Thursday, June 5, 2008

Draft day

The Rays took all the pressure off of Pittsburgh by selecting high school wunderkind Tim Beckham, letting Pedro Alvarez fall into the Pirate's lap. Pedro said he's happy to be a Buc. The Buc's are happy to get Pedro. Now what does Boras think...?

>Keith Law of ESPN on the choice: "The pick makes sense for the Pirates, who have had a hard time developing power hitters and don't have a lot in their system. If Alvarez moved to first base, he'd have a clear path to the majors there. Same thing at third base.

My only concern is that they didn't pick the best player on the board at this point. Justin Smoak would have made just as much if not more sense. But if everything clicks with Alvarez, the Pirates have a cleanup hitter for the next several years with 40-homer potential in the majors."

>"Pedro is a player we've done a lot of work on," Neal Huntington said shortly after the selection. "He has the potential of being a middle-of-the-lineup-type bat with the added potential of being a left-handed hitter at PNC Park. It's our belief that he will be a quality Major League third baseman."

>The selection of Alvarez marks just the third time in the last 11 seasons that the Pirates have taken a position player with their first-round pick. The last time the Bucs used their first pick to select a third baseman was in 1986, when they made Jeff King the No. 1 overall pick.

We'd like to tell you more, but for some reason they put the draft on hold after the comp picks. Tough to drum up interest when the suits take recess during prime time.

>Finally! And well worth the wait. The Bucs take Tanner Scheppers, a 6'4" RHP from Fresno State. Originally recruited as a shortstop, Scheppers is a tall and athletic right-hander.

He has good arm strength with an above average fastball (92-95 MPH and it's said it touches 99. His two seamer cuts & sinks), he has a good slider (87 MPH with a late break), and decent fastball command. He's new to pitching, so his delivery is a little mechanical and he's behind on things like holding runners.

His 2008 pitching line was 8-2 in 70-2/3 innings with a whopping 105 strike outs and a 3.19 ERA.

Schepper's an intriguing right-hander with a ton of upside. He may be a little raw because of his lack of experience - he showed just two pitches early in the season - but the above-average fastball and strong early results will be enough to keep scouts coming and keep him moving up draft charts. (

Scheppers suffered a stress fracture of his shoulder in the past week, according to MLB Trade Rumors. This injury likely dropped him out of the early first round, and rumors abound that it may be something more serious. The risk is increased, but now Scheppers will drop and could become a steal.

The Bucs are taking a chance here, but the upside, as they see it, overrides the risk. They're taking a shot at landing two top ten picks instead of playing it safe.

We like the thinking, assuming they've done their due diligence. But a word of warning - he's been ranked anywhere from 20-70 in the draft ratings since his injury became public, so caveat emptor.

Kinda interesting - usually pitchers that Pittsburgh draft wait until they're signed before their arm falls off. Scheppers is already ahead of the curve.

>This pick was kinda out there. The Bucs chose Oklahoma State SS Jordy Mercer, a 6'3" RH. He hit .330 with 14 HRs and 60 RBIs for the Cowboys, and was on the US National team last year.

Mercer booted 12 balls in 62 games at short. He's pitched some, too, although his 5.28 ERA doesn't bode well for a spot in the pen. The Dodgers originally drafted him in 2005, in the 26th round. He's recovered without a hitch from knee surgery in 2007.

>The fourth round pick is Pepperdine junior SS Chase D'Arnaud. He's 6'3", 210 lbs, and hit .314 with 11 HR's and 50 RBIs, along with 10 stolen sacks. D'Arnaud is another leather challenged infielder, committing 20 errors in 59 games. He projects as a 2B in the pros.

Looks like the suits are hoping for a little pop out of their infielders this year. Are you paying attention, Brian Bixler?

>Justin Wilson, LHP from Fresno State, was the fifth pick. The 6'2" junior didn't have a great 2008, going 7-4 with a 4.17 ERA and 83 Ks in 99-1/3 innings, but was probably selected on last year's performance.

He was 8-5 with a 3.19 ERA and 105 Ks in 101-1/3 innings. He mostly worked as a starter, though he saw a bit of time out of the pen, too. Wilson is a converted 1B, and has two years under his belt as a full-time pitcher. He throws average heat, 88-90 MPH, and has control issues.

