The third part of the draft preview series focuses on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their scouting director Greg Smith. Smith was scouting director for the Tigers earlier in the decade, and we’ll take a look at his five most recent drafts.
Owner: Robert Nutting, bought part of club in 1996
General Manager: Neal Huntington, hired in September 2007
Scouting Director: Greg Smith, first draft was 2008
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-Chicago, #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; C Dusty Ryan (48th), Merced College.
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: SS Brent Dlugarch (6th), Memphis, $160K bonus; LHP Luke French (8th), Heritage HS (CO), $92K bonus; 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 Rangers after re-entering the draft in 2009. 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 Blue Jays 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), $1MM bonus; OF Wes Freeman (16th), All Saints Academy (FL), $150K bonus; SS Jarek Cunningham (18th), Mount Spokane HS (WA), $100K bonus; RHP Quinton Miller (20th), Shawnee HS (NJ), $900K bonus.
2009 Draft: $9.0 Million Budget
1. Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College, #4 Overall: Sanchez was widely considered an overdraft at this slot, and he fit better the back half of the first round in terms of pure talent. However, this choice was done in the wider view of accumulating talent over the whole draft, so it gets a pass. Following players selected: Matt Hobgood, Zack Wheeler, Mike Minor. Signing bonus: $2,500,000.
2. Victor Black, RHP, Dallas Baptist, #49 Overall: Black was a talented arm who was expected to be drafted anywhere from here to the early third round. He lacked polish, but his upside was close to a mid-rotation pitcher, good value for slot in this area of the draft. Following players selected: Jeff Kobernus, Rich Poythress, Everett Williams. Signing bonus: $717,000.
3. Brooks Pounders, RHP, Temecula Valley HS (CA), #53 Overall: Pounders was considered a third or fourth round prospect, but he was more finished than his peers, having a developed pro body without much room left to fill out. This was another value pick that opened up room for overslot selections later in the draft. Following players selected: Mychal Givens, Tommy Joseph, Blake Smith. Signing bonus: $670,000.
4. Evan Chambers, OF, Hillsborough CC (FL), #84 Overall: Chambers was an athletic JuCo player that popped up on the prospect scene after a solid summer before his transfer to Hillsborough. He had a strong lower half, and he was projected to be a solid hitter and average fielder. He was expected to go from the third to sixth round. Following players selected: Tyler Townsend, Chris Dominguez, David Hale. Signing bonus: $423,900.
5. Zack Dodson, LHP, Medina Valley HS (TX), #115 Overall: Dodson was speculated to be a fourth or fifth round talent, and the Pirates picked him hoping to get a high-upside lefty. He had bad mechanics, so a re-work was in order, but it was a solid pick that cost them just a fair amount of money. Following players selected: Randy Henry, Jason Stoffel, Mycal Jones. Signing bonus: $600,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Zack Von Rosenberg (6th), Zachary HS (LA), $1.2MM bonus; RHP Trent Stevenson (7th), Brophy Prep HS (AZ), $350K bonus; LHP Colton Cain (8th), Waxahachie HS (TX), $1.125MM bonus; RHP Jeff Inman (12th), Stanford, $425K bonus.
The Pittsburgh front office has a number of former scouts at high level positions, and I don’t think scouting will be a problem for the club going forward. Greg Smith has a great deal of experience, and his record is solid. He engineered a very interesting philosophy to drafting when he executed his 2009 draft strategy of picking a large number of quality players, opting for Tony Sanchez over some more heralded players available at the fourth overall slot. I’m not quite sure if this is a trend or not yet, but it’s interesting nonetheless. It seems that Smith does favor looking at players from California and Texas, while Florida has entered the equation multiple times, too. These trends are more unique to his time in Pittsburgh, and it reflects the fact that while a scouting director may have a philosophy in general, whenever one changes teams the scouts are different, and they’ll make different selections geographically based on the strengths of the scouting staff. These trends reflect the newer Pittsburgh staff, and the only things I really gleam from Smith’s Detroit years are his preferences for ceiling and floor. In general, the one thing Smith has begun to trend towards is drafting college players in the early rounds of the draft. He was more balanced early on, but the recent trends show a clear preference for college athletes. College infielders and pitchers in particular come off as Smith’s targets. Beyond the early rounds, Smith combines multiple prep arms and bats with the hope that one or more will turn into something. This is a proven philosophy of the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, so I won’t bash it. It’s solid, and there will be a normal return for it if they handle their prospects correctly.
Looking at draft budgeting, the Pirates have spent liberally in recent years. They’ve spent $8+ million in the two drafts that have been run by Smith, which is at the top of the rankings. Such spending will turn into a solid Major League club eventually if they have the patience to see it through. With the same team in place for 2010, I expect another year of $8+ million budgeting. They own picks 2, 52, 84, 117, and every 30 picks after this, assuming that Rod Barajas signs a Major League deal with another team before the draft. Since they have no extra picks as compensation, I expect more overslot deals in later rounds of the draft. That means more August holdouts and a later start for some of their better draft products, but this is the way it has to go for the Pirates to get quality talent.
Connecting the Pirates to specific players is difficult at best at the moment, as no one knows for sure whether they’ll go with a signable player early or one they consider the best player available. Assuming that Bryce Harper is off the board for pick two, the two big-name players that will cost a good part of their budget are Anthony Ranaudo and Jameson Taillon. Taillon doesn’t fit the M.O of Greg Smith, so I think it’s fair to throw him out unless new information comes out about their preference for him. Therefore, Anthony Ranaudo is the logical candidate if they choose to go with the best player available philosophy, though Ranaudo may cost $5+ million and a Major League contract. Scott Boras tends to do that. The other option is picking another signable college player, one that is not represented by Scott Boras. The main alternative in that philosophy is Christian Colon from Cal State Fullerton. He would fit well as a fast-moving infielder with above-average potential, and he should be signable for slot, perhaps below slot for the number two pick. Alternatives include Deck McGuire, LeVon Washington, Chris Sale, and Drew Pomeranz. For their second round pick, I’d look at Addison Reed, Jake Thompson, and Daniel Tillman. Later picks could include Burch Smith, Rob Segedin, Tommy Kahnle, and Dan Grovatt.
*Bonus information came from BA.
What do you guys think? What will the Pirates do?