Pirates try something different

The Pirates have been taking some heat for using the No. 4 pick in the draft on catcher Tony Sanchez, widely regarded as a "signability" pick. But B.U.C.C.O. Fans' Tim Williams, after seeing what the Pirates did later, argues that suddenly the draft looks great:

    I don't think you can be mad over the decision to take Tony Sanchez in the first round after seeing what we saw in day two. I agree that I don't think Sanchez is the fourth best player in the draft, but consider this:
    1. There weren't many hitters worthy of a top pick.

    2. The only guys who were worthy of a top pick were pitchers, and most of them were asking for double or triple what we'll give Sanchez.

    3. In 1995-2005 there were 253 pitchers taken in the first round. 56.9% pitched in the majors. Only 30% pitched more than 100 innings in the majors (or are on pace to pitch more than 100 innings).

    The argument against Sanchez is that we should have gone for a top pitcher like Tyler Matzek. We've seen first hand that taking a highly ranked high school pitcher is no guarantee (Bobby Bradley) and the same goes for a highly ranked college pitcher (Bryan Bullington). Sanchez seems like a safe pick, projecting as Yadier Molina (without the dicketry) at best, and Kelly Shoppach at worst. The problem is, what do you do about pitchers?

    Obviously if you're Neal Huntington, you take them in almost every single round of the draft after the first.

    The Pirates selected 17 pitchers in their 27 day two selections...


    So if this is the strategy Neal Huntington had in mind when he selected Tony Sanchez (and made some signability picks in the second and third rounds), then I'm all for it. When you think about it, this is no different than last year. We just made a big splash in the first round last year with Alvarez.

    There was no Alvarez this year, which means we have more money to spend trying to break the commitments of those signability players in the later rounds (which might be needed, since Neal said that 21/31 picks are requesting at least six figures). If Neal does spend the savings from Sanchez in the later rounds, and keeps spending on par with last year, he will end up with more than we got last year with Grossman, Freeman, and Miller, and this draft will be a big success.

Few drafts are ever considered a "big success," and this one probably won't be, either. That doesn't mean the Pirates shouldn't be applauded for maybe trying to find a different path to success.
We tend to focus on the first-round picks because that's where a big chunk of the money goes, and because you've got a better chance of drafting a star in the first round than the second, a much better chance of drafting a star in the first round than the third, etc. And of course if you're going to win someday, you've got to come up with some stars.

For the sake of argument, though, let's assume that a No. 4 pick in the draft typically has a 20 percent chance of becoming a star, but maybe Tony Sanchez has only a 10 percent chance. How many players with a five-percent chance do the Pirates have to sign -- with the money they don't spend on Sanchez -- to balance the Sanchez pick? Three? Four?

The draft is terribly imprecise and inefficient, as this very organization has proved many times over. So we can hardly fault them for trying something a little different. If the Pirates wind up spending a reasonable amount of money to sign their picks this year, you might call them innovative, or daring, or maybe even foolish. Just don't call them cheap.