Pirates Clinch the Number 1 Overall Pick
It has been a rough year for Pirates and their fans, but at least there is a silver lining to their season of losing, and that is getting the number 1 overall pick next year. While the number 1 pick should never be looked at as a badge of honor, their is no better way to energize your fanbase and rebuild your team than with top young talent. The Pirates witnessed first hand just what it means to have a number one overall pick, when they went to Washington in early June and faced the Nationals 2009 1st overall pick Stephen Strasburg in his Major League debut. Strasburg blew away the Pirates for a franchise record 14 strikeouts (on a pitch count no less) in front of 40,000 Nats fans.
That is exactly what the Pirates need a player with the hype and talent to energize the fanbase and make the team a better product on the field. Now obviously the Nationals had a setback with Strasburg getting injured later in the year, but his presence keeps the future bright for Washington. The Pirates have done a good job assembling some young talent (which is a big reason why they ended up with the top overall pick) on their major league team, and have a farm system stocked to the brim with promising young arms, due to an aggressive draft strategy these last couple of years.
While the Pirates might not find a Stephen Strasburg in this draft, there are a number of very good prospects for the Pirates to choose from. While the Pirates have shown no hesitation to spend on high schoolers if they are worth the price tag, this is a good year to have a top pick since it is brimming with college talent. For their fans sake the Pirates need someone to rise quickly through their organization and join the young talent they currently have assembled on their roster.
While a lot can change between now and next June, the top 5 players who will be draft eligible next season are college guys and all are worthy of a number one overall pick:
Anthony Rendon – 3B Rice: Rendon is coming off a bad ankle injury, but if he still shows he can hit, it shouldn’t affect his draft status. While the Pirates have Pedro Alvarez at 3rd right now they can always shift him over to first, since Rendon is a superior defender. Barring some unforeseen failure to come back from the injury I think he has to be the Pirates pick. Middle of the order bats don’t grow on trees, and those that play above average-good defense at a tougher position like 3B are very rare.
Gerrit Cole – RHP UCLA: Cole is the closest thing in this draft to Strasburg and a strong Junior campaign could push him to challenge Rendon for the top spot. While he has the ability to be a number 1 pitcher, he isn’t as advanced as Strasburg. He would have to be significantly above Rendon for me to take him over the 3B. Pitchers are always harder to project, have a higher injury risk, and obviously don’t play everyday. While the Pirates are desperate for starters it is never good to draft based on need. Also this is a deep draft and they should be able to get very good pitchers in rounds 2 and 3.
Matt Purke – LHP TCU: Purke was the top pick of Texas two years ago, but they couldn’t find the money to sign him. Now as a draft eligible sophomore he will likely end up a top 5 pick. While he isn’t quite yet in the same class as David Price he is firmly a number 2 pitcher with the potential to develop into a number 1. If he blows up this year, and Rendon and Cole struggle a bit he is well worth the top spot.
George Springer – OF UCONN: Springer is really shooting up draft boards with a strong summer and 5-tool potential. His strikeouts remain high, but has great power and could even project to play in CF (though RF might be his best position). If Springer has a great year, he could appeal to the Pirates if Rendon doesn’t come back from the injury and they prefer an everyday guy.
Taylor Jungmann – RHP Texas: In most years Jungmann would be a top pick, or would fall no worse than 3rd overall but in this draft class he might be lucky to hang on to a top 5 spot. He has number 1 pitching potential, but will likely end up more as a very good number 2 (and nothing wrong with that at all). His secondary pitches still need some work as does his command, but Jungmann remains a top pitching prospect and one with an outside shot of going first overall.