Disappointment, Drug Suspension and Retirement....So What's Left of 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft?

Back in January we jotted down some notes regarding the 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates draft.  Let’s take a quick look back at that post and highlight how they are performing this season.

The 2009 draft was filled with promise and a multitude of young pitchers

The Bucs GM often says it’s not about the stats the players put up in the minors. Thank baby Jesus for that, because this would be a bit concerning to the fan that strictly looks at numbers as being an indication of a young players development.

You remember 2009, the Pittsburgh Pirates made Tony Sanchez their first round pick, but the big news would come in later rounds. The Pirates started an aggressive draft strategy that hadn’t been seen in Pittsburgh. Owner Bob Nutting signed checks that, in the end, would add up to five high school pitchers receiving $3.93 million.

The ball club selected each of the arms between the second and eighth rounds. Second round pick Brooks Pounders passed on USC. Zach Dodson skipped Baylor, Zack Von Rosenberg was LSU’s lost crown jewel.

Like Josh Bell did last year, Colton Cain told The University of Texas thanks, but no thanks. Trent Stevenson skipped out on his scholarship to Arizona. It was a big splash for a Pittsburgh franchise that typically didn’t go big in the amateur draft.

But three years later, the most important question is this one: Did the Pirates invest the money wisely?

In a Chuck Finder article in the PG at the time, an AL scout had this to say about the Pirates strategy: “The players’ performance, however, will be the ultimate determination of whether the investment was made competently.”

It certainly didn’t help the progress of the prep arms that they didn’t sign until mid August of that year.

Here were the Pittsburgh Pirates selections in each of the first ten rounds of the 2009 draft. [Kudos to Pirates Prospects 2012 Prospect Guide]

Tony Sanchez could be the first of the 2009 draft class to join Alex Presley (06 draft) and Chase d’Arnaud (08 draft) in Pittsburgh.

Catcher Tony Sanchez was taken with the fourth pick. He received a bonus of $2.4 million. Sanchez has flashed his bat in 2009 and 2010, but struggled in his first season at the AA level. Sanchez will be 25 years old in May.

Sanchez finished his season with a broken toe and couldn’t continue to play as Triple-A Indianapolis.    The man who goes by @tonymontana26 on twitter hit .233 and threw out 31 percent of the runners trying to steal (18-of-40)

RHP Victor Black was a supplemental first rounder who received a bonus of $717,000. Black has battled injuries during his career.  He will turn 25 years old next May and will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December 2012.

Black got off to a good start putting up 41 strikeouts in 31 innings while walking 15 for the Altoona Curve.   The Curve power reliever kept it rolling and ended the season pitching 60 innings, striking out 85, and walking 29. 

RHP Brooks Pounders was the second rounder and the first prep pitcher selected by the Bucs. He received a bonus of $670,000. In December, he was traded to the Royals for 24-year old Yamaico Navarro.

Pounders made 23 starts for the Royals A and High-A level teams.  He pitched 134 innings and struckout 132 batters while finishing with a 3.96 ERA.

OF Evan Chambers was the third round pick, and received a bonus of $423,000. He has struggled in three years of A level ball for the Bucs, striking out 31 percent of the time, but he does flash some power. Chambers will turn 23 in March and will be Rule 5 eligible this December.

Chambers didn’t start off well (.202 batting average) as he repeated a year in Bradenton, but since his promotion to Altoona he has put up a .286/.333/.536/.869.

Well that didn’t last long.  Chambers had just 14 hits in 72 at-bats while in Altoona.  He hit under 200 with a .585 OPS on the season.

LHP Zack Dodson was the fourth round pick who got a bonus of $600,000. Dodson was the second prep pitcher taken and, despite an injured hand, put up some nice numbers in his age 20 season. He has a lively fastball and we thought he might be the breakout pitcher of the draft class with continued development.

Dodson repeated the season in West Virginia.  He made 21 starts and then the left-hander was suspended for violating the drug abuse policies. 

