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Draft Preview - Pittsburgh Pirates

Here is the sixth part in my series, this time focusing on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their scouting director Greg Smith.  I'm using Smith's history before the Pirates to help form a complete picture.  He was Scouting Director in Detroit from 1997-2004, and I'm going to use his last four years there, when he had extra responsibilities, to help complete the picture.

Owner: Kevin McClatchy and Robert Nutting, bought club in 1996
General Manager: Neil Huntington, first season was 2008
Scouting Director: Greg Smith, first draft with Pittsburgh was 2008

Looking Back

2001 Draft: Unknown Budget with Detroit Tigers

1. Kenny Baugh, RHP, Rice, #11 overall: This tall Rice product was overdrafted a little in Smith's fifth draft with the Tigers.  He had returned to Rice for his senior year after being drafted in the fifth round the year before.  There were rumors that the Astros wanted Baugh with the 10th overall pick, so there's definitely reason to believe the Tigers didn't take him too early.  Following players selected: Mike Jones, Casey Kotchman, Jake Gautreau.  Signing bonus: $1.8 million.
2. Mike Woods, 2B, Southern, #32 overall: The Tigers got lucky here, as Woods was projected to go in the mid-first round.  He was a good hitter, with decent speed, but was limited to second base.  Praised for his intangibles.  Following players selected: Jeff Mathis, Bronson Sardinha, JD Martin.  Signing bonus: $1.1 million.
3. Preston Larrison, RHP, Evansville, #55 overall: Once again, Smith and the Tigers got lucky here, as Larrison was rumored to be a late first rounder.  At 6'4'', he had a prototypical starter's body, with a good fastball and changeup.  Following players selected: JJ Hardy, Dallas McPherson, Matt Harrington.  Signing bonus: $685,000.
4. Matt Coenen, LHP, Charleston Southern, #65 overall: A slight overdraft, Coenen was a tall, projectable lefty with a spotty college record.  He was drafted this high as a result of a good Cape Cod season, though he was more of a 3rd-4th rounder.  Following players selected: Mike Gosling, Mike Wilson, Brian Pilkington.  Signing bonus: $620,000.
5. Jack Hannahan, 3B, Minnesota, #87 overall: The best pro of this bunch, Hannahan was a good defender with a decent bat.  He had some athleticism too, and BA speculated he's try catching.  This was where he was projected to go.  Following players selected: Jon Steitz, Jake Woods, Tagg Bozied.  Signing bonus: $435,000.
Other Notable Picks: C Mike Rabelo (4th), U. of Tampa; 3B Ryan Raburn (5th), South Florida CC; Donald Kelly (8th), Point Park College; RHP Humberto Sanchez (31st), Rockland CC, draft and follow

 

2002 Draft: Unknown Budget with Detroit Tigers

1. Scott Moore, SS, Cypress HS (CA), #8 overall: Moore was a heralded prep shortstop that moved up draft boards that spring.  Projected more as a middle of the first type of kid, this was a mild surprise.  Got Chipper Jones comps.  Following players selected: Jeff Francis, Drew Meyer, Jeremy Hermida.  Signing bonus: $2.3 million.
2. Brent Clevlen, OF, Westwood HS (TX), #49 overall: Clevelen surprisingly fell on draft day in 2002, having been projected to go in the late first round.  There were rumblings of him going to the Marlins at #11 overall.  Solid athlete with spotty track record.  Following players selected: Micah Owings, Zach Hammes, Robert Andino.  Signing bonus: $805,000.
3. Curtis Granderson, OF, Illinois, #80 overall: This was right where Granderson was projected to go, and it's obvious most underestimated him.  A solid college hitter without large holes or large tools, he was a value pick.  Following players selected: Ben Crockett, Jason Cooper, Trevor Hutchinson.  Signing bonus: $469,000.
4. Matt Pender, RHP, Kennesaw State, #87 overall: An overdraft by about a round, Pender was a tall college righty with a solid track record.  He threw in the low 90s, and BA connected him to the White Sox before Smith took him here.  It could have been a move to keep him from Chicago.  Following players selected: Scott White, Kiel Fisher, Josh Rupe.  Signing bonus: $450,000.
5. Robbie Sovie, OF, Stratford Academy (GA), #110 overall: Sovie was a very athletic outfielder who fell from a projected second round slot to this slot in the fourth round.  He was extremely fast with little baseball skills due to a football concentration.  He played football at Navy after retiring.  Following players selected: Jeff Baker, Rich Hill, Josh Johnson.  Signing bonus: Unknown.
Other Notable Picks: C Luke Carlin (10th), Northeastern; RHP Joel Zumaya (11th), Bonita Vista HS (CA); LHP Jesse Carlson (15th), Connecticut

 

