazier has apparently become an established utility player for the Pirates, playing mainly second base and outfield. He’s had significant problems defensively at second, but the metrics think he’s okay in the outfield. The Pirates like him as a leadoff hitter, but he’s struggled at the plate as the primary replacement for Josh Harrison.
9. Chad Kuhl, RHP. Kuhl is now in the Pirates’ rotation, with erratic results so far. He appears to have very good stuff, but he’s one of the leading exhibits in the controversy over the Pirates’ fastball-heavy approach to pitch selection. His ERA and xFIP both mark him as a roughly average pitcher.
10. Shane Carle, RHP. The Pirates traded Carle to the Rockies for Rob Scahill, got him back on waivers last winter, then sent him to Atlanta for that Cash guy. He’s pitching in relief for the Braves this year, with a pretty good xFIP and great ERA.
11. Erich Weiss, 3B. Weiss appears to have settled in as an organizational player in AAA.
19. Brett McKinney, RHP. See previous entry.
This draft started a trend of the Pirates going heavily for hitters, including prep hitters, early in the draft. The college pitchers, though, have had more success so far, Dickson notwithstanding. With Kuhl, they managed to find a guy with very good stuff in the ninth round, which isn’t easy to do. Kuhl also contradicts a lot of the criticism leveled at their development system, at least with respect to pitchers, because he wasn’t reputed to have that kind of stuff when they drafted him.
Considering that they had two picks in the top half of the first round, though, it’s not an impressive showing. McGuire doesn’t look good and brought nothing back beyond modest payroll relief in trade. Meadows could still make it a good draft, but he’s not having an inspiring season. They did get very good value out of their sixth and ninth round picks; Frazier and Kuhl might be the subject of some mildly heated discussion right now, but a major league utility player and back-of-the-rotation starter are good picks for rounds 6 and 9. It’s also not fair to assume that neither will ever be better than what he is right now. JaCoby Jones was a marginally okay pick, and the Pirates may wish they’d kept Carle the second time around. But they needed to do more with the two first rounders, and Blake Taylor doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.