And no, it's not because Bob Nutting had a sudden change of heart regarding his pocketbook. The league and union decided that it would be better to spend the money on MLB contracts instead of allowing smaller revenue clubs to game the system through the draft. It's a different ballgame now, and not one that particularly suits Pittsburgh and its comparables.
It's a heck of lot easier to deal with a self-determined budget than one mandated by the league. The MLB has a hard salary cap for players under three years service time; it might be time to impose one on the draft, too, instead of the soft "pool" cap now in place.
The Pirates were the only MLB team to not sign their first round pick, and that's a blow to a team committed to building from within. In fact, the Pirates drafted six players ranked in the Top 100 by Baseball America and only signed three of them. RHP Mark Appel (#4-BA), RHP Walker Buehler (#50-BA), and OF Brandon Thomas (#89-BA) all said "thanks but no thanks."The top player that they signed, college junior OF Barnett Barnes, is starting in State College instead of going into A ball, and that says a lot about this class' potential impact (although we expect a handful to make a jump later in the year).
That's not to say the FO didn't bring in a player or two, just not as many as they usually ink and unfortunately, no elite talent. In fact, according to the BA ratings, they didn't ink any first round talent at all. With the loss of the top two rated pitchers in their draft (Appel and Buehler), the team ended up heavy on position players this year but did pull in a couple of big tree high school guys that are projectable on the mound. The signed draftees are:
- Barrett Barnes (OF - Texas Tech, supplemental round, $1M, #41-BA): Good power, good speed, likely left field candidate. Barnes won All-Big 12 honors in three consecutive seasons. He was assigned to State College.
- Wyatt Mathison (C - Calallen HS, 2nd round, $746,300, #47-BA): Rated the top HS catcher by BA, he's athletic for the position and is expected to be a good stick and glove. Mathisen was both a Max Prep & Perfect Game USA All-American. He was assigned to the GCL Pirates.
- Jon Sandfort (RHP - Winter Springs HS, 3rd round, $462,900, #255-BA): He's a 6'6" pitcher with a heater that sits around 90 and touches 94 with a working curve. He was the only reach in the top five rounds, but the Bucs love big kids and he was signed at slot value. Sandfort was assigned to the GCL Pirates.
- Adrian Sampson (RHP, Bellevue CC, 5th round, $250K, #84-BA): Had TJ surgery after his senior year in HS and has an inconsistent fastball, but is a control pitcher who uses his hook to get outs. Sampson was named the top JC prospect in the country by Perfect Game. He was assigned to State College.
- Eric Wood (3B, Blinn JC, 6th round, $100K): He was drafted by the As in 2011, and at 19 years old is basically a high school player drafted for both signability (his bonus was $88K under slot) and power potential. He was assigned to the GCL Pirates.
- Jacob Stallings (C, North Carolina, 7th round, $10K): A college senior drafted on signability, Stallings may be a surprise with pretty solid ability to both call and catch a game, though he's most likely an organization type player because of his stick. He was assigned to State College.
- Kevin Ross (SS, Niles West HS, 8th round, $130K, #225-BA): A nice pick here, as he fell to Pittsburgh and signed for just about slot instead of going to Michigan. He hasn't been assigned yet, but should go to the GCL Pirates with the other HS picks.
- DJ Crumlich (SS, Cal-Irvine, 9th round, $5K) A college senior, Crumlich was drafted this high purely for signability. He projects as an organizational/utility player, with great plate discipline. The FO must like him; it's the second year they drafted him. He was assigned to State College.
- Pat Ludwig (RHP, Yale, 10th round, $5K): Another senior taken early because of signability. The All-Ivy league starter - he led the league in strikeouts - is being converted to the bullpen. He was assigned to State College.
- Chris Diaz (SS, North Carolina State, 11th round, $100K, #430-BA): Diaz is a junior with a solid defensive rep and gap power, though he may not stick at short because of range issues. He earned Louisville Slugger second team All-American honors this year. He was assigned to State College.
- Dalton Friend (LHP, Jefferson CC, 12th round): He throws in the low nineties and is a power pitcher, with 141 K in 105 IP during his JC career. He's been injury prone, and the Bucs will probably work him out of the pen. He was assigned to State College.
- Tom Harlan (LHP, Fresno State, 13th round); A 6'6" senior, he started and relieved, featuring a 90 fastball and big curve, and even played a little OF. He was assigned to State College.
- Max Moroff (SS, Trinity Prep, 16th round, $300K): Moroff was an overslot who was signed with some of the change Appel turned down. He slipped here because of his financial demands; apparently Pittsburgh met them. The switch hitter is also a good glove guy and could stick at short. He hasn't been assigned yet. The Bucs' entry level leagues are starting to get jammed with middle infielders, this year's point of emphasis - they signed five shortstops.
- Hayden Hurst (RHP, Bolles School, 17th round, $400K, #406-BA): The 6'5" prep pitcher signed late when pool money meant for Appel freed up. He throws a low nineties heater, and fits the Bucco mold of big projectable arms. As a neat sidebar, Hurst’s dad is from Monroeville and so Hayden's a Pirate fan. He was assigned to the GCL Pirates.
- John Kuchno (RHP, Ohio State, 18th round, $125K, #364-BA): Nice pick here. The junior is a power pitcher with top end 95 MPH heat and a hard curve, but with control issues. He's projected as a back end bullpen guy if he can learn to throw strikes. Kuchno was assigned to State College.
- Kyle Haynes (RHP, Virginia Commonwealth, 29th round): The junior starter has a fastball-change-slider arsenal but not very impressive stats this year. He was assigned to State College.
- Lance Breedlove (RHP, Purdue, 23rd round): The senior is a control pitcher with a low nineties fastball and put together a couple of good seasons for the Boilermakers. He was assigned to State College.
- Tyler Gaffney (OF, Stanford, 24th round, #350-BA, U/K): Gaffney also played football for the Cardinal. The junior projects as a corner/fourth OF, with gap power. After two .300+ seasons, he tailed off badly in 2012, but BA's ranking shows there must be some tools in his kit that focusing on one sport may bring out. He was assigned to State College.
- Josh Smith (LHP, Wichita State, 25th round): The senior is a soft tosser with good movement on his pitches, and posted good numbers as a starter his past two seasons. He was assigned to State College.
- Jimmy Rider (SS, Kent State, 26th round) The senior helped take his team to the CWS. He hit .361 this season, and is projected as a 2B. Rider was born in Venetia and went to Peters HS. He was assigned to the GCL Pirates.
The FO may tweak their draft order a little next year to find a bit more loose change under the cushions, but their bedrock philosphy won't change much. A team that counts on the draft to supply its players can't roll the dice on one big man.