Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/17/14
Read part 1 of GM Neal Huntington’s draft history right here.  (Opening image Jameson Taillon; image credit fromforbestofederal.)   1st Round Selections… A missed Appel; image credit baltimoresun Despite picking at or near the top of the draft for each of Huntington’s first 5 seasons, the Pirates are only hitting at a 60% success rate with their #1 picks.  Pedro Alvarez, Jameson Taillon, and Gerrit Cole should all be the MLB impact talent the organization so desperately needs.  But missing on Tony Sanchez in one of the most talent-rich drafs in recent MLB history hurt, as did failing to sign 1st round pick (8th overall) Mark Appel, as the Pirates became the 1st team to fall victim to MLB’s draft slotting system, which threatens harsh penalties for teams that exceed their draft $$$ allocations.1st Round Comps and 2nd Round Picks…These have been more or less terrible.  Since 2008, the Pirates have selected all of the following in the 1st round supplements (picks given to teams after the 1st round for losing quality veterans to free agency), and 2nd rounds.  Keep in mind, the Pirates picked at or near the top of each of these rounds as well. Tanner Scheppers (2008 2nd round, unsigned) Victor Black (2009 1st round supplement) Brooks Pounders (2009 2nd round) Stetson Allie (2010 2nd round) Josh Bell (2011 2nd round) Barrett Barnes (2012 1st round supplement) Wyatt Mathisen (2012 2nd round) Hopefully, Bell, Barnes, and Mathisen mark a quality incease in these early selections, because the Pirates were 0-4 from 2008 to 2010, with Scheppers (unsigned) being the only arm of note.  The Pirates receive a ton of praise for the generally obvious selections of Alvarez, Taillon, and Cole in the 1st rounds, but rarely are they critiqued for their lack of success in the two rounds immediately following, when some high-ceiling prospects are still on the board.   What About All the Over-Slot High School Arms? The Pirates have also receive their share of acclaim for boldly spending above recommended amounts (back when MLB allowed that sort of behavior) to lure high-ceiling high school pitchers away from high-profile college commitments.  But have the successes of these prospects matched the hype?  At quick glance, all of the following were over-slot selections signed by Pittsburgh: Von Rosenberg; image credit buriedtreasurepirates Zack Dodson (2009, 4th round)  Zack Von Rosenberg (2009, 6th round) Colton Cain (2009, 8th round)Stetson Allie (2010, 2nd round) Nick Kingham (2010, 4th round) Clay Holmes (2011, 9th round) Jonathan Sandfort (2012, 3rd round)*  (MLB draft cap now in place) Unfortunately, it’s a disappointing list.  Of the lot, Kingham and Holmes are still promising prospects, and Sandfort hasn’t logged enough innings to reach a verdict yet.  But given the hype of these players prior to being drafted and signed by the Pirates, fans are left with only two possibilities: 1)  All of the MLB scouts that projected these high school arms were wrong in their assessments. 2)  These players did have correctly-assessed talent, but the Pirates’ developmental and farm system staffs were simply unable to bring it to fruition. In fairness to the Pirates, drafting prep arms is a risky business in which many prospects flame out, some quickly.  But given the organization’s track record in prospect development, clearly at least part of the problem lies within the bright green fields of the Gulf Coast Rookie League, and the colder (slightly browner) confines of Medlar Field in State College.   Overall Neal Huntington Draft Assessment Huntington; image credit sportsillustrated Far more disappointing than most people assume.  The club is only hitting at a 60% success rate on their first rounders, and have little to show for their 1st round supplmental, 2nd round, and 3rd round picks as well.  The purpose of poorer teams drafting near the top is consistent across the family of professional sports (making note of the half-brother Draft Lottery of the NBA), because it works.  Bad teams don’t stay terrible forever, because they get first dips on top-flight draft talent, whereas better teams are forced to sort through the scraps and traps of mid- to late-round talent, rendering permanent dominance nearly impossible. Yet the Pirates haven’t taken advantage of their prime positions, and entering into 2013, only have 1 MLB impact talent (Pedro Alvarez) to show for their 5 years near the top of the draft- yet Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole could contribute as early as September.  Further, there are very few later round picks with the potential to surprise as MLB regulars.  The much-heralded “surplus of young arms” is nearly non-existant, evidenced by the Pirates’ constant need to fill SP and RP roles with veteran free agents.  Overall, this author doesn’t believe GM Neal Huntington is nearly the talent evaluator many fans make him out to be.Luckily, the Pirates have fared well signing international players, which we will cover in a future article.  Thanks for reading.

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