Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/8/14
If only they’d kept Littlefield locked up on draft day; Image credit poetry in pros The slow months of the offseason provide a nice opportunity to reflect back on the organization’s draft choices over the past 5 years, and gauge their levels of success.  Assuming the GM reigns in October of 2007, current GM Neal Huntington had adequate time to prepare for his first draft the following June.  He was also following in the footsteps of whom many considered one of the worst-drafting GMs in recent Major League history in Dave Littlefield.And yet, despite Littlefield’s well-deserved criticism, he still drafted successful Major Leaguers like Kyle McPherson, Brad Lincoln, Andrew McCutchen, Brent Lillibridge, Steve Pearce, Neil Walker, Cory Luebke, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny, and Matt Capps. (The bolded player names are still with the 2013 Pirates today, and in 2 cases, are among their best players.  The italicized player names were with the Pirates when Huntington assumed control in 2007.  In in the cases of Lincoln and Gorzelanny, the Pirates have current players received from trading them.  Huntington lost Pearce, Maholm, and Capps for nothing, despite Maholm and Capps in particular being very productive MLB regulars.) When Huntington is spoken of positively in the media, he is routinely lauded as an excellent drafter and talent developer.  But is it warranted?  And in his 5 years of drafting, has Huntington at least exceeded the pace of the highly-critiqued drafts of Dave Littlefield?  Let’s begin by looking at Huntington’s first draft, in June of 2008:   1st round (2nd overall):  3B Pedro Alvarez Commodore Alvarez; Image credit camden depot By far Huntington’s most successful selection to date, made possible by the Tampa Bay Rays selecting toolsy SS Tim Beckham 1st overall.  Unlike Littlefield- who in 2007 bumbled the obvious choice of C Matt Wieters, instead selecting RP Daniel Moskos- Huntington didn’t overthink it, and made the right choice.  Despite a disastrous 2011, Alvarez posted OPS+ of 112  in 2010 and 117 in 2012, seemingly having him back on track as the potent middle-of-the-order bat he was advertised as being.The only tarnish to this signing is that it shouldn’t have been permitted.  After a drawn-out tug of war with Alvarez’s agent Scott Boras, the two sides didn’t have a contract in place when the MLB signing deadline passed.  Possibly realizing the implosion of losing out on Alvarez for the Pirates’ organization, Major League Baseball specially extended the deadline, so that a deal could be reached. 2nd round:  SP/RP Tanner Scheppers Despite Scheppers’ high-ceiling potential, and the praise heaped on the Pirates for selecting him, Huntington failed to sign him, over a difference of less than $750,000.  Scheppers was drafted by the Texas Rangers a year later, and made his MLB debut in 2012, posting a 103 ERA+ and 8.4 K/9 out of their bullpen. 3rd round: INF Jordy Mercer 4th round: INF Chase D’Arnaud To Huntington’s credit, both of these players have reached the MLB level, making for a solid first 4 rounds.  But whether either can be more than utility infielders remains to be seen.  Mercer posted a modest .700 OPS until 2011, when the 6’3″ righty hit 19 HR between AA Altoona and AAA Indianapolis, and a .757 OPS.  Mercer raised his OPS to .778 through 56 games at AAA in 2012. D’Arnaud has been trending in the opposite direction.  After an .852 OPS campaign between A and high-A in 2009, D’Arnaud hasn’t posted above a .730 OPS since, while ascending the upper levels of the farm system.  Accumulating 7 errors through 56 MLB games over 2011-12 drew the frustration of manager Clint Hurdle, who often kept D’Arnaud firmly planted on the bench. 5th round: SP Justin Wilson Wilson; Image credit milb.com Probably the best non-headlining SP Huntington has drafted, the lefty Wilson struck out 7 during an impressive 4.1 bullpen innings during his MLB debut in 2012.  Despite being drafted out of college, Wilson will only be 25 in 2013, having covered a minor league level per season.  He owns a cumulative 3.83 ERA and 8.0 K/9 in the minors, and is a candidate for a back-of-rotation spot in 2013.6th round: CF Robbie Grossman Earning national plaudits in 2011, Grossman became the first minor leaguer since Nick Swisher to draw 100 walks and score 100 runs.  In the midst of a solid 2012 campaign, Grossman was part of the package sent to the Houston Astros for SP Wandy Rodriguez, to the chagrin of many that heralded Grossman as one of the few Pirates’ minor leaguers capable of drawing a walk.  Onwer of a career .379 OBP, Grossman should start 2013 with Houston’s AAA affiliate, and see a MLB debut sometime soonafter. 7th round: SS Benji Gonzalez This speedy, glove-first shortstop is unlikely to climb much higher in the Pirates’ system.  He posted a .664 OPS after repeating High-A Bradenton in 2012. 8th round: 3B Jeremy Farrell If you see Farrell play in person, he absolutely looks the part of a Major Leaguer already, with his wide shoulders perched atop a 6’3″ frame.  But his bat hasn’t kept pace with the increased level of minor league competition, and Farrell has slumped to OPS’s of .700 and .628 in 2011 and 2012.  It would not be a total surprise to see Farrell DFA’d out of Spring Training. 9th round: 1B/3B Matt Hague  A solid selection for the 9th round, the steady Hague marched his way through the Pirates’ minor league system on a high OBP, and above average defense at 1B.  Unfortunately, the power requirements of a true MLB first basemen should limit Hague’s ceiling to a utility player.  The Pirates must realize this, as they had Hague begin fielding balls at his original position of 3B in 2012. 10th round: SP Andrew Gagnon The Pirates failed to sign Gagnon.  He was last re-drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011, and had a successful season splitting time between A and High-A in 2012.   Overall Draft Class Recap As we will see in upcoming recaps, this was Huntington’s strongest draft class to date, and it isn’t even really close.  6 of the Pirates’ first 10 picks have already reached the Majors, and at least two more have a reasonable chance of doing so.  Pedro Alvarez is the one impact-level talent Pirates’ fans should expect the team to select when they draft in the top 5.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cavs beat Hawks without Kyrie Irving, take 2-0 lead

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Minor League team cancels 'A-Rod Juice Box Night'

Dolphins teammate on Dion Jordan: It’s a bad situation

Texans reportedly the favorite to be featured on ‘Hard Knocks’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Goodell will not recuse himself from Brady appeal

Will Smith suspended eight games for 'foreign substance'

Report: Kobe Bryant likely to retire following next season

Don Shula named in painkiller lawsuit from former NFL players

Kyrie Irving questionable for Game 2 versus Atlanta

Michael Sam signs with CFL’s Montreal Alouettes

The Los Angeles Angels are finally finding their groove

Re-evaluating all 30 MLB teams at the quarter mark

Is virtual reality training the next leap forward for football?

Warriors a very shaky 2-0 against the Rockets

NFL icon Bud Grant zings Pats with Deflategate joke on Twitter

RG3 announces birth daughter's birth on social media

Don't listen to Nick Saban, the bowl system is just fine

MLB scores partial victory in minor league wage lawsuits

Ranking the NBA Playoffs' most significant injuries

WATCH: Will Smith ejected for foreign substance on arm

Guy behind NFL's social media trolling of Pats is a Jets fan?

In defense of 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Here come the Giants

Aaron Hernandez got new tattoo in prison

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Ten players who could benefit due to PAT rule change

Five QBs set for breakout campaigns

Report: Lakers will pursue Thibodeau

MLS leaders struggling with attendance

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.