An Audit of the 2009-2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Drafts: Where's the Return?

The Pittsburgh Pirates need to draft well to be competitive. Have they? Here we examine five year's worth of Pirate drafts from 2009-2013 to see if they are getting a return on their investment.

Pirate's owner, Bob Nutting, received some much-deserved criticism when he decided to retain Neil Huntington as GM, but fire manager Clint Hurdle. In an official statement, Nutting expressed that Huntington and his team are the right people "to lead our baseball operations department." You've probably read the statement already, but in case you haven't, here it is:

That statement sent the Twitterverse and Blogosphere into a frenzy of angry, but highly-accurate, criticism for the entire Pirate organization. Examples of the Pirate front office's ineptitude have been on display non-stop since that statement was made last week. Failed trades, signings, releases, and firings were touched upon with a cynicism that only a fanbase that endured 20-straight losing seasons could concoct. 

So, going with the theme, I'd like to take a look at the Pirate drafts in order to present a tangible return the organization has gotten from perhaps this front office's most important function.

For this exercise, I wanted to go back far enough that we should expect a successful draft prospect would have made it to Pittsburgh, but not so far back that a really successful player would have been long traded away in order to save money. So, I started with the 2009 draft and went through 2013. I pulled out any player who will likely have an impact on the Pirates roster in 2020. If a player was traded, they are replaced with players for whom they were traded.

The goal is to see what kind of return the Pirates had on the five years of drafts the team should be benefiting from right now.

2009 - This draft was essentially a throw away. Tony Sanchez, their first pick, never looked like a legitimate big-leaguer. No other player has made or will make an impact in Pittsburgh from this draft.

Return: None

2010 - There was some promise early on with this draft. Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham both mowed down minor league batters, but only Taillon was able to have any success at the major league level. Taillon is the only member of this class that should have any significant impact in Pittsburgh going forward.

Return: Taillon

2011 - As far as Pirate drafts go, this one was really good. Gerrit Cole headlined it as the number one overall pick. Josh Bell was a surprising selection and an even more surprising signing after he wrote a letter to teams that instructed them not to draft him because he would not sign that year. The Pirates did and he did. So, good on them. In addition to those two, they also got Tyler Glasnow and Clay Holmes. Of course the trades of Cole and Glasnow change this up, but it's a pretty good haul.

Return: Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Clay Holmes, and the right half of Chris Archer.

2012: This draft is tough to assess since the Bucs took Mark Appel with their first pick. He chose not to sign. The next year he would become the number one overall pick of the Astros, but never made it to the big leagues. In all honesty, this entire draft could have went unsigned and it wouldn't have made much of a difference. Jacob Stallings is the only noteworthy name. Outside of him, there are some solid minor leaguers, but no one to get excited about.

Return: Jacob Stallings

2013: This is the Austin Meadows draft. It's probably the second best of this five-year span. In addition to Meadows, the Pirates selected Reese McGuire (who was involved in the salary dump trade along with Liriano), JaCoby Jones (who was traded for Joakim Soria), Adam Frazier, and Chad Kuhl.

Return: Adam Frazier, Chad Kuhl, and the left side of Chris Archer

So, going back 6-10 years, the only players that we should expect on the Pirates roster who were drafted by the Pirates are Adam Frazier, Chad Kuhl (hopefully), Jacob Stallings (maybe), Clay Holmes, and Jameson Taillon.

For a small market team who needs to be able to get talent on the field for cheap, they certainly aren't getting it from their draft classes. But remember, Neil Huntington has the staff to lead the Pirate organization.

Five years, around 200 players selected, and Neil Huntington has this to show for it:

  • Josh Bell
  • Adam Frazier
  • Chad Kuhl
  • Chris Archer
  • Jacob Stallings
  • Joe Musgrove
  • Colin Moran
  • Michael Feliz
  • Jason Martin
  • Clay Holmes
  • Jameson Taillon

If you haven't puked yet, get a load of this: the Pirates had a top-10 pick in every on of those drafts (a top-5 pick in 3 of them). 

There are some good players on that list, but five year's worth of good players? The Pirates are reliant on these drafts. They can't/don't compensate for misses with free agent signings. So, identifying and selecting major league-caliber talent is a skillset that a front office who is the right one to "lead our baseball operations department" must have. They clearly don't.

I get that the baseball entry draft is a bit more of a crapshoot than some of the other leagues, but you get 40 chances a year. They should be able to come away with more than, by my count, five real impact players (Bell, Moran, Taillon, Musgrove, and Frazier).

This is only considering the drafts from those five years. I don't feel great about the next five either. Remember Shane Baz? If the Pirates traded Meadows and Glasnow for the left and right halves of Chris Archer, Baz was traded for the webbing in Archer's glove. He was the player to be named later in that trade afterall.

I've said all that to say this: Neil Huntington does not deserve another year as GM of the Pirates. It's not close. The fact that Bob Nutting feels he does, its mind-boggling. Maybe Neil is a genius who has found the secret sauce to maneuver money around - making his boss maximum profit. Maybe they are both outrageously inept. Either way, they're killing a once proud and well-respected franchise.

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I've been saying this for years. There were times when their system had some talent, but it almost looks like a deliberate attempt to drain that talent out.