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Trea Turner could have been a Pirate

Nationals' starting shortstop drafted by Bucs in 2011, but opted for college instead
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- The average MLB Draft class of 40 or so players typically yields only a handful of big leaguers, with only a small number of them developing into true impact players. So think about the Pirates' 2011 Draft class, then think about what might have been.

The Bucs' first-round pick, the first overall selection, was Gerrit Cole, their former ace and now one of the American League's best starting pitchers. Their next pick was Josh Bell, a Rookie of the Year Award finalist last season and the Pirates' starting first baseman.

PITTSBURGH -- The average MLB Draft class of 40 or so players typically yields only a handful of big leaguers, with only a small number of them developing into true impact players. So think about the Pirates' 2011 Draft class, then think about what might have been.

The Bucs' first-round pick, the first overall selection, was Gerrit Cole, their former ace and now one of the American League's best starting pitchers. Their next pick was Josh Bell, a Rookie of the Year Award finalist last season and the Pirates' starting first baseman.

Then came Alex Dickerson, who played well for the Padres in 2016 before injuries erased the past two seasons. Then Colten Brewer, who made his MLB debut for San Diego this season. After that was Tyler Glasnow, who spent years as a top prospect before settling into a bullpen role this season. They picked Clay Holmes in the ninth round, and Holmes remains a valuable part of Pittsburgh's pitching depth.

• 2018 Draft order | 2018 Draft: June 4-6 | All-time Draft picks

Keep scrolling down the list, past another big leaguer in 16th-round lefty Eric Skoglund, and check out the Pirates' 20th-round pick. It was a young shortstop out of Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth, Fla., named Trea Turner.

"Adding Trea Turner to that Draft class would have been good," general manager Neal Huntington said recently, smiling.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

The Pirates liked Turner and were prepared to pay him what Huntington called a "significant" over-slot bonus to lure him away from North Carolina State. But Turner went to school and developed into the Padres' first-round pick, 13th overall, in 2014. Now, he's the everyday shortstop for the Nationals.

"We loved the young man," Huntington said. "We loved the athlete, the run, the throw, the defender. The bat is probably better than we anticipated it was going to be. We thought he had traits, but the bat is what's made him a really good Major League player."

Every team has dozens of these Draft stories, the ones that got away. The Pirates have a few in recent memory, including Paul DeJong (38th round, 2014), Jake Lamb (38th round, '09), Lonnie Chisenhall (11th round, '06) and Turner. Huntington said executives can't beat themselves up over those near-misses, but Turner has allowed himself to play the "what if?" game.

"Yeah, of course. I don't think it would have worked out the same," Turner told MLB.com's Jamal Collier. "I think college was really good for me. Especially going through the Minor Leagues at 21 would have been a lot different [than] doing it at 18."

Turner said he never got close to signing, despite the Pirates' best efforts and intentions. In 2014, he told the Palm Beach Post that the Bucs "could have given me $1 million and I would have still gone to college." Huntington credited North Carolina State for the way the Wolfpack staff recruited Turner, selling him on the benefits of college and delaying the start of his professional career.

Video: WSH@SD: Turner gets the forceout after diving stop

"I knew I wanted to go to college," Turner said recently. "I didn't know if I'd get drafted, so my decision at first wasn't really that hard until I got drafted, and then you've got to think about it more.

"Back then, you could negotiate whatever you wanted, and now it's different. You give them a number and they either get close or not, and then you kind of have to decide. I actually never heard a number because I wanted to go to college and I told them. They waited all summer and I just said screw it."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Trea Turner