He pitched 100 innings and allowed 111 hits with 67 strikeouts on the year.  He is 22 years old.

LHP Nathan Baker was the fifth round pick signed from The University of Mississippi who received a bonus of $176,000. You might remember Baker pitching in the Arizona Fall League, where he struckout 16 in 15.1 innings pitched, but walked twelve while allowing 24 hits.

The strikeouts have fallen off in AA, but the walks persist for Baker.  He pitched 105.2 innings and allowed 100 hits.    One solid note is that in Baker’s final 35.1 innings pitched he allowed 32 hits.  Baker only struckout 77 batters and walked 57 on the year.

RHP Zack Von Rosenberg was the sixth round pick, the third prep pitcher signed by the Bucs, who received a bonus of $1.2 million. The two-time “Mr. Louisiana” in baseball struggled last year in his first full season, and was held back after spring training in Bradenton.

ZVR finished the season with 86.2 innings pitched allowing 94 hits while walking 24 and striking out 60.   The homeruns were cut in half and he finished strong giving up just five earned runs in his last four starts covering 25 innings.

RHP Trent Stevenson, the fourth prep pitcher and the seventh round pick, received a bonus of $350,000. The lanky Stevenson pitched 85 innings last year, and just couldn’t put hitters away when we saw him. He is 23 years old.

Stevenson pitched in six games, allowed 24 hits, struckout nine, and walked two. 

Then he retired.  Yeh.

LHP Colton Cain was the fifth prep pitcher and the eighth round pick and received a bonus of $1.125 million. Cain turned 21 in February, and showed the best promise of the pitchers in the draft class.

He was included in the trade for Wandy Rodriguez at the 2012 deadline.  (And no, he didn’t pitch real well giving up 109 hits in 110 innings while striking out 76.)

Infielder Brock Holt was the ninth round pick, receiving $125,000. Holt played at Rice and has moved quickly through the Pirates system showing the most talent in this 2009 draft.

Holt made it to the show after raking this season at Double and Triple-A.  PartyLikeaBrockStar has showed strong plate awareness and the ability to get on base during a monumental collapse by the Pirates in the second half of the season.

Catcher Joey Schoenfeld was the tenth round pick who received $195,000.

He was released from the Pirates in July of 2011.

Three later round pitchers of note are 12th rounder Jeff Inman who received a bonus of $425,ooo. Injuries have crushed the one time hyped Stanford fireballer. He had pitched just 40 innings with the Bucs before making a surprise (to us at least) appearance in the Arizona Fall League. Inman gave up six runs in 7.1 innings while striking out three in the AFL.

Inman threw 51.2 innings for the Altoona Curve allowing 45 hits, 19 walks, and 36 strikeouts.

In Spring Training last year, we saw Kevin Correia get knocked out of the game early.

One man’s struggles….

….is another man’s opportunity.


The 6’4″ Ryan Beckman was called to the mound. He surprised us with a solid effort. The 18th rounder in 2009, didn’t impress for the Spikes in 21 games, but the Bucs liked him. The right hander proved them right as the closer at high-A with 8 K/9.

He had Tommy John surgery and will look to return in 2013.  

Filthy Phil Irwin is a favorite of ours, signed in the 21st round out of Mississippi. Irwin is 25.    Irwin was also sent to the AFL, but injured his forearm and appeared in just one game. He is Rule 5 eligible in December.

Irwin pitched 104.1 innings for the Curve giving up 97 hits, striking out 83 while walking just 17.

Lefty Zachary Fuesser was a 34th round pick who is 21 and Rule 5 eligible this year.

Fuesser pitched in West Virginia again where he struckout 93 in 112.1 innings and allowed 115 hits.

So now that you’ve read all that, what do you think about the development in the Pittsburgh Pirates system from the 2009 draft?  We think it’s been underwhelming.  To think the Bucs picked fourth in the 2009 draft and don’t have any players that jump off the board is disappointing.

2013 will be insanely interesting as we watch this draft unfold.  The players who remain have a lot of work to do.


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