Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quick Thoughts on the MLB Draft

I'll do a deeper insight into the draft later, but I wanted to highlight the approach of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates had the fourth overall pick, and had an additional compensation pick (for not signing a pick last year) before the 2nd round. The Pirates with their top pick, avoided more high profile talents and choose Catcher Tony Sanchez from Boston College. Sanchez is expected to sign for around $2.5 million dollars, which is at less than half of what most players wanted at that spot. The Pirates decided to spend their money throughout the draft and not on a single player.

I think the Pittsburgh Pirates made a bold and brilliant move with this draft. They were widely criticized for their selection of Sanchez, but in the end I think it is a good move. No Sanchez wasn't a top-5, 10 or even 20 talent, but he is a good player. Position prospects were rare in this draft, and while that isn't reason enough to overdraft someone it should be considered. Furthermore, Sanchez is a collegiate player who plays a premium position. His defense is major league ready (which can be hard to teach), and he should be in the majors within 2-3 years. Though he may never be an offensive catcher in the mold of Joe Mauer, if he can just be an average hitter the Pirates got quality value here.

If the Pirates had taken the 'best player available' (BPA), they would have chosen from one of 5 top H.S. pitchers. All of those pitchers have immense talent, but they also have plenty of risk. For one thing, they have plenty of leverage in negotiations, given their college commitments. Because of that they have inflated price tags, anywhere between $5-7 million (Gerritt Cole last year didn't even sign with the Yankees despite the fact they were willing to meet his initial price). On top of that, H.S. players take longer to develop, the Pirates wouldn't see them in the majors for 3-5 years (if they make it at all). Finally, H.S. arms are much harder to project than college arms. H.S. pitchers aren't used as much in a given year, so there can be a greater risk of injury. In my opinion, that is just way to much risk to invest such a large signing bonus. Instead the Pirates will look toward spreading out that bonus money over a number of players. During the 2nd and 3rd days of the draft the Pirates took a number of high upside players, who will command over slot bonuses. While they won't sign all these guys, I'd expect a fair number of them joining Pittsburgh's system.

The Pirates are a rebuilding franchise (have been for nearly 20 years now), and have little help on the way in the minors. This draft class represents a major influx of talent (depending on who they sign). The way I look at it is there weren't any surefire superstars after the top two picks (Strasburg and Ackley), so quantity becomes more important than quality. Time will tell if the Pirates made the right decision but I like the strategy.

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