The landscape of the draft has changed because of baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, which imposes harsh penalties for overpaying draft picks. The past few years the Pirates operated under the old system that allowed them to spend a lot of money on amateur talent.
In the past four years drafting under general manager Neal Huntington, the Pirates have paid out $48 million to their picks, easily the most in baseball.
Under the new CBA the Pirates can’t throw huge bonuses at talented players who slip to later rounds because of signing issues or college scholarship offers.
Huntington and his staff gathered in Bradenton, FL to map out draft strategy, which will be a little different under the new set of guidelines.
“Instead of utilizing resources to select an early-round talent that has dropped to later rounds because of his bonus demands,” Huntington said, “the new restrictions result in a narrowing of the talent pool based upon player’s bonus demands.”
“Under the prior system, there were a handful of clubs — and we were very fortunate to be one of them — that were able to be very aggressive and very resourceful in the draft,” Pittsburgh scouting director Greg Smith said. “With the new CBA, and some of the changes within it, we have to start making some adjustments because of the financial penalties and the potential loss of future draft picks.
“I know what we’re going to try to do in Pittsburgh, but I don’t know what the adjustments and strategies are going to be for other clubs. I don’t know how they’re going to approach this new landscape of the CBA, relative to the draft.”
The Pirates have not selected lower than fourth since 2005, when the selected Andrew McCutchen with the 11th pick. Preparation for the draft has been ongoing, but has increased in the past few weeks.
“Now you start to bear down on (preference) lists,” said Huntington. “Understanding why you want player X over player Y, what we're looking for in general, are there any specific draft strategies for that year , what's the depth of the board, what's the weakness of the board.”
Pittsburgh has focused heavily on pitching in recent drafts, so one would conclude they need to beef up the position players in the system. That does not necessarily mean the Pirates will go in that direction.
"In our mind, the worst idea is drafting for need," said Huntington. "You take the best player available. With each pick, you take the best player on the board. Now, between two players of equal standing, you can factor in depth. But you never pass on a better player just because you need someone at a different position."
Drafting at No. 8 could put the Bucs outside the can't-miss sphere. Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero has consistently been tied to the Bucs, but they may prefer to add depth at catcher and be leaning toward the University of Florida's Mike Zunino. Left handed prep pitcher Max Fried has also shown up in several mock drafts as the Pirates pick. Although it should be noted that the industry consensus has them taking a college player.
In his latest mock draft, Scout.com national baseball expert Frankie Piliere has the Pirates taking Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero. Here is Piliere's ANALYSIS: This is the rumor that just refuses to be proven wrong. Unless Zunino presents himself at this pick, this is probably where Pittsburgh does indeed go.
Piliere also offered these thoughts on the Pirates draft.
Pittsburgh has been almost exclusively linked with college players. Deven Marrero seems to be a very strong favorite but I also believe they feel they have an outside shot at having Zunino or right-hander Kyle Zimmer slip to them. Mississippi State righty Chris Stratton is also an outside possibility.
The draft begins with round one on Monday at 7 p.m., continues Tuesday at noon with rounds 2-15 and concludes on Wednesday at noon with rounds 16-40.