>The grade so far? Well, Califonia is supposed to be the alpha hotbed of US baseball talent, and Pittsburgh rarely visited it during the Littlefield era. Huntington seems like he wants to make up for that slight all in one year.

And all the picks have some question marks, mainly regarding health. But it's a shallow draft, and the Pirates are rolling the dice that the guys will all end up OK. Their eye has been focused more on potential than production, so they have a group with a lot of upside but that could crash in flames, too.

But it's worth the risk - safe picks have gotten the club no where in the past decade.

OK guys, look up the other draftees yourself. We're going out to play with the tomatoes in the backyard and catch the end of the Pirate game. See ya tomorrow.

On the draft front: Who dey gonna pick? The gurus say:

>Baseball America - Pedro Alvarez appears to be the first, second and third choice of the Pirates in the No. 2 hole. At the very least, taking Alvarez would signal to skeptical Bucs fans that the new bosses, team president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington, aren’t the same as the old bosses. The Alvarez-to-Pittsburgh talk is so strong, most sources don’t really know what Pittsburgh’s backup plan could be, other than Cliff Stoudt.

> - Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt. No change here, with the Pirates still in line to make some waves by taking Alvarez. They'll still consider Posey and perhaps even Matusz if they feel they need to go with the top college pitcher.

>Baseball Prospectus - The Pirates are in a bit of a pickle with this selection. The Rays are good because they’ve done great things with their picks; the Pirates are faltering because they have failed with theirs.

In 2006, they selected Brad Lincoln in front of Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum. In 2005, they nabbed Andrew McCutcheon — a fine prospect in his own right — but one pick later the Reds selected Jay Bruce. In 2002, with the first overall pick, they decided on Bryan Bullington over B.J. Upton.

Many of those decisions were based on money, and while new team president Frank Coonelly was previously charged with enforcing MLB’s silly slotting system for the draft, the Pirates insist that they are playing it cheap no longer. That seemingly would make Alvarez the obvious pick here, but his price might be too high, even for the Pirates, who are concerned with some holes in his swing and his ability to stay at third base long-term.

Tim Beckham is more risky, but should come at a more reasonable price, and many believe he’s a superior prospect to Alvarez by any measurement.

Selection: Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS (GA)

>CBS Sports - The Pirates are supposedly thinking about picking Pedro Alvarez, to prove that they are willing to spend cash on a player. Alvarez is a great prospect, but broke a bone his hamate bone before the season started and hasn't been himself this season.
I think this injury, plus the fact that Alvarez will eventually be a 1st baseman (in my opinion due to his below average speed and average arm). I think there's enough risk here that the Pirates will back off.

So, enough about who they won't take. I expect they'll go for one of three players (along w/ Alvarez being an outside possibility): Posey (if he's available), Tim Beckham, a high school SS, or Brian Matusz, a lefty out of Univ of San Diego. The Pirates are the worst in the majors in pitching.

Update: The same information is out there regarding Alvarez and the Pirates willingness to take him. I can't say I'm any more convinced now than I was then.

Pick: Brian Matusz, LHP, Junior, San Diego
Stats: 2.05 ERA (16th), 10 wins (7th), 12.48 k/9 (5th), 7.67 H/9 (75th), 1.58 BB/9 (113th) Alternate Pick: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt.

>Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette - There are strong indications, internally and externally, that the Pirates favor Vanderbilt University third baseman Pedro Alvarez. According to multiple sources, they already have placed feelers with Boras to set the stage for drafting him.

Lotta opinions out there, but only one counts. We'll find out soon enough who the Bucs like.

>Pirate first rounders: 2007: Daniel Moskos, LHP, Clemson; 2006: Brad Lincoln, RHP, Houston; 2005: Andrew McCutcheon, CF, Fort Meade HS; 2004: Neil Walker, C, Pine-Richland HS; 2003: Paul Maholm, LHP, Mississippi State; 2002: Bryan Bullington, RHP, Ball State; 2001: John VanBenschoten, 1B-OF, Kent State; 2000: Sean Burnett, LHP, Weelington HS.

>Local high schoolers waiting for the phone to ring: Zak Sinclair, pitcher, West Allegheny; Plum pitcher Scott McGough; Seneca Valley pitcher Cory Mazzoni and Peters Township catcher Jordan Jankowski. They all have D1 scholarships sitting in their pockets if the round they're selected in isn't to their liking.

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