Figuring out the Pirates 1st round draft pick during the 20 year slump wasn’t always that hard. When they were picking 2nd or 4th or 1st, it was a lot easier to guess who the Bucs would take than when they were picking 22nd like they did last year.
After the last two years’ drafts, it’s pretty obvious that there is a method to the Pirates’ madness. I’ll break down some of the factors and give you my prediction.
“Were you a spring or summer baby?”
In a lot of areas of the country, parents are holding their sons back in school so they are bigger than their classmates when it’s time for athletics. The Pirates would rather you do the opposite.
In the 2013 draft, the Pirates drafted Austin Meadows (5/3/1995) and Reese McGuire (3/2/1995) with their two first rounds picks and Blake Taylor with their second round pick (8/17/95). All three were among the youngest in the draft. Taylor is so young that the 2013 season was his “17 year old season” using the standard MLB age cutoff of July 1st. (Taylor was traded for Ike Davis… ugh)
The Pirates continued their trend of drafting players much younger than their contemporaries in 2014. Cole Tucker (7/3/96) was the 8th youngest player in the entire draft. Tucker drew ire of the local media but I loved the pick due to his age. He was basically a high school junior.
The Pirates’ 2014 draft continued the young trend in subsequent rounds drafting the youngest college player in the draft in Taylor Gushue (12/19/93) in the 4th round, and the 3rd youngest college player in outfielder Jordan Luplow (09/26/1993) in the 3rd round.
So in the top 4 rounds for the 2013 and 2014 drafts the Pirates have drafted 6 of the youngest players with the combined 10 picks. Also add in the very young college pitcher John Sever (07/26/1993) who’s performed well in his first year in the system.
Guess who was one of the youngest high school pitchers drafted in the 2011 MLB draft ? None other than top prospect Tyler Glasnow (8/23/93), who was 17 when drafted.
As you can see draft age is definitely something the Pirates are considering a lot. During a recent Q&A with Neal Huntington, TPOP’s Kevin Creagh asked him about how age factors into the Pirates’ draft strategy. Huntington said, “A 17 year old has extra upside. We feel like we’re getting more room for development, but it’s not a driving factor in our decisions. For college players, we’re looking more for physical and mental maturation.”
Skinny with Long Levers
Something more subjective than birthdate that seems to be following a trend for the Pirates is body type.
If you look at some of the last several drafts you’d see body types that looked similar. Austin Meadows, Josh Bell and Cole Tucker all had very similar builds when they were drafted; tall and thin with long arms and room for growth. They more resemble a shooting guard in basketball than a traditional baseball build of something like Cutch.
This allows room for the youngster to fill in as he gets older. If you paid attention during spring training, or follow the Curve, you can see that Josh Bell has thrown on considerably more muscle during the offseason. Willy Garcia did the same thing in the winter of ’13. Having frames that can add projection seems to be another trait the Pirates are looking for.
Prediction for the 19th pick
In addition to “age projection” and physical projection, talent in the middle of the baseball field (catcher, SS and CF) seems to be a Pirate priority, as well as high baseball IQ and character. All of these characteristics drive me to one guy for the Pirates pick at #19:
Mitchell Hansen – CF – Plano Texas High School
First, Hansen just turned 18 making him one of the youngest players in the draft. He’s a high character and high IQ player with a commit to Stanford. Hansen is athletic as he also plays quarterback and wide receiver for the football team and if you look at his 6’4″ 200lb frame you can see the room for growth.
Hansen reminds some of the old Blue Jays and Dodgers OF Shawn Green, which would be a nice find at the 19th pick.