Well, the Bucs took a beating in the early moments of the draft. The first three picks were position players - SS Carlos Correa, OF Byron Buxton and C Mike Zunino - taking them off the board. The next four were Ps Kyle Zimmer, Kevin Gausman and Mark Fried, along with OF Albert Almora. They were hoping at least one of them would fall into their laps, and were ready to take HS OF'er David Dahl if not, according to the draft mavens.
The Pirate FO played it well, though. The predicted number #1 pick Mark Appel fell to Pittsburgh. He is a Scott Boras client, and the suspicion was with the new CBA, he had some signability issues. And we all know how well Boras and the Bucco brass play together. But they stuck to their guns and took the best player on the board, netting a top four pick at the eight spot .
The downside, of course, is that they almost assuredly have to take guys in the top ten that they can sign on the cheap to stay within their pool limit of $6,563,500, and that puts quite a damper on draft depth. Remember, it took $8M to ink Cole and $6.5 to get Taillon's signature, and you can bet Boras will use one of those deals as his opening salvo, cap or not.
So it could get ugly as the July 13th contract deadline approaches. Appel wouldn't join a media conference call after the selection, maybe bummed at his later-than-expected pick, maybe on Boras' advice, maybe
both and more were in play. But he's not the only one that didn't jump on the horn, so we'll see if that's an omen or not.
He did release a short statement with Boras' fingerprints all over it: "I'm currently concentrating on winning a national championship and finishing my academic endeavors at Stanford. I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time.''
We don't think the Pirates will go over budget by much (<5% over is just a financial penalty); they pretty much settle on a value and don't move off it. In Appel's case, we'd guess $4M, more or less, will be their top offer. If you're wondering, they'd get a #9 pick next year if he doesn't sign, but lose the first round allotment of $2.9M from their draft pool, reducing it to $3,663,500 for their remaining 2012 top ten picks.
The upside if they get him signed - oh, baby: Appel joins Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon as top-enders in the system, with J-Mick already aboard and a slew of supporting guys in the high minors. That's potentially some kinda pitching.
Appel, 21, is a RHP from Stanford. The 6′ 4″ hurler has a plus heater that sits in the 92-95 MPH range, and throws a slider and a changeup which are not plus pitches yet. This year Appel is 10-1 at college, with a 2.27 ERA and 127 Ks in 119 IP. Stanford is still in the NCAA playoffs, so he may be on TV this weekend for you to eyeball.
While not quite as dominating, in many ways he is comparable to Cole. Appel sets up off his fastball, and will stay up in the zone, making him hittable at times (although he had an excellent 1.02 WHIP this season for the Cardinal). So the Pirate staff will drill him on driving the ball down, a pretty common tweak for young pitchers. Scouting reports say he has an easy and repeatable motion, so that will help the learning curve, and his height should provide the perfect platform for a downward delivery angle.
Hey, it's a gamble, mainly because of the CBA's cap. But one thing the FO has shown is no fear of rolling the dice on players in the draft, and this is one double-down worth risking.
Pittsburgh will have another selection at 45, the comp pick for Ryan Doumit, and then will be off the board for the remainder of the night. The club will pick it up again tomorrow in the second round with the 9th pick (#69 overall).