Through The Prospect Porthole: First Round Picks

1/12/23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

66%. As in the percentage of players-on average-drafted in the first round that will reach the majors.

10%. That’s the percentage of these players that will find success in the majors; defined as averaging between 1.5 and 2.5 WAR per season; or more accurately, achieving the status of a consistent starter in the Majors.

17%. This is the percentage of players that will be seen as relative stars and superstars; earning 2.5 WAR or more per season.

73%. These are the busts. Of the 66% first round draft picks that make it to The Show, the clear majority will average less than 1.5 WAR per season.

For the Pirates the only measuring stick(s) can be traced back to 2013 through 2017, as these are the only players that have reached the Majors thus far; with the 8 selections-including those from competitive balance round A-from 2018 through 2022 still Pittsburgh’s Farm System.

In 2013 the Pirates selected Austin Meadows at 9 and Reece McGuire at 14. Forget the Archer Trade, or the Liriano Salary Dump for a second; if you can. Both players were developed with Pittsburgh’s Farm System, so the numbers count for something. In slightly over 4 years Meadows has earned 6.7 WAR, while Reece has put up 2.1 in 3; which puts Meadows just above the success threshold, with Reece clearly below.

The 2014 MLB Draft saw two more players enter the Pittsburgh Organization. Cole Tucker was the 24th Overall Pick, with Connor Joe-yes the same guy we just acquired-coming off the board at 39th (Competitive Balance Round-A). Tucker has a WAR of -2.1, with less than 500 plate appearances across 5 years. Joe is at 2.4 and counting in what would equate to about a year and a half; so, technically a success, for the moment.

Moving along to 2015, Pittsburgh took Kevin Newman at 19, followed by Ke’Bryan Hayes at 32. This is where things start to get fresh, as Newman was recently traded to the Reds, after accumulating 3.1 WAR over 4 years; landing squarely in bust territory. Hayes on the other hand becomes the Pirates first to achieve star status with 8.5 WAR in just north of 2 years of service.

As 2016 rolled around, Will Craig was plucked off the board at 22. Known as the architect of one of the worst defensive mishaps in Pirates history, Craig would play in 20 total Major League games; receiving -.7 WAR for his troubles.

Finally, you have the short-term member of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club-Mr. Shane Baz-who was thrown in as the Player To Be Named Later only a year after being selected at 12th overall. Currently scheduled to miss the entire 2023 season following Tommy John Surgery, Baz is at .5 WAR, 40.1 innings into his Big League Career.

Tally these all together and you get 5 busts, 2 successes and 1 star; good for a grand total 20.5 WAR in 19.008 years of services time, or approximately 1.1 WAR per season.

In other words, a bust.

Simply put, this just can’t happen. You don’t have to hit on every single first round pick, or any prospect for that matter; but, you sure can’t miss as often as the Pirates have in recent years.

Which leads us to the last 8 First Round Selections; 5 of whom belong to the current regime. In 2018 Neil Huntington and Company selected Travis Swaggerty with the 10th Pick, followed by Quinn Priester and Sammy Siani at 18 and 37 respectively in 2019.

During Ben Cherington’s time in charge they have chosen to draft Nick Gonzales at 7, Henry Davis at 1, Carmen Mlodzinski at 31, Termarr Johnson at 4 and Thomas Harrington at 36.

Of these eight, only Travis Swaggerty has any time with the Big League Club, totaling 9 at bats in 5 games; although a few others are poised to breakthrough-not to be confused with breaking-out-over the upcoming months, and years.

At the moment, all but Sammy Siani sit within the top 20 on MLB Pipeline; before the 2023 reshuffling that is. Still, more that few have see already seem the shine on their prospect status smudged over the past couple of years. Hell, Henry Davis was just voted as the most overrated prospect in baseball by team executives general managers to farm directors, scouting directors and analytics specialists.

This doesn’t mean that Davis will be bad or even fail, but trying to explain away why one of your team’s top prospects is thought of in this way is never a positive conversation to have.

So how does this narrative change? Not only for Davis, but the other prospect’s mentioned? Because, let’s not pretend like anyone outside of Priester-and maybe Johnson and Harrington-had positive stories swirling around their 2022 seasons.

Well, for one Davis and Gonzales have to stay healthy for the entire season, with pretty much the same thing being said for Priester and Mlodzinski. And secondly, the majority almost have to advance/take a step forward in their development. There’s no way around it.

After, what was seen by many as a fairly disappointing Minor League Season for the Pirates Organization, a rebound is truly in order during a crucial year for Ben Cherington’s rebuild.

And this even goes without mentioning the player that will be added to this list on July 17th.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

One thought on “Through The Prospect Porthole: First Round Picks

  1. Good analysis. If you go back further, Gerritt Cole, Andrew McCutchen, and Barry Bonds were Pirates first round picks that clicked big time.


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