Bats becoming scarce resource in MLB draft
The Pirates' draft philosophy in recent years has focused on collecting as much pitching as possible in part because general manager Neal Huntington says pitching is a game of attrition and partly because small-market teams cannot afford top-of-the rotation arms in free agency.
The Pirates spent premium picks on pitching in three consecutive drafts: Jameson Taillon, No. 2 overall in 2010, Gerrit Cole, No. 1 overall in 2011, and Mark Appel, eighth overall in 2012, although Appel did not sign. The Pirates also heavily targeted pitching with other selections. In a three-draft span from 2009-11, the Pirates spent 22 of their 30 top-10-round picks on pitchers.
But if the Pirates are interested in targeting offense in the 2014 draft, which begins Thursday, particularly quick-to-the-majors college bats that could be paired with players such as Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte in their primes, the Pirates will have to target them early.
There has been a growing scarcity of bats available in the June draft and an increasing supply of pitching, according to Baseball America editor John Manuel. In Baseball America's latest mock draft, 18 of the first 30 picks are pitchers. Baseball America has the Pirates using a best-player-available approach in selecting toolsy high school outfielder Monte Harrison.
“Take the top 100 players in the country, 70 of them are going to be pitchers,” Manuel said. “And toward the top of the draft, it might be a little more hitter heavy because if you want to get a hitter, you better get him early.”
Former major league general manager and MLB Network analyst John Hart said teams can get quality arms later in this year's draft.
“You're going to be able to get bigger arms, good arms, deeper in the draft than position players,” Hart said. “(In the middle of the first round) that position player will not be there when you pick in the second round. There will be good arms still available.
“There is a shortage of bats throughout the game.”
College positional prospects particularly have been on the decline, Manuel said.
“Part of it is cyclical, but part of it is pro teams get the best high school hitters,” Manuel said. “They are doing a much better job of spending money, identifying which players want to sign and convincing them the best way to go is professional baseball.”
The Pirates could be in the market for a college first baseman such as Wichita State's Casey Gillaspie or Kentucky's A.J. Reed as the Pirates lack prospects at the infield corner positions, and Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis likely are not long-term options at the position.
“There's not a ton of buzz about the Pirates, but they are one of the teams later in the draft that I hear would like to get a college bat,” Manuel said.
Huntington said the Pirates simply are interested in selecting the best available player.
“We'll stay with the best-player model,” Huntington said. “Unlike the NFL or the NBA, where they're going right into your major league club, (MLB draft picks) are a long ways away.”
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
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