Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Early Returns on 2014 draft strategy

The West Virginia Power are always the most exciting team to watch as it is the first good glimpse of last year’s draft picks.  This year it is even more so because of the strategy shift thanks to being actually decent and not picking at the top of the draft.  It included a lot more college hitters and pitchers than normal.  This happened again this year in 2015, so West Virginia is the first glimpse to see if it is a good plan.

It has to be admitted that so far it is not working out all that well.  Let us start with the bad news.
Connor Joe the Comp round pick has only played 24 games, and he is hitting .244 with a .655 OPS letting you know he has not shown power or anything of that sort yet. 
Taylor Gushue, who hit so well in short season last year, has been a big disappointment offensively.  The 4th round pick is hitting a paltry .211 in 44 games with only one homer.  Kevin Krause, who was the other catcher taken in the ninth round is injured and out all season. 
Jordan Luplow, the 3rd round selection, is hitting .232 with 3 HR’s, but a hopeful 16 doubles to lead the team, and 33/23 K/BB rate. 
Tyler Fillben, a twelfth round pick, is hitting .233. 
This is not a great look for the big name hitters.
The exceptions are top pick Cole Tucker, Michael Suchy (5th), Chase Simpson (14), and Jerrick Suiter (26).  Suiter is hitting .308 in a smaller game sample, although large enough to be decent.  Chase Simpson is slumping after a very hot start, but is still .257 with a team lead 6 HRs and leads the team in total bases and second in OPS (for those with a minimum PA).  He does lead the team in strike outs, but also in walks.  Suchy is a close second in walks.  He is hitting .253 with 12 doubles and 3 round trippers.  Cole Tucker is hitting a nice .271 with only 25 Ks.  He also has 16 stolen bases.  He has not looked awful at short either.  And he really does not count in this discussion because he is straight out of high school. 

The pitchers look a bit better.  Austin Coley, 8th round pick, is actually looking very good as a starter.  He is 8-4, but more importantly has 61 strikeouts to lead the team and has only 9 walks. 
Alex McRae (10th) is also starting.  He is giving up a few more hits and runs, but has 40 Ks to 12 BBs.  Not bad. 
John Sever, a 20th round pick who did well at Bristol last year, is also looking good with 55 Ks and 19 BBs.  He was starting, but has been moved to the bullpen or maybe a sort of piggy back role.  He could miss a few more bats, but potential is there.
Sam Street (16) has a similar issue with allowing hits out of the pen, but is striking out 8 per 9 innings, so that is good.  Remember they work heavily on the fastball at West Virginia making higher hit totals not so troubling. 
Montana DuRapau has struck out 9 and only walked 1 in 19 innings.  He has a WHIP of .414.  Admittedly it is a small sample, but something to be encouraged about. 
It is not all good for the pitchers Nick Neumann (28) is only 17 Ks and 7 BBs.  And Eric Dorsch (15), who has only 7 innings, is also not good.  He has walked 6 to striking out 5, but he has also plunked 2 guys. 

This year’s draft feels a lot like last years.  Hopefully they will have slightly more success at the West Virginia level.  It is still far too early to tell how well drafting in the middle of the draft is going for the Pirates.  But there is room to hope it gets better, at least for the college guys.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015 Draft Recap

With the Pirates playing okay and squarely in the Wild Card hunt, the draft came at a great time. This year the Pirates are drafting with a lot less money. 

I think the Pirates are clearly drafting athletes now rather than positions.  They took Kevin Newman a decent hitting short stop who some say can stay at short stop with their first pick.  Short stop is a position that requires a good amount of athleticism.  And if you can play there, you can be moved just about anywhere else.  This also explains Kevin Kramer is also a good hitting short stop.  Sandwiched inbetween is Ke'Bryan Hayes, who plays third in high school.  This is another position where one can still play many other positions if third does not work out.  Hayes may have some pop, and with some growing yet to do there is hope.  Jacob Taylor also fits this mold as he has been a pitcher for a year, and obviously can play elsewhere if he fails at pitcher much like Stetson Allie. Brandon Waddell from Virginia should sign and have quicker success than Taylor.  Waddell will begin at Low A, but Taylor may start in Rookie League ball.  These are the two pitchers to watch. 

The biggest surprise to me is that they went 10 out of 11 college players for the first 10 rounds.  A lot of people who project to be solid hitters without power.  They should be able to sign them all even though some have eligibility left.  I think they can probably get it done without too much trouble. 

The third day you usually see an early high schooler drafted that they try to save money to go and sign like Gage Hinz.  However, this year that did not happen probably because of the low money in the pool.  Although I do like Ty Moore from UCLA.  They had a great year and a surprising exit in the regionals.  Moore was a big hitter on that team.  Nick Hibbing was an interesting pick in the 16th round.  Iowa had a surprisingly good year.  He was dominate out of the pen.  His stuff was clearly hard to hit as opponents hit under .200 against him in 25 appearances.  He averaged multiple innings per outing, and in the big games he would sometimes go 3 innings.  Yet, he is not a great strikeout pitcher.  He was about at 1 per inning, but that number is inflated a bit.  Against the good teams he was not at that mark.  Hibbing also seemed to get more flyball outs than ground ball outs and that is not what the Pirates have favored in the past.  Yet his control is impeccable.  Still, I was surprised to see Hibbing be taken at 16. 

Ike Schlabach was the first high schooler taken and he is a big lefty.  Although as a 19th rounder I don't think the Pirates are going to sign him. 

Other guys that interest me are Scooter Hightower, John Bormann, Logan Ratledge, and Stephan Meyer.  Hightower is a 6'6 righty who will probably sign.  Ratledge was ranked 157th best in the draft and is one of those shortstops that you can move else where if you need.  Bormann is a highly thought of defensive catcher.  The Pirates have had some success with those, and teaching to hit is easier than teaching defense at least as a catcher.  Meyer is a 6'4 righty from Bellevue University, NE, so he should sign despite being a junior.  I live near there and he never even got radio coverage.  He is not going to be able to improve his draft position by going back for another year.  I bet he starts in Bristol or maybe even GCL, but he signs. 

If you thought last year was bland, you probably hated this year.  I said last year was the average and you should expect more like it.  I think this year is much the same, proving my point from last year.  There is not a ton to get excited about here.  But the Pirates are drafting people who they believe can hit and play where needed.