Bucs' 1st pick later in '24 Draft, but focus on 'most talent' remains

July 6th, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- In eight days, the Pirates will take part in the 2024 MLB Draft, but with some new wrinkles than what they’ve experienced the past few years.

The Pirates will be picking later than usual, holding the ninth overall selection after having the first overall pick in two of the last three Drafts and the No. 4 pick in ‘22. Second, they’ve got some new voices in their Draft room, adding Justin Horowitz as their new amateur scouting director while retaining Joe DelliCarri, who held that job and is now the vice president of scouting.

“I feel like we're getting the best of both worlds with some new ideas, combined with the wisdom that Joe brings all the time,” general manager Ben Cherington said Saturday. “It will be an exciting week. We'll get to figure it out.”

While there are some new people helping to run the show, the overarching goals of trying to collect the largest haul of talent possible remains. That was evident Saturday as the Draft group met in person for the first time to start finalizing their board. Picking later, being closer to getting out of their rebuilding stage and competing doesn’t change that.

“There are good players there,” Cherington said. “Of course we want to get more than one good player. Get as many as we possibly can. We'll be hard at work for the next week."

The most recent mock draft by MLB Pipeline this Thursday had the Pirates taking Florida State outfielder James Tibbs, but noted that they could also go the high school hitter route if they don’t want a college hitter or pitcher.

However, it can’t be ignored that this Draft class’ best strength is probably collegiate position players. For a team that seems to have far more big league pitchers than hitters, that could be beneficial.

Getting a collegiate player would most likely mean getting another young player in the Majors sooner, and there’s obvious appeal to adding a potential impact player to a team that has several young studs like Paul Skenes and Jared Jones. Proximity to the Majors is always a factor for any pick the Pirates make -- a player that needs more time in the Minors comes with extra risk -- but Cherington doesn’t want to overemphasize it.

“[We] don't want to put our thumb on the scale anymore than that's already baked in,” Cherington said. “Separate to that, we can keep thinking about our Major League roster and how to get it better in the short term."

The same goes for addressing any particular need. There are a couple of areas on this roster and farm system that could use an infusion of talent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Pirates will reach to address them.

“I always felt like the Draft, it's hard enough to begin with -- to do that well, to find the right players,” Cherington said. “Layering any [need-based] thing on top of it, it's taking something that's already hard and making it harder, and we want to avoid that. The group will be focused on, let's get the most talent we can with the picks we have."

Of course, the Draft isn’t just one pick, either. Paul Skenes was taken first overall last year and has made an immediate impact, but Jared Jones is also a major part of this rotation, and he was a second-round pick. Bubba Chandler, the team’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline, was a third-round pick in 2021. No. 29 prospect Charles McAdoo, a 13th-rounder last year, is one of the team’s fastest rising prospects.

There will be talented players available, and the farm system could use another infusion of talent.

“It’s critical, period,” Cherington said. “We have to be good at it and we have to be good at the development piece, too. We have to be totally committed to keep getting better at both of those things forever. We’re certainly not satisfied. There are things we need to be better at. We know that. We just have to focus on getting better. The Draft is one thing. We’ll keep doing that.”