Pirates 2020 MLB Draft Preview: Pittsburgh Readies For First Draft Under Ben Cherington
Unlike the NBA or NFL drafts, MLB teams do not draft for immediate need. There’s good reason for that, as even the most MLB-ready draft prospects usually take two seasons to get fully established in the majors. But as we ready for the 2020 MLB draft, it is useful to look at where teams are deep and where they are thin at the MLB and minor league level.
Also of note:
2019 RECORD: 69-93
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The Pirates’ system has steadily declined in step with their major league record the last few years, the baseball equivalent of stagflation. A new regime took over at the end of last year and has begun trying to rebuild, starting with the trade of Starling Marte to the D-backs for prospects Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone.
BEST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: RHP Gerrit Cole (first round, 2011). The Pirates nailed the first overall pick in 2011 by drafting Cole. He gave the Pirates five solid seasons, including an all-star campaign in 2014, but it wasn’t until they traded him to Houston that he became his best self. That same problem has surfaced again with Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, two other Pirates draft hits who flourished only after being traded away.
WORST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: 3B Will Craig (first round, 2016). The Pirates dodged a bullet when they failed to sign Mark Appel after drafting him eighth overall in 2012. Craig’s selection has proved more costly. The Wake Forest product has hit for either average or power, but never both, in four minor league seasons and has already moved to first base. Craig still has time to forge a big league career, but he’s well behind the pace of Dakota Hudson, Will Smith, Eric Lauer and Carter Kieboom—all of whom were drafted in the next 12 picks.
DEEPEST POSITION(S): Righthander and corner infield. Mitch Keller got shelled in his major league debut but still has potential and is the system’s No. 1 prospect. Trade acquisitions Malone and Tahnaj Thomas and draft picks Cody Bolton and Quinn Priester give the Pirates a talented group of young righthanders to work with behind Keller. Josh Bell blossomed into an all-star first baseman and Colin Moran quietly had a solid season at third base last year, and the Pirates have talented prospects coming up behind them. Third basemen Ke’Bryan Hayes and Alexander Mojica are two of the system’s highest-ceiling prospects, while first baseman Mason Martin finished tied for fourth in the minors with 35 home runs last year.
WEAKEST POSITION(S): Catcher. The Pirates traded 2013 first-rounder Reese McGuire prematurely, leaving a giant hole the organization has struggled to fill. Part-timers Luke Maile and Jacob Stallings are the only catchers on the Pirates 40-man roster, and no catchers rank among the organization’s Top 30 Prospects.
DRAFT TRENDS: The Pirates have selected a high school pitcher in either the first or supplemental first round in four straight drafts since 2016. Eight of their last 11 first-day picks have been high schoolers.
2020 BONUS POOL RANK: 5th