Bucs like depth of talent in early Draft rounds
GM Huntington expects to have great options available at picks No. 19 and 32
The 2015 Draft will take place from Monday through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Pirates, whose first selection is the 19th overall pick.
In about 50 words
The Pirates are glad to be picking toward the end of the first round for two reasons. First, it means they're coming off a good year. Second, this is a Draft class with more depth than elite talent.
The Bucs are simply looking for the best player available, and they'll get two early chances with the 19th and 32nd overall picks.
In his first mock draft, MLBPipeline.com's Jonathan Mayo projected the Pirates would take Nick Plummer, a high school outfielder from Michigan. MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis recently predicted the Bucs would select right-hander Mike Nikorak from Stroudsburg (Pa.) High School.
Pittsburgh picks far enough down in the first round that its selection will largely be determined by who's left on the board. And this year in particular, clubs' preferences could differ wildly.
"There's a ton of gray at the top of the Draft," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said recently. "There's going to be really good players that come out of this Draft. Probably this year, of any year, that player has a good chance to be in the teens or in the 20s. Hopefully it's 19 -- and maybe again at 32.
"Our [scouts] are out putting us in position to make sure we get another talented Draft class to add. You talk about that first-15 talent, that's typically what carries the weight of a Draft. But there are guys beyond 15 that we like and we like a lot, and we're hoping get to us at 19, 32 and the second round, third round."
The Pirates have been linked to a number of players in the weeks leading up to the Draft, most of them high schoolers. It would continue a trend for the Bucs, who have taken three high school hitters with three first-round picks over the past two years after going heavy on pitching atop the previous three Drafts.
"We really do subscribe to the best-player philosophy," Huntington said. "Playing in other variables with the Draft, but it's not ever a Draft for need in baseball, from our standpoint."
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Pirates have been assigned a pool of $7,392,200, which ranks 11th in the Majors. The value assigned to the Bucs' first-round pick is $2,273,800. The 32nd pick, a compensatory selection for catcher Russell Martin, is slotted at $1,855,000.
Generally speaking, the Pirates' system is in good shape. They entered the year with seven Top 100 prospects, four of them position players and three pitchers, and there's plenty of depth beyond that group.
Position players are typically considered safer investments. But as some of their elite young arms like Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow move closer toward the Majors, the Bucs could move back toward prioritizing pitching to bolster the future of their staff.
When you think of the Pirates' recent Drafts, you tend to think about the big pitchers they've developed: Gerrit Cole, Taillon and Glasnow. But they've actually leaned heavily toward hitters the past few years, picking center fielder Austin Meadows and catcher Reese McGuire in the first round in 2013, followed by shortstop Cole Tucker and outfielder Connor Joe with their first two choices last year.
Whether that trend continues depends entirely on what's available, but it's worth noting the Bucs have still been able to load up on pitching within the first 10 rounds in each of the past two years.
Right-hander Adrian Sampson, a fifth-round pick in 2012, is on the cusp of contributing in Pittsburgh as he's developed into a solid starter for Triple-A Indianapolis. Righty Chad Kuhl, a ninth-rounder in '13, appears to be on the same track, as he's pitching well for Double-A Altoona.
When the Pirates needed a spot starter early this season, the first man they turned to was right-hander Casey Sadler, a 25th-round pick in 2010 who's emerged as a key piece of their rotation depth plans at Triple-A. Second baseman Max Moroff, a 16th-round selection in '12, also fits the bill, as he's hit well for Altoona.
In The Show
Perhaps you've heard of the first overall pick in the 2011 Draft, a strong righty out of UCLA who goes by the name of Cole. He's quickly developed into a dominant top-of-the-rotation starter and a major building block for the Bucs going forward.
The Pirates' recent top picks
2014: Cole Tucker, SS, Class A West Virginia
2013: Austin Meadows, CF, Class A Advanced Bradenton
2012: Mark Appel, RHP (did not sign), now with Astros' Double-A Corpus Christi
2011: Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates
2010: Jameson Taillon, RHP, recovering from Tommy John surgery in extended spring camp