SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – A lot of folks say you cannot judge a draft until years down the road. I agree you cannot form a final opinion until, you cannot form an “outcome” judgment until a significant portion of a player’s career has been observed.
But I think you can make immediate evaluations of “process” and philosophy in regard to a draft. After all, teams are drafting in real-time and making decisions in real-time and some are better than others. There is a skill to working a draft. (See: Cardinals, St. Louis.)
We cannot judge outcome, yet. That will take years. We can’t predict injuries, or at least not to a satisfactory degree. Makeup is hard to measure. But we can judge real-time process.
We analyzed the Pirates’ last five drafts on Sunday. We found mixed results in outcome and process, and mixed results in the context of rare spending. And among those drafts, many analysts question the real-time selection of Tony Sanchez, and some preferred Buster Posey to Pedro Alvarez in 2008 … so real-time evaluation are not devoid of meaning.
Here’s my real-time evaluation of the Pirates opening two rounds Thursday: it was a great night.
We don’t know what will become of Georgia prep outfielder Austin Meadows and Kentwood (Wash) catcher Reese McGuire. We don’t if they’ll become stars, or become forgotten upon the heap of baseball’s failed first-round picks.
What we do know is that the Pirates’ followed the John Hart doctrine that we outlined Wednesday on the blog. What is the Hart doctrine again? Hart, the former Cleveland GM, said small-market clubs should target upside in the first round. If a club is not picking very early that’s typically going to mean targeting a high-upside, high-risk high school player.
Why adopt this strategy as a small-market team? Small-market teams are rarely going to sign impact, All-Star players in free agency. Their best chance to find them is through the draft or the international free agent market.
So even if Meadows and/or McGuire fail to become all-stars, even if they fail to become MLB regulars, the process, the philosophy was the right one if you’re a believer in the Hart doctrine.
I asked Neal Huntington if the Pirates were simply picking best player available or had their been a philosophical shift? After all, the Pirates had not selected a high school bat since 2005. Andrew McCutchen was that pick, and he was picked by the previous regime. And guess what? He was a high-upside, high-risk prep OF who became an all-star player.
So was it it BPA or upside the Pirates were targeting?
“One and the same,” Huntington said.
And the Pirates didn’t just target upside, they found value at No. 9 and No. 14 as Meadows was ranked as Baseball America’s 5th overall prospect and McGuire was 12th.
Here is Baseball America’s instant analysis:
9. PITTSBURGH PIRATES
PICK VALUE: $3,029,600
AUSTIN MEADOWS, OF, GRAYSON HS (LOGANVILLE,GA.) (@Austin_Meadows)
Area Scout: Darren Mazeroski
PICK ANALYSIS: The Pirates wanted David Dahl last year and Meadows is a similar player.