2003 Draft: $5.6 Million Budget with Detroit Tigers

1. Kyle Sleeth, RHP, Wake Forest, #3 overall: I know this is a painful pick for Tiger fans, but Sleeth was deserving of this slot.  He was a great college pitcher with upside, having dominated at Wake, while standing tall at 6'5''.  I will not second guess this pick.  Following players selected: Tim Stauffer, Chris Lubanski, Ryan Harvey.  Signing bonus: $3.35 million.
2. Jay Sborz, RHP, Langley HS (VA), #40 overall: A possible first round candidate, Sborz fell due to questions about his stamina and makeup issues.  He was described as having a truly special arm, and at 6'4'', he fits what seems to be Smith's ideal pitcher's mold.  Following players selected: Daniel Moore, Shane Costa, Jo Jo Reyes.  Signing bonus: $865,000.
3. Tony Giarratano, SS, Tulane, #70 overall: Although he was mentioned as a possible second round choice, that statement also usually included the phrase "could be overdrafted."  He was more of a fifth round talent, being an all-glove shortstop.  Following players selected: Colt Morton, Brian McFall, Jake Fox.  Signing bonus: $500,000.
4. Josh Rainwater, RHP, DeRidder HS (LA), #100 overall: This was an overdraft by a few rounds, possibly up to five.  However, Rainwater had an excellent prep track record, and at 6'2'', 225 lbs., he was an ideal starting pitching project.  Following players selected: Peter Stonard, Miguel Vega, Tony Richie.  Signing bonus: $300,000.
5. Danny Zell, LHP, Houston, #130 overall: Even though Smith called Zell's name here, Zell had barely been in the conversation for a pick within the top ten rounds.  A 6'5'' lefty at Houston, his fastball was only 86-90, though Smith might have thought that would improve.  Following players selected: Billy Hogan, Chris Goodman, Darin Downs.  Signing bonus: $210,000.
Other Notable Picks: RHP Virgil Vasquez (7th), UC-Santa Barbara, $132,500 bonus; RHP Brian Rogers (11th), Georgia Southern, $52,500 bonus; RHP Jordan Tata (16th), Sam Houston State

 

2004 Draft: $5.4 Million Budget with Detroit Tigers

1. Justin Verlander, RHP, Old Dominion, #2 overall: Verlander was a lock to go within the first few picks of the 2004 draft.  He had basically the same scouting report he has now, so there's nothing to write here.  Following players selected: Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann, Mark Rogers.  Signing bonus: $3.15 million, Major League contract.
2. Eric Beattie, RHP, U. of Tampa, #43 overall: Beattie was a late first round candidate before falling here due to lack of projection.  He was a command pitcher in college, but dominated in the Cape during the summer of 2003.  Solid pick.  Following players selected: Matt Durkin, Reid Brignac, Yovani Gallardo.  Signing bonus: $800,000.
3. Jeff Frazier, OF, Rutgers, #73 overall: Frazier was expected to go somewhere in the area of this slot.  He was a solid college outfielder with average tools, but good baseball instincts and production.  Another solid college pick.  Following players selected: Gaby Hernandez, Wade Davis, Josh Wahpepah.  Signing bonus: $500,000.
4. Collin Mahoney, RHP, Clemson, #103 overall: Mahoney was expected to go in the area of the second round, having been a flamethrowing converted catcher at Clemson.  BA graded his fastball as a true 80, and at 6'4'', 240 lbs., I'm sure Greg Smith loved him.  Following players selected: Aaron Hathaway, Matt Spring, Josh Baker.  Signing bonus: $375,000.
5. Andrew Kown, RHP, Georgia Tech, #133 overall: Another guy that slid, Kown was projected for the second round.  At 6'6'', Kown had a shallow track record at Georgia Tech, though his projectable frame was very attractive for teams.  Following players selected: Nick Evans, Jacob McGee, Angel Salome.  Signing bonus: $224,500.
Other Notable Picks: C James Skelton (14th), West Covina HS (CA); RHP Dallas Trahern (34th), Owasso HS (OK)

 

