As the 2020 MLB Amateur Baseball Draft approaches for the Pirates, one thing above all is clear. Predicting how they will go or whom they will pick is next to impossible. I mean, in no way do I consider myself to be a prospect or draft expert, but it’s fair to say I work fairly closely to one.
There are just too many variables at play; Ben Cherington’s first draft in Pittsburgh, drastically shortened draft with no history to draw from as to how it will all play out, and maybe most impactful, the Pirates have so very many needs.
One position has a head start, Catcher. So, the easy call is getting the best catcher in the draft right? Maybe, but what are you willing to pass on to make that call? What if the difference between the best and 3rd best isn’t measurable? Are you convinced 4 or 5 years from now your greatest need will still need filled?
That last question there is one the Pirates rarely have to face, rarely extending players beyond original team control creates a system that if implemented correctly doesn’t’ just want turnover, it needs it. If Jacob Stallings is the answer and the Bucs sign him for 6 years at say 7 million a year, they would still need someone else in the pipeline.
Many people make the mistake of thinking the MLB draft is like the NFL. Your team lost their starting Safety, you try to get one in the draft or sign one. Surely the Pirates could pull off option 2 but unlike the NFL whomever they pick is not going to show up with bells on ready to plug into the major league lineup.
With Baseball, I can’t ever get past one doctrine when it comes to the draft, especially since the slot system was implemented, get the best player available regardless of position. Now, that doesn’t mean take Baseball America’s list verbatim, but trust your scouts. If you have a guy slotted at number five and he somehow falls in your lap, take him. Pitcher, shortstop, catcher, anything.
I think many people reading this remember the Littlefield era, where we chose a pitcher number 1 every draft for the best part of a decade. Some were a stretch, some were about believing they’d sign for less, others still were overt misses. This wasn’t an accident or simple stupidity. This was a plan, the most expensive position and one the Bucs had struggled with since the early 90’s was starting pitching. The plan was, develop the pitching and the hitting would follow. Unfortunately, neither worked.
That’s not to say avoid pitching, its simply saying if you have 3 pitchers rated top 7, and they’re gone when your turn comes, please don’t reach.
No matter how this draft is handled, the Pirates need to put a foot down right here and now. Number one picks need to start panning out with more regularity. I’m not interested in another Double Fist Tony Sanchez.