2008 Draft: $9.8 Million Budget

1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt, #2 overall: Alvarez was widely considered the best draft prospect entering the spring of 2008, but he ended up falling after getting hurt and coming back with less than stellar production.  This was a great pick, possibly getting the best talent with the second pick.  Following players selected: Eric Hosmer, Brian Matusz, Buster Posey.  Signing bonus: $6 million, Major League contract.
2. Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Fresno State, #48 overall: Before getting hurt, Scheppers was in the running for the first half of the first round.  However, knowing that he could get more money than offered, he ended up not signing with the Pirates and is currently pitching with the independent St. Paul Saints.  Following players selected: Johnny Giavotella, Xavier Avery, Anthony Gose.  DID NOT SIGN.
3. Jordy Mercer, SS, Oklahoma State, #79 overall: Mercer was a good pure shortstop at OSU, though he didn't really excel with the bat.  He had decent pop and good baseball instincts, but his calling card was his glove.  Following players selected: Tyler Sample, LJ Hoes, Roger Kieschnick.  Signing bonus: $508,000.
4. Chase D'Arnaud, SS, Pepperdine, #114 overall: D'Arnaud was a converted third baseman who covered short at Pepperdine his junior year.  The older brother of Phillies catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud, this was an overdraft of a few rounds.  Following players selected: Tim Melville, Kyle Hudson, Brandon Crawford.  Signing bonus: $293,000.
5. Justin Wilson, LHP, Fresno State, #144 overall: Another slight overdraft, Wilson was a solid college lefty with Fresno State.  I'm sure the Pirates weren't too happy with Wilson's use after they picked him, but the College World Series is a killer.  Following players selected: John Lamb, Greg Miclat, Edwin Quirarte.  Signing bonus: $195,000.
Other Notable Picks: OF Robbie Grossman (6th), Cypress-Fairbanks HS (TX), $1 million bonus (overslot); OF Wes Freeman (16th), All Saints Academy (FL), $150K bonus (overslot); SS Jarek Cunningham (18th), Mount Spokane HS (WA), $100K bonus (overslot); RHP Quinton Miller (20th), Shawnee HS (NJ), $900K bonus; RHP Brent Klinger (21st), Glendale CC (AZ)

 

There are the last five drafts that have been headed by the Pirates' scouting director Greg Smith.  Since he has a short track record with the Pirates, it's best to look at his general philosophy that comes out in looking at a longer history.  Looking at that, I find that Smith is exceptionally good at picking players that were valued more highly coming into the draft, but fell for whatever reason.  He has continuously gotten players in places they should already be gone, and that is only done with quality planning and execution.  That's what comes with experience.  Comparing his Tiger years to his draft with the Pirates is difficult to do, because he was using different scouts, working with a different budget, and with different bosses.  Add to that the fact that 2008 was his first draft in four years, a layoff that is quite important to point out.  However, thanks to a huge budget, Smith got good value picks in the first few rounds, followed by getting good players with obscene bonuses later on.  In general, Smith seems to heavily favor college players, with a good amount of focus on tall, projectable college pitchers.  He seems to like position players that have good baseball instincts, relying less on purely tools-oriented guys.  Track records are important to him, but not the defining characteristic.  He's also been known to make a pick here and there in order to keep a certain player from a rival, so watch out for that again.  Overall, though, Smith seems to be a well-prepared scouting director with a supportive front office.

Money is where I tend to get confused when talking about the Pirates.  Despite having the same owners for over a decade now, adding a new president and general manager meant spiking draft investment, doubling what the team had traditionally paid.  I'm not sure the Pirates will ever invest close to $10 million again, but I think it's safe to say this is a new administration with a deeper commitment to the draft and international signings.  The front office decides how their total budget number is divied up, and I think this move is permanent.  My guess is that we'll see something in the neighborhood of $8 million invested in this draft, though it could be in the $7 million neighborhood if they don't particularly like the talent.  They pick at #4 overall, followed by #49, 53, 84, and 115, picking every 30 picks after that.  Having an additional pick early, compensation for not signing Scheppers a year ago, could mean that the team signs one less overslot player later.  So add a second rounder, take away a Quinton Miller.  However, I see a solid $3-4 million budgeted for the first pick, followed by sizable bonuses all-around.  Probably one, maybe two significantly overslot bonuses later on.

Connecting Pittsburgh to specific players, I think we'll continue to see college investments by Smith.  My current mock draft has Aaron Crow going to them, and I've had Alex White, Grant Green, and Donovan Tate in that slot before.  I think Green and Tate are permanently out of the running there, but White and Crow are definite options.  Tanner Scheppers is too, but he'd have to sign a waiver giving permission to the Pirates in order for them to pick him again.  Kyle Gibson might also be in consideration, though that's doubtful.  I don't really see them going another direction from the names I mention here.  As for their other picks, I've connected them with Ole Miss righty Scott Bittle, Arizona State's Jason Kipnis, Indiana's Josh Phegley, and other various prep players.  I think we'll see at least one early catcher taken.  We'll probably see a general willingness to take prep players more than usual this year, as the college crop is thin, but I still expect to see significant college investment.  Just remember Smith's connection to tall college pitchers and heady college position players.

All bonus information came from BA, and writeups on draft status going into the draft were a mixture of BA and PG.  Go to their sites for draft coverage.  They're awesome.

What do you guys think?  What do the Pirates do?

 

Previous Draft Previews:

Tampa Bay Rays
Los Angeles Dodgers
Detroit Tigers
Philadelphia Phillies
Texas Rangers

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